Toyota RAV4 Buyer’s Guide
One of the nation’s most-bought crossover SUVs, the Toyota RAV4 has a devoted following, and it’s easy to see why. They are great for everyday driving, yet rugged enough for off-road conditions and towing. Plus, they’ve got a reputation for being highly reliable.
If you’re considering getting a RAV4 as your next vehicle, read our experts’ buyer guide to help you choose the right model, find out more about its history, and weigh up its pros and cons.
Toyota RAV4: An Overview
Why Is the RAV4 So Popular in the USA?
Car and Driver reports over 300,000 RAV4s were sold in the first three quarters of 2020, making it the number one car in the USA if you take pickups out of the running, and the 4th most popular overall. Why? The Toyota RAV4 combines a household name, appealing design, and affordability (with starting MSRPs of $26,050) with impressive performance, fuel efficiency (30mpg, or 40mpg on the hybrid model), and high-quality standard safety features (including Toyota Safety Sense™ 2.0).
The hybrid model’s impressive efficiency and performance make it what many consider the most attractive package for those looking for a greener SUV.
What Is the Best Toyota RAV4 Model?
MotorBiscuit rates the 2017 and 2018 models as the best picks, thanks to their reliability and versatility, adapting to a range of lifestyles and needs.
Most Toyota owners prefer the 2017 model, which scores high on reliability and features, plus it comes without the, admittedly, minor problems reported with the 2018 model’s brakes, steering, and paintwork.
History of the Toyota RAV4: A Timeline
Toyota introduced the RAV4, standing for Recreational Activity Vehicle with 4WD, in the mid-nineties. Now, five generations on, this crossover SUV is still compact and sporty, spacious enough for small families, and enduringly popular.
Here’s an overview of its evolution so far.
- 1996-2000: Two and four-door models are released with front-wheel drive or 4WD options. A rear-mounted spare tire and a side-opening rear door are notable features. A convertible two-door model is available for a limited time between 1998 and 2000.
- 2001-2005: The 2001 redesign enlarges the interior cabin and gives it what many consider iconic exterior styling. Available only as a 4-door, this generation RAV4 also features the rear-door mounted spare tire.
- 2006-2012: Bigger and more powerful, the 3rd generation RAV4 introduces on-demand all-wheel drive.
- 2013-2018: The first generation to feature a lift gate rear door and to see the spare tire moved to the cargo space, the 2013 model also gets a dramatic facelift for a more aerodynamic look.
- 2019-2021: Notably boxier than its predecessor, the current fifth-generation has a more rugged, outdoor feel and incorporates a lot more driver-assist technology, in the form of automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and more. The hybrid version also available.
Does Toyota Offer Free Maintenance?
The average driver usually has to pay $2,000-3,000 every 5 years in maintenance costs—covering everything from essential oil or fluid changes to tire replacement.
ToyotaCare is the manufacturer’s own maintenance care plan, free for 2 years or 25,000 miles and covering scheduled maintenance costs, which is handy as car maintenance costs can quickly stack up if you don’t have a protection plan to cover you. Roadside assistance is also included for 2 years and unlimited mileage.
Consider third-party coverage to provide complete protection. EnduranceAdvantage™, our newest protection plan, offers up to $3,500 in maintenance coverage, so you can stop worrying about paying for covered auto repairs or regular maintenance for good.
The True Cost to Own a RAV4
How much does it cost to own a Toyota RAV4? Remember there are more costs to factor in than just the sticker price. The formula looks like this:
Cost of car ownership =
(Cost of buying the car) + (Applicable state registration costs) + (Cost of fuel)
+ (Cost of insurance) + (Cost of regular maintenance) + (Cost of repairs)
That’s why it’s always best to have extended auto warranty coverage: it’s the most effective way of minimizing the maintenance and repair costs, bringing down the total cost of ownership.
Repairs to Look Out For
Despite Toyota’s reputation for reliability, RAV4s still experience problems, with some ending up costing more than others. Our experts have analyzed our internal claims data and put together this list of common car repairs Ford owners face and how much they cost.
Top Toyota Repairs*
- Alternator: $1,149
- Water Pump: $1,120
- Starter Motor: $831
- Blower Motor: $315
- Compressor: $1,551
- Power Door Lock Actuators: $1,150
- Power Steering Hose: $280
- V Boot Front Right Axle: $321
- Rack and Pinion: $3,478
- Gasket Valve Cover: $418
Things to Consider Before Buying a Toyota RAV4
Make sure you’ve considered whether the RAV4 meets your needs before you rush off to the local dealership.
- Average Fuel Consumption: The 2021 Toyota RAV4 offers an impressive mpg of 27/35/30 (city/highway/combined).
- Ideal for: Small families. It’s a comfortable and fun-to-drive compact SUV that’s affordable and spacious, with a large trunk.
- Extended warranty protection options: Toyota offers a 36-month, 36,000-mile basic warranty and a 60-month, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty with the RAV4. You can also get a Toyota extended warranty for prolonged peace of mind, or you can check out a third-party provider.
- Best time to buy: Buying the model just before a redesign can be a good way to get a good deal when purchasing a new vehicle. In between redesigns the principle holds, and you’ll usually get the best price on a just-out-of-date model when the new one hits the dealerships.
Drive Your Toyota with Confidence
Toyotas are one of the most popular car makers in the USA—and with good reason. RAV4s are invariably fun to drive and some of the models are renowned for their reliability. We all know, though, that things can sometimes go wrong with any vehicle, and repairs can get costly fast. The last thing you need is for your driving enjoyment to be dulled by concerns about the turbo failing.
To save thousands in the event your vehicle needs repairs and to get peace of mind all the time, choose the most comprehensive protection package on the market—an Endurance extended car warranty.
You know you are protected in case your car has an emergency breakdown as every plan comes with 24/7roadside assistance and a substitute car as well as trip interruption costs if you’re away from home when you need help.
All you need to do is select the Endurance warranty protection plan that fits your needs and budget best, and you’ll automatically receive a year’s free membership of Endurance Elite—giving you even more everyday driver benefits. Request a free, no-obligation quote below to get started today.
Read more tips and advice in our Learning Center.
*Claims paid as of 9/29/2020
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Chris has been covering the automotive industry and topics ranging from road trips to driverless car technology for around 10 years. His own preference is for retro 4x4s that will stand up to a muddy field in the country.