Have a new RAV4 4wd with the 6 cyl engine. Use it to travel to wilderness areas then 5-20 miles on rougher roads. In Death Valley in November, the rear end sagged while climbing a moderate incline on a rocky dirt road, leaving only 2-3" of clearance instead of 7.5". Hit a few rocks, no serious damage. A local offroad/4wd shop can put heavier springs in the rear, 15-20% stiffer, plus gives an extra inch of clearance. Will this solve the problem, and how will the car ride & handle on regular roads when not loaded up with gear?
You should check with the dealer if adding aftermarket springs will void your vehicle warranty. Finding out that you drive the vehicle off-road could be enough to void the warranty. http://www.edmunds.com/auto-warranty/what-voids-your-vehicles-warranty.html
Is it still under warranty?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you have rear shocks seperate (not enclosed within) from your rear coil springs. If I’m correct, perhaps some air shocks that could be deflated for unlooaded conditions would be an option to consider.
Two things. First, you definitely are in line for after market skid plates either from dealer or other. Also, I added a 2 inch receiver hitch and one of these (https://www.google.com/search?q=rear+hitch+step&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a) to take the brunt of punish ment. It will drag more but it won’t be your car and could save exhaust system.
Lastly, stiffer springs will worsen ride but if dealer gives OK, YES, they are definitely worth it as any gear in the back will lower the clearance in an independently sprung vehicle. If you frequently travel these rougher roads, you definitely should have something like a 4Runner or FJ or Tacoma PU (my first and cheapest choice)
Maybe, just maybe if you thought it through, the dealer would swing a great trade in if you hurray back…just a thought of mine. You need a solid axle vehicle. But if not, fine, beef up what you have with those suggestions. Check out @same suggestions…be ready to shed some money.