5 things about a Toyota RAV4 you need to know.

John Magilke
5 min readMar 2, 2021


I’ve owned two RAV4’s. As far as automobiles they are hard to beat for reliability in the small SUV class.

One of the RAV4’s I’ve owned had in excess of 350,000 miles on it before I sold it. It was still going strong. The RAV4 I still have has around 225,000 miles on the clock and runs well yet.

The Beginning (1996–2000)

Toyota started production of the RAV4 SUV in 1996. It was actually based on the Celica sports coupe platform. You could get them in 2 or 4 door models. There was a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive models.

Automatic or standard transmissions were one of the options. Also, this was the only design available in either two or four-door models.

The only engine available in the first design was a 4 cylinder, naturally aspirated. Sufficient to get from point A to point B.

These little SUV’s had a full-sized spare mounted on the side-swing rear door. This perk was carried over to the 2nd generation of the RAV4.

Toyota also built a few RAV4 EV’s to meet zero-emission automobile requirements in the state of California. These EV RAV4’s were built until 2003 and had a limited range of around 85 miles per charge.

Second Generation (2001–2005)

This redesign of the RAV4 was a bit roomier in the interior. It was more aerodynamic and a little less utilitarian looking and would seat five.

There was also an upgrade under the hood with a little larger 4 cylinder engine. In 2004 the engine was upgraded once again to include 160 horsepower.

This automobile still came with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive as an option. Also, this version was still available with a 5 speed. manual if you wanted it. Most were automatics.

Generation number 3 (2006–2012)

By this time Toyota had enough success with the RAV4 to throw it on the table and give it a complete redesign. They were all in.

In 2006 the RAV4 was longer, wider, and had optional 3rd-row seating. The design team decided to scrap the full-time AWD for a system that worked “on-demand”. It was only in AWD mode when it was called for by a loss of traction in the front.

Under the hood, this newer, larger footprint called for a jump in power to a v6 with 269 hp. The V6 would keep 7 passengers traveling down the road in style with power to spare. The venerable 4 cylinder was still available and was upgraded in horsepower in 2009.

Unfortunately, this model was no longer available with a manual transmission option. It was, however, available in the EV variety again starting in the last model year of this generation. Toyota had partnered with the Tesla automobile company, building an EV.

The 2012 RAV4 SUV had a driving distance of over 100 miles. This model EV went on sale in California and was available until 2014.

Fourth Generation (2013–2018)

Here Toyota went back to its roots with the design of the RAV4. This 4th design was again smaller in size with no 3rd seat option any longer. The smaller SUV was available with only a 4 cylinder engine and an AWD system again. A manual transmission was still not an option though.

A few of the changes were with the body as well. This new design looked more aggressive. The rear access was changed from a side opening door to a hatch-style opening.

The spare tire was moved from the rear door to an access hatch in the rear floor of the SUV cargo area.

Number 5 (2019- 2021)

This redesign brought on a beefier look with rugged styling. The engine is a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder rated at 203 horsepower. That is some serious hp for a 4 cylinder. This 4 cyl. motor is pushing the RAV4 down the road via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Yes, you heard me right, an 8 speed.

It has a slew of electronics onboard like most serious ultra-modern vehicles. Things like automatic high beam headlights, lane departure warning system with steering assistance. Also a forward collision system and automatic cruise control. All signs of things to come for our driving experience.

All in all the RAV4 has been a success for Toyota in the automobile world. With over 20 years of history, this success is hard to deny.

These SUVs are undeniably utilitarian. With the exception of the latest generation, they are very simple vehicles.

Boring actually!

So why do people drive them? Why do they hold their value even after hundreds of thousands of miles?

Here’s my take on the RAV4 SUV:

* It is affordable in the used market.

* Excellent value for the money

* High resale value

* Versatility

* They are very reliable


You can pick one of these up used with around 100,000 miles on it for around 5–8,000.00 depending on condition and the year.

You’ll get an easy 100,000 miles out of it on top of the 100,000 miles that the previous owner put on it.

Good Value

For the money, you spend on a used one they are a bargain. The standard options would be AC, automatic/electric door locks, entertainment center, sunroof. All with the option of all-wheel drive Toyota reliability!

High Resale

You can drive one of these automobiles to 200,000 miles and there are still people lining up to buy them.

Why? Because they stand a good chance of putting another 100,000 miles on it without a total failure of some kind.


These are versatile little rigs. With the big door in the back, you can haul bales of wood shavings, all manner of potted plants, not to mention camping gear, and man/woman’s best friend.

The RAV4 is a great camping rig. The ground clearance is very good. Comparably better than the Honda Element.

The interior is simple, rugged, and has everything you need.


These things are deadpan reliable. Over & over again people will tell the same story of reliability.

Sure when they get to the 2–300K range they need continued maintenance just as any automobile would. Most autos are ready for the trash heap at this point but not a Toyota.

You keep fixing them and they keep running. That is the mantra of these automobiles!

Originally published at https://www.jgmautopages.com on March 2, 2021.



John Magilke

Copywriter in the Automotive, Agriculture, & Natural health & wellness industry. Helping clients understand the products they need.