Best & Worst Years Of Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is a compact car that’s been on America’s roads for more than five decades. With all of these cars on the road, it’s challenging to know which ones are the best and worst years of Toyota Corolla models without first doing some research.

We’ve done the digging for you and are able to rank the very best and very worst Toyota Corolla model years. We also have the most common Corolla problems to watch for and a small section answering your top questions. 

Best Toyota Corolla Model Years

Of all the Toyota Corolla models, the best years seem to be the 2013 and 2012. Based on research into recalls and customer reviews, the 2021, 2019 and 2020 Toyota Corolla are also among the top choices if you want a reliable car.

Let’s dive into the details from each model year, evaluating NHTSA recalls, fuel economy ratings and Edmunds consumer reviews. 

1. 2013 Toyota Corolla

2013 Toyota Corolla - one of the best model years

Sure, you can get a newer Corolla than our top choice and it’s going to have better features inside, but this is the most reliable in our book. Plus, the ride is smooth and the cabin provides tons of comfort.

The higher-end trims do come with some upgraded features that would be good to have. The touchscreen display is comparable to some newer models if you find a higher trim. 

2. 2012 Toyota Corolla

You would be going back another year to buy a 2012 Corolla model, but it may be worth the savings. If you aren’t looking for impressive features, you can’t go wrong with this budget-friendly option.

The base model comes with all the typical standard features of the year, but you could spend a little more on a better trim if you desire more. Additionally, the fuel economy isn’t bad for a model more than a decade old. 

3. 2021 Toyota Corolla

2021 Toyota Corolla One of the best model years

The 2021 Corolla followed the well-received 2020 model but improved on everything that consumers loved. It boasts of a great ride and exceptional fuel economy numbers.

It also stands out in a crowd with the Supersonic Red color that can be found. If you want the Special Edition, you may have to pay a little more since only 1,500 models were produced. 

4. 2019 Toyota Corolla

2018 Toyota Corolla

If you want a newer model without draining your savings, consider the 2019 Corolla, which was the last of its generation. It’s highly recommended since all of the previous bugs were worked out. 

By this year, Toyota had included many of the top features as well, so you don’t need a high trim level to get better gear. You also won’t need to pay a lot at the pump.

5. 2020 Toyota Corolla

As one of the newer Corolla models, this 2020 has a lot to offer. It kicks off the 12th generation, which is normally when things go south for automakers, but not with Toyota.

The cabin was made roomier, additional safety features were added and the driving experience is unlike any other. The engine is also quiet and the suspension handles the road like a boss. With the hybrid model, you can also expect superior fuel economy. 

Worst Toyota Corolla Model Years

During Toyota Corolla shopping, there are some models that should always be avoided. It’s best to stay away from the 2010 and 2007 Corolla models. Because of complaints, you also don’t want a 1997, 2002 or 2011 Toyota Corolla.

Let’s look at these five models using the same resources from above. 

1. 2010 Toyota Corolla

2010 Toyota Corolla One of the worst years

The most prevalent flaw with the 2010 Corolla is the steering system. Failures have been repaired, and serious crashes have occurred. 

There are also concerning reports about the airbags. If you get into an accident because of the steering, you want to know that the airbags are going to work, but that’s not always the case. Plus, the brakes are a top failure being reported as well, so this model is just a safety hazard.

2. 2007 Toyota Corolla

At this point, you can get a 2007 Corolla for a super price, but is it worth it? Based on some of the alarming complaints, you would be better off buying a more reliable, older model.

Airbags may not deploy during an accident, which is the largest concern. On top of that, customers complain about the flaking paint that ultimately leads to corrosion. 

3. 1997 Toyota Corolla 

1997 Toyota Corolla One of the worst years

On the truly budget side of things, the 1997 Corolla model may look like your best option. Yet, you will probably end up buying the sedan and have to put even more money into fixing the defects.

At this point, you won’t even find that many with less than 200,000 miles. These models belong in the junkyard. 

4. 2002 Toyota Corolla

The list of complaints about the 2002 continues to grow even more than twenty years later. There are reports of defective engines, failing airbags and malfunctioning seat belts.

With the engine alone, customers complain about excessive oil consumption and tapping noises. These can lead to engine failure, which creates an expensive repair bill. 

5. 2011 Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla

The biggest issue with the 2011 Toyota Corolla comes down to the sluggish engine. There’s no fix for this, leaving customers unexcited about driving. 

There are also issues with the blinking airbag light, causing people to wonder if the airbags will deploy at all when needed. Less critical are the paint and clear coat issues. 

Most Common Toyota Corolla Problems

Based on information from RepairPal and consumer reviews, we’ve been able to pinpoint the most common problems with Corolla models. Excessive oil consumption, a faulty transmission, a moldy AC system and electrical system malfunctions tend to be the most prevalent. 

Here are some more details worth noting. 

Excessive Oil Consumption

engine oil dipstick

Some of the Corolla models tend to use more oil than normal. This seems to occur most often with both the 2002 and 2009 Corolla model years. 

Some owners have been able to fix the problem by either using thicker oil or replacing the piston rings. The worst-case scenario is that the engine needs to be replaced, costing upwards of $5,000. 

Faulty Transmission

transmission solenoids

Even with regular maintenance, owners have complained about the transmission in Corolla models. It can make strange noises, such as grinding or clunking before it finally gives out. 

Some people say that the 2003 Corolla is the worst, but many of the older models seem to struggle with having a solid transmission. To rebuild or replace the transmission, you would be looking at no less than $1,500, if not more. 

Moldy AC System

warm air from vents

Defective climate control systems can lead to a musty and moldy smell. This isn’t just a terrible thing to smell, but can also be dangerous to your health, especially if you already suffer from respiratory problems.

This complaint occurs the most with the 2009 Corolla, but there are others that should be avoided. In fact, Toyota was hit with a lawsuit because the systems didn’t drain the water, leading to mold. 

Electrical System Malfunctions

broken wirings

With multiple electrical malfunctions, mechanics started digging a little deeper to find out what was going on. It turns out that Toyota uses some soy coatings to be eco-friendly, but these same coatings are attractive to rodents

When rodents start eating the wiring, malfunctions are bound to occur. These critters are also known to build nests near the wiring. Sadly, repairing wiring damage can get expensive depending on how much the rodents have eaten through. In severe cases, it can cause up to $10,000 worth of damage. 

What year Toyota Corolla is most reliable?

Based on consumer reviews, recalls and complaints, we’ve found the 2012-2013 Toyota Corolla years to be among the best. However, we can also recommend the 2019-2021 Corolla model years because they have minimal problems and should provide many years of driving with proper maintenance.

What is high mileage for a Toyota Corolla?

There are many Toyota Corolla models on the road today with well over 200,000 miles. With proper maintenance, the right model may just make it to 300,000 miles. Yet, it’s usually best to stick to a used Corolla that has 150,000 miles or less on it, especially if you plan to drive it for years into the future. If you can see the service history of the vehicle, it’s even better.

Are Corollas really that reliable?

RepairPal ranks the Toyota Corolla with a score of 4.5 out of 5, making it the top choice among 36 compact cars. Plus, the average annual maintenance and repair cost is only $362, which is far below the average of $526 for compact cars. With this information, you can expect to spend less for ownership with a Corolla than most other vehicles.

What years to avoid Corolla?

While there are plenty of reliable Corolla models on the road today, we have to steer you away from driving a 1997, 2002, 2007 or 2010-2011 model. These tend to suffer from expensive problems related to the engine, electrical system and airbags. They also seem to have more recalls than most other models and aren’t going to hold up for the long haul.

If you choose to buy a used Toyota Corolla, you are making a wise decision. These are some of the most reliable compact cars ever made, with many lasting more than 200,000 miles. However, you have to be selective about which model year you choose to drive because not all of them are immune to issues.

Take a little time to read the recalls, customer complaints and reviews before deciding which one suits you. While there are a few that you should absolutely avoid, most of the Corolla models fall into the reliable category, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one in your budget.


Categories: General

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