2003 Toyota Highlander SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Toyota Highlander SUV

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Toyota Highlander Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.4 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 4-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 155 hp @ 5600 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 19/25 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2003 Toyota Highlander

  • Need SUV utility but don't want any unnecessary bulk or fuel bills? The Highlander could very well suit your needs.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Roomy cabin, carlike ride and handling, clean styling.

  • Cons

    Gets expensive quickly, limited towing and off-road ability.

  • What's New for 2003

    There are no changes for the Highlander this year.

Full 2003 Toyota Highlander Review

What's New for 2003

There are no changes for the Highlander this year.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Huge disappointment

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

We bought this SUV new in 2002. We bought it because we have a 1998 Carolla that's been a very reliable car. But not the Highlander. At just under 200,000 k the old leaky head gasket then the stripped head bolt got us. Last year we thought we would keep the Toyota for a few more years so we put money into the few body chips. Bought new tires, winter and summer and put in a new windshield in the spring. Now we had an engine that was toast. Our local Toyota dealer found us a used motor from another Toyota and installed it. They say it only has 70,000 k but who knows. So we spent $7600.00 so far.


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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander AWD 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

Purchased used 5 years ago with 86,000. Didn't flinch at the mileage due to Toyota's reputation for reliability; car drove well, at first. Sold at 109,000 due to expensive repair and maintainence costs including: All 4 wheel bearings, $500 a pop. Breaks completely replaced, some more than once. $2,000 spent on breaks in just 2 years. Evaporator sensor went bad; $400 just for the part. Muffler developed a small hole; $400 for a new one. Straw that broke the camel's back: drive shaft developed a wobble and needed complete replacement $1,200. Cut my losses and unloaded the hunk of junk. Other car was a 20 year old Subaru Legacy that had fewer problems and was cheaper to maintain.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

New owner-wierd issues

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD 4dr SUV (3.0L 6cyl 4A)

I just purchased the Toyota Highlander 2003 and upon purchasing the vehicle I was very happy. The check engine light came on shortly after purchase and apparently the cause is a bad "ECM" board in the SUV. I am not sure if this is common but I have experienced this problem. I love the vehicle otherwise and plan on driving it for a while. Currently at 82K hope it lasts to 200K without major repairs.

Blown head gasket engine 4cyl

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

Beware of the dreaded code stating leakage in exhaust system, for this is an idication of the head gasket going and leaking coolant. Upon further review it is found thatrear head bolts are stripped due to excessive heat most like caused by foam insulator pad between plastic intake manifold and engine. Some say engine is toast, but the fix rec. is a time sert insert kit (approx $500 helicoil) with drill guide. Mine is to be currently repaired at about a total cost of $2,900.00 as long as the helicoil kit holds the head bolt torque, we will see? It is a design flaw in my opinion as it seems to be a regular issue with the four cylinder Highlanders approx.2001-2005? Failure was at 160,000 mi.

Good car

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

I've had my Toyota highlander for about 5 months now. When I first got it it had almost 216,000 miles. It's a great SUV and pretty reliable with decent gas mileage. At about 218,000 miles the temperature gauge started going up , almost to red. It would go up and then down to normal and repeat. Turned out I blew a head gasket. While it was at the shop being repaired they found that the head bolts were stripped which is a known problem with this year ,make and type of engine my highlander has. Ended up paying $3,700 to get fixed. Despite the major repair I haven't had any other problems with it. I'm at 222,000 miles and it runs great. I'm hoping on making it to 300,000 + miles.

High mileage pitfalls

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander AWD 4dr SUV (3.0L 6cyl 4A)

I bought this SUV new in 2003 and have it maintined regularly at the dealer. I now have 216,000 km on it and am starting to experience some high mileage wear items that have become prohibatively expensive. The oil cooler developed a leak and cost $1,000.00 to replace. The rear hanger bearing on the drive shaft (the shaft that connects the front transfer case with the rear) is noisy. For a worn bearing or universal joint the whole drive shaft must be replaced at a cost of $1,700.00 just for the part. I am looking for a good used one but am finding it impossible. There are no after market shafts, only ones available from the dealer. Highlanders will last many years, but at what cost!!!

Talk About The 2003 Highlander

2003 Toyota Highlander Discussions See all Started By

I am looking to purchase a HL. I found a really good deal on a used 2003 model. My question is, do you think there is a big difference between body style on the 2003 vs. a 2005 or say, 2006? To me it ...

Just last week, I purchased a used, 2003 Highlander Limited model. I drove it for the first few days without any problems, but today the check engine light and vsc lights went on. I borrowed a frien...

I have approximately 85k on my 03 Limited AWD. No issues year to date. I would like to have some routine maintenance performed. What is the boards recommendation? I hear the timing belt should be ch?...

Read more about the 2003 Toyota Highlander

Gas Mileage


  • 19
  • cty
  • 25
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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