Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years [Problems To Avoid]

Would you like to purchase a Toyota RAV4 but aren’t sure which model year to choose? Choosing the right product can be a challenge. Here’s what you need to know.

There is no doubt that not every Toyota RAV4 model year is the same.

Having spent countless hours under the hood of these cars, we have compiled a list of the best and worst model years.

We’ve detailed everything you need to know, from a model’s admirable reliability to its unexpected hiccups.

There are many similarities between models in each generation of the Toyota RAV4 and we’ll begin by looking at the generations of the car.

Next, we’ll show you which Toyota RAV4 years are the best and which Toyota RAV4 years to avoid.

Get those engines revving and let’s get started!

Why Is The Toyota RAV4 So Popular?

Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years

While Toyota’s reputation helps, the RAV4’s driving dynamics and ruggedness blend well together. From the beginning, the first-generation was available with all-wheel drive, and its cute yet tough design instantly won thousands of fans. There was an especially youthful look to the first-gen three-door model.

RAV4s aren’t perfect, but they rarely require expensive or serious maintenance, even when they do. Compared to all compact SUVs, the RAV4’s average annual repair cost is $429 on RepairPal. There are also few repairs required for the RAV4.

There is also an excellent resale value for the RAV4. RAV4 is the fourth-slowest-depreciating SUV after five years, behind only Jeep Wrangler, Toyota C-HR, and Honda HR-V, based on iSeeCars.

Despite being the most modern model of the RAV4, Toyota has kept things simple with this vehicle. As standard, it comes with a four-cylinder engine without turbocharger, and it prioritizes safety equipment over gizmos.

You can also read Toyota RAV4 Prime Gas Tank Size

Toyota RAV4 Generations

GenerationYears
Toyota RAV4 [5th generation]2019-present
Toyota RAV4 [4th generation]2013-2018
Toyota RAV4 [3rd generation]2006-2012
Toyota RAV4 [2nd generation]2001-2005
Toyota RAV4 [1st generation]1996-2000

For each generation, we’ll list the Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years in order to help you decide which years are best to avoid.

Furthermore, we also provide a list of what we refer to as neutral years. Since we could not justify categorizing these years on either side, they are neither good nor bad.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation19961998199719992000
2nd generation20012004200520022003
3rd generation2009201020082011201220062007
4th generation201320152016201720182014
5th generation20222023201920202021

We categorize the models based on our own combined score. The weight of each factor in our score is determined by multiple factors. Additionally, we are analyzing qualitative data such as owner surveys before making a final decision.

Factors to consider include:

  • Reliability reported by owners (surveys)
  • Maintenance costs on an annual basis
  • A rating for safety
  • A reliability rating from Consumer Reports
  • Score of owner satisfaction from Consumer Reports
  • Complaints, investigations, and recalls by the NHTSA
  • Ratings from Edmunds owners
  • Owner ratings by JD Power
  • Ratings of Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owners
  • Ratings from VehicleHistory owners
  • Ratings by Cars.com users

The weights assigned to each factor are combined with the frequency of negative factors (e.g. recalls) to obtain an accurate score for this model’s overall reliability.

Best & Worst Years for Toyota RAV4 [5th Generation, 2019-Present]

Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years

Toyota’s RAV4 launched in 2019 with a more rugged design and a long list of high-tech features, setting a new standard for the compact SUV segment.

RAV4 rides better, is more stable, and has better efficiency thanks to Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform.

The Best Years: 2022 and 2023

RAV4 models from 2022 and 2023 demonstrate Toyota’s latest advancements in safety and technology, making them stand out among the rest. In addition to a new plug-in hybrid option, the RAV4 Prime, the 2022 model also featured a more powerful and efficient hybrid system.

Enhanced connectivity, user-friendly controls, and a streamlined user interface are also part of the infotainment system in the 2023 model.

Among Toyota’s commitments to safety were forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control, as standard equipment in both years.

The Worst Years: 2019, 2020 and 2021

The first three years of the fifth generation – 2019, 2020, and 2021 – were not without teething problems despite the innovative changes. It was reported that some customers had problems with the new infotainment system, including connectivity issues and difficulty using the controls.

There were also complaints of harsh or uncertain shifting on some eight-speed automatic RAV4 transmissions from these years.

With their fuel-efficient engines and advanced safety features, the models remained competitive despite these issues.

Best & Worst Years for Toyota RAV4 [4th Generation, 2013-2018]

Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years

Toyota RAV4’s fourth generation, launched in 2013, boasts a sleeker, more contemporary design compared to the previous generation.

As part of the new model, Toyota added advanced safety features as well as a more car-like ride and improved fuel economy.

The Best Years: 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

With its stylish design, fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, and six-speed automatic transmission, the 2013 model introduced the new generation with a bang.

This triumph was enhanced by the 2015 RAV4’s new technology package, which included blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. A pre-collision system with pedestrian detection is now standard on all RAV4s, as part of Toyota Safety Sense P.

RAV4 Adventure, a trim with improved ground clearance and rugged styling cues, is new for 2017 and 2018. Significant enhancements to standard equipment and a sporty SE trim continue this momentum.

The Worst Year: 2014

The 2014 RAV4 was regarded as a low point despite the overall success of the fourth generation.

Informationtainment and interior accessories were sometimes slow or unresponsive to consumers.

Aside from the reliability of the engine and transmission, this model year’s reputation was slightly damaged by reported interior issues.

Best & Worst Years for Toyota RAV4 [3rd Generation, 2006-2012]

Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years

Toyota’s third generation RAV4 represents a significant evolution, moving closer to mid-size SUV territory.

It promised enhanced performance, comfort, and utility with a new exterior design, a roomier interior, and a powerful V6 engine.

The Best Years: 2009 and 2010

2009 and 2010 represented the peak of the RAV4’s development in this generation. Both years featured restyled exteriors, updated interiors, and advanced features like a rear backup camera and an optional touchscreen navigation system.

There was also a continuation of Toyota’s V6 engine, which was praised for its efficiency and power.

With its sports suspension and unique styling cues, the RAV4 Sport offers consumers more options to suit their lifestyles and driving preferences.

The Neutral Years: 2008, 2011, and 2012

In 2008, 2011, and 2012, the RAV4 models performed solidly, but not spectacularly. These models maintained the quality and reliability Toyota is known for, and they offered competitive features, but they didn’t introduce any significant improvements or changes.

With roomy interiors, third-row seating, and the capability of a V6 engine, they retained their appeal.

The Worst Years: 2006 and 2007

In terms of size and power, the 2006 and 2007 RAV4 models were impressive, but they also had some problems.

Reports of excessive oil consumption during these years negatively affected the reputation of the vehicle.

These otherwise promising models were further dampened by problems with the transmission, specifically shifting.

Best & Worst Years for Toyota RAV4 [2nd Generation. 2001-2005]

Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years

The Toyota RAV4 entered its second generation in 2001 with a polished layout, improved capability, and a roomier interior.

With technological advances and safety advancements, the model presented a more mature and capable compact SUV.

It was noticeable that Toyota’s 2001 RAV4 was more refined, despite staying true to its roots.

The Best Years: 2001, 2004 and 2005

Consumers responded favorably to the improved performance and fuel efficiency offered by the 2.0L four-cylinder engine in the 2001 RAV4. As of 2004, the model was equipped with anti-lock brakes as standard equipment and stability control as an option.

It was one of the most comprehensive compact SUVs on the market when it was introduced in 2005, with a more powerful four-cylinder engine, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, and a spacious interior.

The Worst Years: 2002 and 2003

There were some reliability issues with the RAV4 models released in 2002 and 2003. Our recommendation is to stay away from models with transmission problems, especially automatic transmission failures, which tarnished their reputation.

For these model years, mechanical issues proved to be a significant drawback despite having similar features to their immediate predecessor and immediate successor.

You can also read What is the Toyota Rav4 Fuel Tank Capacity?

Best & Worst Years for Toyota RAV4 [1st Generation, 1996-2000]

Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years

In 1996, Toyota introduced the first generation of the RAV4, a compact crossover SUV that combines car-like comfort with off-road capabilities.

Featuring a distinctive two-door design and a blend of practicality, versatility, and style, this innovative model quickly gained popularity.

The Best Years: 1996 and 1998

Compact in design and car-like in ride, the 1996 RAV4 introduced a new era of SUVs with its 2.0L four-cylinder engine and fuel-efficient 1.8L engine choices.

With the addition of dual front airbags and anti-lock brakes in 1998, Toyota further strengthened the RAV4’s market position while reshaping the headlights.

The Neutral Year: 1997

For the RAV4, 1997 was a transitional year. In spite of not offering substantial upgrades, it did incorporate the advantages of a car and an SUV into one unibody assembly.

In addition, it maintained a solid balance between fuel efficiency and performance with its 2.0L four-cylinder engine. While reliability issues were present, Toyota fixed them the following year.

The Worst Years: 1999 and 2000

In the rapidly evolving SUV market, the 1999 and 2000 RAV4 models began to show their age, despite maintaining the same strengths as the first generation.

When compared with the emerging competition, there were limited advances in technology and interior comfort.

Moreover, these model years were tarnished by some reliability concerns, particularly with regards to transmissions and engines.

What About The Brand-New RAV4?

Naturally, the newest RAV4s will be the most desirable of them all, as they offer the most features. If choosing between 2022 and 2023, we’d choose one of these if the infotainment interface had been overhauled.

Despite the fact that these new RAV4s have not been on sale for long enough, we can’t yet say how reliable they will be. Currently, there are very few complaints regarding RAV4s from 2023-2024, while 195 of the 2023 models were recalled for a potentially damaged valve stem that could leak air from the tires. The problem affects models with black 17-inch alloy wheels.

You can also read Toyota RAV4 Wait Time

Common Toyota RAV4 Problems

Reliability is one of the best qualities of the Toyota RAV4. RepairPal rates the Toyota RAV4 as a 4.0 out of 5.0 in terms of reliability. However, the Toyota RAV4 has developed several common problems over its long production history:

Transmission problems

A transmission issue may cause the SUV to lurch at lower speeds or have difficulty shifting between gears. In terms of transmission issues, the 2019 appears to have it the worst out of the newer models.

Excessive oil consumption

Several problems have existed with Toyota RAV4 models since 2005. Many SUV drivers complained of higher oil consumption between 75,000 and 150,000 miles. This issue resulted in an extension of the warranty.

Steering problems

The steering wheel may lock up or pull to one side when experiencing steering problems in the 2017 model year. Turning the wheel also caused some owners to hear knocking noises.

Engine cooling problems

Coolant leaks from the engine’s cooling system cause severe mechanical damage by leaking coolant fluid into the engine.

EVAP system issue

There have been several reports of faulty evaporative system (EVAP) vapor canisters in RAV4 models, resulting in the check engine light being illuminated. A vapor canister can release charcoal pellets that may block the vent valve due to this issue. It is recommended to replace all the valves in the canister system as a unit. Older models of the RAV4 are only affected by this issue.

False catalytic converter failure warning

There was a mini heart attack among RAV4 owners when the computer alerted them to a possible catalytic converter problem. This turned out to be a false alarm that was easily resolved with a simple software update from Toyota.

Faulty oxygen sensor

Sensors in the engine measure the air/fuel mixture and make adjustments as necessary. It is common for drivers to experience issues such as reduced fuel economy and increased emissions when their oxygen sensors are faulty. Wear and tear are the main cause of faulty oxygen sensors in the RAV4. It is possible for them to last for 100k miles, but it is also possible for them to break sooner than that. Changing the sensor is the recommended fix, but make sure you use the correct sensor type for your RAV4.

Should You Buy a RAV4?

Safety and reliability have been excellent characteristics of the RAV4. It will not disappoint you if you choose the right one (based on the guide above).

Despite this, I can say the RAV got increasingly boring as time went on. While it has strayed from its roots, it never seems more than a way to get around, even with competitive technology on higher trims.

It will serve the purpose of transportation, however, for 90% of people who buy a car merely as a means of transportation. Check out a first-generation RAV if you want something more interesting.

Read: Best & Worst Honda CR-V Years
Read: Toyota RAV4 Engine Oil Capacity
Read: How Long Do Toyota RAV4s Last?
Read: Toyota RAV4 Lug Nut Torque Specifications
Read: Lunar Rock Toyota RAV4 Color

FAQs: Toyota RAV4 Years to Avoid

Which year Toyota RAV4 is reliable?

The guide above did not highlight specific years as exceptionally reliable, but in general, most RAV4s outside the problematic years have become increasingly reliable. When looking for reliable models, consider recent models outside problematic ranges and those with good maintenance histories.

What are the bad years of RAV4?

The 2019 model, which has problems with transmissions and brakes, the 2013 model, which has vibration problems at low speeds, and the 2006-2008 RAV4s due to significant engine problems.

What year RAV4 has transmission problems?

It has been reported that the 2019 Toyota RAV4 has transmission issues, with hesitancy and lurching at slower speeds, as well as transmission slippage and rough shifts.

What are the biggest problems with the Toyota RAV4?

The most common reliability issues include unwanted acceleration in 2009-2012 models, excessive oil consumption in 2006-2008 RAV4s, and transmission problems in the 2019 model.

Are Toyota RAV4s typically reliable?

Yes, without a doubt. Toyota’s reputation for building reliable vehicles has led the RAV4 to become the best-selling non-truck vehicle in the US. Although the RAV4 is highly reliable, it isn’t perfect in every model year. If you are considering a used RAV4, do your homework first. The following Toyota RAV4 years should be avoided.

How much does a used Toyota RAV4 typically cost?

There have been RAV4s on the market in the U.S. for almost 30 years, but you won’t want one that old. For a 2005 RAV4 with 150,000 miles and about $7,000, we’re looking at something from the 21st century. Costs will be higher for one with fewer miles. Market conditions will make late-model examples cost significantly more. The average price for a 2018 Toyota RAV4 is $24,754, according to CoPilot’s Price Pulse report. Those prices are 29% higher than normal.

Is the Toyota RAV4 a good car to purchase?

Whether you buy a used Toyota RAV4 or a new one, the Toyota RAV4 is a smart choice. There is always a risk associated with buying a pre-owned vehicle, no matter how good the RAV4’s reputation for dependability may be. 

Conclusion

Let us know what your experience with the Toyota RAV4 has been, now that we’ve gone over the best and worst years of the vehicle. Have you ever owned a top-rated or worst-rated year?

If you have any stories to share, we’d love to hear them. Let’s see if your experiences align with ours. If you would like to share your experience, feel free to do so below. I look forward to continuing this conversation!

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