OT-Toyota Rav 4 as paddling vehicle

I need to get a 4WD SUV. Consumer Reports lists the top rated SUV as the Toyota Rav 4. This puts it on a short list. There are times when I need the 4WD but as we know most usage will be on-road, getting from one destination to another. I would get the 3.5 liter, V6. So my questions are:

How does it do on the open road?

How is the rack for carrying canoes? I have a good Thule rack but it attaches to rain gutters and I’m guessing they will not adapt to a new Toyota Rav 4. Any feedback?

How reliable?

Thanks for any comments.


I Like mine
That’s what I use for my kayak vehicle.

We had a 1999 and put 270,000 miles on it.

Bought a used 2004 after someone rear ended me at a traffic light it has 150,00 on it runs fine I expect to easily get 250,00 miles on it.

Handles nice and is a good height for loading my boat.

We di way more dirt roads with the ist one up in Canada.

This one will probably not see as much rough terrain.

Aside from the fact we like them it is also one of the few vehicles that is not a hatch back. hatch backs area big drawback once you have your boat loaded.

Another big plus with the 2004 is that the rear seats are completely removable.

Here’s mine…


I’ve got the standard model V-6. It’s got plenty of power, 4wd works great, carries two boats easily. I’ve got the factork rack with Yakima rail grabbers and the round bars.

Go for the Limited if you can afford it. You’ll get the built in NAV, SAT radio and Bluetooth. I have Bluetooth in mine. Have had zero problems with mine and it’s a 2009.

2010 Rav-4
I have a 2010 Rav-4 with factory racks and have taken 2 kayaks down to FL from OH with no problem. Also took 2 bikes, took off the front wheels and placed both bikes inside, bungeed to the side. At 5’10" I can sleep in it.

Good stuff:
So,I know nothing about the factory racks. Do you buy the Yakima or whatever accessaroies that will fit these racks? Are the factory racks strong enough? Can they be used as is, without adding accessories? I was assuming that one would have to add a wider crossbar to the factory rack. Is this the case? I’ll be carrying two canoes. I appreciate any feedback.


I wouldn’t trust…

– Last Updated: Apr-22-11 7:27 PM EST –

the factory cross bar to carry canoes. First, they're curved, and you won't be able to carry two canoes because they aren't wide enough.

As I said in my previous post, I use Yakima cross bars atttached to rail grabbers. The rail grabbers grip the factory rails.

Here's a photo of the rail grabbers on my Rav4.


In this photo, you can see the curved factory cross bars.



have rejected RAV4
I have been shopping for SUV kayak haulers and have rejected the RAV4 for the following reasons:

  • spread on the rack is far too small
  • roof is not level (tilts up at the front)
  • there are not “gutters” on which to attach a longer spread rack

    Unfortunately these are problems with most new SUVs. One exception so far is the Mitsubishi Endeavour, which has 60" of spread when the existing rack is replaced.

    Its great that some of you are pleased with the RAV4 for hauling, but I need a longer spread.

2011 kia sorrento
Have a look at the kia sorrento. Great vehicle, consumer reports top pick in its segment and excellent value.

Bought one last year and love it.

Rav4 rack spread
My Rav4 has a 58" spread on the rack. The rack installs or comes off at the push of a button!

The factory rack was pulled and I made adaptor plates with Thule fit kit 8 bases mounted on them. The adaptor plates are bolted into the Rav4 rack bolt holes and accept Thule Tracker II feet. I could have made the spread a few inches wider but moved the front attachment point back to reduce possible wind noise. The rear attachment point was moved rearward to facilitate loading from the rear.

The Rav4 roof does have the annoying slope down in the back, as does nearly every other current design sm. SUV. I’m not familiar with Endeavor, but with that as a possible exception, the Subaru Forester is the only widely sold sm. SUV with a flat roof line that I’m aware of. I have concerns about whether Subaru has solved it’s almost decade long blown head gasket issue. So far the 2005’s are the first year without it showing up in CR annual survey-next year’s survey should be the test.


Now that’s what I needed to see
Thanks Andy. A picture is worth a thous…etc. I would definately need extenders for width. I’ll be looking at major manufacturers to see which will fit the rav 4. My guess is that many will work. The current fad of sloping the roofline towards the rear in all new SUV’s concerns me. Your pic reveals that upside down canoes would be catching a good deal of air. I wonder if the rear extension bar could be higher to compensate.

I always use stem lines when houling but still wonder if the clip-on factory racks would hold up under the wind pressure of two canoes. Any thoughts?



Lack of hatch
The lack of a hatch back kills the RAV for me - I like rain shelter when changing into the dry suit. Other than that, the RAV looks great. You buy the clamps for Thule or Yakima bars and they go right on the factory rails. RAV has lots of spread for such bars, it looks like to me. I wish I could like a Ford or Chevy small SUV, but their rails are the pits.

A Subie Forester will be the replacement for my Outback when the time comes (since they have put crappy racks on the new Outback).


RAV 4 V-6
I’ll echo what Andy and Dave said. Have had my RAV 4 V6 for about two months now. I have the Limited, JBL system with Bluetooth, but no Nav. Came out of an '04 CR-V that was a fantastic little SUV, but I wanted something different with more power for hauling boats.

The roof span is just fine for me, but I use V racks for my surfskis, so no worries about bar spread. It’s actually much longer than the Honda. The V-6 has plenty of power-it’s quite the little hot rod; surprisingly quick for what it is. Super comfortable on the highway too-feels much more substantial than the CR-V. Love the Bluetooth; the JBL system less so-it’s muddy and boomy, but there’s a cheap fix for that that makes a notable difference in sound quality. Lousy reception on the XM sat radio, and the leaves aren’t even on the trees yet here in the NE.

Jury’s out for me on reliability-every Honda/Acura I’ve owned has been bulletproof-turn the key and go. Not so for our Subarus-head gasket problems galore. They are great in the snow/rain though.

Really the only thing I don’t like about the RAV is its handling. The CR-V was much more agile, with far better steering feedback. The Limited suspension is soft and wallows in the corners. It does eventually take a set, but it always feels off balance on tip in-overweight and ponderous. Granted, it’s a higher COG sport ute, but the Honda feels very precise and ‘flingable’ in this area. Have a shock tower brace and rear sway bar on order, recommended on the Toyota forums, so hopefully, this will crisp things up a bit. I had looked at the Sport, but the run flats were a deal breaker for me.

Have had it on two longish trips and the gas mileage is not bad; it’s barely ticking over at 70 mph. Beyond that, it’s a great looking vehicle. Mine is the Black Forest pearl-a handsome color in the sunlight-green/black. IMO Toyota really needs a black or dark gray leather option like in the Sport-the light gray in the Limited just looks cheap.

My '10 leftover was just recalled for the accelerator pedal ‘fix.’ Curious why this wasn’t done before it left the dealer’s. 'Hopefully this is more than the ‘coolant conditioner’ fix Subaru mandates for their head gasket fiasco. I did look at the new Outback and the Forester. The rack system on the Outback is laughable for those that really use their racks, and although the Forester drove nicely and went well in the turbo XT incarnation, the premium fuel requirement was a no go. Given the price of fuel now, I’m glad I didn’t go that route. I did get a deal on my leftover-loaded to the gills for 2K less than the Forester XT. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the front runners in this category.

Rav 4 is great!

– Last Updated: Apr-23-11 10:06 PM EST –

I went from Grand Cherokees to '10 Rav4. I got the base model but had the dealer install leather, sunroof and satelite radio. Based upon feedback from this forum, I haul two kayaks everywhere with the Thule 815 carriers attached to the crossbars. $99 at Dick's Sporting Goods. The gas mileage is great. With a Necky 14' and a Carolina 12' on top I average around 23MPG vs 26-27 without the yaks. Since it's front wheel drive I didn't get the 4WD like in the Jeeps. Never a problem plus it's easier to load the kayaks on top.