7 min read
19 Aug

The Toyota Corolla, a name that resonates with reliability, practicality, and affordability, has been gracing the roads worldwide since 1966. With its impressive production run, it's no surprise that certain model years stand out for their excellence, while others are best avoided. 

This article will delve into the five best and worst model years of the Toyota Corolla, allowing prospective buyers to make informed decisions. 

Remember, while this guide provides a general overview, the condition of any used car heavily depends on factors like maintenance, usage, and treatment by its previous owners. So, always have a trusted mechanic inspect a used vehicle before purchase to confirm its condition and value. 

Related Reading: Best Features Of The 2023 Toyota Corolla: Everything You Need To Know 

1. Best Model Years: 2017 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 4.0 Of 5.0 JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $9,000 to $24,999
2017 Toyota Corolla is a good model year.

The 2017 model is a gem in the Corolla lineage. This model year introduced Toyota Safety Sense-P, a suite of advanced safety features, as standard, including adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane departure warning with steering assist, and forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. 

The 2017 Corolla is also known for its spacious interior, comfortable ride, and impressive fuel economy. This year marked a high point in Toyota's commitment to both safety and value. 

1. Worst Model Years: 2009 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 84 Of 100 JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $5,500 to $13,977
2009_Toyota_Corolla_XRS IFCAR via Wikimedia.

While the Toyota Corolla generally maintains a reputation for reliability, some years have had their share of problems. Looking at the five model years to avoid, the 2009 model sticks out like a sore thumb. 

According to the Vehicle History website this model-year is simply not a good car. The damning verdict is based on “542 verified owner reviews” that revealed “serious engine issues affecting the long-term reliability.” 

The 2009 model year has been plagued with excessive oil consumption issues, leading to potential engine damage if not addressed promptly. Additionally, it has experienced problems with the braking system. These reported issues signal it as a year to avoid. 

2. Best Model Years: 2020 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 80 Of 100 JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $11,500 to $28,847
2020 Toyota Corolla.

The 2020 Corolla underwent a complete redesign, ushering in the model’s 12th generation. It flaunts a stylish exterior, improved driving dynamics, and a more powerful engine option. The model also introduced a hybrid variant, offering superb fuel efficiency. 

The updated infotainment system, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a variety of standard driver-assistance features, makes it one of the best Corolla years. Vehicle History didn’t mince words when it said that “2020 is a great year for the Toyota Corolla since it offers a lot of technology with efficient engines.” 

2. Worst Model Years: 2002 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 4.6 Of 5 Kelly Blue Book Rating
  • Used Price: $2,250 to $6,605
Worst Toyota Corolla model years - 2001-2002_Toyota_Corolla_LE_(rear) Brebooks via Wikimedia.

It seems that the further back you go, the less preferable the models becomes. However, this does not necessarily bear on the nameplate’s general reliability, especially when compare with similarly classed brands of the same period.

In fact, RepairPal gave it 4 out of 5 stars, while the KBB gave it a 4.4 overall consumer rating, and 4.6 for reliability. 

Even so, the 2002 Corolla is less preferable compared to other model years because of the reported problems of engine failure. Engine replacements are costly, making this model year a risky investment. 

3. Best Model Years: 2013 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 5-Star JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $4,900 to $19,998
2013_Toyota_Corolla_(SDLDQ_'13) Bull-Dozer via Wikimedia.

The 2013 model stands out as a reliable pre-owned option. With its excellent reputation for dependability, this model year is known for its low cost of ownership and infrequent, inexpensive repairs. 

The 2013 Corolla offers a comfortable ride and a user-friendly infotainment system, making it a smart choice for those seeking a used vehicle. 

Vehicle History noted that though the Corolla was more expensive than its rivals, its dependable powertrain was worth the money. This also explains why we chose it for this list over the 2014 model with more tech features. 

3. Worst Model Years: 2011 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 87 Of 100 JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $5,750 to $16,998
2011 Toyota Corolla - worst model years.

The 2011 model has been associated with numerous complaints about transmission issues. This year's model is often reported to have a delay when accelerating, which can be a safety concern when merging onto highways or overtaking other vehicles and it doesn’t help that steering feels unresponsive. 

Furthermore, the 2011 Corolla could certainly do better than the palace of plastic and cloth cabin materials. It also lacked some latest tech features that rightly belong in a 2011 sedan/hatchback. For propulsion, the 2011 Corolla relied on a sole 1.8-liter inline-4 widely reported as underpowered. 

Despite this, it didn’t lead its class in terms of fuel economy, earning a combined city/highway rating of 30 mpg. Additionally, earning three stars in government crash tests doesn’t inspire that much confidence, even though the IIHS did give it its Top Safety Pick award. 

4. Best Model Years: 2016 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 3.5 Of 5 JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $7,999 to $20,998
2016_Toyota_Corolla_(ZRE172R)_Ascent_sedan EurovisionNim via Wikimedia.

The 2016 Corolla is another strong contender that rightly deserves its seat at this table. This model includes a spacious, high-quality interior, and a standard rearview camera – a feature not commonly found in compact cars at the time. There’s more, though. 

The 2016 Corolla brought a number of ‘specials’ including a Special Edition model and Siri Eyes bundled in the Entune infotainment system. Combing through customer review sites like Consumer Reports and JD Power, you’d find that the 2016 model got fewer complaints. 

Unlike the 2011 model with a single engine to speak of, the 2016 Corolla benefitted from two engines – both compatible with the base models. 

It got 5 stars in government crash tests and led its class in fuel economy, thanks to a combined city/highway rating of 34 mpg. Its excellent gas mileage and comfortable ride make it a practical choice for commuters. 

Related Reading: 15 Most Expensive Cars To Own 

4. Worst Model Years: 2003 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 4.8 Of 5 Kelly Blue Book Rating
  • Used Price: $3,995 to $9,900
2003_Toyota_Corolla_D-4D_Diesel_Colln_2.0_Front Vauxford via Wikimedia.

Indeed, the 2003 Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic are easily the best used cars money can buy with a $4,000 budget, but the trade-offs may not be worth it for the simple reason that you can do better with other model years. 

For starters, the ‘03 Corolla is no good for taller drivers, and rounder passengers will find the rear cabin a tight fit. The truth is a ‘03 Corolla with as much as 150K miles on the odometer can live long enough to double those digits. 

However, the 2003 model year has received reports of engine stalling, particularly when the vehicle is at low speeds or idle. Such occurrences can be dangerous in traffic or intersections, making this a model year to reconsider. 

5. Best Model Years: 2019 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 4.5 Of 5 JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $10,995 to $25,971
2019 Toyota Corolla - Best model years.

The 2019 Corolla closes our list of top models. It stands out for its abundant standard features, including the Toyota Safety Sense suite. Yep, 2019 marked the final chapter in the Corolla’s eleventh generation. 

According to Vehicle History, this is a “very reliable and long-lasting” compact car, complete with three engine options, where the base 1.8-liter engine is actually the most common choice. However, the hatchback model is reportedly more fun to drive since it totes the larger engine with updated horsepower. 

Although the 2019 Toyota Corolla experienced a large recall due to fuel pump issues, Toyota has since updated the affected component to fix the problem. To crown it all, Toyota rolled out nine exterior colors for customers to choose from. It’s not all fashion, though. 

The 2019 Toyota Corolla sports a satisfying list of the latest tech features, including Apple CarPlay compatibility. Yes, it earned the NHTSA’s 5-star crash test rating. The hatchback version provided an appealing option for those seeking an extra cargo space, making the 2019 Corolla a versatile choice. 

5. Worst Model Years: 2008 Toyota Corolla

  • Reliability Score: 83 Of 100 JD Power Rating
  • Used Price: $2,999 to $13,999
2008 Toyota Corolla - worst model years.

Rounding off our list of model years to avoid is the 2008 Corolla. It’s enough turnoff that this model year is known for problems with cracking and peeling on the dashboard, which, while not a safety issue, can significantly impact the vehicle's interior aesthetics and potentially its resale value. But there’s more. 

The ‘08 Corolla uses a comparatively underpowered engine that doesn’t help with the driving experience. That and the boring standard tech features that are just so basic even for a budget car like the Toyota Corolla. 

Granted, the ’08 Toyota Corolla is a good investment in terms of reliability and dependability, along with an impressive fuel economy that taps out at 31 mpg, combined. However, 2008 is not the way to go if you want a livelier Corolla, not with its sole 4-cylinder engine that couldn’t compare with some of its competitors. 

Toyota Corolla Best And Worst Model Years Roundup

The best and worst Toyota Corolla years.

The Toyota Corolla, with its long-standing reputation for reliability, durability, and value, has many model years that would be a fantastic addition to any driveway. However, like any vehicle, it has had its share of less-than-stellar years. 

By considering the best model years like 2017, 2020, 2013, 2016, and 2019, you can enjoy the best that the Corolla has to offer. Conversely, steering clear of the problematic years including 2009, 2002, 2011, 2003, and 2008, can prevent potential headaches down the road. Source: Vehicle History, JD Power, KBB, TrueCar

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