Best & Worst Toyota RAV4 Years (Problems To Avoid)

Do you know which model year you should buy if you’re considering a Toyota RAV4? We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to help you make an informed decision.

Every Toyota RAV4 model year isn’t the same, of course.

We compiled a list of the best and worst model years of this popular crossover using our decades of experience and countless hours spent under the hood.

We’ve revealed everything you need to know about some models, from their admirable reliability to their unexpected hiccups.

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There are many similarities between the models of each generation of the Toyota RAV4, so let’s start by listing their generations.

In the following section, we’ll show you which Toyota RAV4 year is best and which Toyota RAV4 year you should stay away from.

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Why Is The Toyota RAV4 So Popular?

The RAV4 has always managed to blend car-like dynamics with SUV-like ruggedness just right. Being a Toyota doesn’t hurt, either. With its cute yet tough design, the first-generation model was instantly admired by thousands of buyers. Especially youthful was the design of the first-generation three-door model.

Although no car is perfect, the RAV4 rarely requires serious maintenance or is overly expensive when it does. Compared to all compact SUVs, the RAV4 has an average annual repair cost of $429. Also, the RAV4 is not prone to frequent or severe repairs.

Why Is The Toyota RAV4 So Popular

There is also an excellent resale value for the RAV4. With only three slower-depreciating SUVs after five years, the Toyota RAV4 is the fourth-slowest depreciating SUV.

Even in its most modern fifth-generation model, the RAV4 maintains a simple design. In order to prioritize safety equipment over technology, it is equipped with a standard four-cylinder non-turbo engine.

Generations of the Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4 GenerationsModel Years
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

In order to understand which years to avoid and which to look for, we’ll list the best and worst Toyota RAV4 years per generation.

A neutral year is also included in our list. Since we couldn’t categorize these years on either side, we cannot categorize them as good or bad.

Toyota RAV4 GenerationsBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation1996 199819971999 2000
2nd generation2001 2004 20052002 2003
3rd generation2009 20102008 2011 20122006 2007
4th generation2013 2015 2016 2017 20182014
5th generation2022 20232019 2020 2021

We categorize the models based on our combined score. There are multiple factors that contribute to our score, each of which has a specific weight. In addition to quantitative data, we’ll also use owner surveys to make the final call.

Factors to consider include:

  • Reliability as reported by owners (surveys)
  • Costs associated with annual maintenance
  • Rating for safety
  • Reliability rating from Consumer Reports
  • Score of owner satisfaction based on Consumer Reports
  • Complaints, investigations, and recalls by the NHTSA
  • Owner ratings on Edmunds
  • Owner ratings from JD Power
  • Owner ratings from Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB)
  • Owner ratings on VehicleHistory
  • Owner ratings on

The weight assigned to each factor is combined with the frequency of negative factors (such as recalls) to give an accurate estimate of the car model’s reliability.

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

2019 saw the unveiling of the fifth-generation RAV4, which set new standards in the compact SUV segment with its rugged exterior and high-tech features.

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

The RAV4 gained more ride quality, stability, and efficiency due to its adoption of Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform.

2022 and 2023 are the best years

In terms of safety and technology, Toyota’s RAV4 models for 2022 and 2023 stand out as the standouts of this generation. RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid option, was added to the 2022 model, along with a more powerful and efficient hybrid system.

In addition to this, the 2023 model offers a more refined infotainment system with improved connectivity, an easier-to-use user interface, and user-friendly controls.

As a result of the Toyota’s commitment to safety, both years featured standard advanced driver-assistance systems, including collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warnings.

2019 – 2021 are the worst years

There were some teething problems during the initial years of the fifth generation – 2019, 2020, and 2021 – despite some of the innovations introduced by this generation. Connectivity issues and lack of intuitive controls were reported as issues with the new infotainment system.

The new eight-speed automatic transmission on some RAV4 models of these years was also known to occasionally exhibit harsh or uncertain shifting.

While these issues exist, the models remain competitive thanks to their advanced safety features and fuel-efficient engines.

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

In 2013, Toyota launched the fourth generation of the RAV4, which boasted a sleeker, more contemporary design than its predecessor.

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

Aside from the enhanced ride and fuel efficiency, the model is also equipped with an array of advanced safety features, which echo Toyota’s commitment to safe and comfortable driving.

2013 to 2018, 2015 to 2016, 2017 to 2018 were the best years

This generation debuted with a bang in 2013, introducing a stylish new design, a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, and an automatic transmission that allows for better fuel efficiency.

As a result of this achievement, the 2015 RAV4 is equipped with a new technology package that includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. A pre-collision system with pedestrian detection became standard on all 2016-2017 RAV4s, incorporating features such as adaptive cruise control.

In 2017, and 2018, it introduced a sportier SE trim as well as the RAV4 Adventure, which featured added ground clearance and rugged styling.

2014 was the worst year ever

A few key issues marred the 2014 RAV4 despite its overall success for the fourth generation.

There were complaints of sluggish or unresponsive infotainment systems and interior accessories.

The reported interior issues also somewhat tarnished this model year’s reputation, even though the engine and transmission were still reliable.

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

Toyota’s third-generation RAV4 moved closer to midsize SUV territory with the introduction of its third generation in 2006.

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

As well as an enhanced balance of performance, comfort, and utility, it featured a new exterior design, a roomier interior, and an optional powerful V6 engine.

2009 and 2010 were the best years

As the RAV4’s development reached a high point in this generation, the 2009 and 2010 models stood out. Restyled exteriors, updated interiors, and optional touchscreen navigation systems were all available in both years.

In addition to the V6 engine, Toyota continued to offer its powerful and fuel efficient V8 engine.

The RAV4 Sport is also designed with sport-tuned suspension and unique styling cues, giving consumers a choice of vehicles to fit their lifestyles.

2008, 2011 and 2012 were neutral years

As for the RAV4, the 2008, 2011, and 2012 models were solid, but not spectacular. Despite offering competitive features and maintaining Toyota’s quality and reliability, these models did not introduce significant improvements.

With the V6 engine option and roomy interior, they retained their appeal.

2006 and 2007 were the worst years

Despite their size and power advancements, the 2006 and 2007 models had some issues as well.

Oil consumption problems during these years negatively impacted the vehicle’s reputation, which negatively affected sales.

These models were further dampened by some owners reporting transmission problems, specifically shifting problems.

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

The Toyota RAV4 entered its second era in 2001 with a larger, cozier interior and a refined layout.

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

A more mature and capable compact SUV was presented with technological advancements and safety features.

Toyota’s commitment to staying ahead of the rapidly evolving segment was evident in the 2001 RAV4, despite remaining true to its roots.

2001, 2004 and 2005 were the best years

Consumers appreciated the more powerful 2.0L four-cylinder engine in the 2001 RAV4. A stability control system was available as well as standard anti-lock brakes by 2004.

Further refinements and optional features in the 2005 RAV4 made it one of the most complete compact SUVs on the market, including an advanced all-wheel drive system and a more powerful 2.4L four-cylinder engine.

2002 and 2003 were the worst years

There were some reliability issues with the 2002 and 2003 RAV4 models. We recommend that you stay away from these models due to transmission problems, especially automatic transmission failures.

This model year’s mechanical issues proved to be a significant drawback despite offering similar features to its predecessor and immediate successor.

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

It was the first compact crossover SUV to offer a car-like driving experience while being capable off-road. Toyota RAV4 was introduced in 1996.

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

This innovative vehicle helped shape the burgeoning segment through its combination of practicality, versatility, and style as a result of its distinctive two-door design.

1996 and 1998 were the best years

As a compact SUV with a car-like ride, the 1996 RAV4 paved the way for a new generation of SUVs, offering a choice of 2.0L or 1.8L engines.

Toyota enhanced its RAV4’s safety features in 1998, as well as adding anti-lock brakes and restyled headlights to solidify its market position.

1997 was the Neutral Year

RAV4’s 1997 model year served as a transitional model. In addition to combining the benefits of a car and SUV, it offered some incremental upgrades, including an innovative unibody construction.

Moreover, it maintained a solid balance between performance and fuel efficiency with the 2.0L four-cylinder engine. Toyota, however, fixed some reliability problems the following year.

1999 and 2000 were the worst years

As the SUV market rapidly evolved, the 1999 and 2000 models of the RAV4 began to show their age, despite maintaining their core strengths.

Compared to the emerging competition, there were limited advances in technology and interior comfort.

A reputation was also tarnished by reliability issues, particularly with transmissions and engines in these model years.

What About The Brand-New RAV4?

The newest RAV4s are going to have the best feature content, so they’re going to be the most desirable. Our choice between a 2022 and 2023 would be one with a significant upgrade to the infotainment interface.

Although there hasn’t been enough time for these newest RAV4s to be tested for reliability, it’s too early to say. In the current state of affairs, there have been very few complaints about 2023-2024 RAV4s, although 195 examples of the 2023 model have been recalled for an air leak from the tires caused by an allegedly damaged valve stem. The problem affects 17-inch alloy models with black wheels.

Common Toyota RAV4 Problems

It is well known that the Toyota RAV4 is a reliable vehicle. The Toyota RAV4 has a 4.0 reliability score according to gearfixup. While the Toyota RAV4 has been in production for many years, it has developed several common problems:

Common Toyota RAV4 Problems

Transmission problems

Having trouble shifting gears or having the SUV jerk at low speeds may indicate transmission problems. It seems that the 2019 has the most transmission issues among the newer models.

Excessive oil consumption

Toyota RAV4 models dating back to 2005 have been plagued by this problem. In the range of 75,000 to 150,000 miles, many SUV drivers complained that they burned more oil than average. Due to this issue, Toyota extended its warranty.

Steering problems

There is a relatively high incidence of steering problems with the 2017 model year, which may result in the wheel locking up or pulling to one side. Turning the wheel caused some owners to hear knocking noises.

Engine cooling problems

When the engine’s cooling system leaks, coolant fluid leaks into the engine, causing severe mechanical damage.

EVAP system issue

Check engine lights often illuminate on RAV4 models that have faulty evaporative system (EVAP) vapor canisters. When this issue occurs, charcoal pellets may leak from vapor canisters and block the vent valve. Replacement of all the valves in the canister system is the recommended solution. Only older models of the RAV4 are affected by this issue.

False catalytic converter failure warning

The computer on the RAV4 warned owners of a possible catalytic converter problem. In the end, Toyota provided a simple software update to fix this false alarm.

Faulty oxygen sensor

Air and fuel mixtures are monitored by these sensors and are adjusted as required. Fuel economy will be reduced and emissions will be increased if oxygen sensors fail. Oxygen sensors on the RAV4 are faulty mainly due to wear and tear. It is possible for them to last up to 100k miles, but sometimes they fail sooner than that. The recommended fix is to replace the sensor, but make sure it is the right one for your RAV4.

Should You Buy a RAV4?

In terms of safety and reliability, the RAV4 has an excellent track record. Using the above guide, you will be able to choose one that will not disappoint you.

I can say, however, that the RAV grew more and more boring over time. While it has strayed from its roots, it never seems to be more than a means of transportation, even with competitive technology on higher trims.

Cars don’t need to be anything more than a mode of transportation for 90% of people. Try one of the first-generation RAVs if you’re looking for something a bit more interesting.

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Which year Toyota RAV4 is reliable?

However, many RAV4s outside the problematic years mentioned in the guide have become more reliable in recent years despite not being highlighted as exceptionally reliable in the guide above. When looking for a reliable model, it is always recommended to consider models from recent years outside the problematic range.

What are the bad years of RAV4?

In addition to the 2019 model with transmission and brake issues, the 2013 model with low-speed vibration issues, and the 2006-2008 RAV4s with serious engine problems and reliability problems are the years to avoid as well.

What year RAV4 has transmission problems?

There have been reports of hesitancy and lurching with the 2019 Toyota RAV4’s transmission, along with transmission slippage and rough shifts.

What are the biggest problems with the Toyota RAV4?

RAV4 models from 2009 to 2012 experienced unwanted acceleration while models from 2006 to 2008 experienced excessive oil consumption. Since the 2019 model had transmission issues, infotainment glitches have plagued all four generations of the model.

Are Toyota RAV4s typically reliable?

Definitely. Toyota’s reputation for building reliable vehicles has made the RAV4 the best-selling non-truck vehicle in the U.S. Even so, not every model year is as reliable as others. When considering a pre-owned RAV4, you should do your homework first.

How much does a used Toyota RAV4 typically cost?

It’s been almost 30 years since RAV4s were introduced in the U.S., but you don’t want an old one. A 2005 RAV4 with 150,000 miles will run you about $7,000 in the 21st century. Costs will be higher if the vehicle has less mileage. The volatile market conditions will result in higher prices for late-model examples. The average price of a 2018 Toyota RAV4 is $24,754, according to CoPilot Price Pulse. Compared to a normal sale, that’s 29% more.

Is the Toyota RAV4 a good car to purchase?

No matter whether you buy a new or used Toyota RAV4, it’s a good choice. The RAV4 is well-known for its dependability, but pre-owned cars always carry a risk, no matter how good that reputation is. 


Let’s hear from you about your experience with the Toyota RAV4 now that we’ve taken a thorough look at the best and worst years of the vehicle. Are you the owner of one of our top-rated or worst-rated years?

If you have any stories to share, we’d love to hear them and see how they match up with our findings. If you have any experiences to share, please let us know. Let’s continue the discussion!

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