2001-2005 Toyota RAV4 review

Toyota RAV4 NHTSA crash tests
2001 4 Star 4 Star n/a n/a 3 Star
2002 4 Star 4 Star 5 Star 5 Star 3 Star
2003 4 Star 4 Star 5 Star 5 Star 3 Star
2004 4 Star 4 Star 5 Star 5 Star n/a
2005 4 Star 4 Star 5 Star 5 Star n/a

Safety: Antilock brakes, traction control and stability control are standard from 2004.

Toyota RAV4 problems: A faulty ECM (engine computer) in 2001-2003 models can cause a problem with the way the automatic transmission shifts. According to many sources, the ECM warranty has been extended to 10 years or 150,000 miles. If you suspect having this problem in your RAV4, you might want to check with a Toyota dealer. The ECM needs to be replaced with an updated part to address this issue.
A few other things to know about: Leaking engine valve seals can cause a blue or grey smoke at start-up. The air/fuel ratio sensors are fairly common to fail, often causing the Check Engine light with the code P1155. The mass airflow sensor can get dirty causing hesitation on acceleration.

What to look for when buying a used Toyota RAV4: Before buying a used RAV4, check its history records, to verify that the vehicle wasn't involved in an accident or had other problems in the past. Watch out for a blue or grey smoke on start-up after the vehicle was sitting for a while. Usually it's more noticeable when the engine is started cold in the morning. Commonly the smoke is caused by bad valve seals. For 2001, 2002 and 2003 RAV4, you may want to check if the ECM has already been replaced with an updated part.
If the "Check Engine" light is on, have the problem checked out before buying a vehicle. When test-driving, make sure, the automatic transmission shifts properly and smoothly in all conditions. Read our illustrated used car checklist for more info. Have the vehicle properly inspected before buying. Consider an extended warranty at least for the powertrain to protect from unexpected repair costs.

Guides for used car buyers:

Maintenance tips: Keep your tires properly inflated. Change transmission fluid regularly; it's best to use genuine Toyota transmission fluid. You can find transmission fluid capacity in the 'Specifications' section of your owner's manual. Keep all other fluids clean and topped up. In the 4WD models, transfer case oil and rear differential oil also need to be replaced regularly. If you notice any issues with the way the automatic transmission shifts, have it looked at before the problem gets worse.
Regular oil changes will help to keep the engine running longer. Toyota recommends using 5W-30 oil. When replacing a faulty ignition coil, it's good idea to replace all the spark plugs if they are old. When doing any repairs, it's always better to use original Toyota parts.
Have your vehicle inspected in a repair shop annually to keep it safe. You can check the maintenance schedule online at the Toyota Owners website. The same website provides access to the electronic copy of the owner's manual.
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2005 Toyota RAV4 short specifications

Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:

166.6 in(4232 mm)
68.3 in (1735 mm)
66.1 in (1680 mm) (4WD model)
98.0 in (2490 mm)

Seating capacity:


Cargo capacity:
Behind rear seats:
With rear seats out:

29.2 cu. ft
68.3 cu. ft

Towing capacity:

1500 lb. (680 kg)


2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with VVT-I
161 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 165 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Recommended Fuel:

Regular unleaded

Fuel Tank Capacity:

14.7 US gallons (56 liters)

Engine Oil Capacity L4-2.4L (2AZ-FE):

With filter: 4.0 US qt. (3.8 L)