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3 Reasons To Steer Clear Of A 2010-2013 Toyota Prius

As a Prius owner and fan, my goal is to inform anyone who is looking for the right car. Take a look at my 3 reasons not to get a Generation 3 Prius.


I have owned, driven, and fixed a plethora of Prius over the years. As someone who has battled all the problems in the trenches, I have learned a thing or two about what ones are good and what ones to stay away from.

I can also tell you if you are looking to buy what to look for. Here are my three reasons to not buy a 2010-2013 Toyota Prius.

Reason Number One: Headgasket Failure
The generation 3 Prius was a complete redesign starting in 2010. Everything about it was new, including the larger 1.8L all-aluminum engine.

Owners loved these cars, at first. Then the issues started rolling in. The first significant problem people began to encounter was a failing head gasket. If you have not read my other article on knowing if your head gasket is failing, read it here.

Head gasket failure is an expensive repair. Most of the time, people let it go too long and end up bending a connecting rod; at that point, you are better off installing a new engine.

2010 Toyota Prius Bad Head Gasket

After doing multiple head gasket repairs on these cars, I can tell you if you do not catch it early, plan to trade the vehicle in or plan to put an engine in it.

If you can get a car with a bad head gasket for cheap enough and clean, it could be worth your time to have it repaired. Many generation 3 owners have reported 50 to 60 miles per gallon on a good working car, which could be worth it.

Costs for an engine swap or gasket repair usually range in the $2500 to $5000 range, something to consider when purchasing.

Reason Number Two: Inverter Failure
To be fair, Toyota did their best to recall any faulty inverter, but unlike Pokemon, they did not catch them all. Inverters still are failing, and do not expect the repair to be cheap.

2012 Toyota Prius White A new OE inverter can run you well over $2000, not including diag time or labor to install. Refurbished units from other hybrid places are around $650 before install.

Not a cheap repair, and what is worse, there are no warning signs as to when it could fail. Buyer beware.

Reason Number 3: Ridiculous Maintenance
Two things that grind my gears on Gen 3 Prius are the EGR system that always gets plugged up and the electric water pump.

I understand why the components are there, but honestly, is a regular water pump putting that much additional drag on the engine? Sure, an electric water pump can run when the car is off, but when these things fail, you are really stranded.

2010 Toyota Prius Water Pump

New pumps can cost around $650 to have replaced, and that does not include your tow. So, what about the EGR system? Glad you asked.

The EGR system is there to help lower tailpipe emissions which translates into a nightmare. When the exhaust is pushed back into the intake, it carries with it tiny bits of carbon.

These carbon bits get hung up in the cooler and all the tiny ports inside the intake manifold. The carbon builds upon itself and becomes a hardened nightmare to clean. Not to mention that you have to clean it, or it will help contribute to a faster-failing head gasket.

Unfortunately, we will always have carbon build-up as a by-product of the exhaust fumes getting pumped out through our exhaust systems. So, plan on spending a few hundred bucks every 90,000 miles or so to have the system cleaned out thoroughly.

Are Gen 3 Prius bad cars? Not necessarily; they can be pretty good and reliable if all the issues are dealt with and the vehicle has been well maintained. If the EGR is cleaned out regularly, oil changes are done on time, and any open recalls have been taken care of, these cars are pretty good.

As I stated earlier, if you can find a clean one with some issues and get it for cheap, it is worth the investment. But to buy a Gen 3 in an unknown condition is financial suicide.

Need some extra help? See what Pro Tip I can offer while checking out a used Prius.

I hope this helps. That is all for today. Be sure to check out some of my other articles on Prius and follow me on Twitter for all the latest updates trending in the hybrid and EV world. @the_hybrid_guy

Check out this wild new battery tech that Tesla has and why it will forever change the auto industry.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.


James Pentagraph (not verified)    October 4, 2021 - 12:18PM

In reply to by Charles McReynolds (not verified)

No matter what car you. Always a Mr know it with advice on issues about that
Vehicle. When you buy used expect some
Minor or major problem
Pay a hundred before purchase have a mechanical inspection preformed. They
Can tell exactly what condition the car is
Is in engine transmission and all.


T DIGITAL (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 7:21PM

Having 325,000 on mines
Worn piston rings and have to keep putting oil in every 3 weeks

Battery fan going bad and overheating batteries

Water pump was simple and took less than 45 minutes to fix and the part cost 60 bucks on ebay the little magnetic thing inside it

The brake booster I bought on ebay for 125 bucks and had a blast replacing it

After 11 years 325k miles I am still driving it

Oh I did replace brakes once

Shocks and a crap load of tires

Nick (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 7:39PM

As a 2010 owner that has done the EGR clean out and oil catch can install, I'm interested to know where I can get this $300 EGR clean out :) My cooler was completely clogged and took at least 8 to clean out alone.

Ryan (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 7:55PM

I had to replace the inverter on our 2012 Prius V within a year after buying it. Got it used in 2016. However, I got the money back from Toyota when they announced the recall. They covered the whole repair I had paid for including the used part I bought off eBay.

It has 191000 miles now. Unfortunately the smart key system has an issue, a short somewhere in the wiring and so the key fob remote doesn't work. Dealership wanted over $2,000 to fix it and two other places couldn't do it. I'll be trading it in soon.

AllenK (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 8:07PM

Own a 2010 Prius, purchased new, 115,000 miles, and have experienced none of these problems. Most trouble free car I have ever owned: having owned other Toyotas, that is saying a lot.

Mark Black (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 8:09PM

I bought a brand new 2010. Had to have the engine replaced after HG failure at 260k miles. Got another 80k miles then inverter failure. Now it sits. Loved that car tho.

Zzzelda (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 10:55PM

Yep. I had a 2013 that needed a head gasket at 166k miles. So mad. I expected at least 200-250k out of it. Left me stranded 750 miles from home on a road trip.

craig aarseth (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 11:02PM

I have a 100k mile 2010 prius and an 80k mile 2013 prius v without a lick of trouble. Both bought new. The is a worn spot on drivers carpet mat.

Nicholas Roth (not verified)    April 6, 2021 - 3:42PM

In reply to by William Hay (not verified)

Why does it anger you that other people have issues with a car that you don't? Go check the prius forums, the EGR issue is all over the place there.

You have a 2012, which didn't have as bad of an EGR issue because Toyota fixed the piston rings for 2012, causing less blowby, causing less oily exhaust, causing less oil going through the EGR cooler/valve. This resulted in less issues with the EGR. 2010-2011 is the years to watch out for.

Marc Allyn (not verified)    March 20, 2022 - 9:12AM

In reply to by Nicholas Roth (not verified)

Don't you see this article is designed to promote any feedback that is used to promote the writer. Prius is pro en the most reliable And that is if you compare it to other cars. Every car has its issues. I worked for 14 years at a Denso. Toyota had higher standards than all the other manufactures

Scot (not verified)    October 27, 2021 - 10:32PM

In reply to by Granted (not verified)

Just bought my 2010 in June 2021. A month later replaced the water pump and last Friday the head gasket went. Wish I would have seen this thread 4 months ago. I would have bought the V they had instead………. Hope and pray no more head gasket or water pump issues again

John Patten (not verified)    April 3, 2021 - 8:33AM

Any experience with a plug in, we own two, a 2012 and 2018. We run on elect a lot with 2012 and mostly EV with 2018. Running on EV would reduce the problems you mention. They are both low mileage, 40 k and 25 k respectively

Prius Rules (not verified)    April 3, 2021 - 8:47AM

I just saw here blah blah blah, we have 2 second (or 3rd) hand with no clue of past owners 2010 Gen 3 Prius and both with more than 150k millage and no problems with engines, inverters or "gearboxes", we have a heavy weight in our shoe when we drive those cars, if they fail now probably lasted more than any cheap American car and we are more than happy to get a Tesla instead a new Prius.

Roseanna Castillo (not verified)    April 3, 2021 - 2:35PM

My mom has a 2015 prius and she was running errands. She was pulling out of her parking stop foot on the brake and the car accelerated forward 2 times . She took it in and there is no recalls on this issue but there are some cases like this . Now my mom don't want to drive or want her car anymore . Do you anything about something of this .

Jason Mantovani (not verified)    April 3, 2021 - 7:40PM

I own a 2010 prius I got this car for a year now and am getting between 49 and 51 mpg no issues yet.i got it with I have 106.000

JoeJoe (not verified)    April 3, 2021 - 8:55PM

2011 Prius w 121K miles on it. Live 1 hour north of NYC. Needed new O2 converter once. But I’ve replaced front & rear brakes 6 times (each). I don’t “beat” the car and am very careful about braking. So it’s a mystery to me why I’ve needed so many brake replacements. This is my one and only complaint (also had a 2004 Prius). Anyone else have a crummy brake experience like mine? Thanks!

William Hay (not verified)    April 3, 2021 - 10:48PM

I have a 2012 prius v, best car I ever bought. I do regular maintenance, and the only thing I had to do in 126000 miles was changed the rear brakes. Total hybrid system was checked out at 110000 miles showing no problems. I on third set of tires which is normal. Still getting 41mpg. Still have the Prius v and now have a 2020 camry hybrid also, getting 49 mpg avg and more on highway driving.

Splash73 (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 9:59AM

No issues with my 2014 Two model here.... bought used with 25K miles in 2016, now 185kmiles. Oil and transmission fluid swaps, and one my second set of tires. Otherwise pain free and the least fussy cay I've ever owned. Still gets 48mpg highway (72mph) and urban/ suburbs will get 52 to 57mpg regularly.

*now watch.... the moment I post this... car will burst into flame* if that happens ill report back for laughs.

Steve (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 11:54AM

Your so correct and thank you for this article. Our 2012 Prius was in great condition that we hoped would last to 300k miles. At about 100k it really started burning oil. At 170k it left us stranded on an out of state trip where the dealer mechanics told us the engine was blown. It was a fiasco and disaster that left us completely disillusioned with Toyota and the experience of being forced into a new car after only 170k miles. What a lemon and Toyota knew about this problem and did nothing.

Number 6 (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 2:07PM

After 150,000 miles I have had exactly none of these problems. I am, however, getting some spotty rust on the roof.

Vic (not verified)    April 5, 2021 - 10:02AM

A 2010 Prius owner and experienced the issues listed. First EGR issues at around 100k miles. Head gasket just blew out at 141k miles. The Prius had a rough start/idle and the check engine light came on. We took it in, coolant in engine, and was quoted $7k to replace the engine. No thanks - time for a new car. Loved the Prius - honestly was hoping to get 175k miles on it..other than these issues, it was mostly trouble free for the past 10 years.

jerry p (not verified)    April 5, 2021 - 9:27PM

I wrote about my 2014 Prius that i just bought for $5400 knowing it had mechanical issues! I said Toyota dealer wanted $6100 to repair blown head gasket water pump reseal time chain cover! After considering that there was no water in oil and very little coolant in piston (dried out fairly quickly after a few miles running I figured that head gasket leak was a recent thing! I went on Amazon and Bought Barr’s head gasket repair! only had to use half the bottle in the coolant reservoir did nothing else! relaced coolant cap ran engine 15 min with heater on high and high fan! drove it around 15 miles because it was running like a new car! Took it to Vegas next weekend from Orange County and back! avg mph 48 all speeds runs like a dream!

Ramon Arce Rosado (not verified)    April 6, 2021 - 9:50AM

I bought my 2012 Prius V new and now have over 100k miles on it. Never had any problems mentioned after 8 years. I love my prius and am happy I bought it.