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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've read through this board and I think have a good handle on what to watch out for with Gen2s generally and specifically with 08s (see sweeneyp's excellent summary with photos). To me these problems are fairly minor and fixable, especially now that the 08s are nearing their 13th birthday and any major flaw would have surfaced by now. I can understand a fatal flaw in the drivetrain being a potential deal breaker (eg certain Honda automatics) and I realize the first model year of a new generation is not ideal, but I'm not seeing anything that serious with the 2008s.
Am I missing something?
 

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Oil cooler line and VVTi line: Replaceable with steel line.
Rear liftgate hinges: If you have this problem, might need a body shop to replace them.
Transmission: The 5 speed U151 is easy to maintain and service, except for a few small trans pan bolts hidden above the sub frame. Not a show stopper, but just takes a bit more time to access them.
Engine: 2GR-FE has been very reliable, just as long as regular oil changes are done.
VVTI cam: Some have had issues with it, some have not.
Suspension: Nothing complicated here. Easy to service.
AWD system: Just need regular fluid maintenance (transfer case and rear differential).
Driveshaft: For those with AWD, some have had issues as the u-joints do not have grease fittings. Carrier bearings may go bad.
Wheel bearings: Rears are hub type and can be replaced easily. Front bearings are pressed onto the hub and may need special tools to remove.
Water pump: There were some that had issues with water pumps failing early. Might want to check this out.

Overall, if you are have some experience working on cars, the 08 can be a fairly reliable suv. Just use high quality parts, preferably Toyota.
 

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I guess it depends on your priorities and budget. I like reliable SUVs that are easy to maintain. Toyota/Lexus are probably going to be at the top of my list. I would stay away from any FCA product, reliability is not there. European brands can be good, but the cost of parts can be higher. I was looking at newer models of Highlander but the 8 speed transmission has had some reports of issues. I'm going to wait it out a bit to see how the newer 20/21 models do.

Downsides to owning an 08 model:
  • No Bluetooth audio. Aftermarket modules can be added to give you connectivity.
  • Lots of hard plastic interior. Comes off a bit cheap, but I don't mind. It is easy to clean.
  • Noise. It is not as quiet as the latest generation of Highlanders. You can add soundproofing material if you are good with that, but you'll have to remove the whole interior to do the job properly and it'll never be as quiet as the newest SUVs.
  • Fuel Economy. I believe the 08 AWD was rated at 17/23. Would be nice to see some better mileage but given the size of the SUV, this is what to expect.
  • No memory seats. I think Toyota did this intentionally as they wanted to reserve that for Lexus models. Just my opinion.

All of these are minor issues.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks, just wanted to make sure my short list isn't missing a contender. The lack of full (music streaming) Bluetooth is a problem until 2011 when wireless BT music streaming finally became available so I'll be upgrading the stereo in any event. I'm sure it's no coincidence that there's more 2008 on the used market than 09/10, which suggests a pretty savvy consumer that knows enough to shy away from the 08s though that seems an overreaction to me. I was seriously considering a HiHy but ultimately decided against it, not because of my concern of the battery failing (it's not that expensive a repair) but because I don't drive enough -- everyone in the know told me the same thing: it needs to be driven every day and the more often the better. I can go a few days without driving so it's just not a good match. Anyway, thanks for the info!
 

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2021 Rav4 XLE Hybrid , 2008 Highlander AWD Base
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My 2008 has been and continues to be very dependable. 150k miles. Initialy replaced the steering shaft and rubber oil hose, both known issues. Other than that, only regular maintenence. I did upgrade to new speakers and a android audio Keenwood. Even friends with new highlanders are amazed at how mine still drives and looks.
 

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Mine was very reliable up until the AC evap coil under the dash started leaking at 170k miles. A labor intensive, $1300 fix, which I declined to do. The VVT startup clatter was happening maybe every 3rd start when the oil and filter were near change interval; annoying but never seemed detrimental to performance or durability. The rubber suspension parts were getting ozone hardened and cracked all the way around, which made the ride harsher and steering sloppier at the same time. Painted interior bits starting to look worn, replaced center console cover as it cracked. Clearcoat on rear spoiler peeling off. Replaced glazed over headlight assemblies that couldn't be "restored" any longer. Traded for a '17 CX-5 last Dec. Very nice vehicle thus far. Looked at RAV4 of similar age, but hated the look.
 

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Why fixated on a 2008? Would be better to get a 2011-2013, when all the bugs were worked out.
 

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my alternator quit yesterday on my 2008 with 180K km. Kind of surprised me as i rarely see alternator issues on these. Its not a small job to replace the stupid thing either. Quote from the dealer was $1500 total for a brand new unit. I managed to find a Reman from another dealer and will be attempting to install it myself this weekend, Its not going to be a fun job. They sure didn't make these things easy to work on!
 

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Why fixated on a 2008? Would be better to get a 2011-2013, when all the bugs were worked out.
I wouldn't buy one that old. It would have to be very cheap. You're going to still put a lot of money in it especially if anything is wrong or you know needs doing.
 

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2011 Highlander Limited, 1994 Toyota Pickup, 2005 Toyota Matrix, 2008 Mustang GT
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Tripplec, why "not recommend" in your signature for the '12 HL?
He's had issues with ac and other minor parts. He's posted many times of his issues. Oddly he praises his Kia Sorento which I hate LOL. I had one like his and it was nothing but problems. Just goes to show you it's all luck LOL.
 

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My 08 has had code p0441 which I can't get permanently cleared. Also my engine clatters on start up too. Front hood paint is scrapping up a know problem and I don't off road with this car. Great car but every car has problems.
 

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Tripplec, why "not recommend" in your signature for the '12 HL?
I sent a PM on it. AVCONSULT

I have had an 2008 Sante Fe Ltd AWD and now a Sorento SX AWD both with V6 engines. Inside and out they are far better vehilce that the Highlander. Ergonomic of the HL is so old and void of interior lighting all other vehilces had years ago I had owned/own. Paint is so thin rusting is a problem in the rust belt. The stereo and its bluetooth are very old tech on these HL. Very hard to manage especially if you want your wife to use here phone as well along with complex programming. Over priced by a long shot.
 
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He's had issues with ac and other minor parts. He's posted many times of his issues. Oddly he praises his Kia Sorento which I hate LOL. I had one like his and it was nothing but problems. Just goes to show you it's all luck LOL.
Agree with your take on the Sorrento. Bought one in 2012, within 2 days, mileage scam. Bought the 4 cylinder for gas mileage, and turns out it was the same as the 6 cylinder. 2 years in, new engine needed. Claimed it was my fault. few years later, Kia had to replace said motors due to bad manufacturing. Got my money back but paying for a new engine and waiting years later to be proven correct...never going back.

I did get rid of my highlander. Was a solid minivan like car. Anybody who claims they are easy to work on is fooling themselves. Not PT Cruiser bad, but not relatively easy (Sorrento was easy to work on). Toyota made changing sparkplugs a struggle, draining/pulling pan on transmission a pain.

Moved onto a 2011 Sequoia as I need some more power/room. Never touching Kia anything ever. Sticking with Toyota/Honda.
 

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As per the stickies, there were a lot of issues needed fixing and most resolved by the 2011 build. 2012 & 2013 for sure. the Oil lines are a big deal. If they're chained. You may not now why. To avert a motor failure knowing they'll let go soon or because they did let go and emptied the engine. Damage occurred or not? Etc

there are enough items wearing out on these needed replacing as other manufacturers and some stuff more so. I owned a lot of makes/models and types in my life. Nothing special about it and certainly not worth a premium price the dealers want. The engines on the kia/hyundai 4 have a lifetime warranty on the older onces now and likely the 3.3L GDI as well soon. Easy to work on and oil filter on top initially odd become pleasant after doing under the vehicle oil changes since oil is always running out over the arm doing them. Cleaner and easier when you're older!!!

Toyota customer service is useless as well. Does nothing, offers nothing when you have a real problem. I will not buy a 4 cylinder engine. Must be a V6 with automatic transmission, I go from there afterwards. You'd likely got your money back on the engine once the warranty kicked in if you held onto it a bit longer.

Anyway, some luck is required with whatever you buy. the older the bigger the risks. Especially when there are build issues out of the gate not done right.
 
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my alternator quit yesterday on my 2008 with 180K km. Kind of surprised me as i rarely see alternator issues on these. Its not a small job to replace the stupid thing either. Quote from the dealer was $1500 total for a brand new unit. I managed to find a Reman from another dealer and will be attempting to install it myself this weekend, Its not going to be a fun job. They sure didn't make these things easy to work on!
Your not lying I just replaced my alternator on my 08 highlander. Kind of complicated to do but do able if you're patient.
 
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