A while back I blogged a bit about our reason for picking a light SUV for a homestead car. We chose not one but two Toyota RAV4 suv’s. One of the reasons I decided on a 2012 Rav that is identical to the one we’ve had in the family for four years was that the original Rav has been absolutely bullet-proof. No problems whatsoever, Ive changed oil religiously, swapped the battery and changed the brake pads (and one caliper).
We bought Rav1 as a Toyota Certified used car with 34k miles and are now at 87K+ and it still runs and drives like new! We are just approaching the need to replace the FACTORY tires!.
Then there is RAV2, my Rav, it’s been shall we say, interesting. I traded off my sporty hatchback (that was killing my back) on Rav2 which even though being 5 years old had only 24k miles on the odometer. I’ve driven Rav2 for twenty thousand miles in the past 8 months, and I’ve nearly traded it off a dozen times.
I’ve accepted that Rav2 was built by people training their replacements, or possibly was cursed by a Jamaican Voodoo princess. It just ain’t been right. The only thing that has kept me in Rav2 is having been previously owned an M1009 CUCV (Every Saturday a wrenchathon).
So whats gone wrong? In mid-January hundreds of miles from home on a 4AM business trip, every single light on the dash lit up, it was like a second christmas! I tried every trick in the book and finally got down to three idiot lights informing me I had no Traction Control or AWD. The culprit? A $38.00 oxygen sensor.
Then there were the brake issues, which required three sets of pads to find something that not only stopped the car but didn’t sound like we were stopping a locomotive. There have also been a myriad of other smaller issues. On the upside, it is pretty easy to work on, the O2 sensor required only jacking up the passenger front, 15 minutes and a wrench.
At the moment RAV2 is running well, and it’s now time to address the suspension with some heavy-duty shocks/struts and possibly a set of beefier springs. It’s also time for a battery (pre-emptive).
Why suspension? We use this vehicle to haul on occasion, for instance last week I loaded over 900lbs of topsoil in the back and hauled it 14 miles to the shire. It was ok but the tail was dragging and had it been later in the evening I would have been blinding the oncoming drivers.
I also plan to add a roof basket, transmission cooler and hitch. We will be looking for a small 4×8′ trailer to transport bulk items under 1000lbs , this will stand in for a pickup for a while.
So how would I rate the 2012 Rav4 AWD as a “prepper” or homestead car based on owning two? I’d still go 8/10 even with the wrench throwing brake issues and goofy sensor problems. The only better option I could see is a Subaru Forester and only because it has a bit tougher AWD system, however family and friends that own them are buying tires every 30000 miles!
The Forester is much easier to modify and improve due to the cult-like Subaru fan base . The purchase price difference won us over being nearly 5000 premium for the same year and mileage Foresters we could find at the time. Given an expectation of 250,000 mile service life on RAV1 and RAV2, I anticipate having to change again in about 4- 5 years which will undoubtedly put us in a 2018-2019 set of Foresters.