The Toyota RAV4 Is the most popular SUV in America, known for its smooth ride, spacious interior, and excellent fuel efficiency.
That said, If you’re planning on buying a used RAV4, it’s important to know which years have the most problems, so you can give them a swerve.
The most recent Toyota RAV4 years to avoid are the 2019 and 2020 models, which recieved the worst reliability scores from Consumer Reports in the last 15 years. You should also avoid the 2013 model, which received a worrying number of owner complaints. The 2006-2008 years also had some serious issues, so are better off avoided.
Read on for more details on why these years were so bad, as well as how you can tell if a used RAV4 is worth your money.
Which RAV4 Years To Avoid (And Why)
Let’s take a closer look at the worst years and why you should avoid them.
Please keep in mind that although these years have some of the most owner complaints and worst reliability scores, that doesn’t mean that they can’t still be reliable.
You’ll find many owners from these years that haven’t had any issues at all. That’s because most of these issues should have been resolved during routine servicing or recalls. It’s therefore extremely important to check the maintenance history of the model you’re looking at.
Avoid The 2019 and 2020 Models
Toyota redesigned the RAV4 in 2019 to give it a more rugged truck-like look and significant improvements in the fuel economy, infotainment, and safety departments.
Unfortunately, as is often the case in redesign years, the 2019 model had a bumpy start, and many of the issues were not ironed out by the time the 2020 model was released.
Consumer Reports gave the 2019 and 2020 RAV4s their worst-ever reliability rating of 2 out of 5 stars, noting significant issues with the fuel system failing and multiple squeaks and rattles coming from the body.
So if you’re looking at newer RAV4 models, we’d recommend going for either the 2018 RAV4 or 2021 RAV4, which seems to have resolved most of the reliability issues from the 2019 and 2020 versions.
Related Article: 12 Cars Similar To Toyota RAV4 (With Pictures)
Avoid The 2013 Models
Although Consumer Reports gave the 2013 model 5/5 stars for reliability, it has the highest number of owner complaints of any model in the last 15 years.
Owners have raged about the inability to view the navigation screen in daylight, paint peeling off the body, and a crunching noise when breaking. However, the most serious complaint is that the car shudders while driving at speeds between 20 mph and 50mph.
If you’re looking at a 4rth generation RAV4, then we’d recommend the 2009 or 2010 versions
Avoid The 2006 – 2008 Models
The 2006-2007 RAV4 models followed the redesign and both scored poor reliability marks from consumer reports, as well as a huge number of complaints from owners. The biggest problem during these years was excessive oil consumption, which actually led to a group of owners filing a class-action lawsuit against Toyota for having defective engines. Owners also complained about loud clunking noises from under the car when steering.
Avoid The 2001 – 2003 Models
The 2001-2003 RAV4 models also had a huge amount of customer complaints, with the 2002 model receiving the most owner complaints in the entire history of the RAV4. The automatic transmissions in these years were a mess, with many owners experiencing the gears slipping or not transitioning well. These years also scored poor crash test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which noted that drivers had very poor protection during side impacts due to a lack of airbags. Thankfully, Toyota introduced side airbags in 2004, which largely resolved this issue.
You might also like: How Long Do RAV4 Last? (Expert Answer)
So Which Years Should You Go For?
The best model years for any car are usually the ones that come just before redesign years. This is because newly redesigned cars always have a few teething problems, which take the manufacturers a couple of years to iron out.
With this in mind, here are my top 2 picks for the best RAV4 years…
2018 Is The Best Year To Buy
The 2018 RAV4 came just before the rather calamitous 2019 redesign. It scored top marks for reliability from Consumer Reports, and has a very low number of owner complaints, with only 2 minor recalls for incorrect labeling of equipment.
2016 Is The Second Best Year To Buy
The 2016 model is also a great option. This year also scored top marks from Consumer Reports and has a relatively low number of owner complaints compared with other years. The 2016 model only had two recalls, one for incorrect labeling (very minor) and one for a lack of brake fluid pressure (slightly more serious)
Common RAV4 Problems To Look Out For
The RAV4 is well known for its excellent reliability, and the most common problems will be different for every model year. However, if you are buying a used RAV4, here are some common problems to look out for when you inspect it and take it for a test drive.
- Transmission Issues – transmission problems are probably the most common RAV4 problem. Gears slipping, jumping, and not changing smoothly have been common complaints throughout the years, as well as the car vibrating and lurching forward at slower speeds.
- Excessive oil consumption – This problem was most common with the 2006,2007, and 2008 RAV4 models, and is more common in higher mileage RAV4s between 90k and 150k miles.
- Interior cabin noise – many owners report that there is excessive wind noise while driving their RAV4. This is something that most experts also notice while reviewing the RAV4.
- Body paint chips easily – This is an issue that is common throughout the years and that customers notice even on brand new RAV4s.
How To Inspect A Used RAV4 Properly
If you are looking at buying a second-hand RAV4, then It’s always a good idea to follow these steps to make sure the vehicle you are buying is worth the price tag:
- Run the license plate or VIN number through Toyotas Safety Recall Lookup to see what recalls the car has had or if there are any open recalls.
- Do the same thing over at the National Highway and Safety Administration (nhtsa.gov) website.
- If you are buying your used RAV4 from a dealership, then make sure to ask them about any recall repairs that the vehicle has had. If there is an open recall on the RAV4, you can ask them to fix it as part of the deal
- Always test drive the vehicle to make sure it drives well.
- After you have inspected the vehicle yourself, always have an independent mechanic check it over to make sure everything is OK.
- If in doubt, always bring a friend who knows more about cars than you. Two pairs of eyes are better than one.
The Toyota RAV4 is still an ultra-reliable vehicle, and these problem years shouldn’t put you off buying one. It’s important to understand that even those these years are the worst on paper due to owner complaints and predicted reliability, it doesn’t mean that every RAV4 from these years is a bad one.
The purpose of this article is simply to inform you which RAV4 years have the most issues so that you’re better informed during your search. Use this article as a reference when inspecting a used RAV4, and make sure the vehicle you’re looking at doesn’t have these problems.
Ultimately, our best advice is to always try and avoid the first couple of years after a redesign, as these years usually have some teething problems that should be ironed out by the third year