1999 RAV4 -- can it live forever?

Hi y’all. I have a '99 RAV4 with 155k miles on it. It has been very dependable and I’d like to keep it for as long as possible, or forever, whichever comes first. (The newer RAV4s are huge compared to mine, which was truly a “compact” SUV; as much as I love my RAV4, I won’t buy another one due to the size change. Why do automakers take a good thing and then feel they have to make it BIGGER? ) It needs some non-essential work done that I would have done if I felt reasonably positive that the car will last me a few more years. What experiences have others had with older RAV4’s longevity?

155K miles isn’t all that many miles if you take care of everything.

The only thing that would prevent you from keeping any car forever is rust or other structural damage (e.g. from accident). Everything else, from the engine to the brakes is all just replaceable “parts.” So if you like it, keep it, and start a modest savings account for it. Maintain it religiously according to schedule and fix it when it breaks. A lot of people who decide not to fix cars when they break haven’t yet added up all of the new costs they’ll be paying to get something new. Unless you really let a car go to heck in a handbasket, it would be rare that you’d end up spending less money by buying something else. Fixing what you have is almost always more economical.

Yep, it’ll run for years more, just keep up all the maintenance. The decision point will be when a major issue comes along: rust, transmission replacement, or engine replacement. Most everything else will be worth doing.

Thanks so much for the encouragement. I just love that car, and have found nothing comparable that I’d spend money on!

I agree with the boys here as usual…as far as what you can do to PREVENT issues?..of course scheduled maintenance is the key. Not certain if you have a Timing belt on that engine and I think that you do…so THAT…is a serious Achilles heel …YOU MUST make sure to be as on time with the T-belt and everything that rides on it…this must be changed at regular intervals… Also if your water pump is driven by the T-belt which is extremely common these days you need to make sure that you have nice healthy coolant in the proper mix in your radiator…You cannot run straight water like some silly people do in warm climates…the coolant lubricates the water pump…and if it is T-belt driven…a simple water pump has the potential to wreck your engine…of course it could be repaired after that, but unless you like HUGE repair bills… You need to stay on top of those scheduled maintenance items. Most mfg’s call for a 60K life for a T-belt…I find that a bit on the conservative side as most people who have the 60K limit come in to my shop regularly at OVER DOUBLE that mileage on their original T-belt.

SO>…find out IF you have a T-belt…or I will look it up in a sec…and if so, make sure you change it before it breaks. A T-belt job…done properly will include a list such as this. Timing Belt, water pump, idler bearings, belt tensioner and a front main seal…basically everything the T-belt rides on…bec if any of those components fail it will take the belt with it…which will take the cylinder head and valves with it and potentially much more damage…It aint pretty… T-belt Kits are available on Ebay all the time and usually have everything you need in them…maybe less on item…but you get the idea. PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE IS WHAT WILL KEEP THAT CAR ON THE ROAD FOREVER… Scheduled maintenance, fluid changes, Tires, oil changes, Air filters…etc…you get the idea.

*** YOUR RAV4 DOES HAVE A BELT *** …so. As for the vehicles GROWING in size? Yep they do that CONSTANTLY…as though we all need monstrous vehicles…and we ALL want our vehicle to grow in size…these are the decisions that are made FOR US…Not like fuel keeps going up in price or anything…we just need BIG vehicles…ALL of us. SO very very silly isn’t it? This has bothered me for years. I say find one that fits and re-buy if you need to in the same year if that’s what you like.


Thanks so much! I will have them check on the timing belt when I take it in for its next scheduled maintenance. You have been very helpful.

No need to “check it” How many miles have you driven with this belt is really what you want to know. At your mileage you SHOULD BE heading on to your 3rd belt. I bet its still the first…yikes. Whenever I buy a used car that I know I will be driving for a long period…I do the T-belt service right off the bat unless it is proven that it has already been done. Actually I do the T-belt on cars I buy just to sell and list that as one of its benefits for the sale. The T-belt is the utmost insurance for the health of your engine, because snapping a T-belt is an experience one will not soon forget.

If you have driven your vehicle more than 60K miles…it needs a T-belt. If you don’t have receipts from the T-belt job…assume it was NOT done. Then get it done…PLEASE.


I sold my 2001 RAV4 in 2009 for $10,000.00 and the person who bought it still drives it and the only expense has been regular maintenance. I now have the larger 2009 RAV4 and although it is bigger it handles like the smaller one.

(The 2001 & 2009 RAV4 have a timing chain)

Here’s a good project - if you’re uncertain about what maintenance was done when to the car, collect all the records, put them in chronological order, and make a table of what was done, the date, and the miles on the odometer. Then get out your owner’s manual and see how the actual maintenance compares to the recommended schedule. If anything was missed or is now needed, put it on a separate list of work to be done.

Great suggestions. I will dig out all my paperwork, since I can’t remember if I’ve had the timing thingy replaced. It goes into the dealer for its routine check-up in 2 weeks so I can ask them also as I have had everything done there.

Ugh…you are still going to the Stealer with a 99’ vehicle? REALLY time to find a nice independent shop for your vehicle…You are paying far too much at the dealer for certain, but hey if this is what you do and it works for you…who am I to tell you to change it. Dealers are usually 40% more expensive than Indy shops…most people STOP going to the dealer as soon as the warranty is out for the same reasons


There is actually a book called “Drive it Forever” written by a person called Robert Sikorski, I believe, who lives in Tucson, AZ and writes a car column for a New York newspaper. Last I read about him he had 400,000 miles of trouble-free driving on his 240 Volvo. He even uses a block heater in Tucson. You can find his book in any library, since it is now out of print.

The highest mileage Toyota I rode in was a Corolla 1.4 liter diesel taxi in Malaysia. It had 1.4 million kilometers on it (870,106 miles) and ran just fine. The upholstery was somewhat ratty looking, but everything else worked OK.

What I’m driving at is that Toyotas have very long lives, and parts will always be available at a reasonable price. This is a real decision maker, since expensive or unavailable parts spell the death of many vehicles before they are really worn out.

As the other posters say, maintain it lovingly; and if you live in a cold area, use a blockheater.

I have a 5 year old Toyota in essentially new condition and I plan to drive it another 15 years!

Good Luck!

I have a '97 Rav 4 and I love it. I believe I got it when it had just over 100k miles. It’s now at 198k. I’m seriously going to throw a party when it gets to the big 200k. As far as maintenance goes, I have had two timing belt failures, some exhaust work and then the typical brake & bearing jobs. I’m going to keep driving this thing until I approach a significant failure.

Did the T-belt failures wreck the head or is that motor non-interference?

We have an 05 RAV and it was the last of the small ones. A friend has an 08 which is significantly bigger. Let me answer your question as to why it got bigger. The competition from CRV which was out performing it in larger size. So the bigger RAV now rides better, is more economical even in the v6 highway and handles better…What’s not to like if it gives up nothing and is a better car in every way ?

It won’t “live forever” unless you live in places like Arizona… They may be good mechanically, but unless you take precautions to prevent the rust in the rust belt, they will begin to start their fade away into a useless rust bucket with a good motor. This happens with most cars sooner then you would expect by the condition of the mechanics in many areas.

@Honda Blackbird I’m not too savy with technical car lingo (or the actual names of any parts for that matter) but I understand what you mean, hopefully you’ll understand what I mean. The T-belt failures did not wreck the head. I believe this would cause some damage to the engine itself yielding a much more complicated problem/solution. Luckily, the T-belt/water pump system is independent-enough from whatever belts would cause a type of engine failure. If it weren’t for this independence, it’s likely I would’ve junked the car and moved on. Boy, that hurts just thinking about it.

I own a 1999 rav4 which I love. I have owned it for 11 years. I have a oil leak right now but, plan to fix. My question…I have the opportunity to buy a 2002 pt cruiser with 94,000 miles, my rav4 has 235,000. Should I keep mine and pray it lasts another 100,000 miles or sell it and buy the pt cruiser.
Other than belts and battery I have never had any major issues, air conditioner works better in my car than my mothers new car. It has a slight whine when getting up to speed, which I was told was normal for a high milage Toyota. So any opinions out there?

The PT Cruiser is a reskinned Dodge Neon, a very mediocre car. I would keep the RAV4 and maintain it lovingly. These vehicles have the potential to live to 400,000 miles if properly looked after. A PT Cruiser after 100,000 miles is a crap shoot and it certainly does not have the “genes” of the RAV4.

Agree with Doc 100%

Deadupchowder…I see…then what you are describing was a Non-interference engine…which means…that the pistons NEVER come into close enough proximity to the open valves to bend them…IN high (higher) performance engines…the T-belt, aside from Timing the entire engine breathing process ALSO needs to ensure that the valves “get out of the pistons way”…

Meaning that if a T-belt failed on an INTERFERENCE engine…then there would be piston to valve collisions…as there is almost always a valve that is timed to be in the open or partially open position at any given time…while others are closed and out of the way… So inevitably, if the belt failed, ONE or MORE valves would be open in some manner…and because of that…the pistons “Interfere” into the “Valves PERSONAL Space” and bends them…or worse…Its not pretty…at a high RPM failure…

This is how I am driving my 20th Anniversary VW GTi which had a T-belt failure due to a seized water pump. I had to pull the cylinder head and replace ALL 20 BENT VALVES!..5 PER CYLINDER!! Ugly…I don’t know the RPM of the failure…but it could have been worse and BROKE the valves …and then they could have put BIG holes in the pistons and or score the cylinder walls…or PUNCH THRU the walls…ALL UGLY STUFF…LOL

I considered making a Hat or something out of the 20 bent valves…as a display piece to remind folk about their T-belt interval and replacement…LOL