The Toyota RAV4 has been one of the most popular compact crossover cars on the market since it began production in 1994.
Combining the safety and reliability of an SUV with the added luxury of a compact car, the Toyota RAV4 (Robust, Accurate Vehicle) is deemed to be reliable – but some model years are better than others.
So if you’re car shopping and this model has caught your eye, read our helpful list to be sure which model year you should choose.
Save your time and money and trust us!
Which Toyota RAV4 Years Should You Avoid Buying?
RAV4 (2019) Fifth-Generation
On Consumer Reports, this model year scored poorly and is not recommended.
The most common problems were transmission issues, including lurching at lower speeds and transmission slippage.
This was even the case on RAV4 vehicles with low mileage.
Not only did some owners complain about lack of trunk space and loud acceleration, but the brake system of some vehicles of this model year was found to work incorrectly.
Some reports even claimed that braking accelerated the car!
Owners of this model year have also reported issues with the fuel pump and gas tank. Not only will the car not fill up completely at the gas station (leaving space for a good 3 additional gallons), but you should expect the fuel pump to fail.
If you’ve got your eye on a vehicle from this model year, we suggest you check vehicle history reports thoroughly before purchase.
RAV4 (2013) Fourth-Generation
Although Consumer Reports gave the RAV4 fourth-generation (2013) a perfect reliability score, it rated poorly on owner satisfaction with only 2 out of 5 stars.
The main issues reported were mostly related to low-quality interior and poor comfort.
The fuel economy was also a big one with this model year, with owners complaining about it.
Other, less common issues reported include poor navigation visibility in sunlight, as well as whole-vehicle vibration at low speeds.
RAV4 (2009-2012) Third-Generation
The third-generation RAV4, though one of the least problematic years, still earned a rightful place on this list.
Although there were fewer complaints post-2009, there was still one major problem.
Many owners reported unwanted acceleration and that pressing the brakes actually caused the car to further accelerate, causing accidents.
RAV4 (2001-2003) Second-Generation
With over 500 complaints, the second generation RAV4 from 2001 to 2003 mostly had transmission problems.
However, there were some other issues related to this model year.
Improper acceleration was reported, as well as powertrain problems.
This can lead to issues such as rattling sounds, a burning smell, overheating, and trouble shifting gears.
These model years also scored poorly for safety, specifically in the side crash test.
However, the installation of side airbags would improve this, and this is something you should consider if you are thinking about purchasing a RAV4 from these years.
In 2004, vehicle stability control was added to improve the safety score of the second-generation RAV4.
Overall a reliable vehicle with few complaints, the RAV4 first generation is easy to drive and boasts good gas mileage.
However, there are a few issues that are worth a mention.
As the first generation, the model years 1996 to 2000 are understandably outdated in terms of technology and safety.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated this car an overall marginal score for safety.
It was determined that the dummy moved around too much during a crash test and sustained serious injuries.
Under-inflating airbags were also a regarded as a problem.
The Most Common Toyota RAV4 Problems
The most common problem found in the Toyota RAV4 is transmission problems.
Issues with eight-speed automatic transmission have been reported, with many owners claiming that they have experienced jerking and hesitation during acceleration.
There have also been gear slipping issues, causing the gears to slip out of place without any forewarning and causing accidents in some cases.
Loud acceleration and a grinding sound have also been reported with some of the RAV4 models.
Excessive oil consumption
The Toyota RAV4 is notorious for excessive oil consumption.
Consuming 2-3 quarts of oil every 800-1000 miles, if you’re looking for something oil-efficient, the Toyota RAV4 is likely not the one for you.
The steering on the Toyota RAV4 has also been reported to have problems.
Many owners have reported clicking noises coming from their steering columns, particularly when turning corners at slow speeds.
In some incidents, full steering wheel failure has even occurred which has unsurprisingly caused crashes!
However, this is rare.
Engine cooling problems
Another common problem in Toyota RAV4s is related to engine cooling.
Most often, this is due to the water pump leaking coolant, causing the engine to overheat.
Are Toyota RAV4s More Prone to Problems Than Other SUVs?
Just like any other car, some Toyota RAV4 model years have more issues than others.
However, this is actually one of the most reliable cars out there!
They rarely have serious issues and actually cost less to maintain than other SUVs as the frequency and severity of issues requiring repairs is lower.
The nature of issues that could be faced when owning a Toyota RAV4 will vary depending on the year of the car that you have.
Our Toyota RAV4 years to avoid list will help you know what problems you could personally encounter.
Toyota RAV4 Years with the Worst Mileage
As expected, newer models of the Toyota RAV4 have better gas mileage due to the constant evolution of technology.
If fuel efficiency is extremely important to you, then any models from pre-2018 should be avoided.
However, if you opt for a model that is any earlier than 2013, you can expect a very significant difference in gas mileage as this problem is much worse in earlier models.
Toyota RAV4s That Are Least Reliable
Believe it or not, the 2019 and 2020 model years are considered the least reliable RAV4s per Consumer Reports.
Due to a redesign in 2019, Consumer Reports scored these years low for reliability, dropping significantly from the previous generation.
Toyota RAV4 Years With the Most Recalls
The 2010 and 2011 model years of the RAV4 had the most recalls.
These recalls were actually for fairly serious issues too, such as problems with the accelerator and the suspension.
The 2019 and 2020 models also saw a larger number of recalls than is typical for the Toyota RAV4.
These recalls related to issues with the fuel pump leaking as well as steering problems.
Is buying a Toyota RAV4 worth it?
The short answer is yes.
Despite the issues that different generations of this car have faced, many people are extremely happy with their RAV4 and would never switch!
Owners of the Toyota RAV4 rave about their value for money in comparison to other SUVs, as well as their technology and family-friendly appeal.
What is the average lifespan of a Toyota RAV4?
The Toyota RAV4 is one of the leading SUVs when it comes to lifespan and longevity.
You can get up to 250,000 miles with your car and even longer if it is regularly maintained and cared for!
Are RAV4 hybrids reliable?
Yes. The most recent generation of the RAV4 is said to be extremely reliable, with great crash-test results.
You can be confident in your safety in this car.
Toyota vehicles are known for their long lifespan and are famous for lasting longer than most, if not all, car brands.
Which is the best year model Toyota RAV4?
The general consensus when it comes to the best year model Toyota RAV4 is 2016.
Notable for receiving minimal complaints, it is reliable, safe, and has a modern design that is favored by many.
It has a flawless reliability score and is also great value for money!
Overall, the RAV4 is an extremely reliable car. Granted – some model years have their faults, as is the case with most cars.
In terms of the best RAV4 year, 2016 easily takes the crown.
The 2016-2018 models actually score highest when it comes to reliability and have the least number of complaints.
However, if fuel efficiency is important to you, this may be up for debate.
Unfortunately, the 2019 redesign involved Toyota interfering with a great car and attempting to ‘fix’ problems that were not there, which led to a change and caused reliability scores to plummet.
If you’re buying a used RAV4, be sure to take all of the same precautions as you would with any other car.
Check the vehicle history and take a look at our helpful list of the Toyota RAV4 years to be prepared for any potential issues.
Overall, the RAV4 is a great car that is reliable, family-friendly, and loved by many!