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Hello, I am tempted to buy a RAV4. I've been looking for a while, and, try as I might, I have not been able to convince myself to buy new. New is nice, but lots of $$$$$.
I am thinking my needs are twofold, perhaps three:
-backup vehicle. My daily driver is a VW... stop laughing! It pulls off 48mpg and has long been paid off. I think it has at least a few more years of service, but it certainly likes its shop time.
-snow capability. My VW has lousy clearance, like 2" right now. It also has issues going up hills, due to being just FWD. [I run snow tires, but still. I live in relatively rural NH, so snow is something I do face for several months of the year.
-the "albeit" part: I'd like something that can move a trailer around my backyard. My VW isn't cutting it--it is manual transmission, and backing up an incline I need to either be moving fast (!) or ride the clutch--hard.
I am thinking 1st gen, as I enjoy rowing my own gears. And it has the manually locking center diff. That said, an automatic might be better, for the trailer moving aspect--but it appears to be 3rd gen that gets the manually locking center diff again.
So: just how important is the manual lock? I haven't had a 4wd vehicle in years--but that one was true part-time 4wd. I don't like the notion of waiting for wheelslip; I'm perfectly capable of engaging "lock" if I think the going is really bad. Part of the desire is something to intentionally drive in snow, after all.
I tend to be wary of automatics, as they have that slushy feeling, and do not care for dismal maintance; but they do have that ability of tolerating low speed driving far better. This wouldn't be my daily driver, and I don't see towing (other than around the yard), so I guess an automatic would be ok. It's a Toyota, so as long as the fluid is pink, it's alright, right?
I believe the 2nd gen got the AZ motors, which lack the timing belt, and may lack the need to adjust valves(?). IIRC the 3rd gen had the 2.4L 2AZ, which may have issues with headbolts and oil burning (or maybe that was just Camry?); the 2nd gen had the 1AZ which was 2L--but did it have the later 2AZ issues? I realize the 2nd gen's larger engine will be more powerful, will "tolerate" an automatic better, and lack the timing belt.
Do the RAV4's have issues with radiators? For awhile I was thinking about a 3rd gen 4Runner; on those it's strongly recommended to proactively replace the radiator, or risk the strawberry milkshake taking out the transmission. [I ruled out 4Runner eventually, the low priced ones tend to have been used hard, and I'd hate the low mpg's I think. Plus I tend not to like large vehicles.] Being in NH means rust is an ever-present issue...
edit: while I tend to buy new, and hold onto for 10 years, I think I will violate that "rule" since this will be a spare vehicle. I know cars can run for a long time. Wife traded in her '01 Civic after 10 years and 173kmiles for our current Camry (I4 with 6 speed manual); my '04 VW is just about to hit 268kmiles. My thinking of getting a Toyota over say a Subaru: Legendary Toyota reliability, lack of Subaru issues (headgaskets, wheelbearings), and so far I have no reason to distrust our Toyota dealer (although I'd be apt to use our local garage for most work), so for specific "dealership-only" repairs I think I can take it there. I also suspect a Toyota at 200k maybe a "safer" bet than a Subaru. Also, CRV's of that vintage have less-capable AWD systems, IIRC.