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Here Are The Toyota RAV4 Years To Avoid

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White Toyota RAV4

Source: Pixabay

The Toyota RAV4 is the first and the longest-running and best-selling compact crossover (CUV) SUV in the United States. It spans five generations, with 1996 being the first North American release. With that many years in production, it’s only fair to assume that some RAV4 model years have some problems. If you’re looking to buy a RAV4 used, here are the Toyota RAV4 years to avoid. 


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Is Buying a Toyota RAV4 Worth It?

RAV4 used to stand for Recreational Activity Vehicle with 4-Wheel Drive before being changed to Robust Accurate Vehicle with 4-Wheel Drive. No one knows what the change was made for or why, but one would assume it was just a marketing play.

The RAV4 changed dramatically since its introduction into the auto world as a concept in 1989. The much more rugged-styled off-road vehicle has transformed through the five generations into a practical four-wheel-drive compact crossover with SUV powers and real everyday sedan luxuries.

Here are the used Toyota RAV4 years to avoid: none. As mentioned above, a well-maintained Toyota of any kind will last you. If you are looking for something that promotes a little more ruggedness and simplicity, an older generation might be something to shop for. If you are looking for something with all the new technologies like safety technology, infotainment, driver assist, and more, then you’re going to want to stick with a late fourth-generation or fifth-generation Toyota RAV4.


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Here Are The Toyota RAV4 Years To Avoid and Why

Fifth-Generation: RAV4 Years to Avoid (2019)

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 has had many consumers complaining about transmission problems. Hesitating and lurching at slower speeds and transmission slippage with rough shifts have been reported, even with low mileage.

Brake issues have also been reported for 2019 RAV4s. Squealing, clicking, and the brake system just not working correctly have all been reported with meager miles. Some drivers had even complained that the vehicle would accelerate when the brakes were hit, leaving them to brace for impact.

Fourth-Generation: RAV4 Years to Avoid (2013)

At low speeds, owners have complained about a vibrating feeling that shakes the whole vehicle. Some owners have said that the dealership told them there was nothing wrong and that the vehicle was operating normally, while other owners have paid up to $4,500 for a new torque converter.

Another problem owners have complained about is poor navigation visibility in the sunlight. Even after playing with the contrast and brightness, nothing seems to help. Even a trip to the dealership for software updates does nothing to fix the problem. 

Fourth-Generation: All Model Problem Areas

All models from the fourth generation have experienced infotainment problems. A tiny problem that doesn’t take much to fix, but the radio seems to want to reboot by itself.

Third-Generation: RAV4 Years to Avoid (2009-2012)

One of the biggest complaints that the RAV4 seemed to suffer from for the 2009-2012 years was unwanted acceleration. There were many complaints by drivers who had said that with their foot on the brake, the compact crossover would still accelerate over-riding the brake power and cause an accident.


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(2006-2008) Toyota RAV4 Problem Areas

These Toyota RAV4s had at least 600 complaints per model year. About 15% of those complaints were engine problems. It seems the RAV4 burns a massive amount of oil that smells and costs money.

Another big complaint that accounts for half of the complaints is a defective steering shaft. You might get lucky and find a used RAV4 that no longer has this problem due to it getting fixed, but it seems to be one of those problems that keep coming back regardless of whether you have it repaired or not.

Second-Generation: RAV4 Years to Avoid (2001-2003)

2001-2003 RAV4s struggled with mostly transmission problems. With over 500 complaints total, up from 60 of the previous generation, 60% of those complaints were transmission-related. Other issues included improper acceleration and powertrain problems, which most could be linked to the transmission problems. 

Another area the Toyota RAV4 did not impress was safety. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the RAV4 a poor grade for the side crash test. Although, if the RAV4 were equipped with safety-side airbags, the rating would likely improve. If this is a concern to you as a buyer, make sure to find out if this option is on the vehicle. In 2004, vehicle stability control was added as a standard to raise the RAV4’s total safety score.


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First-Generation: RAV4 Years to Avoid

Most of these RAV4s don’t have a problem as long as you don’t mind a rugged, compact crossover. The only real issue is that the safety and tech features are outdated, as with many models from 1996-2000. But these are great if you wanted a little buggy to drive around town that gets good gas mileage and is simple to drive.

Common Toyota RAV4 Problems

The Toyota RAV4 has an excellent reputation in terms of reliability. According to RepairPal, the RAV4 has a reliability score of 4.0 out of 5.0. However, over its many years of production, the Toyota RAV4 has several common problems:

  • Transmission problems: If you’re having trouble shifting between gears or the SUV lurches at lower speeds; you’re likely dealing with transmission issues. Among the newer models, the 2019 seems to have it worse when it comes to transmission woes.
  • Excessive oil consumption: This is a widespread problem dating back to the 2005 Toyota RAV4 model. Many drivers complained that between 75,000 and 150,000 miles, the SUV burned more amounts of oil than average. As a result, Toyota had to extend the warranty due to this issue.
  • Steering problems: Relatively common with the 2017 model year, steering problems may cause the wheel to lock up or pull to one side. Also, some owners reported hearing knocking noises as they turned.
  • Engine cooling problems: The system that keeps the engine cool is prone to leaks, resulting in the coolant fluid leaking to the engine and causing severe mechanical damage. 
  • EVAP system issue: Many RAV4 models have struggled with a faulty evaporative system (EVAP) vapor canister, which usually results in an illuminated check engine light. This issue causes vapor canisters to release charcoal pellets that may block the vent valve. The recommended fix is to replace the canister system with all the valves as a unit. Thankfully, this only affects older RAV4 models.
  • False catalytic converter failure warning: RAV4 owners had a mini heart attack when they saw the computer warn of a potential problem with the catalytic converter. As it turned out, this was a false alarm and was easily fixable with a simple software update from Toyota.
  • Faulty oxygen sensor: These sensors monitor the mixture of air and fuel in the engine and make adjustments as needed. With faulty oxygen sensors, drivers will experience issues like reduced fuel economy and increased emissions. In the case of the RAV4’s faulty oxygen sensors, the main culprit is wear and tear. Although they can last up to 100k miles, they can sometimes break sooner. The recommended fix is replacing the sensor, but ensure you have the right sensor type for your RAV4 model.

Finding a Good Used Toyota RAV4 in Your Area

Here are the used Toyota RAV4 years to avoid: 2019, 2013, and 2006-2008. These are the ones that have the most notorious problems, but let’s not forget these are Toyota’s and are known for their reliability. The minor issues that they have aren’t going to put you in the poor house by buying one in good shape. The ideal thing to do when shopping for the best Toyota RAV4 is to look for one that is well-maintained with decent mileage on it. Like with any vehicle, the older it gets, problems will happen, but big problems can be avoided by educated shopping.

How to Tell If a Toyota RAV4 is Worth Purchasing

If you’re unsure of how to tell if a Toyota RAV4 you are looking to buy has been well maintained, then bring along an educated buddy. Anyone can tell by the looks of a vehicle if it has been through the wringer or not. But for some of the signs that not everyone will know and a buyer might want to try to hide, a semi-educated car person should help you from making a huge mistake.

FAQs: Toyota RAV4 Years to Avoid

Q: Which year Toyota RAV4 is reliable?

A: While specific years were not highlighted as exceptionally reliable in the guide above, generally, many RAV4s outside the mentioned problematic years have increased reliability. It’s always recommended to look for models with a good maintenance history and to consider more recent years outside the problematic ranges for better reliability.

Q: What are the bad years of RAV4?

A: The years to avoid, as mentioned, include the 2019 model due to transmission issues and brake problems, the 2013 model with its low-speed vibration issues, and the 2006-2008 RAV4s which had significant engine problems and other reliability woes.

Q: What year RAV4 has transmission problems?

A: The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is noted for having transmission problems, where owners reported hesitating and lurching at slower speeds, along with transmission slippage and rough shifts.

Q: What are the biggest problems with the Toyota RAV4?

A: Major reliability issues include unwanted acceleration in the 2009-2012 models, excessive oil consumption in the 2006-2008 RAV4s, transmission problems in the 2019 model, and infotainment glitches across the fourth generation.

Are Toyota RAV4s typically reliable?

Yes, definitely. The RAV4 has become the best-selling non-truck vehicle in the U.S. thanks to Toyota’s reputation for building dependable vehicles. But, while the RAV4 enjoys strong reliability, not every model year is perfect. So, doing your homework is the first step in considering a pre-owned RAV4. Here are the Toyota RAV4 years to avoid.

How much does a used Toyota RAV4 typically cost?

RAV4s have been available in the U.S. for almost 30 years, but you don’t want one that old. Sticking with something from the 21st century, a 2005 RAV4 will run about $7,000 and have 150,000 miles. One with less mileage will cost more. Late-model examples will run considerably more due to volatile market conditions. According to a CoPilot Price Pulse report, the average 2018 Toyota RAV4 has a $24,754 asking price. That’s 29% above what the car would sell for normally.

Is the Toyota RAV4 a good car to purchase?

Yes, the Toyota RAV4 is a wise choice, whether you’re buying one new or used. However, it’s essential to understand that no matter how good the RAV4’s reputation for dependability is, there’s always a risk in buying a pre-owned vehicle. Here’s some helpful information about RAV4 reliability.

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