Toyota RAV4 Years To Avoid: A Guide to Reliable Models

The Toyota RAV4 debuted in May 1994, and since then, it has been the best-selling SUV from the Toyota brand. Its reliability and durability are top-notch, among other amazing features. However, not all Toyota RAV4s deliver maximum satisfaction as you would expect.

Based on first-hand experience and robust user feedback, I’ve compiled a list of Toyota RAV4 years to avoid. I’ve also explained the challenges unique to the RAV4s in this article. So, take a few minutes to read this post before buying your dream RAV4.

Toyota RAV4 Years To Avoid

Toyota RAV4 Years To Avoid

The Toyota RAV4 years to avoid include the 2002, 2006 – 2008, 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2019 models.

The second generation of the RAV4 were designed as an improvement on the first generation. The same applies to other subsequent models that were built as an improvement on their previous counterparts. However, they also had their share of problems. 

Some of the common problems include; transmission failure, steering problems, excessive oil consumption, fuel pump failure, etc. Now, let’s examine the unique Toyota RAV4 issues by year.

2002 Toyota RAV4

Like the black sheep of the family, the 2002 Toyota RAV4 is the model with the most complaints ever. Although this vehicle can last up to 200,000 – 250,000 miles, it comes with a plethora of challenges.

Some of the common problems with the 2002 RAV4 include engine control module (ECM) failure, transmission failure, EVAP system failure, catalytic converter and oxygen sensor issues, etc.

Of course, you know that the 2002 RAV4 is more than two decades old; hence, they lack more recent technologies that ensure maximum comfort and safety. I’d advise you avoid this RAV4 model, especially if you’re opting for a used car.

2006 – 2008 Toyota RAV4s

The 2006 RAV4 became the first model of the Toyota RAV4’s third generation. This model, alongside the 2007 and 2008 models, were designed with advanced features compared to the previous generation. However, they were predicted to last about 150,000 miles and also came with oil-gulping engines.

In addition, the trio (2006, 2007, and 2008 RAV4s) is plagued with other issues like clunking sound when steering and frequent engine problems. The 2AZ-FE engine, which is fitted in the 2006 – 2008 RAV4s, happens to be the least reliable engine produced by Toyota.

2009 Toyota RAV4

The third generation of the RAV4 were designed to overcome the challenges of the second generation. However, some negative reviews are associated with the 2009 model. User reports show that this RAV4 model becomes problematic around 85,000 miles.

Some of the issues peculiar to the 2009 RAV4 model include unwanted acceleration that can result in accidents, peeling paint, and whining noises emanating from the vehicle’s back end.

2013 Toyota RAV4 

Toyota launched the fourth generation of the RAV4 in 2013 with top-notch features that supersede the previous generations. This RAV4 generation didn’t feature a side-opening rear door, nor had their spare tire mounted on the rear door.

Undoubtedly, the fourth generation of RAV4 is more reliable than its previous generation counterparts. They also had larger cargo space. However, the 2013 model exhibited transmission issues that resulted in a shaky driving experience. 

Users also complained about the dim navigation display, which is quite difficult to see when driving during the day.

2017 Toyota RAV4

The 2017 RAV4 was built with a myriad of standard safety features; hence, it was ranked by the IIHS as Top Safety Pick+. It was also designed for maximum comfort. However, it comes with a plethora of electrical issues. 

One of the annoying aspects is the random battery drain that can cause the vehicle to stall unexpectedly. Other issues include steering and braking problems, as well as premature engine faults. I also advise that you avoid the 2017 Toyota RAV4 when buying a used car.

2019 Toyota RAV4

The 2019 model opened the way for the fifth generation of the Toyota RAV4. However, according to CarComplaints.com, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 ranks as one of the worst model ever. The vehicle is considered too recent to have a myriad of challenges that were not seen in older models.

The most frustrating thing about the numerous challenges of the 2019 RAV4 is their high repair cost. Some of these issues include transmission shifting problems, fuel pump failures, coolant leakage, suspension problems, etc.

Why should you buy a 2019 Toyota RAV4 with a high tendency to experience a lot of costly problems? Instead, you should look elsewhere by checking out other models with relatively little to no issues at all.

Toyota RAV4 Years To Buy

The 1996 – 1997, 2000, 2004 – 2005, 2022, and 2018 models are the best Toyota RAV4 years to buy.

If you’re looking forward to buying a used Toyota RAV4 especially, I strongly recommend that you consider one of the models below.

1996 – 1997 Toyota RAV4

Among the first generation of Toyota RAV4, the 1996 – 1997 models stand out with minimal user complaints. These models were designed for efficiency and maximum reliability.

So, if your budget is such that can only afford an older RAV4, ensure to consider buying the 1996 or 1997 model. I can guarantee you’d have peace of mind with these classic first-gen RAV4s.

2000 Toyota RAV4

The 2000 RAV4 was the last model of the first generation of the Toyota RAV4. This model also has a very low number of user complaints compared to some other RAV4 models. It offers nimble handling and maximum comfort with good road manners.

2004 – 2005 Toyota RAV4

Toyota wrapped up the models under the second generation of RAV4 with the 2004 and 2005 models. Compared to the previous generation pre-facelift rear door models, these models had relatively fewer complaints.

Although some of the 2004 – 2005 RAV4s have airbag issues, this doesn’t discredit the vehicles’ capabilities in other areas. You may want to check any of these models out when shopping for a used Toyota RAV4.

2018 Toyota RAV4

Older fourth-generation RAVs undoubtedly suffer transmission issues; however, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 is exceptional. It happens to be the last model in the fourth generation of RAV4.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 has minimal user complaints, as well as a high quality and reliability rating of 88 out of 100 from J.D. Power. If you’re wondering, “What year is the most reliable Toyota RAV4?” The 2018 RAV4 model ranks as the most reliable based on J.D. Power ratings.

2022 Toyota RAV4

Lastly, the 2022 Toyota RAV4 is another exceptional model you can rely on if you’re looking forward to buying a RAV4. This SUV has a quality and reliability rating of 81 out of 100 from J.D. Power. It also has only one user complaint from CarComplaint.com. This is amazing!

Although some 2022 RAV4s were recalled due to a faulty airbag that may likely not deploy properly, this RAV4 model is one of the best you can get around.

Common Problems Of Toyota RAV4

Generally, the Toyota RAV4 holds a high reputation when it comes to reliability. It has a 4.0 out of 5.0 reliability score from RepairPal in case you were asking, “Are Toyota RAV4 reliable?”

Furthermore, if you’re wondering, “What are the most common problems with Toyota RAV4?” Here’s a list of the common issues that plague the RAV4.

Excessive oil consumption

Some Toyota RAV4 users have complained about excessive oil consumption, which is mostly associated with the 2006 – 2008 models.

Most drivers reported high consumption of oil, more than average, around 75,000 – 150,000 miles. This further made Toyota extend the warranty on these models.

Faulty oxygen sensor

The oxygen sensor has the capacity to last up to 100,000 miles; however, it can sometimes develop a fault before then. When a Toyota RAV4’s oxygen sensor is faulty, it will affect fuel efficiency and also trigger increased emissions.

Transmission issues

Transmission issues are another common problem with the Toyota RAV4. If you’re asking, “What year RAV4 has transmission problems?” This issue is mostly associated with the 2019 model among the newer RAV4 models.

Steering problems

The steering problem is mostly associated with the Toyota RAV4 2017 model. This issue can cause the vehicle’s wheel to lock up or even pull towards one side. According to some user reports, the SUV produces clunking sounds when turning the steering.

What To Look For When Buying A RAV4

Besides paying attention to the Toyota RAV4’s best and worst years, as outlined above, it’s important to consider these factors when buying an RAV4.

Suitability

The Toyota RAV4 is built for a small family size with a three-passenger seat at the rear, one passenger seat in front, and the driver seat. This sums up to a total of 5 occupants at a time.

In other words, if you have a larger family size, you may want to consider buying a larger, more spacious SUV.

Average fuel consumption

Fuel efficiency is another significant factor you should consider when buying a Toyota RAV4. Among other models, the 2021 RAV4 delivers an exceptional mpg of 27/35/30 for city, highway, and combined rides, respectively.

Undertray and sills

If you intend to buy a used Toyota RAV4 or any car, ensure that you inspect the undertray and sills. This is because scraped/worn undertrays or sills are a sign that the vehicle has been extremely used. So, ensure to opt for a Toyota RAV4 with good undertray and sills.

Extended warranty protection

Extended warranty guarantees peace of mind, especially when buying a used Toyota RAV4. Toyota promises a 36-month/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 60-month/60,000-mile powertrain warranty on the RAV4.

Best time for purchase

Understanding the best time to buy your dream RAV4 will save you some cool money instead of jumping into a dealership anytime you feel like. For instance, you can get a good deal when you opt for a model just before it is redesigned.

In other words, buying a just-out-of-date Toyota RAV4 will be much cheaper than negotiating for a model that’s still in vogue. However, this is mostly when you’re opting for a new RAV4.

Final Words

Generally, the Toyota RAV4 holds a high reputation in the automotive industry, especially among other Toyota vehicles. However, the general perception of the RAV4 may not cover the problems associated with specific models.

So, be sure to look out for the Toyota RAV4 years to avoid this. Then, you can go for the Toyota RAV4, which has the best years, as recommended above. 

Nevertheless, the fact that some RAV4 models should be avoided doesn’t mean they’re overly bad. It’s just a revelation of the challenges that are peculiar to them. Some of the issues highlighted could be resolved with the help of an expert auto mechanic.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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