Ultimate RAV4 Buyers Guide (New & Used)

Toyota’s RAV4 is one of the most popular SUVs on the market. It’s attractive, reliable, and capable, making it an excellent choice for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

If you’re considering purchasing a new or used RAV4, it’s important to do your homework so that you can choose the right trim for your needs, avoid problematic years, and generally have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

In this  RAV4 buying guide, we cover the most important things to know before buying this popular SUV.

Toyota Rav4

RAV4 Pros

  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Comfortable interior
  • Impressive reliability
  • Lots of trim options
  • Great practicality for family life
  • The most popular SUV on the market
  • Very high-reliability ratings
  • Plenty of safety features
  • Loads of high-tech features

RAV4 Cons

  • More expensive than alternatives
  • The lower trim levels tend to feel quite basic
  • Doesn’t offer a ton of cargo space
  • Lack of different engine options
  • Noisy cabin

RAV4 Quick Overview

Let’s take a quick look at some of the key features of the Toyota RAV4, and how they compare to popular alternatives such as the Honda CR-V.

Cost

The RAV4 has a bit higher than the average price for the compact SUV market, with a new RAV4 costing around $26,000 and a used RAV4 (2019) costing around $30,000. That’s almost on par with the Honda CR-V, which starts at $25,500 new and $29,000 used (2019). So if you’re looking for a dependable and fuel-efficient SUV, the RAV4 is a great choice – just be prepared to pay a bit more than average for it. 

Reliability

Toyota RAV4s are renowned for their excellent reliability and low maintenance costs. The RAV4 is more reliable than most of its competitors, with only the Honda CR-V making a decent claim of being more reliable. Overall, a RAV4 is a great choice if you are looking for a long-lasting, hassle-free SUV that is cheap to maintain.

MPG

Compared to other cars in its class, the RAV4 gets relatively good gas mileage. The gasoline-only versions have a 28-30 mpg EPA rating, while the RAV4 Hybrid has an EPA combined rating of 40 mpg, and the RAV4 Prime has an EPA combined rating of 38 mpg after 42 miles of electric driving. 

Safety

The RAV4 is a highly safe vehicle, scoring top marks in crash tests and earning high praise from safety experts. Its strong build quality and reliable safety features make it one of the best choices for families and individuals alike. For example, the 2020 RAV4 was given a 5-Star Overall Safety Rating from the NHTSA.

Off-Road Capabilities

The Toyota RAV4 is mostly a capable off-roader, no more than other SUVs, but if you’re looking to really hit the trails, you’ll want to opt for the TRD Off-Road version. This model is specifically designed for off-road adventures and comes equipped with features like all-terrain tires, skid plates, and a raised suspension. If you’re planning on doing any serious off-roading, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road is the way to go. 

Buying A New RAV4 (FAQs)

In this section, we answer some of the most common questions that people have before buying a new RAV4. If you have other questions that you would like us to answer, please let us know in the comments.

Which Trim Option Should You Buy?

Toyota offers six distinct trim levels for the 2022 RAV4.

LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, TRD Off-Road, and Limited.

Prices start at $26,150 MSRP for the LE and top out at $35,880 MSRP for the TRD Off-Road model. All trim levels come with a Dynamic Force 2.5L four-cylinder engine.

The right RAV4 trim will be different for everyone, depending on how they use it. For example:

  • You don’t need AWD if you will only be driving in warm, dry climates
  • If you plan on taking it off-road or need it to tow a camper, then you’ll want to make sure the RAV4 you choose has the necessary power and capability.
  • If you don’t have a driveway with easy-to-access power, then the all-electric model wouldn’t be a good idea.

Let’s take a detailed look at the trim options…

RAV4 LE

The RAV4 LE is the base model and is very well equipped for its price point. Standard features include Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, power windows, and door locks, remote keyless entry, a backup camera, and more. This trim level is best suited for budget-oriented buyers.

RAV4 XLE

The Toyota RAV4 XLE builds on the LE with additional features like a blind spot monitor (BSM), a rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA), a smart key system, and an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The Toyota RAV4 XLE starts at $27,445 MSRP. This trim level is best suited for buyers who don’t have a big budget but still want to have most of the features of a high-tech vehicle.

RAV4 XLE Premium

The Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium is the luxury-oriented trim and comes standard with additional features such as a leather-trimmed steering wheel and SofTex®-trimmed seating, while the optional intelligent clearance sonar (ICS) and the optional rear cross-traffic braking (RCTB) are optional. Prices for the XLE Premium start at $30,150 MSRP. This trim option is best suited for buyers who don’t mind spending extra for additional comfort but don’t have the budget to go for the Limited trim level.

RAV4 Adventure

The Toyota RAV4 Adventure is aimed at those who want a more rugged and off-road-oriented RAV4. It comes standard with features like Dynamic Torque Vectoring All Wheel Drive and a leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic three-spoke steering wheel. Prices start at $33,255 MSRP. 

RAV4 TRD Off-Road

The Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road is the most off-road capable RAV4 and comes standard with features like Multi-Terrain select with mud and sand modes, Dynamic Torque Vectoring All Wheel Drive with 18-inch six-spoke matte-black TRD flow-formed alloy wheels, a power liftgate with jam protection, and more. Prices start at $35,880 MSRP. 

RAV4 Limited

The Toyota RAV4 Limited is the range-topping trim and comes standard with features like a JBL audio system with 11 speakers, ambient lighting, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and 19-inch multi-spoke chrome-finished alloy wheels, Toyota Safety Connect services, and more. Prices for the Limited trim start at $34,680 MSRP*

Which Trim Option Do We Recommend?

If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, we recommend the XLE trim level. It offers a good mix of features and comfort without breaking the bank. If you can afford to spend a bit more, the Limited trim level is also a great option. It adds a few luxury touches that make driving even more enjoyable. 

Should You Get All-wheel-drive (AWD) or Front Wheel Drive (FWD)?

The Toyota RAV4 is available in both all-wheel-drive (AWD) and front-wheel drive (FWD). If you live in an area with a lot of snow or off-road conditions, then AWD is probably the best option for you. It will give you better traction and stability in those conditions. However, if you don’t need the extra traction that AWD provides, for example, if you live in the city, then FWD is probably the better choice. It’s more fuel-efficient and typically cheaper to maintain than AWD.

How Long Will You Have To Wait For A New RAV?

The average wait time for a new RAV4 is currently around 10 – 12 months due to supply chain shortages. However, this can vary depending on the dealership you purchase from and the trim level you choose. If you’re willing to wait a bit longer, you may be able to get a better deal on your new RAV4.

Should You Buy The RAV4 Prime or RAV4 Hybrid?

There are a few key differences between the two models that you’ll want to keep in mind when making your decision. The RAV4 Prime is Toyota’s plug-in hybrid model, and as such, it has a slightly higher starting price than the regular hybrid model. However, it also has a much longer electric range – up to 42 miles on a single charge. The RAV4 Prime starts at $39,800, and it produces 302 horsepower. So if you’re looking for a hybrid SUV with extended electric capabilities, the RAV4 Prime is the way to go.

The RAV4 Hybrid, on the other hand, is a more traditional hybrid SUV. It has a shorter electric range – up to 30 miles on a single charge -but it’s also significantly less expensive than the RAV4 Prime. The RAV4 Hybrid starts at $29,075, and it produces 219 horsepower. So if you’re looking for a more affordable hybrid SUV, the RAV4 Hybrid is the model for you.

Ultimately, the decision between the RAV4 Prime and the RAV4 Hybrid comes down to your needs and budget. If you’re looking for an extended electric range and can afford the higher starting price, the RAV4 Prime is the best choice. But if you’re looking for a more affordable hybrid SUV, the RAV4 Hybrid is the way to go.

Should You Buy New or Slightly Used RAV4?

If you’re considering buying a RAV4, you may be wondering whether you’ll get more value buying a new or a used 1-2-year-old model.

Buying a new Toyota RAV4 means that you’ll get the latest features and technology, as well as the peace of mind that comes with a new car warranty. However, a new RAV4 also comes with a higher price tag (most of the time) and new RAV4s currently have very long waiting times. You may have to wait months before it’s finally delivered.

On the other hand, you would probably save a few grand buying a slightly used model (1-3 years old). However, keep in mind that used RAV4s can sometimes be just as expensive as new ones due to high demand. The second-hand market for RAV4s is notoriously crazy. It can also be hard to find low-mileage RAV4s as most people who buy RAV4s don’t tend to give them up early.

In our opinion, we believe you would be better off buying a new RAV4 if you have the time to wait.

Buying A Used RAV4 (FAQs)

In this section, we’ll answer some of the most common questions that people have about buying a used Toyota RAV4. If you have any further questions, please let us know in the comments.

What Are The Different RAV4 Generations?

The Toyota RAV4 is a compact SUV that was first introduced in 1994. It was one of the first SUVs on the market and quickly became popular for its versatility and practicality. The RAV4 was originally only available as a three-door model, but a five-door version was later introduced. 

Toyota has continuously updated the RAV4 over the years, adding new features and improving its performance. Today, the RAV4 is one of Toyota’s best-selling vehicles and remains a popular choice for families and individuals alike.

First Generation (1995 – 2000)

-The first generation RAV4 was introduced in 1994 and was available as a three-door or five-door SUV. In the US market, it came with a 2.0-liter straight-four engine producing 119 hp.

Second Generation (2001 – 2005)

The second generation RAV4 was introduced in 2000 and featured a redesigned exterior and interior. It was also available in multiple engine options, such as the 1.8-liter inline-four engine producing 123 hp, 2.0-litre inline-four engine producing 150 hp, 2.4-litre inline-four engine producing 158 hp, and a D-4D diesel engine. 

Third Generation (2006 – 2012)

The third generation RAV4 was introduced in 2005 and featured a more aggressive design. It was available with a number of different engine options. In 2008 the RAV4 was given a mid-cycle refresh, including an all-new four-cylinder engine and an exterior redesign.

Fourth Generation (2013–2018)

The fourth generation RAV4 was introduced in 2012 and featured a complete redesign. It was unique compared to the previous models since it featured a rear liftgate rather than a side-opening rear door. All-wheel drive was also available for the first time.

Third Generation (2019–present)

The fifth generation RAV4 was introduced in 2018 and featured a mild redesign. It’s available with either a four-cylinder or hybrid powertrain. All-wheel drive is still available. It came with a Multi-Terrain Select, providing operators an ability to maximize traction when driving on sand, mud, rock, or dirt. In September 2021, Toyota provided an update to the RAV4 by offering a face-lift and new models such as the RAV4 Hybrid and the RAV4 Prime. 

Which Used RAV4 Years Should You Buy?

If you’re looking for a used RAV4, then there are certain years that we recommend avoiding.

For starters, avoid the second generation (2001 – 2003) models due to problems with the automatic transmissions and gears slipping. They’re getting quite old at this point and may have some reliability issues. 

We also recommend avoiding the third generation (2006 – 2008) models. These models cored poor reliability marks from consumer reports, as well as a huge number of complaints from owners due to excessive oil consumption.

You should also avoid the 2013 RAV4 since it has the highest number of owner complaints of any RAV4 model in the last 15 years due to problems with the infotainment system, braking, and car shudders. 

If you’re looking for the newest model possible, the fourth generation (2018) and the fifth generation (2021+) are the way to go. These models are still quite expensive, but they offer the latest technology and features. They’re also very fuel efficient, thanks to their hybrid powertrains, and are very reliable.

What Problems Do Used RAV4s Have?

Some of the most common issues you might encounter with your RAV4 include peeling paint, excessive oil consumption, a leaking water pump, and problems with the infotainment system. Keep an eye out for these potential issues and have them addressed as soon as possible to keep your RAV4 running smoothly. Take a look at our list of the nine most common problems with the 2013 RAV4 in case you were thinking of buying one.

What is high mileage for a RAV4?

RAV4s are extremely reliable vehicles that can last a very long time if they are well maintained. If the vehicle was well-maintained, then we do not even consider 100k miles as high mileage for a RAV4. When looking at RAV4 with 100k miles +, how the owner treated the car is far more important than the number of miles on the clock. If the previous owner treated it well and was only using it to commute on the highway, then the RAV4 should have no problems going past the 300k mark.

Top Tips When Buying a Used RAV4

Here are our top tips when buying a used RAV4.

  • Get rough prices –  Use online car-buying tools to check the prices of similar vehicles in your area. This will give you a good sense of what kind of price you should be paying for the RAV4 model you’re interested in.
  • Shop around –  Don’t just settle for the first deal you come across. Be sure to shop around and compare offers from several different dealerships and private sellers before you start to negotiate. Knowledge is power. 
  • Negotiate –  Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the dealerships on price. Remember that you are the one in control, and there is always room for negotiation when it comes to buying a car. When negotiating a price, be sure to take into account the cost of any repairs or maintenance that may be needed.
  • Be nice – It may sound obvious, but when negotiating, be extra nice to the person you are speaking to. They are much more likely to work with you on price if you’re not being aggressive.
  • VIN Check –  Before inspecting the car, run the vehicle’s VIN number to ensure that the car has not been in any accidents, and to make sure that it’s up-to-date with any recalls.
  • Crosscheck problems – once you know the year of the car you are buying, find out the most common problems and owner complaints from that year. You can use these as things to look for when you go and inspect the vehicle.
  • Inspect the vehicle yourself – Inspect the vehicle as thoroughly as you can. Start the engine, open and close the doors, turn on the AC, check the tires and wheels, play with the infotainment system, turn on the wipers, honk the horn, and look for rust. Listen for strange sounds and make some notes.
  • Test drive –  Once you have inspected the vehicle, you should test drive it (if possible) to make sure it drives smoothly and there are no strange sounds
  • Independent Mechanic inspection – Whether buying from a dealership or private seller, always have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic before making the purchase.

How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off

If you’re not careful, you could end up getting ripped off when buying a used Toyota RAV4. To avoid this, it is important to do your research and be aware of common scams. For example, some sellers may try to sell a car that has been in an accident or has hidden damage. Others might try to sell a car that has been recalled by the manufacturer.

You can start by checking the VIN number and doing a background check on the car. You can also get a vehicle history report, which will give you information on the car’s past owners, accidents, and repairs.

Meeting in a public place is also a good idea to make sure that everything goes smoothly and there are no problems with the transaction.

RAV4 Alternatives

If, for example, you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the RAV4, you ought to consider the Subaru Forester, which has a roomier interior and a lower price tag. The Subaru Forester might also be a good option if you are prone to more off-roadish activities since it comes with a powerful four-cylinder engine and an all-wheel-drive system.

If your biggest concern is cargo and seating space, then the Toyota Highlander might be the right choice for you. The Highlander can seat up to eight people, so if you have a large family, the Highlander is a no-brainer.

Another great alternative to the RAV4 is the Honda CR-V which has better acceleration, more luggage space, and higher reliability ratings. The Honda CR-V is during normal conditions noticeably cheaper than the RAV4 while having higher reliability ratings than its rival.

If for example, you are in the market for a used SUV, there are a number of alternatives to the Toyota RAV4 if you’re looking for a used SUV. The Honda CR-V and Toyota Highlander are both popular choices, as is the Nissan Rogue.

If you’re willing to consider a smaller SUV, the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR are both excellent options. And if you’re looking for something a little bit different, the Mazda CX-5 is definitely worth considering. The Mazda CX-5 is even more reliable than the RAV4 and has a higher quality interior. The RAV4 on the other hand outshines the CX-5 in fuel economy, higher towing capacity, and bigger luggage space.

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