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The Best and Worst Years for a Used Toyota Rav4

Toyota Rav4

Over the past few decades, crossover SUVs have become the most popular vehicle on the American market. They offer the best of both worlds – the ruggedness and capability of an SUV with efficiency. And maneuverability of a smaller car. According to KBB, the 2022 Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling SUV of all time. Part of the reason why most people love this car is that it's reliable, efficient, and roomy enough for a family. But most importantly, the RAV 4 is durable with a low maintenance cost.

This car has lived up to its expectations such that most people who can't buy a new car go for a used Toyota RAV4. If you have been thinking of doing the same, you must choose a vehicle from the best years. Here, we look at the best and worst years for a used Toyota Rav4 so you can make an informed decision.

Overview and History of the Toyota RAV4

Although the first RAV4 was unveiled in the 1990s, the concept car was developed in 1989. It was designed to be a vehicle that would offer the same benefits as an SUV but without the size. According to Toyota UK Magazine, the first RAV4 was built on a Corolla platform with two doors. It was not until the second generation that the RAV4 became the four-door SUV we know today.

The third generation, unveiled in 2005, saw a complete vehicle redesign. It was now built on a larger platform and featured a V6 engine option. And the fourth generation was unveiled in 2012. It is built on an all-new platform and features a more aggressive design. The fifth generation RAV4 was unveiled in 2019 and is the most recent model. It features an updated design and new engine options.

The Best RAV4 Years

Like many car manufacturers, Toyota has had a few hits and misses over the years with the RAV4. However, there have been some clear standouts. These are the best Rav4 models based on reviews, sales, and awards. And if you are in the market for a used car, these are the years you should be targeting.

2009 RAV4 Model

The 2009 RAV4 is arguably the best RAV4 model ever made. Toyota redesigned it entirely that year, and Toyota hit it out of the park. The new design was more stylish and modern without sacrificing the utility that made the RAV4 so famous in the first place. It was also more efficient, with an excellent reliability rating.

According to Vehiclehistory, the vehicle was well-built to last over 300,000 miles with just minor repairs and a paint job. This car is the perfect example of Toyota's "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.

2010 RAV4 Model

The 2010 model also fared quite well, with few changes from the stellar 2009 model. It did get a slightly more powerful engine, which was a nice touch. In terms of power and fuel economy, it was pretty much on par with the 2009 model. However, it did get a few new safety features, including lane departure warning and blind spot monitor.

These are both still relevant today and would be great additions to any used car. With a spacious interior and a comfortable ride, the 2010 RAV4 is still an excellent choice for a used car.

2016 RAV4 Model

Toyota did a fantastic job on the 2016 RAV4. And this explains it has made our list of the best RAV4s ever made. Its consumer ratings are above average. Most users had and still have good things to say about it.

According to Repairpal, average annual repair cost the 2016 429 dollars. This made it one of the most affordable cars to maintain. Most importantly, only 37 complaints have been filed against it to the NHTSA. And this is relatively low compared to other models from the same year and manufacturer.

2018 RAV4 Model

The stylish and modern 2018 RAV4 is another great choice if you are in the market for the best-used Toyota RAV4. It shows that Toyota took its time on this model's interior design. The cabin is spacious and well laid out, with high-quality materials. Regarding safety, the 2018 RAV4 comes standard with many features, including lane departure warning and blind spot monitor.

It is also one of the most fuel-efficient RAV4s ever made. Toyota also upgraded its infotainment system for this model year, making it one of the most user-friendly systems on the market.

Most Americans want a utility vehicle with ample storage space. Fortunately, this is a concept that Toyota understood from the get-go. As a result, they made sure that each RAV4 model had more than enough space to store all your belongings. The 2018 model is no different, with a whopping 73 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down.

As for the driving experience, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 is as good as it gets. It is comfortable, capable, and smooth. Not to mention, it is also one of the most reliable cars on the road. So if you are looking for a used car that ticks all the boxes, the 2018 RAV4 should be at the top of your list.

The Most Problematic RAV4 Years

Are you looking for a used crossover SUV that's affordable and reliable? The RAV4 has undoubtedly been a great choice over the years. However, as with all cars, there have been some lemons. In this section, we cover the most problematic RAV4 years, so you can avoid them when shopping for a used car.

2019 and 2020 RAV4

In 2019, Toyota decided to redesign the RAV4, resulting in a more stylish SUV that was just as reliable and efficient as ever. The improvements focused on fuel economy, the safety department, and the infotainment system. And even though the car looked much better than the previous generation, it was still very much recognizably a RAV4.

However, the new 2019-2020 RAV4 was far from perfect. It had many problems, including engine issues, transmission problems, and infotainment system glitches. According to Consumer Reports, the 2019 RAV4 had the worst rating of any Toyota model that year. Infact, there were several recalls issued for the 2019 RAV4 model.

Toyota improved the 2020 RAV4. But unfortunately, they did not iron out some of the previous year's major problems. So, while the 2020 RAV4 was a marked improvement over the 2019 model, it still had its fair share of issues. These problems include a failing fuel system and multiple undesirable rattles and squeaks emanating from its body.

But the most troubling issue was the vehicle hesitating to move when driving forward and then unpredictably lurching ahead. This was a serious safety concern. Toyota recalled the 2019-2020 RAV4 models a whopping 13 times.

2013 RAV4 Model

The 2013 RAV4 was a formidable SUV with impressive ratings. Some of its highlights included comfortable seating, a user-friendly infotainment system, and a fuel-efficient engine. Regardless of these ratings, this crossover SUV has had the highest complaints from both new owners and those who bought it used.

These issues include the inability to get a clear view of the navigation display during the day, paint peeling off the car, rusting, and a peculiar noise during the braking process. The most troubling consumer concern includes the car shuttering when you drive between 20 to 50 miles per hour. This led to Toyota recalling the 2013 RAV4 for a software update.

The 2006-2008 RAV4 Models

The 2006 RAV4 was the third generation of this crossover SUV, which greatly improved over the 2005 model. Its new features included a more powerful engine, an updated suspension system for a smoother ride, and a restyled exterior that made it look more like a wagon than an SUV. It also had better safety features, with side curtain airbags becoming standard.

Despite the significant upgrades in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 RAV4 models, they had a poor reliability score among consumers. Owners were dissatisfied by the disturbing clunking noises from under the car when steering. There were also complaints about faulty oxygen sensors and gears jerking unexpectedly.

What's more, is that the vehicles consumed oil excessively after the first 60000 miles. According to Toyotaproblems, a section of the 2006-2008 RAV4 owners filed a class action lawsuit alleging that they had to spend a significant amount on oil due to the vehicle's defective engines.

The 2001-2003 RAV4 Models

Customers complained about the 2001-2003 RAV4 models having numerous reliability issues. Among these models, the 2002 RAV4 had the most complaints in the vehicle's history. These models' common problems included gear slipping and poor transition after hitting 60,000 miles. Infact, owners claimed that auto repair shops billed up to $4000 to replace the transmission system.

Upon realizing this, Toyota extended its warranty on the automatic transition from 60,000 miles to 150,000 miles. Additionally, they decided to reimburse anyone who had paid to replace their transmission system.

Tips for Buying a Used Toyota RAV4

A used car may serve you just as well as a new one, especially if it's a Toyota RAV4. This is because this model has good resale value and a reputation for reliability. But before you pay the owner and drive off, you should perform the following checks;

Quick Visual Checks of the Exteriors

Start by examining the car's exteriors for any damage. Look out for scratches, dents, or chipped paint. While at it, ensure all the panels are of the same color. And this is an indication that the vehicle has been in an accident and repaired using aftermarket parts. These may be cosmetic issues that you can live with, but they will lower the car's value.

Check for Rust

Next, check for rust, especially around the wheel wells and under the car. If you find any, the vehicle has not been well-maintained. A little rust is not a deal breaker, but excessive rusting will reduce the car's lifespan. Besides that, rust is difficult to repair, and it will lower the car's value if you decide to sell it in the future.

Look at the Tires

Check the condition of the tires. Uneven wear is an indication that the car's suspension needs attention. Also, make sure the tread depth is above the legal limit. You can use a coin to check this. If you can see Abraham Lincoln's head, the tires need to be replaced. If the tires are old, use them to negotiate to lower the purchase price.

Under the Hood

Look out for oil leaks and ensure all the hoses are in good condition. Also, ensure the coolant is at the correct level and that there are no signs of corrosion. These are all easy things to fix, but they could indicate bigger problems.

Test Drive the Toyota RAV4

Take the car for a test drive. Pay attention to how the car handles and whether there are any strange noises. If everything feels good, then you can go ahead and make an offer. But if you have any doubts, have a mechanic check the car before you make a decision.

Consider buying a certified pre-owned car

You can never be too sure when buying a used car, but you can do your best to protect yourself by purchasing a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. CPO cars must meet the manufacturer's criteria and usually come with extended warranty protection. So, if you get a RAV4 from the best years to buy a used car, it's still a good idea to look for one certified.

If you're in the market for a used Toyota RAV4, your decision about which year model to buy may be swayed by reliability concerns. The best years for this vehicle, according to, are 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. If you want to avoid potential repairs, it might be best to steer clear of models from 2001 through 2005; these are considered the worst years for this make and model of car. With a little research into which year is right for you, you can enjoy many years of trouble-free driving in your used Toyota RAV4.

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Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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