Crossover cars are lighter than SUVs, have better fuel efficiency, and are the go-to model for car owners who don’t do so much off-road driving.
If you fall into this category of car owners, it might be one of the reasons you’re looking for a Toyota RAV4. It’s a top-rated Toyota model with higher sales than the likes of the Toyota Camry.
So, are some RAV4 models better than others, or is it just marketing buzz?
Yes, as with all car models, there’s always a year that comes out more reliable and efficient than the rest. It’s not different for Toyota RAV4 since its first production in the ‘90s.
Let’s talk about the most reliable models and Toyota RAV4 years to avoid.
Common Problems With Toyota RAV4
RAV4 is one of the most versatile car models because it offers numerous trim levels in some years to suit customer preferences and budgets. For instance, there are six trim levels in 2021.
Unfortunately, some years have issues that make the RAV4 unreliable.
Here are some complaints from car owners.
Oxygen Sensor Failure
When this sensor fails, the check engine light turns on, and the car consumes more fuel than expected. This failure may also prompt the engine to skip or misfire. In other cases, the exhaust releases a pungent smell that’s almost like rotten eggs are in it. These problems arose in models manufactured between 1998 and 2014.
False Catalytic Converter Alert
The second and third-generation RAV4 models gave a bad catalytic converter alert due to a software problem. The oldest model with this problem is the 1996 RAV4. Others reported with such false alerts are 2001 to 2007 models.
If there was an issue that had most RAV4 owners worried, it must have been the faulty transmission as it affected models from 1996 to 2008. That’s ten years of faulty engineering. This problem emanated from either nonalignment of the throttle position or a malfunctioned shift solenoid and resulted in transmission shifting problems at higher mileage.
EVAP Vapor Canister Issues
When the vapor canister releases charcoal pellets, they clog the car’s vent valve, making it faulty. Its repair is expensive as you have to replace the whole unit, including the canister and valves. You may encounter this issue in RAV4s built between 1996 and 2016.
Poor Fuel Consumption
It’s the second most widespread problem after transmission shifting, reported in models from 2004 to 2008. Car owners noted a higher oil consumption, sometimes so drastic that the engine oil alert would turn on.
Now, we can sum up:
Toyota Rav4 Years To Avoid
2006 – 2008
The third generation started from 2006 to 2012, and it had a few problematic years. During this generation, the brand introduced the electronic power steering system and added a third row of seats. Plus, the model got the option of a 269 horsepower V6 engine when the previous generation had a 2.0 L l4 engine with powertrain and acceleration problems.
Another first for the third generation was the exit of the optional manual transmission. Thus, the lE engine had a four-speed transmission, and the V6 offered five-speed. The cabin space also grew during this generation, making this car better for family road trips because it had additional passenger space too. But, these developments didn’t shield car owners from the problems that would plague them in the 2006-2008 models.
Car owners complained about excessive oil consumption in the 2005 model, but it got worse in the following year’s model. The 2006 RAV4 model had numerous recalls for tie rod corrosion, defective power window switch, mislabeled towing capacity, and a faulty gas pedal. That was in sharp contrast to the previous generations that had one or two problematic years instead of a sequence of troublesome models.
It didn’t get any better with the 2008 model, as that’s when more engine issues cropped up.
Issues in the 2008 model included excessive oil consumption, airbags malfunction, and transmission failure. Other problems reported in this period were exhaust and steering malfunction.
There were over 500 annual complaints about each of the 2006 to 2008 models. Consequently, the company worked on the 2009 to 2012 models and reduced the complaints.
The following generation, the fourth generation, started from 2013 to 2018. Toyota made even more changes to the RAV4 than was the case in the previous models. For example, instead of a rear that opened to the side, the brand introduced a lift gate.
Toyota also removed the rear-mounted spare tire that everyone associated with the RAV4. Another dramatic change was moving from a 3.5 L V6 engine to a 2.5 L l4 with a six-speed auto transmission. It cut the horsepower by almost 100 and gained 4 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency.
Toyota also cut the car’s size back to the initial size in the first and second generations. Some of the gains from the engineering in this generation were in infotainment, ride quality, and accessories. For instance, it got Bluetooth, cruise control, auto headlights, plus a backup camera.
However, 2013 had some complaints about safety caused by brake failure on acceleration, invisible navigation display, and a faulty trailer light.
The fifth RAV4 generation started in 2019, after a successful 2018 with minimal complaints. The first change was in the engine, moving to a 2.5 L l4 with 203 horsepower and an eight-speed transmission. It also became a lighter model, and its combined miles per gallon shot to 30.
But, it’s like everything went downhill in 2019 as there were more complaints about transmission and the engine. These aren’t issues to ignore. For example, there were reports about gear slippage, noisy acceleration, and gas gauge failure.
Toyota recalled the 2019 model to fix the fuel tank as it wouldn’t fill up completely.
If you’re also interested in a Subaru Outback, these are the Outback years to avoid.
The Most Reliable Toyota RAV4
Overall, there are so many efficient years. But, we can mention 2016 as the most reliable RAV4 year.
It ranked high in ride quality, performance, and reliability. Though it had more complaints than the 2018 model, most of these were about cruise control. 2016 was also a year after the company fixed a safety issue in the 2013-2014 models, meaning it was safer.
What is wrong with Toyota fuel pumps?
One of the reasons is a low-pressure fuel pump that fails at any time, sending warning alerts and lights.
When the fuel pump’s propeller jams, it stops fuel from flowing out of the tank.
In cars with such problems, the engine may not restart smoothly, and it may stop while you’re on the road. This situation can cause a crash.
Why does Toyota have so many recalls?
The fuel pump problem saw the recall of over 5 million cars across several Toyota models, and the RAV4 was among them. Some of the car models recalled date as far back as 2013.
In addition to fuel pump recalls, RAV4 has had other recalls, with the most recent being 2020-2021 models, due to damaged breakaway pins that could affect the efficiency of airbags.
Some 2019 models had a faulty steering gearbox that could cause water penetration and affect the electric power steering. Other reasons for RAV4 recalls are defective front lower suspension arms, engine cooling, and electrical connector.
How many miles will a Toyota RAV4 last?
It clocks 200,000 to 250,000 miles. But, the higher end is only for cars under regular, professional maintenance. A RAV4 may serve you for up to 16 years, though the number of years depends on how often you use it annually.
If it exceeds 250,000 miles, it may need engine and transmission replacements.
Fortunately, this model rarely rusts, but spraying anti-rust treatment is an assurance you’ll not encounter rusting at all.
To increase its mileage, you can rotate the tires after every 5,000 miles and replace your brakes when your mileage clocks 30,000 to 60,000. Further, inspect it regularly for leaks and strange noises to repair them before the problem worsens.
Is Honda CR-V better than RAV4?
The CR-V clocks more miles, sometimes as many as 300,000. Plus, it has lower maintenance costs compared to the RAV4. As we mentioned, a Toyota RAV4 can attain 250,00 miles with proper maintenance. CR-V has a higher reliability rating than the RAV4, and it has more front and rear legroom at over 40 inches.
The cargo space of a RAV4 is about 69 cubic feet with the seats folded down, while a CR-V offers 75 cubic feet. The two models are similar in some ways too. For example, they are both reliable, with five seats and an all-wheel-drive option. Plus, you get elevated ride height in both models.
Toyota has so many models that make it a market leader. But with its manufacturing prowess comes a share of fails, sometimes causing recalls and lawsuits. RAV4 has raked in many recalls, the most prominent coming from a faulty fuel pump.
But, it’s still a leading crossover with enough space for cargo and passengers when taking short road trips. The good years are 2009 to 2012, and 2016 is the most reliable RAV4 year. The Toyota RAV4 years to avoid were those between 2006 and 2008. You may contend with numerous engine failures with those models.