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The current generation Toyota RAV4 is among the best-selling vehicles on the planet. With a reliable powertrain, available all-wheel drive, and handsome style, the RAV4 is a versatile SUV. And with a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this Toyota is a reassuring pick for safety-minded shoppers.

But that hasn’t always been the case. And for drivers looking to buy a used RAV4, the 2011 model is especially problematic. Not only did it receive poor crash test ratings, but it was also the subject of multiple recalls and complaints. That’s an anomaly for the RAV4 nameplate.

A row of used Toyota RAV4 SUVs at a dealership.
The Toyota RAV4 is typically one of the safest SUVs on the road | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

2011 Toyota RAV4: below average crash protection

In 2023, safety is an essential aspect of all new vehicles. Not to say it wasn’t important in the past, but these days, automakers pull out all the stops to ensure optimal crash avoidance and impact protection. They do that with driver’s assistance technology—like automatic emergency braking—and stout body structures with high-strength steel.

Unfortunately, the 2011 Toyota RAV4 falls short of today’s exceedingly safe standards.

The NHTSA is a respected source for vehicle safety ratings, performing detailed crash tests to guide consumers in their decision-making. Using a five-star scale, the organization notates its results to show how a car did—or didn’t—live up to expectations. That way, when a potential owner looks for a new vehicle, they can trust a five-star rating means something.

And with its three out of five star NHTSA rating, the 2011 RAV4 offers less than perfect protection in the event of a collision. Test results show a compact SUV that scores average in some areas and poorly in others, as shown below.

2011 Toyota RAV4 NHTSA scores:

  • Overall star rating: 3/5
  • Overall front star rating: 3/5
  • Overall side star rating: 4/5
  • Rollover star rating: 4/5

But those overall scores don’t tell the whole story. During frontal crash testing, the 2011 RAV4 scored 2/5 stars for passenger-side protection. That’s barely a passing grade.

In side crash testing, an overall side star rating of 2/5 shows the compact SUVs subpar protection.

And since the 2011 Toyota RAV4 doesn’t have advanced driver’s assistance features, it can’t detect or evade collisions like modern vehicles.

2011 Toyota RAV4: recalls and complaints

Besides faring poorly in crash testing, the 2011 Toyota RAV4 is the subject of 11 recalls and more than 200 owner complaints. Since buying a pre-owned vehicle already comes with risks—like mechanical condition and up-to-date maintenance—these concerns only add to the concern.

Examples of the 2011 RAV4’s recalls include:

  • Curtain shield airbag may not deploy
  • Rear suspension arm (tie-rod) corrosion
  • Seat heater electrical wiring
  • Occupant sensing system calibration
  • Seat belt webbing may be cut by seat frame

While those issues may seem concerning, perhaps more so are the 261 consumer complaints.

Here are some leading complaints topics:

  • Vehicle speed control
  • Visibility/wiper
  • Service brakes
  • Powertrain
  • Airbags

Toyota has a reputation for reliable, high-quality vehicles. So it makes sense to look at used versions to save a few bucks. But with the 2011 RAV4’s poor safety scores, complaints, and recalls, it’s best to do your homework before making a decision.


A Decade Old Used Toyota RAV4 Is a Reliable Bargain