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My path to buying a used 2009 RAV4 V6 Sport

6803 Views 31 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  jotarony
This post outlines my reasons for buying a nice used 2009 RAV4 V6 AWD Sport. I've posted my progress on other forums (primary Hyundai and Subaru), but stopped when I took their cars out of consideration.

My priorities:
* Seat comfort
* Cost (most likely will buy used)
* Headroom

Lesser priorities:
* Quiet cabin
* Performance
* Brand reliability

With a subscription to Consumer Reports as my guide, I test drove or sat in over a dozen cars before settling on a used 2009 RAV4. Those included new or old models of the Nissan Murano & Rogue, Ford Edge, Mazda CX5, RAV4, Venza, Outback, Forester, CRV, Volvo XC60, Acura MDX, Lexus RX, VW Tiguan and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.

I'm 6'4" 190 pounds. Some people with my height have long legs and some have long torsos. I apparently ended up with both. My current car is a 2006 Camry LE V6 which I love. However at the time, the only reason I didn't get the XLE (because I wanted the leather) was because it automatically came with a sunroof. I never fit in cars with sunroofs. Apparently that extra 1-1.5 inches matter a lot.

Here are my notes:

Subaru Outback: My #1 choice. I wanted to like this car more than any other. It would have solved all my problems since it could replace both my Camry and need for more cargo space. I even fit in it with a sunroof! Had a beautiful interior. Spacious. Would have bought a 2013-2014 in a H6 since CVT's don't really float my boat. But alas, the seats were a back killer in both generations. Pain in my legs and lower back regardless of how I adjusted the lumbar, so I couldn't get it. The newest gen had a lumbar that was too pronounced even when rolled all the way back. I can't fault Subaru completely though. It seems ALL manufacturers have gone off their rocker and produce overly hard seats these days. Give me my old 1998 Camry seats back!! Soft and cushy.

Subaru Forester: Fairly basic interior, but good visibility. However, with nothing else magnificent about it, I could get the same interior with a RAV4 or Honda CRV and wouldn't need to worry about that boxer engine or CVT, so not enough pros vs the cons.

Nissans: Something strange about them. The looks, the windows..made me feel closed in. Engine performance sucked. Rear seats of the Rogue could not fit an adult. I had to duck to get in the back seat, and I have parents who are tall. Great electronics and gadgets though. Crappy CVT trans. It did have good seats up front though. For all the pros of the Outback, I could have put up with a CVT there, but not the Nissans.

Ford Edge: If money were no object, I would have bought this and put up with the only major flaw - that funky Infotainment system. It was complicated enough that a driver futzing with it could cause a crash! The seats were great, quiet cabin, decent performance. Nice car. However, the cost of admission was $35K and I wouldn't want to buy a used Ford without some kind of warranty. I shouldn't have been looking at it anyway, but didn't really like the Escape.

Mazda CX5: Outside of the Outback, the second car I REALLY wanted to like initially before doing any driving. Sporty, good looks, okay seats. Couldn't get a sunroof cuz of my height. Problem was it was too loud and the engine didn't match the rest of it's sportiness. Good MPG. Of course I'm going to make a hypocrite of myself since I picked a fairly loud used RAV4, but that was also much cheaper than a new CX5. Also, the NEW 2015 CX5's had some extra sound insulation added, not that you could tell. Makes me wonder how bad the earlier ones were, so I didn't even bother testing them. Will keep the 2015+ CX5's on my list for a future used car though.

New RAV4: Didn't wow me. Not sure why. Seemed too much $$ for what we got. Cost more than the competition too. I didn't give it a fair chance though. I was in my "lets try something other than Toyota for a change" mode.

Honda CRV: Didn't fit in the new ones. Tried a 2011 (last gen) because I like the looks and they didn't start sloping the windows down to kill visibility until the newest gen (although most manufacturers are guilty of that). Seats were WAY too hard. Had back problems within 10 minutes. Gone.

Volvo: Sat in every Volvo in the dealer showroom. Nice seats!..but that's what they are known for. But being a premium brand, all had sunroofs, and none of them fit me in the headroom. Back seats were surprisingly small too. Funny considering these cars are designed by tall white Swedish people. With the iffy reliability these days and the high-cost of ownership, even for a used one, I took it off my list. I was more curious since I was running out of options and people kept recommending them. 'Them Volvo owners are as loyal as the Subaru ones.

Toyota Venza: Didn't even pay attention to this model until I found it on Toyota's web site. Could this be the Toyota alternative to the Outback? Seemed too good to be true. Despite what others say, I loved the quirky interior. Loved the cargo space in the back. Known good V6 engine option. What killed it were those seats, and it drove like a loud truck. 20" wheels! By making those seats overly wide, they ended up being too flat and painful. Ugh! Damn you Toyota and Subaru!

Acura MDX and Lexus RX350, used: These were more of a curiosity, so I just sat in them. Nice interiors, plush. Probably would have been a quiet ride and definitely would have had the engine. But even used, a high cost of ownership. The killer was they ALL come with sunroofs which didn't have enough head clearance. Couldn't buy it if I wanted to.

VW: Hard seats. Didn't go any further. Didn't really want a VW anyway.

Santa Fe Sport: If money were no object, would have been a second option over the Ford Edge. Good seats, quiet ride, killer electronics, etc. Would get the fabulous warranty too. Would have to buy new to get the exact set of options I needed though in order to eliminate the sunroof. It wouldn't have worked. I'll keep my eyes on this one for a future used car. I assume the Hyundai will last longer past 100K miles than any Ford.

Didn't even consider BMW or Mercedes. I couldn't afford the cost of ownership, so I didn't want to disappoint myself if I ended up loving them and didn't want to just lead sales people on for no reason.

Due to an aversion of Chevy & GM, I did not try Chevy Equinox, GMC Terrain or Buick Encore/Enclave, but would have if I ran out of (preferred) foreign options. No doubt most of the American cars would have fulfilled my requirement for a nice interior and seats, but at the cost of projected longevity. I've been bit by Buick and Pontiac before in the past. I feel bad I didn't try a 2014 Kia Sorento. It may also have been perfect based upon what I read. (Not a year before, not a year after. Just a 2014). It supposedly would have checked off all my requirements based on specs and user reviews.

My plan initially was going to trade in my 2006 Camry but as I drove more and more, I realized no CUV had a ride as good as a sedan (except maybe the luxury ones) so this purchase was going to become a second car for me. It was going to "act" as my truck for moving stuff, which made creature comforts and the need for something brand new less important.

So I ended up buying a very used Toyota 2009 RAV4 V6 Sport with 98K miles - a far cry away from where I started. But at only $13K, it allowed me to keep my Camry which made me happy. I just changed around my entire thinking and decided...WHY NOT?! Why can't I own two cars? Granted I'll have more problems down the road, but two used Toyotas are still better than one new GM car. :) Being AWD, it can also be my primary winter car to give my Camry a break.

The 2009 RAV4 had good seats, although getting one with a manual seat meant I don't get lumbar support. Still, good seats. I'll buy a pillow or something if I need it. It has LOTS of headroom, so much that I could get a sunroof! Not that I need one, but it makes me happy since I was denied it for so long. The performance is what sold me on the V6 though. Knowing that all future CUV's would probably only get a 4-cylinder due to the new regulations, I figure I'd jump on one now. WOW, this thing is a rocket. Makes it a fun car to drive too. I love the look without the tire on the back, and prefer the side opening door. Being so tall, either I'd hit my chin on a top opening door one of these days, or I'd have to duck under it every time I want to load something.

Downsides? Not a quiet cabin;, and I think I have that infamous tranny noise. I'll take it in to a dealer and see if they can fix it. I've already researched posts here about people who have sound insulated their cabins. I may attempt that in the spring, especially now since I kept my Camry and have the time to make this a project car. The radio also sucks, but being a fairly normal footprint I should be able to swap that out easily for something that'll work with my iPhone USB too. I think the biggest problem is the speakers are in the door instead of the dash. 'Not sure if even better speakers could overcome that design flaw. My feet don't have ears.

So after 3 weeks of intense looking, after wanting to buy a new CUV and getting sticker shock along the way (and disappointment in many car seats), I end up with something slightly newer than what I already have. Hopefully by the time one or both of these cars die, I'll have more used options that fit me. I have a couple above I could consider in a few years, so my "research" may pay off.
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If you bought it certified, why would you also buy an extra warranty? Or did I read that wrong?

Exactly why I'm going through so much trouble to find a good specimen, and the clock is ticking on the latest ones that fall under a warranty. One drive of the V6, and nothing compares.
^^ Up here in Canada, certified means safety checked, needed to change ownership and get license plates. Nothing to do with any extended warranty.
- unfit vehicles, can't be driven, until mechanics are brought up to specification
- good brakes, good exhaust, good tires & suspension, no floor or frame holes, blinkers & lights all work, no broken glass, etc.
Condition of motor (just not blowing smoke) and worn transmission, would be passable

valnar - Congrats on the very low mileage 2012 RAV4 with v6, you made a very smart purchase.
More $$ well spent.
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