Key Takeaways

  • The 2007 and 2010 models have potential issues with electrical and headlights
  • 2008 and 2011 models can have a problem with excessive oil consumption in their high mileage range
  • The 2016 models are prone to windshield cracks
  • Curiously, there are few, if any complaints about the hybrid having battery problems
  • For the money and gas mileage, the Prius is worth it.

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Vehicles can have problems – but it is nice to know what to expect. Let's find out what common problems Toyota Prius drivers have reported.

Amongst common problems found on the Toyota Prius are issues with the electrical, including the lights in earlier model years. The 2010 Toyota Prius also has a reputation for issues with both the engine, lights, paint, and brakes – not making it Toyota's best built car.

We've done research through websites like CarComplaints to gather common issues people have reported about their Toyota Prius. Working at a dealership for several years between marketing and service helps too!

Table of Contents

What are some problems with the Toyota Prius?

2007 to 2010 Toyota Prius Headlight problems

CarComplaints registered headlight issues with the 2007 to 2010 Toyota Prius as by far the most common problem for a Toyota Prius – and honestly one of the most complained about issues with a vehicle we've seen while searching for car issues.

The problem results in the Toyota Prius having lights shut off randomly. Strangely enough, the issue doesn't always turn off both lights and can flip either the right or left light off. Most users who reported the issue claim that they haven't found a solution yet, though others say that their service center explored the issue and found that the power packs behind the headlights could get corroded and fail to deliver power at random. Most Prius drivers experienced the issue starting after 60,000 miles, so a gradually building issue like corrosion could indeed be to blame.

Others found solutions in simply changing out the headlight bulbs – but that doesn't always work with internal hardware issues.

The headlight issue presents safety and legal issues. First, many drivers reported having lights suddenly shut off while driving at night, which is never good. Second, all states require drivers have lights on when it is dark out, so the chances of getting pulled over by a law enforcement officer and getting a resulting ticket can be expensive – especially if a mechanic cannot readily solve the issue – driving at night causes two risks.

Headlight problems have also been reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nearly 1,000 times, which is a lot of complaints for one issue in one vehicle.

2008 to 2011 Toyota Prius Engine problems

Those familiar with the Toyota Prius realize that the hybrid vehicle has a small built in gasoline motor along with the electric motor which helps dramatically improve gas mileage over vehicles with only a gasoline motor.

The motor has some problems though, name oil consumption within a few model years already affected by headlight problems. This particular problem consists of excessive oil consumption. While Toyota and other manufacturers, and their drivers should acknowledge that a vehicle should consume a little oil over time, most drivers don't want to replace quarters of oil between oil changes. In addition, excessive oil consumption is a sign of a larger problem with the engine, as it usually gets worse – and can be catastrophic to the engine – and doesn't get better without a rebuild.

So what's happening with Toyota Prius oil consumption? Engines with over 100,000 miles tend to start needing oil sooner, with drivers reporting adding a quart of oil every 1,000 miles. In scenarios where Prius owners loved their vehicle and keep it for 200,000 miles or more, some said they would need another quart every 400 miles.

Anything close to a fix can be expensive because dealers and mechanics have to find the source of an oil leak, which is likely hidden within the vehicle's valves and piston rings, which can become loose or damaged over time. The results oil leaks can also develop slowly, then accelerate as some users reported learning of excessive oil consumption without tell tale signs like excessive smoke in the exhaust pipe.

Unfortunately, a fix, even for a relatively small engine, can run in the thousands. In extreme cases where engine replacement is required, you are looking at an excess of $4,000 or more – which to be fair is less than the engines on purely gasoline cars.

Toyota Prius Problems: Windshield cracks on 2016 models

To go from issues within the electrical and engine to having a cracked windshield issue as your most prominent problem for nearly a decade shows that Toyota learned from its mistakes.

While it is possible that some drivers experience road debris issues, more than a few of them on CarComplaints claim that their windshields cracked gradually – and while sitting still.

Most users found issues with Toyota not acknowledging potential safety issues with poor visibility due to cracked windshields – and the ease with which insurance rates can go up for having multiple cracked windshields in the lifetime of a vehicle. The windshield is not subject to multiple class action lawsuits.

Drivers report that in some cases, they know their windshield cracked as the result of a flying rock or other debris, but their previous vehicles from Toyota or Lexus (same company ownership) haven't had major issues absorbing the same impact.

Toyota Prius Problems: 2004-2007 Multi-Function Display may fail

We had to do a bit of digging to find common problems with the Toyota Prius in its early years, as Toyota begin making the Prius in 2000. This either speaks to a quality vehicle or a lack of readily available websites and Internet for those who would complain.

A few hundred people reported issues with the display on the Toyota Prius working. This issue sounds quite annoying, as having the display fail means that drivers might not be able to access vehicle functions like the radio, or incomplete abilities to change heating or air conditioning using just the functions presented on the steering wheel.

While the issue is likely a soldering problem within the electrical connections to the screen, dealers generally recommended a replaced console instead of a small fix – which could cost a couple of thousand dollars.

Is a Toyota Prius worth it?

Without being overly promotional for the Toyota Prius, we would say yes. 20 years ago when the Toyota Prius first came out, it didn't have a lot of competition and gas was fairly cheap at a national average of $1.50 per gallon. For drivers who wanted to help improve the environment – or who spend a lot of money on gas driving long commutes, the transition to a hybrid vehicle would be worth it in many ways.

Today, times have certainly changed. There are more hybrid and electric vehicles available than ever. A driver with “range anxiety” could certainly go for a Prius knowing they could fill up the tank with gas if they were getting lot with no plug ins around. It's also worth saying that starting at around $25,000, a Prius isn't a Tesla, but is much more budget friendly than most vehicles powered purely by a large battery.

While this is an article that initially focused on problems, we do have to say that Toyota truly fixed up the Prius after the 2012 model year. Complaints about the vehicle are few and far between after 2012, which is impressive considering how readily available car complaints websites have become, and how passionate many Prius owners are about their vehicle. We didn't many many if any people complaining about the battery that keeps strain off the gasoline engine – which is great because that is one of the main features of the Prius.

If you are looking for used, there are Priuses out there. Given the long time on market the Prius has, it is also easy to find tried and true methods to know how well the battery functions after lots of years and miles, which is great for those who don't want to invest in a new car.

Toyota Prius Problems & Complaints: Are The Issues Worth Buying?

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

Read More About Charles Redding