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What’s a reliable alternative to a Toyota RAV4?

I wanted to send this to Ray’s Mailbag, but our browser wouldn’t allow that, so this will have to do.
My husband believes that our next car, probably to be purchased this spring, should be a RAV4. It will replace a 2009 Subaru Forester. We also have a 2017 Tacoma. Because of some issues with our Tacoma (like the AC crapped out at less than two years), and some recent recalls, I feel like the much-vaunted Toyota reliability has slipped. The nearest dealer that will halfway work with customers is three hours away, so that’s an issue. What are your thoughts about RAV4 reliability? If it’s not what it once was, is there another small SUV you
recommend? My husband feels Subaru has not kept up technologically, and, while I have very much liked our Forester, we are both tired of the leaky tire rims, rattling heat shields, etc. Thanks for any and all advice.

Why are you asking about only 2 brands ? Subaru technology is as good or better then some others brands . Why even consider some thing that is going to take 3 hours to get dealer service.
Just go to every vehicle web site and see what they have . You can see prices , specifications and options.

I would avoid the Subaru brand due to the big problems, not the little ones. The CVT and engine failure issues that owners still report. Your Toyota dealer being 3 hours away is reason enough to seek out a different brand. I’d consider a Mazda CX-5 if a dealer is nearby. However, the empirical evidence points to GM. The newest JD Power dependability study ranked the Equinox, Terrain, and Encore all highest in their classes. You can view the info here. Subaru has slipped to the lowest quarter of brands overall. Stepping back a bit, I don’t think Toyota’s quality has slipped. You see the issues because you own one. Like you own a Subaru. However, every brand has recalls, and if your Toyota’s AC was repaired under warranty, I think you may wish to reconsider Toyota’s quality. But 3 hours for service…? BTW, I own and drive a 2016 Forester. I don’t recommend Subaru to any friends or family and I plan to replace it before it is out of the drivetrain warranty.

Whatever brand you pick take a look at carcomplaints.com for a models reputation, avoid trim levels with troublesome drivetrains etc.
Hyundai Tucson is a possibility. My 2017 has been almost trouble free.
In 3 years only a brake light socket that needed cleaning.

Every brand has problems. Your AC going out is unfortunate but 1) it was under warranty at the time and 2) that’s a single data point which is not overly helpful in determining a reliability trend with a maker that sells more than 10 million vehicles per year.

Your issue aside, Toyota represents one of the better chances at getting a relatively problem-free vehicle. The Rav4 is a good SUV, but be sure to take it on a long test drive - some people have issues with the seat ergonomics.

Honda CRV and Mazda CX-5. Much better than average reliability most years according to Consumer Reports data. Better than average in the other years. Only the RAV4 rates higher: much better than average every year. (Model years 2011-2018. See April 2019 CR.)

Toyota reliability remains at the top, and Subaru has slipped. But 3 hours to a dealer would not work for me. I’m looking at the Rav4 and the CX5.

I recommend that you add the Mazda CX-5 to your list, as it is highly-rated for both its road manners and its reliability. Additionally, it has an interior that is more “upscale” than its competitors in that size class.

My best friend has an '08 Rav-4, and while the vehicle has been reliable overall, he has lost faith in Toyota as a result of the early–and now severe–oil burning problem in his and essentially all other Ravs of that era. So, he is interested in replacing his Rav in the next few months, and he has begun to focus on either a Mazda or a Subaru. When I asked him why he was including Subaru on his list, he responded that, after seeing the absolutely bullet-proof reliability of my Outbacks (including no oil burning whatsoever), he said that this was a logical choice for him. I will accompany him on his test drives, but I have not given him my opinions, and will not weigh-in on his purchase decision.

Incidentally, in a few months I will probably treat myself to my 4th Outback, as a result of my completely positive experience with that marque. One of the features that I am looking forward to is its Eyesight feature, which–according to The IIHS–is the top-rated forward collision warning/automatic emergency braking system on the marketplace. This advanced technology is now standard on most Subarus.

I agree Mazda is well regarded from a design/performance/road manners perspective as well as reliability. Rust used to be a major issue with them and has kept me away from buying one, because I keep my cars for a decade plus. But maybe this has been improved recently. There is a lot to like about Mazda, but you’ll find lots more Honda dealers and their vehicles also meet a high standard.

Yes, but Honda’s reliability rating has taken a major hit over the past couple of years.

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I’m looking forward to April 2020 CR - the annual car issue - with updated reliability ratings. Honda had major redesigns (CRV in 2017, Odyssey and Ridgeline in 2018) and those weren’t as reliable as their predecessors. Not uncommon with major redesigns, and a reason to be skeptical of anyone’s first year or so.

Among Mazdas - the new CX-30 is worth a look if something smaller than CX-5, RAV4, CRV, etc. will do the job.

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Rust used to be a major issue with all Japanese cars. No longer the case. My old TL went more than 10 years before developing any surface rust, and that was only because I screwed up and neglected to touch up the rock chips on the hood.

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Thank you. I’m not too worried about rust, despite living in the far north with lots of snow and road salt. Our recent Toyotas and Subarus have held up to it well.

Maggie

I’ve know many with RAV4’s over the years with no complaints. A friend has owned several with high praise for all and absolutely loves his 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, including its snow performance in the mountains. I know another who’s had good luck with several CRV’s.

Even highly reliable brands will have the occasional problem, and there always will be one-off problems that are just bad luck if they happen to you. Toyota and Honda have reputations for honoring systemic problems resulting from design fails (Odyssey automatic transmissions, cracked engine blocks in 2006-2009 Civics) long after the warranty expires, where-as the domestics won’t know you a minute after the warranty expires (ask me about Ford). ~10yrs back Subarus were known for multiple problems, but once fixed many were good for 200-300kmi even in Maine, and their AWD is excellent. You might want to avoid CVT’s until the dust settles.

A distant dealership can be a nuisance within warranty, but with a RAV4 you may not need them often. Once off warranty look for a good independent mechanic.

My experience with Honda was they do not want to know you few months after purchase and long before warranty expires (easy to find on this site under “2019 Honda Accord Hybrid…” subject), their quality fell to the ground last few years, making them to change the attitude to much less friendly one

Sad to hear and I’ve heard this from others. Our local dealer and the few we’ve visited while traveling have been very nice with our 2006 Civic - replaced cracked sun visors annually for free for about 8 yrs until I learned how to fix them and long after warranty did a free rear brake job and replaced rear suspension component to correct a camber related tire wear problem (that we weren’t experiencing, but they insisted). At over 140kmi the worst things that have gone wrong with that car are a 3 blown light bulbs and a temp sensor, ~ a $60 part from Honda. Though it’s fundamentally a sound car and running strong, our 2006 6 cyl. Outback has needed new front suspension, CV joints, heat shield, and the valve gasket is leaking, most at under 46kmi.


thegreendrag0n

    February 19

ken2116:
Toyota and Honda have reputations for honoring systemic problems resulting from design fails (Odyssey automatic transmissions, cracked engine blocks in 2006-2009 Civics) long after the warranty expires, where-as the domestics won’t know you a minute after the warranty expires

My experience with Honda was they do not want to know you few months after purchase and long before warranty expires (easy to find on this site under “2019 Honda Accord Hybrid…” subject), their quality fell to the ground last few years, making them to change the attitude.

Thanks, Ken. Those are just the kind of insights we are looking for. Thanks again for taking the time. Maggie

P.S. You are so right about warranties on US brands. We do not have to ask you about Ford; we also had that experience.

Take yourself to the Toyota Nation website
and ask questions of people who own them, and see complaints.
Ditto for car forums for Mazda, Subaru, Nissan, Buick, etc., etc.

I’ve owned seven Toyota/Lexus vehicles, only the newest, a Gen7 Camry Hybrid was a disappointment, and that had to do with noise & comfort, not and repairs.

Happy Hunting

Toyotanationforum is the last place I would send anyone . There is lots of bad information posted there and some of it is by the moderators .