Mark Miller was planning on a cooler. That’s what his local Naples, Florida-area Toyota dealer offered to him when he hit 500,000 miles in his 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. That’s hardly trite for Miller, who makes roads and frequently used the Highlander to tow a trailer for his paving business. A cooler in Florida, when you’re outside in the sun and the heat building roads, is actually helpful. What Miller got instead of a cooler on Jan. 21 was something very different but also just as useful: a new 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
That’s because his last SUV was destroyed in September 2022 when Hurricane Ian battered Florida. His original 2006 Highlander racked up more than 1 million miles traveling the roads around his home in Bonita Springs, Florida.
“I’ve probably done about 8,000 trips across Alligator Alley in that Highlander,” Miller said, referring to an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 75 between Sunrise and Naples, Florida. Miller bought the 2006 Highlander as new and put all the miles on himself, dragging his tools and trailers to jobs across the Everglades. Miller serviced his Highlander at the same dealer he bought it from—the same dealer that gave him a new one, too.
“That vehicle was so dependable,” he said. “I think I took it for granted at times. After 17 years, only a catastrophic flood could kill it.”
That’s exactly what happened. Although Miller’s house is relatively new, Hurricane Ian flooded the house and the yard, and everything else. His 2006 Highlander was destroyed in the storm, but others had it much worse. Although Miller drove another vehicle for work after the storm in September, he said he missed the Highlander he had and the miles he spent behind the wheel.
Which is why he was expecting another cooler for his million-mile mark. Instead, he got a new car to ride into retirement—a gray 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. And, well, that’s kinda cooler.
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