A Guide to the Best and Worst Toyota RAV4 Model Years [EXPLAINED]

A Guide to the Best and Worst Toyota RAV4 Model Years [EXPLAINED]

Toyota came up with the versatile RAV4 to seemingly bridge the gap between a spacious SUV to get the groceries and fetch the kids in and a smooth-handling car that’s such an ease to drive, and owners seem to agree with this sentiment.

However, this isn’t to say that you should just let any salesman seal the deal on just any used RAV4 you come across, as it can be quite a gamble to pick out the best model year out of a batch of rotten ones.

To avoid writing one of your own complaints for the car online and potentially shelling out thousands on repairs, we’ll be guiding you through the best and worst model years of the Toyota RAV4 right this instant! 

What are the best and worst years of the Toyota RAV4?

The best years of the Toyota RAV4 are the 2009, 2010, 2016, 2017, and 2018 models. Some honorable mentions include the 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005 years.

The worst Toyota RAV4 years are the 2002, 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2019 models, with the 2006, 2014, 2020, and 2021 models also worth mentioning.

Now spanning 5 different generations, the Toyota RAV4 is as strong a contender in its class as it has ever been since the renowned Japanese car brand first released it in 1996.

But while each RAV4 generation has its unique perks, not every model year is created equally, making it important to distinguish and separate the good from the bad.

The good news is that the Toyota RAV4 has had plenty of “good” model years throughout all of its generations, with quite a few even being considered among the “best”.

Through extensive research into both expert and consumer reviews for the Japanese crossover SUV, we’ve found that the 2009, 2010, 2016, 2017, and 2018 model years are the best iterations of the Toyota RAV4 thanks to their solid reputation for reliability.

Even older 1st-gen models from 1996 and 1998 are also praised for their reliability and features for their time. The same goes for 2nd-gen models from 2001, 2004, and 2005, in particular.

As for those that are part of the bad batch, the 2002, 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2019 Toyota RAV4 models received the most complaints and also exhibited the worst issues, making them the worst years of the SUV that you should avoid buying.

In addition, 2006, 2014, and even the newer 5th-gen 2020 and 2021 models, despite being not as bad as the years previously mentioned, still pose several reliability concerns worth keeping a close watch on. 

Best Toyota RAV4 Model Years

The Best Toyota RAV4 model years are the 2009, 2010, 2016, 2017, and 2018 models due to having the best reliability and the least complaints.

Some 1st-gen (1996 and 1998) and 2nd-gen (2001, 2004, and 2005) Toyota RAV4 model years are also noteworthy for their reliability and features. 

Keep in mind that the model years below are not ranked in any particular order other than chronologically, as each best model year can have its own combination of noteworthy feats that make it considered one of the “best” years of the Toyota RAV4.

2009 Toyota RAV4

2009 Toyota RAV4

If you fancy a Toyota RAV4 from the 3rd-generation “XA30”, then the 2009 model is one of the best years you can get since it pretty much excels in almost everything you need for a car of its size.

For starters, it already has high reliability ratings across the board, such as 9.4/10 from SureCritic, 4.5/5 from Edmunds, and 83/100 from J.D. Power.

Even owners of the 2009 model year seem to agree as well, as it has received high consumer ratings of 4.4/5 from KBB, 4.4/5 from Edmunds, and 84/100 from J.D. Power.

In particular, it has been praised for its safety features, large trunk cargo space, and acceleration performance from its powerful V6 engine option.

However, you still need to keep an eye out for some common issues regarding the 2009 Toyota RAV4’s exhaust system, as it can still develop exhaust leaks that can potentially lead to strong odors and reduced fuel economy.

2010 Toyota RAV4

2010 Toyota RAV4

The 2010 Toyota RAV4 is also another worthy candidate for the best model years from the 3rd generation.

As with the 2009 model, the 2010 RAV4 demonstrated high reliability ratings of 88/100 from J.D. Power and 4.5/5 from Edmunds. Consumer ratings for the model from both sites are also quite excellent at 85/100 and 4.3/5, respectively.

This is owing to its great reputation in terms of build quality, low cost to drive per month, solid power delivery from the V6, and the same roomy cargo space as the previous model year.

Problem-wise, we’ll still go back to the same exhaust leak issue that the 2009 model had. Other than that, the 2010 RAV4 has been known to be virtually free from any major mechanical problems even after crossing the 200,000-mile mark.

2016 Toyota RAV4

2016 Toyota RAV4

Another great contender for one of the best Toyota RAV4 model years is the 2016 model from the 4th generation with respectable ratings from both experts and consumers.

With a reliability rating of 4.5/5 from Edmunds and an 86/100 from J.D. Power, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 offers very dependable performance and plenty of innovative safety features as part of its standard “Toyota Safety Sense P”.

Consumer ratings remain high at an average of 4.4/5 from Edmunds and 84/100 from J.D. Power, with owners particularly fond of the 2016 model’s acceleration performance, large cargo space, and HVAC system.

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 is not known to be a problematic year (which is why it made the best years list in the first place), though if we were to pick out two issues that stand out the most, it would be a faulty battery and a sour smell coming out of the AC vents.

2017 Toyota RAV4

2017 Toyota RAV4

Moving just one year forward, the 2017 Toyota RAV4 keeps the same trend in reliability and is chock full of features for its class.

J.D. Power gives the 2017 RAV4 an 87/100 for quality and reliability and an 83/100 for overall consumer-verified rating. In the same vein, Edmunds rates it a 4.5/5 in reliability and an average of 4.2/5 in consumer rating.

This is the model year to get if you prefer a very quiet and smooth riding experience in the interior. And of course, you also get the same spacious cargo area characteristic of a RAV4 model from this generation.

But while the sole 2.5-liter I4 engine still has enough power to go around, its acceleration has already been considered to be “modest” at best versus the emergence of other more powerful competitors from the same model year. 

2018 Toyota RAV4

2018 Toyota RAV4

To top off the 4th-generation Toyota RAV4, we turn to the 2018 model year, which has received one of the highest reliability ratings within its generation at 88/100 from J.D. Power.

Consumers also have high regard for the 2018 RAV4 judging by their high ratings over at KBB (4.4/5), Edmunds (4.4/5), and J.D. Power (84/100). However, Car and Driver only gives it an overall rating of 7/10.

Despite being the last model year of the 4th-gen RAV4, the cost to drive for the 2018 model remains quite low at only $146/month versus the $183/month for a midsize SUV, giving owners more time to appreciate its updated features, quality, and comfort.

But just like the last model year, its 176-hp 2.5-liter I4  is one of its main limiting factors since it falls short of other similar competitors offering better performance and similar fuel mileage. 

If you solely wanted to focus on the engine alone for this model year, you would have to opt for the RAV4 Hybrid model with its more powerful and fuel-efficient 194-hp 2.5-liter I4 hybrid assisted by an electric motor.

Honorable Mentions: 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005 Toyota RAV4

Honorable Mentions 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005 Toyota RAV4

Several earlier model years of the Toyota RAV4 are also worth mentioning for their relatively good reputation for reliability and amount of features even for their age.

The 1996 and 1998 model years are two great examples from the 1st-gen RAV4 generation, and while there’s definitely a lot less space inside to be had overall, they had great handling, performance, and safety features for their time.

Three different model years of the 2nd-gen Toyota RAV4, namely the 2001, 2004, and 2005 models, continued on the legacy established by its smaller 1st-gen predecessor with a larger interior and cargo space and even more innovative gizmos by Toyota.

Worst Toyota RAV4 Model Years

The worst Toyota RAV4 model years are the 2002, 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2019 models due to having the most reported reliability issues concerning their engine, transmission, and infotainment features.

2006, 2014, 2020, and 2021 RAV4 models are also known to be problematic years for their generations.

2002 Toyota RAV4

2002 Toyota RAV4

The first on the list of Toyota RAV4 model years you should absolutely avoid is the 2002 model. With over a thousand complaints posted on CarComplaints.com, it’s easy to see why “reliability” isn’t this model year’s specialty.

369 of those complaints alone relate to the vehicle’s transmission, with owners mostly mentioning that the transmission either struggles to shift, jerks during shifts, or hesitates.

Such issues have been reported to occur near the 100,000-mile mark, and they can easily cause between $2,000 and $3,000 worth of repairs depending on the transmission’s condition.

It’s also especially common for those equipped with the more powerful 2-liter I4 engine option, with some owners even experiencing the same issues within just a few months of buying the car back then.

2007 Toyota RAV4

2007 Toyota RAV4

One of the worst Toyota RAV4 model years you could buy from the 3rd generation is the 2007 model due to being plagued with complaints and issues regarding its engine and steering system.

The most common issue with its engine is that it’s prone to consume too much oil, and about 165 owners agreed with this sentiment. Steering-related complaints, in comparison, total to about 45 at the time of this writing.

Then there’s also the same problematic exhaust system that’s prone to leak in a lot of 3rd-gen model years like it.

2008 Toyota RAV4

2008 Toyota RAV4

Bad model years from the 3rd-generation RAV4 don’t stop there, as the 2008 model faired no better and also racked up plenty of complaints from owners that solidify its place as one of the worst model years of the SUV ever.

Unfortunately, the excessive oil consumption issue came back to haunt the 2008 Toyota RAV4 like it did a year prior, with a total of 114 complaints and a lot of frustrated owners of units that clocked around 100,000 miles on average.

Now and then, owners have also observed other issues such as a jerky transmission, exhaust leaks, and the airbag failing to deploy, which is one of the more serious safety hazards that the vehicle can potentially exhibit.

2013 Toyota RAV4

2013 Toyota RAV4

The 2013 model year of the Toyota RAV4 has been regarded as one of the worst to buy out of all 4th-gen “XA40” models for simply having one big safety risk alone.

Despite its better performance and fuel economy over the 3rd-gen model, owning a 4th-gen model, particularly from 2013 isn’t all sunshine and butterflies due to owners having complained of the car suddenly accelerating unintendedly.

This has been reported to happen both at higher and lower speeds, and it has already resulted in three separate accidents and tons of expensive repair bills.

While the above-mentioned chaos is more than enough of a reason not to bother yourself with this model year, the 2013 RAV4 is also notorious for having a faulty navigation display and many other electrical gremlins in its interior features.

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

While people usually expect that the reveal of a new-generation car model would lead to more upgrades and better reliability, this was unfortunately not the case for the 2019 Toyota RAV4 model.

As the first model year of the 5th-gen “XA50” RAV4, the 2019 model already ran into issues with its transmission hesitating and jerking about at low speeds in as soon as a mere 15 miles, with the average mileage being 3,450 miles based on 50 complaints.

Other owners have also complained of the engine making too much noise during acceleration, which is disappointing for a car that is supposed to provide a smooth and quiet driving experience for what it’s intended for.

The 2019 model year also sometimes exhibits other faults such as an inaccurate fuel gauge, leaking roof rack rails, and dashboard issues.

Not-So-Honorable Mentions: 2006, 2014, 2020, and 2021 Toyota RAV4

Not-So-Honorable Mentions 2006, 2014, 2020, and 2021 Toyota RAV4

Aside from the worst Toyota RAV4 model years of the lot, some not-so-honorable mentions also made it to this list for their own fair share of issues that can still make you think twice about buying them!

Such model years include the 2006 model with the ever-familiar excessive oil consumption problem 3rd-gen models are known for, and the 2014 model and its lethargic infotainment system that sometimes doesn’t respond to input.

Even the newer 5th-gen models from 2020 and 2021 are not spared from any problems, which can include the 8-speed transmission shifting roughly and issues with operating and connecting to the infotainment system properly.

Toyota RAV4 Generations and Model Years

The Toyota RAV4 has a total of 5 different generations, starting from 1996 with the 1st-generation “XA10” to the current-generation “XA50” which started in 2019 up until the present 2024 model year.

Toyota RAV4 GenerationModel Years
1st Generation (XA10)1996 to 2000
2nd Generation (XA20)2001 to 2005
3rd Generation (XA30)2006 to 2012
4th Generation (XA40)2013 to 2018
5th Generation (XA50)2019 to 2024/Present

What are the common problems of the Toyota RAV4?

Some common Toyota RAV4 problems include excessive oil consumption, an illuminated check engine light, low-pressure fuel pump issues, and exhaust issues.

The Toyota RAV4 is also known to have problems concerning its transmission system and steering system.

Engine Problems

Engine Problems

Before buying any model year of the Toyota RAV4, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the common problems associated with its major components, one of which is the engine.

One of the most common complaints about the Toyota RAV4’s engine is that it’s prone to excessive oil consumption. This is reported to happen mostly in 3rd-gen models from 2006 to 2008.

The Toyota RAV4 is also known to develop a leak in its water pump, experience a low-pressure fuel pump failure in 2019 and 2020 models, and emit a strong odor from exhaust leak issues in certain 3rd-gen models. 

Aside from that, owners have also experienced their check engine light (CEL) illuminating on the dash while driving at low speeds not exceeding 35 mph, which is sometimes accompanied by the SUV shutting off abruptly.

Transmission Problems

Transmission Problems

Another problematic part (or series of parts) of the Toyota RAV4 that can really rack up the costs if not caught earlier is the transmission system.

The RAV4’s automatic transmission is notorious for developing shifting issues, slipping gears, and all kinds of grinding noises, especially in earlier 2nd-gen 2002 models that are nearing 100,000 miles on the odometer.

Some owners, with the help of mechanics, have also traced their transmission issues back to a bad solenoid, which can result in jerky shifts, stalling issues, and either the check engine light (CEL) or VSC/TRAC light turning on.

Steering Problems

Steering Problems

Steering problems are another common category of problems for the Toyota RAV4, especially in older models.

It’s a considerably documented issue that the 2nd-gen Toyota RAV4, especially the 2007 model, makes a lot of clunking noises while turning the steering wheel to either side or while driving over bumps.

The clunking issue has been observed to occur at an average mileage of about 50,100 miles for the 2007 model, with solutions varying from replacing the intermediate steering column to replacing the steering shaft assembly.

In other more unfortunate cases, the Toyota RAV4’s power steering light also turned on and the steering wheel became either difficult to turn or just downright failed, resulting in an accident. 

Consumer Ratings for Best Toyota RAV4 Years

Toyota RAV4 Model Year
KBB Rating
Edmunds Consumer RatingCar and Driver RatingJD Power’s Consumer Rating

What are the best alternatives to the Toyota RAV4?

What are the best alternatives to the Toyota RAV4

The best alternatives to the Toyota RAV4 include the Chevy Equinox, Ford Bronco, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, and Toyota Corolla Cross.

To give you a better idea of how the current Toyota RAV4 stacks up against the competition, we gathered several similar vehicles to compare their specs, ratings, and prices with each other.

Vehicle Model
Base Engine


Fuel EconomyEdmunds Consumer Rating
Toyota RAV4 (2024)
2.5L I4

203 hp
8-Speed Automatic (Direct Shift)27 mpg (City) / 35 mpg (Highway)
$30,025 to $39,645
Chevrolet Equinox (2024)
1.5L I4 Turbo

175 hp
6-Speed Automatic26 mpg (City) / 31 mpg (Highway)
$27,995 to $33,195

Ford Bronco (2024)

2.3L I4 Turbo

275 hp

7-Speed Manual w/ Overdrive
20 mpg (City) / 21 mpg (Highway) (2023 model)

$41,025 to $91,730 

Honda CR-V (2024)

1.5L I4 Turbo

190 hp
CVT w/ Overdrive28 mpg (City) / 34 mpg (Highway)
$30,850 to $41,550
Hyundai Tucson (2024)
2.5L I4

187 hp
8-Speed Automatic w/ Overdrive25 mpg (City) / 32 mpg (Highway)
$28,875 to $41,090
Kia Sportage(2024)
2.5L I4

187 hp
8-Speed Automatic w/ Overdrive25 mpg (City) / 33 mpg (Highway)
$28,415 to $39,215 
Mazda CX-5 (2024)
2.5L I4

187 hp
6-Speed Automatic w/ Overdrive23 mpg (City) / 29 mpg (Highway)
$30,675 to $41,975 
Nissan Rogue (2023)
1.5L I3 Turbo

201 hp
CVT w/ Overdrive30 mpg (City) / 37 mpg (Highway)
$28,695 to $38,475
Subaru Forester (2024)
2.5L Boxer-4

182 hp
Lineartronic CVT25 to 26 mpg (City) / 28 to 33 mpg (Highway)
$27,095 to $37,395
Toyota Corolla Cross 
2.0L I4

169 hp
CVT w/ Intelligence and Shift Mode (CVTi-S)31 mpg (City) / 33 mpg (Highway)

$24,945 to $29,170

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are used Toyota RAV4s reliable?

When you’re in the market for a used Toyota RAV4, its reliability can depend on which model year you’re looking at and how well it was maintained by the present owners.

As a good example, 3rd-generation models from 2009 and 2010 have a very good reputation when it comes to reliability, with most owners experiencing only minor issues, if any at all, for thousands of miles.

However, when you go back a few years to the 2006 and 2007 models, which are also part of the same generation, that solid reputation for reliability is nowhere to be found since these earlier models tend to consume too much oil and have steering issues.

Regardless of the model year you pick, it’s still essential to check the maintenance history of the unit you’re interested in, as well-maintained ones will generally last you longer and give you fewer headaches.

What year is the most reliable Toyota RAV4?

The Toyota RAV4 has several good candidates for the most reliable model year, such as the 2016, 2017, and 2018 model years of the 5th-gen RAV4 that all received an Edmunds reliability rating of 4.5/5.

3rd-gen RAV4 models from 2009 and 2010 are also noteworthy for their good reliability scores, though if you fancy a 2nd-gen model more, then the 2001, 2004, and 2005 model years are the ones to get for their excellent expert and consumer reviews.

For those looking to get the more compact 1st-gen Toyota RAV4, then its most reliable model years are 1996 and 1998.

What are the most common problems with the Toyota RAV4?

The most common problems of the Toyota RAV4 relate to either its engine, its transmission system, or its steering system.

More specifically, earlier model years of the RAV4 are prone to excessive oil consumption, shifting issues with the automatic transmission, and annoying clunking noises from the steering wheel when turning left or right.

How many miles can a Toyota RAV4 last?

The Toyota RAV4 is capable of lasting 200,000 to 400,000 miles (322,000 to 644,000 km) depending on how well it has been maintained. 

Of course, following all the recommended service intervals as well as practicing good driving habits in your Toyota RAV4 will allow it to reach higher mileage numbers and reduce the chance or frequency of any major repairs needed.