Toyota RAV 4 (1996) Model Used Buyers Guide

When the first idea of an urban luxury 4×4 was conjured up, the idea was to provide a luxury 4×4 for the rich farmer, contractor, site engineer, timber merchant… You get the idea! However, along the way, middle class families decided that a 4×4 would be a better buy over the boring luxury van, i.e. the MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) and so, the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) was born.

Today, the SUV market is the fastest growing market segment in the automotive lineup and almost every vehicle manufacturer has jumped on the bandwagon with their own version.

Some have a ‘killer’ range and others provide more of a luxury station wagon with 4×4 engineering like the Volvo XC70 did two decades ago. 20 plus years on, and this phenomenon has now hit the used car market in Malaysia with great success.

Advertise a SUV and you will not be disappointed with the results. It sells faster and better than the previous bread and butter sedan and this is why today we are looking at a used first generation Toyota RAV4 SUV.

*all cars were available, and pricing is accurate on the publish date of this article

Arriving officially in Malaysia as a fully imported unit from UMW Toyota, its high selling price reduced its appeal and the local assembled Honda CR-V took a lion’s share of the segment sales.

Then a few years later, AP (reconditioned) used car importers started bringing in used units from Japan and it sold without issue. Urban Malaysians simply loved its curvaceous styling and Toyota reliability.  

Test Drive

When you find a used RAV4 for sale, please request for a test drive. With its fully independent suspension, this Toyota should ride and handle like a normal saloon or large hatchback. It is a comfortable vehicle and with a good all round view.

Inside, you will find 2 airbags, a manual control A/C system and power windows on four doors with electric side view mirrors as well. Some units will come with a power sliding glass sunroof (these are probably the used reconditioned units).

Under the hood you will find a simple DOHC 16-valve Toyota 2.0L engine that produces about 120 horsepower and works with a 4-speed automatic gearbox.

It is a simple setup and finding replacement parts and maintenance should be easy. Please note that this is already a 20 odd year old vehicle, so the current owner should have spent some money on wear and tear parts. Ask for service and repair bills dating at least 3-4 years back. No records? Well then, walk away and look elsewhere.

How Big Is It?

This first generation RAV4 is not large. It is 162 inches long which is about two feet shorter than a Toyota Camry from the same year. It is quite light, weighing in at 1150kg only. This RAV4 sits nine inches higher than a Camry giving proper ground clearance for city floods and driving over kampong road earth roads.

What Price Is Fair?

It varies from RM8,000 to about RM14,000 depending on overall condition and if it is a 2-door or 4-door. Yes, there is a cutesy 2-door version that rides along the same lines as the Suzuki Jimny.

Lately the value of the 2-door version has been rising as it has become popular with young adults. Check out and you’ll find a few units for sale and they do not stay for sale long – but it’s best to take your time and find one that ticks the service records, maintenance bills and accident free boxes before anything else. 

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