Toyota RAV4 VIN Lookup & Vehicle History Reports: A Comprehensive Guide

Toyota RAV4 VIN Lookup & Vehicle History Reports: A Comprehensive Guide

The game-changing Toyota RAV4 is one of the reasons crossovers dominate the car market today. It seems obvious now, but in the mid-90s, combining the interior room of a small SUV with the ride and handling of a small car seemed like a gamble. The RAV4 essentially created the first successful crossover, effectively a Toyota Corolla with lots more cargo room and AWD. 

This compact crossover SUV has grown in popularity over the years due to its reliability, fuel efficiency and spacious interior. It also scores high for comfort, tech features and driving characteristics. From running errands in the ‘burbs, to hauling the kids to school, downtown appointments and rural icy roads, the RAV4 is a Swiss Army knife that adapts to all your needs. Look for AWD for improved poor weather capability or the TRD Off-Road trim for even more accessories to power through muddy roads. Check out the classic models for mechanical simplicity and easy maintenance or the newest models for hybrid efficiency and all the cool tech. 

Although the Toyota RAV4 has a reputation for reliability, any used vehicle’s current capacity may depend on the previous owner’s maintenance and care. Have a look at the RAV4’s maintenance history and recall work with our vehicle history report. 

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Toyota RAV4 Generations and Trims

First Generation Toyota RAV4 (1996-2000)

The Toyota RAV4 debuted in the same year as the Nintendo 64 and to equally successful sales and reviews. Body-on-frame SUVs (think classic Ford Explorer) were the new hotness stealing minivan sales but the compact RAV4 paved the way for “cute-utes” with car-like handling and solid gas mileage. The RAV4’s winning formula is a car-based chassis but it’s two feet shorter and nine  inches taller than a same-year Toyota Camry. Buyers loved the RAV4’s increased ground clearance and cargo room over a sedan but without the traditional SUV penalties. 

This first RAV4 offered manual or automatic shifting but there’s only one engine with 120 hp. This 2.0L four-cylinder drives the front wheels with all-wheel drive available. Desirable options included power windows and locks, a removable steel sunroof, or - no kidding - a convertible. Look for an EX or higher trim for convenience features like ABS, keyless entry and cruise control. The five-speed manual is known for rock-solid reliability, as is the four-speed automatic if the transmission fluid is changed on time. Ask for maintenance records or perform a vehicle history search. Note that the first RAV4 is technically a classic now and prices have started to rise for well-cared-for examples.

Second Generation Toyota RAV4 (2001-2005)

The turn of the millennium brought a new Toyota RAV4, improving on the previous generation in every measurable way. The 2001 RAV4 is slightly bigger, but noticeably more powerful, sharper looking, comfier, quieter and filled with more options. While FWD with optional AWD continues, the convertible is gone, as is the three-door body styles, leaving only the most convenient five-door configuration. 

Under the edgy hood, the four-cylinder was bumped to 148 horsepower and gained a more powerful 2.4L engine for 2004. With either one, look for mid-20s for MPG on the highway. A three-inch longer wheelbase and an inch taller ceiling means six-foot passengers can be comfortable in the back. Look for 36.5 cu-ft of cargo space that can hold smaller kayaks after folding the rear seats flat and a tow rating of 1,500 for a small cargo trailer or a small personal watercraft. This is the last generation with a manual transmission.

Third Generation Toyota RAV4 (2006-2012)

Mature styling, big power and noticeably more room are the cues of the third-generation 2006 RAV4. The swept looks can’t hide the size increase, with a nearly seven-inches longer wheelbase than a second gen. That translates to more interior room with rear passengers able to sit three across for the first time (not just theoretically) and an optional third row for carrying the entire team to the game. The 2.4L carries over, connected to a four-speed auto. 

The big news was a 3.5L V6 (paired with a five-speed auto), making an impressive 269 horsepower. This is the sports car of the bunch, running 0 to 60 in 6.3 seconds. The V6 also brings real towing capability, with an estimated maximum of 3,500 pounds. Trim levels were still simple, with base, Sport and Limited. The range-topping Limited offered high-tech features like aux-ports for your iPod, a DVD-based rear entertainment system and a genuinely good JBL sound system with a six-slot CD player so you can play Gnarls Barkley and The Fray as they were intended.

Fourth Generation Toyota RAV4 (2013-2018)

The futuristic looks of the 2013 Toyota RAV4 announced it as an entirely new model. The swept fascia looks aerodynamic and efficient, a feeling reinforced by this generation’s introduction of the fuel-sipping RAV4 hybrid. The V6 is gone, again, with a 2.5L four-cylinder borrowed from the Corolla. It makes 176 horsepower here and is only matched with a six-speed automatic. FWD is standard, while AWD is optional at lower trims. You should see low-30s for highway fuel economy. 

One rare and interesting exception to the above is the RAV4 EV, a limited run that featured unique styling and the drivetrain from a Tesla Model S. 76 MPG-e is pretty great but the range of 96 miles is not. If you need safety features, this year is where blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts start showing up. Base LE has a 6.1-inch infotainment screen and rearview camera, while XLE offers a power moonroof and heated exterior mirrors. Check out the Limited for leather, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated seats and dual-zone automatic climate. 

Fifth Generation Toyota RAV4 (2019-Present)

With bold truck-inspired looks, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 aims to lead the crossover market with ample new standard features. The gas four-cylinder and hybrid return to this model, with the latter making headlines as the RAV4 Prime. It can drive on electric-only for 42 miles before the engine starts. If your commute is 20 miles or less one-way, you might not use any gas on your regular drive. This new RAV4’s looks are borrowed from the rugged Toyota Tacoma but it’s still the comfortable and friendly driver that the RAV4 is known for. 

The 2.5L is paired to an eight-speed auto for 0 to 60 in eight seconds flat, or get the Prime for 5.8 seconds. Trim levels are LE (very base model), XLE (nice convenience features), XLE Premium (some luxury touches), Adventure (off-road inspired) and Limited (loaded). Fuel economy estimates reach 35 MPG for FWD models. The standard infotainment screen is seven  inches, with an optional nine-inch unit with an available hotspot and Apple CarPlay. The RAV4 continues its reputation for cargo space, able to handle ten checked luggage bags when the rear seats fold flat.

Looking for a new RAV4? Check out our huge inventory right here!

Decoding A Toyota RAV4 VIN

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique 17-character code assigned to each RAV4 that serves as its identifier. Each character holds particular significance.

Decode a RAV4’s VIN and get its vehicle history report right here!

  • 1st-3rd Characters: World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)
    • The first three characters signify the manufacturer and country of origin. For the RAV4, the common WMI is “JTM”, indicating Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan.
  • 4-5th Characters: Vehicle Series
    • The fourth and fifth characters relate to the series and model. The specific codes may vary depending on the year and market.
  • 6th Character: Engine Type
    • The sixth character provides information about the engine:
      •    D: 2.0L 4-cylinder
      •    F: 2.5L 4-cylinder
      •    W: 3.5L V6 (less common in the RAV4 and might be for specific markets)
  • 7th Character: Series and Body Style
    • The seventh character can be a combination that specifies body type and series variant.
  • 8th Character: Model
  • 9th Character: Check Digit
    • The eighth character is a unique identifier to validate the VIN.
  • ​​​​​​10th Character: Model Year
  • The 10th character denotes the year of manufacture. For instance, “M” would stand for 2023.
  • 11th Character: Assembly Plant
    • The 11th character signifies the location where the RAV4 was assembled:
      •    A: Toyota’s Aichi plant in Japan
      •    K: Kyushu, Japan
      •    W: Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
  • 12-17th Characters: Production Number
    • The last six characters are sequential production numbers, giving each Toyota RAV4 its unique identity.


The Toyota RAV4 is consistently a top sales leader in the compact crossover SUV segment. Its blend of reliability, low operating costs and versatility make it a favorite for many drivers. The earlier models have fun-to-drive charisma and poor-weather capability, while late models offer safety, passenger space and a long list of desirable features.

Whether you choose a late model or classic, understanding its VIN and being aware of the model’s history can be important when considering a used RAV4. As always, a thorough inspection and understanding of any vehicle’s background are crucial for an informed purchase. Try our VIN lookup or license plate search on a Toyota RAV4 you’re interested in to fully verify specifications and to inquire about any recalls or known issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes the Toyota RAV4 stand out in the compact SUV market?

Toyota RAV4 is renowned for its longevity, reliability and resale value. Use our market value tool to compare. The model boasts minimal fuel consumption, a spacious interior and advanced safety features. Its versatility with both gasoline and hybrid variants in all weather conditions also enhances its appeal among consumers.

Are there hybrid variants of the Toyota RAV4?

Yes, starting from its fourth generation, Toyota introduced hybrid versions of the RAV4. These hybrid variants are known for improved fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance.

How does the VIN's engine type character correlate with performance?

The engine type in the VIN helps potential buyers understand the vehicle’s performance metrics. For instance, a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine is typically more fuel-efficient, while a 3.5L V6 offers greater horsepower and torque for towing.

Has the RAV4 been subjected to any notable recalls?

Over the years, the RAV4 has had recalls for various reasons, including airbag issues, faulty seat belts and potential fuel leaks. It’s essential to check the specific year and model against recall databases to ensure the vehicle’s safety and reliability.

How can one determine the origin of a specific RAV4 through its VIN?

The 11th character of the VIN and the WMI (first three characters) can provide insights into the manufacturing origin of the RAV4. For example, “A” in the 11th position signifies the Aichi plant in Japan.

About Bumper

At Bumper, we are on a mission to bring vehicle history reports and ownership up to speed with modern times. A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you'll likely make, and you deserve to have access to the same tools and information the pros use to make the right decisions.

About Andy Jensen

Andy Jensen is a former reporter, now automotive enthusiast writer. He covers industry news, manufacturing, car reviews, race recaps, maintenance how-tos, and upgrades. Andy has contributed content to Jalopnik, Advance Auto Parts, Carvana, and His project car is a modified Scion FR-S, but he’s probably looking at $400 beaters on Marketplace right now.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.