Buy a Used 2012 Toyota RAV4: A Small SUV With a Huge Personality

It’s challenging to find a dependable vehicle with a unique design. Unfortunately, many of the latest new models on the market look the same, and purchasing a used car can be a crapshoot. However, choosing a used 2012 Toyota RAV4 may be the answer to your prayers.

The latest fifth-generation RAV4 is an extremely popular and beloved compact SUV. However, the RAV4’s third-generation (2006-2012) was charmingly quirky, and these models created a solid foundation that future iterations built upon.

Let’s examine the reasons why you shouldn’t overlook the 2012 Toyota RAV4 – a budget-friendly used SUV with some extra flair.

Is 2012 the best used RAV4 model year to buy?

A blue 2012 Toyota RAV4 parked on display at a dealership lot
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 on display | Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yes, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 provides incredible value for the money, and it’s one of the best pre-owned deals on the market. 

However, whether this particular model year is the right one for you depends on your preferences and financial situation. After all, Toyota’s compact SUV has an impressive history. For instance, the second-generation 2005 RAV4 and the fourth-generation 2017 RAV4 are intriguing used car options as well.

One of the best ways to decide which iteration is right for you is to break down the vehicle’s price. According to Consumer Reports, the average retail price for a 2012 Toyota RAV4 is between $10,050 and $13,475.

Meanwhile, the publication estimates that a 2005 RAV5 will cost you anywhere between $4,900 and $5,375. But these models will come with many more miles and far fewer features.

Those who would rather drive something only slightly used may prefer the 2017 RAV4. Consumer Reports states this model year has an average retail price between $16,725 and $23,225.

As you can see, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 fits comfortably in the middle with a reasonable price. And you might even be able to find one in pretty good condition. However, price is only a small factor of what makes this particular RAV4 special.

Used 2012 Toyota RAV4s feature oddities you won’t find in newer models

A look at the rear of a blue 2012 Toyota RAV4 with the red Toyota logo in the background
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 is popular on used car lots | Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Visualize a typical RAV4. Are you thinking of a stereotypical compact SUV that’s great on gas, short on space, and has a weak engine? If so, you’re not alone. This description fits most of the RAV4 models we’ve seen in the past.

However, the 2006-2012 Toyota RAV4s were somewhat different. For starters, this generation is the only one to offer an available third-row seat, making it more family-friendly than newer models.

Toyota made the bold decision to use a swing-out rear gate instead of a liftgate that you have to pull up to open and push down to close. Notably, previous RAV4 generations also had this feature, but Toyota ditched the concept when redesigning the vehicle for the 2013 model year.

Some people dislike this design choice, as you’ll need to ensure there’s room around the vehicle before opening the cargo bay. However, it’s up to personal preference. Some people find it easier to open and that it has more functionality than a traditional liftgate.

Finally, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 also offers an available V6 engine – a rarity in the compact SUV class. This powerplant kicks out 269 hp, which is 90 more than that of the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder.

It’s also relatively fuel-efficient, as it achieves an EPA-estimated 19/26 MPG city/highway. Those who choose the base engine won’t save too much extra on gas, as it only delivers two more MPG in the city and one extra MPG on the highway.

Experts raved about the third-generation RAV4

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The 2012 Toyota RAV4 won’t likely go down as a classic car, but it earned a ton of respect during its time. The U.S. News & World Report named it the top model among affordable compact SUVs and affordable crossovers. Additionally, the 2012 RAV4 won the U.S. News’ award for ‘Best Affordable Compact SUV with 3 Rows for the Money’.

Notably, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 doesn’t have an impressive list of safety features compared to newer iterations. Unfortunately, an available rearview camera is all it has to offer in terms of driver-assistance technologies. Nevertheless, the U.S. News gave it a 9.1/10 safety rating in its scorecard. 

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports’ review of the 2012 RAV4 raved about the vehicle’s performance. The publication noted a smooth-shifting transmission, nimbleness, and strong fuel-economy ratings among the RAV4’s most significant advantages. However, Consumer Reports wasn’t a fan of the rear-swinging cargo gate or the SUV’s driver’s seat thigh support.