All-time, All-Terrain Classics
The Toyota RAV4 and 4runner are classic SUVs for Costa Rica and residents here. Many current residents had their first experience driving in Costa Rica in a RAV4 rental. The RAV4 is a smaller SUV, based on an automobile chassis. This gives it a much better ride and handling than many SUVs. At the same time it offers an excellent all-wheel drive feature, which will get you out of the majority of situations where you need traction but not that much power. The lighter body helps in these cases too. The RAV4 seats 5 adults fairly comfortably and has some room in the back for luggage or gear too.
The Toyota 4runner is a great multi-purpose 4 x 4. It has a good amount of cargo space in the back and will seat 5 adults comfortably. The 4 x 4 capability and ground clearance are superior to most SUVs, while the classic styling looks good in the city and exploring on the back roads. The chassis will handle up to 33×10.5 tires without modification, which improves the ground clearance and is good for those who generally travel on bad roads.
Toyota RAV4 History / Features
The RAV4 comes in two or four door versions and was introduced in 1996. They are available in gasoline engines, and commonly available with a manual or an automatic transmission. The RAV4 can be all wheel drive, or just 2 wheel drive. Through 1998 the vehicle is characterized by a two tone paint scheme, with the lower plastic molding being generally black, sometimes gray. In 1999 the design was changed a little bit stylistically, the single tone color scheme is available and the two tones vary quite a bit.
The motor through 2000 remains similar, generally being a 4 cylinder, 2 liter gasoline engine. In all RAV4 year models the spare tire hangs on the back door. This is convenient for changing tires, and also saves interior space, or allows the vehicle to sit lower to the ground. The 1996 through 2000 RAV4 are currently costing between $8000 and $13,000, depending on the extras and year model. With the 2 door version being cheaper than that in any given year model.
In 2001 the RAV4 underwent more than cosmetic changes. The body was restyled, the plastic side moldings reduced drastically, the vehicle is wider, and the motor got an improved injection system and increased horsepower. There is a little bit more interior room, with out sacrificing fuel economy. 1999 and 2000 RAV4s are a good “more bang for your buck” option, as the price increases quite a bit for 2001 and newer models due to the change in design. The series runs through 2005 and in later year models a 2400cc engine becomes available. These models currently run in the $14,000 to $18,000 range depending on extras and year model.
The 2006 RAV4 got a little bit bigger and was improved again, generally the engine is a 2400cc. The price for these models is also bigger, seldom running less than $20,000 in 2012 for the 2006 and newer year models.
Toyota 4runner History / Features
In Costa Rica these vehicles are fantastic multi-purpose 4 x 4 vehicles. If you live on a farm or are building, you will appreciate the generous cargo space, and the fold down rear seats. If you commonly travel on bad roads, the true 4 x 4 and high ground clearance will get you through most situations you will encounter.
The standard 4runner engine is a gasoline 3000cc motor, they come in automatic or manual transmission. For those who like the 4runner but want better economy, you can look for the gasoline 4 cylinder version or the diesel engine 4runner, both in a manual transmission and very rare in automatic. In the more recent model years a 4000cc v8 is sometimes found.
The 4runner was introduced in 1988, however this SUV isn’t up to the same standard as later models, and is commonly called a Pre-Runner. Basically Toyota took the standard pick up and removed the rear partition, as well as adding a 2nd row of seats. So you have a two door pick up that seats 4 or 5 people.
In 1990 the concept was refined, and the instant classic 4runner style would remain virtually unchanged for over a decade, through 2003. The 4 runner has 4 doors and a narrower body that larger Toyota SUVs like the Prado. But 5 adults may be seated comfortably. Some very rare 4runners have a 3rd row of seating, the 2 seats fold down to keep the cargo room in back intact. The body is still built over a truck chassis, which gives it the height and strength to handle bad road conditions. An early 1990s 4runner will start at about $7000. If you see one advertised for less, it is most likely coming from a rural or beach area, and / or is not it good condition. There is a non 4 x 4 version and these are less expensive, and older automatics can sometimes be picked on offer. A 1996 – 2001 4runner will run from $10,000 to $15,000 and more. Depending on options, year model, and whether it is gasoline or diesel and automatic or standard transmission.
2003 and beyond … The 4runner was updated and upgraded in 2004, with some transition “new look” 2003 models available. Those sold in Costa Rica were overwhelmingly turbo diesel intercooler, there are some gasoline versions that have 4000cc 8 cylinder engines. The interior and exterior styling was updated and many other improvements were made. $20,000 to $30,000 and beyond… Starting in 2006 the Toyota Fortuner replaced the 4runner in Costa Rica, so models beyond 2005 are rare and you would have to confirm parts being available on these vehicles.
The 4runner has a good amount of power, so is adaptable to many needs. If you want to lift it and put big tires on it, the loss of power won’t be very noticeable, especially off the highway. If you have to haul things or tow something, there is plenty of oomph for most purposes. In bad road conditions a lack of power won’t be an obstacle to getting out of the mess.
Toyota 4runner / RAV4 Parts and Repairs
These SUVs are hugely popular in Costa Rica. Purdy Motors is historically one of the best dealers, if not the best. Parts are readily available nationwide and mechanics know them very well. Parts are a good value, being more expensive than some brands, but higher quality. And being less expensive than many other brands, and also higher quality!
Toyota 4runner RAV4 Summary
Pricing: Toyota is Toyota in Costa Rica. The brand has a reputation for value, reliability, performance, and quality that is unmatched here. This is reflected in the new car market, and in the used car market as well. There are comparable brands, like Mitsubishi, that are less expensive to buy. However, the Toyota will also retain the high value over time, so the premium you put in in the beginning will maintain itself upon resale.
Pros: If you are looking for absolute performance, reliability and value, the Toyota 4runner is a great choice. The 4 x 4 capability is among the best, the parts are top quality and good value. You have ample cargo and passenger room, and the vehicle is adaptable for many uses.
The RAV4 is an excellent choice, but has competition in the Honda CRV and Suzuki Sidekick, the better choice in your case may depend on your usage and your area. If you don’t need true 4×4, the AWD RAV4 is very capable and will perform well if you travel around Costa Rica. It is comfortable to drive in town and handles well on the highway.
Cons: The main drawback goes for Toyota is the entry price. If you don’t have much room in your budget, or can’t get your head around paying the prices in Costa Rica that Toyota commands, then you will be better off considering other brands.