Even after the "wow factor" of the Prius's hybrid design wears off, the car is still an inviting, well-designed, functionally useful car. Its remarkably high fuel economy makes this a cost-effective commuting car, but the Prius is also practical on longer trips. The gas/electric drivetrain works flawlessly and doesn't call attention to itself.
Alerts
There is 1 recall on this vehicle. Learn More.

Reliability

Reliability indicates how models have performed in the past, providing the basis for predicting how the vehicles will hold up in the year ahead. These charts provide the most comprehensive reliability information available to consumers. Based on information received from our latest subscriber survey, our reliability history charts give you a rundown on how used vehicles are holding up in 17 potential trouble spots, ranging from the engine, transmission, and brakes to power equipment and the electrical system.

Overall Reliability
Most Common Trouble Spots
Common Trouble Spot
Common Trouble Spot
The 2003 Toyota Prius has been recalled 1 time by NHTSA. View Recalls
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01*
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05
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16*
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Overall Reliability Verdict
NA
Potential Trouble Spots
Engine Major
NA
Engine Minor
NA
Engine Cooling
NA
Transmission Major
NA
Transmission Minor
NA
Drive System
NA
Fuel System
NA
Electric System
NA
Climate System
NA
Suspension
NA
Brakes
NA
Exhaust
NA
Paint/Trim
NA
Body Integrity
NA
Body Hardware
NA
Power Equipment
NA
In-car Electronics
NA
Reliability indicates how models have performed in the past, providing the basis for predicting how the vehicles will hold up in the year ahead. These charts provide the most comprehensive reliability information available to consumers. Based on information received from our latest subscriber survey for about 420,000 vehicles, our reliability history charts give you a rundown on how 2000 through 2019 vehicles are holding up in 17 potential trouble spots, ranging from the engine, transmission, and brakes to power equipment and the electrical system. NA indicates that we did not receive a large enough sample size to provide data for a specific year. An X indicates that the vehicle was not manufactured for a specific year.

Learn more about car Reliability.

Owner Reported Trouble Spots

The Reliability score is based on our latest subscriber survey of 2003 Toyota Prius owners. The owner comments describe problems respondents experienced with this vehicle.

Electric System

Alternator, starter, hybrid battery and related systems, regular battery, battery cables, engine harness, coil, ignition switch, electronic ignition, distributor or rotor failure, spark plugs and wires failure.

What Owners Say

Keyless entry

"Actuator for the passenger door has been replaced and continues to malfunction. It will not lock with "clicker" reliably"

Richard W., CO (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"The doors no longer lock or unlock electronically"

John V., CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"3 out of 4 electric car locks stopped working because the little motor inside each lock stopped working (the brushes in the motors wore out). I repaired them myself by removing the electric locks, prying open the plastic case, and replace motors"

Jeffrey G., AZ (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"The automatic locking/unlocking system has been totally unreliable for years. Very expensive to repair at dealership. My friends with the first generation Prius have had the same expensive repairs. About $450 for each door!!!!!"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"Driver side front door does not respond to any electric or electronic signals. Key required to open and lock from outside. Inside manual locking only. Estimate for repair about @275"

Herbert H., AR (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"front passenger door lock intermittently does not work. suspect something mechanical in the locking mechanism does not function when keyless is pressed"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Interior lights

"Night time lighting on lower left side of dashboard has gone out. Nuisance because you need to dismantle the dash to get at the light"

Anonymous, AB (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Climate System

Blower (fan) motor, A/C compressor, condenser, evaporator, heater system, automatic climate control, refrigerant leakage, electrical failure.

What Owners Say

"Sensor unique to hybrid vehicle quit working (senses when engine shuts off, tells the compressor to stop till engine starts back). Hane to replace the entire a/c for this, costs more than the car is worth at this point"

Katherine D., NC (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Condenser

"after 3 visits to dealer both parts were replaced after much labor and repeated attempts to find and stop leaks they finally succeeded"

Kenneth K., RI (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"A/C does not cool"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"When I first turned on the car A/C this spring, I did not get cooled air. Had to have the unit filled with coolant"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Blower (fan) motor

"Associated with previous problem. See previous comment"

Katherine D., NC (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Power Equipment

Cruise control, clock, warning lights, body control module, keyless entry, wiper motor or washer, tire pressure monitor, interior or exterior lights, horn, gauges, 12V power plug, remote engine start, alarm or security system

What Owners Say

Hybrid/electric battery replacement

"Covered under warranty, dealer replaced at no cost"

Anonymous, WA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Hybrid/electric system and battery (excluding replacement)

"We were advised install a new inverter ($4000). Used/rebuilt inverters were available and cheap, but couldn't find a shop to install, since they couldn't guarantee the work. Finally found someone to do the work - parts & labor: $500"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"The check engine light comes on often. The dealer says the hybrid battery is leaking and the engine spark plugs are missing. They have tried numerous fixes but nothing works. The car runs fine, although occasionally I notice the battery is not fully charged and as a result, the car does not have a lot of power until it is warmed up and had a chance to recharge the battery bank"

Douglas F., FL (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Electronic ignition

"When I first start the car, the engine runs rough, especially if the ac, lights and wipers are all on. When it warms up, it smooths out but the check engine light points to ignition missing"

Douglas F., FL (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Paint/Trim

Paint (fading, chalking, cracking, or peeling), loose interior and exterior trim or moldings, rust.

What Owners Say

"The seal coat peeled off the horizontal surfaces"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"Paint peeling and fading on roof. Undercoat exposed in some areas"

Lawrence F., NJ (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"Outer layer of paint on some surfaces has peeled"

Lawrence F., NJ (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"There are several places where the car has been scratched or dinged that were not repaired that have now begun to rust"

Anonymous, MA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Suspension

Shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, alignment, steering linkage (includes rack and pinion), power steering (pumps and hoses, leaks), wheel balance, springs or torsion bars, bushings, electronic or air suspension.

What Owners Say

"I have replaced both the shocks and the struts within the last year"

Anonymous, MA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"Recall in 2011- elect pwr steering pinion shaft nut.I had the recall done,however the problem they were trying to solve is still happening.My steering wheel jerks to the left occasionally making it difficult to steer.Toyota won't pay for repair"

Anonymous, WA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Wheel bearings

"Rear wheel bearings began to make noise. Had dealer replace them. within a year, I had to replace them again"

Douglas F., FL (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Exhaust

Muffler, pipes, catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, leaks.

What Owners Say

Catalytic converter

"Check engine light came on at about 180000 miles. The converter is about $1800 and has not been replaced. Performance does not seem to be affected"

Herbert H., AR (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"The conveter failed the state emissions test. I had to replace it with a new converter"

Robert S., PA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"Failure of bypass valve required replacing catalytic converter, as the valve is not available as a separate part"

Lawrence F., NJ (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Drive System

Driveshaft or axle, CV joint, differential, transfer case, 4WD/AWD components, driveline vibration, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), electrical failure.

What Owners Say

Electrical failure

"Little nattery (not hybrid) died. Longish story: was advised to drive it home and it failed totally on the road. New bat. found in a week (not 8 as feared)"

Deborah R., IA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"Engine light came on due to fuel relay defect"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

In-car Electronics

CD or DVD players, radio, speakers, GPS, communication system (e.g., OnStar), display screen freezes or goes blank, phone pairing (e.g. Bluetooth), voice control commands, steering wheel controls, portable music device interface (e.g., iPod/MP3 player), backup or other camera/sensors.

What Owners Say

In-dash navigation system (GPS)

"It is pretty useless since it can not be updated"

Anonymous, OR (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Speakers

"The speakers buzz, they are blown out"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Body Integrity

Squeaks, rattles, wind noises, loose or cracked seals and/or weather-stripping, air and water leaks.

What Owners Say

Squeaks or rattles

"Turning wheel have a squeak from steering column"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

"Rattling in the front end that worsened with accelerating and turning. Turned out to be due to spark plugs and the problem improved once they were replaced"

Anonymous, FL (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Engine Cooling

Radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.

What Owners Say

Radiator

"Small radiator leak, repaired"

Anonymous, WA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)
Water pump

"The second water pump, that cools the inverter, failed"

John C., CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Engine Minor

Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.

What Owners Say

Engine knock or ping

"Two injectors partially blocked. When cleared, gasoline engine runs fine"

Anonymous, MD (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Fuel System

Check engine light, sensors (includes O2 or oxygen sensor), emission control devices (includes EGR), engine computer, engine computer, fuel cap, fuel gauge/sender, fuel injection system, fuel pump, fuel leaks, stalling or hesitation.

What Owners Say

Fuel cap

"The check engine light came on while driving, I ended up making an unplanned stop at the dealership. It turned out to be the seal on the fuel cap was leaking. Not a huge expense, but stressful and inconvenient"

Anonymous, CA (2003 Toyota Prius None 1.5-L 4 Cyl hybrid)

Transmission Minor

Gear selector or linkage, leaks, transmission computer, transmission sensor or solenoid, clutch adjustment, rough shifting, slipping transmission.

Brakes

Antilock system (ABS), parking brake, master cylinder, calipers, rotors, pulsation or vibration, squeaking, brake failure or wear.

Engine Major

Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or timing belt.

Body Hardware

Power or manual windows, locks and latches, tailgate, hatch or trunk, doors or sliding doors, mirrors, seat controls, safety belts, sunroof, convertible top.

Compare 2003 Models

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This score shows whether the model had more or fewer problems overall than the average model of that year, calculated from the total number of problems reported by subscribers in all 17 trouble spots.
Recalls
PROVIDED BY
STEERING:ELECTRIC POWER ASSIST SYSTEM
Jun 01 2011
LOSS OF POWER STEERING, PARTICULARLY WHEN AN OPERATOR IS ACTIVELY INTENDING TO STEER THE VEHICLE, MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF A CRASH.
Summary:
TOYOTA IS RECALLING CERTAIN MODEL YEAR 2001 THROUGH 2003 PRIUS PASSENGER CARS MANUFACTURED FROM JANUARY 28, 2000, THROUGH MAY 30, 2003. THE STEERING LINKAGE MAY LOOSEN, RESULTING IN REDUCED ELECTRIC STEERING ASSISTANCE WHEN MAKING A LEFT TURN.
What should you do:
TOYOTA WILL NOTIFY OWNERS AND DEALERS WILL REPLACE THE NUTS IN THE STEERING LINKAGE FREE OF CHARGE. THE SAFETY RECALL BEGAN ON JULY 8, 2011. OWNERS MAY CONTACT TOYOTA AT 1-800-331-4331.
For more information:
OWNERS MAY ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), OR GO TO <A HREF=HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV>HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV</A> .
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 11V304000
Potential Number of Units Affected: 52377
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