Notes: If you're looking for a vehicle with one of the most complained about transmission on the road, look no further than the 2001-2003 Toyota RAV4.

In 2001 Toyota completely redesigned the popular SUV. While some enjoyed the new look, they did not enjoy the harsh shifting, jumping from gear-to-gear and eventual transmission failure that cost owners well over $3,000 to fix. The problem stems from a malfunctioning Electronic Control Module (ECM).

Consumer outrage coupled with pressure from different agencies led Toyota to extend the warranty nationwide back in 2010. The previous power train warranty only covered 5 years/60,000 miles, while the extended warranty now covers the transmission and ECM for 10 years/150,000 miles. Toyota also pledged to reimburse any owners who had previously paid for repairs, if they had "proper proof". Good luck collecting on that one.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
68,948 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Toyota RAV4 body / paint problems

body / paint problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Toyota RAV4:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #3

Feb 152015


  • 72,336 miles


On the subject date I was pulling into a parking spot, with cars on both sides of me. There was a curb and an island, with a tree in it, in front of me. My foot was on the brake; I brought the car to a stop and was about to put it into park when the car unexpectedly accelerated, jumped the curb and hit the tree. There were no injuries to the passengers but there was extensive damage to my car. I have filed a claim with the Toyota company holding them responsible for this unexpected acceleration based on previous incidents with this same year and model car. I am seeking, at the very least, repair of my car. Based on the previous history of this particular make, model and year car, I feel that it is important to bring this matter to the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. I would appreciate any assistance which the NHTSA can give me regarding how to proceed with this matter. The vehicle is presently being examined by representatives of the Toyota company. Thank you in advance for any assistance and advice which you can give me in this matter.

- Surprise, AZ, USA

problem #2

Nov 062013


  • 65,507 miles
Experience a hard shift jerking motion when driving my car and almost got hit twice due to the car jerking and immediately slowing down. I took it in to kendall Toyota of anchorage right away and then read online that there was a class action lawsuit and enhanced warranty of 2001-2003 Toyota because of the malfunction of the ECM and transmission. This car is not safe to drive! Toyota kendall said it would be $6,000 to replace both the ECM and transmission and that Toyota would only pay half because the car was 10 years old. This car only has 60,000 miles on it and the enhanced warranty has been extended twice due to complaints with the court. I did not get my car fixed because I could not afford it and I think Toyota should pay the full 6K to fix it. I'm amazed at how many other people have had this issue and Toyota first issued a recall and was sued in court because they refused to acknowledge the serious malfunction of their vehicles.

- Anchorage, AK, USA

problem #1

Dec 012012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 69,000 miles
I backed up in reverse and then put 2003 rav 4 into drive expecting to go forward when motor began to race and car flew backward over 12-foot high embankment into woods while engine continued racing. Car did not roll over but swung around 130 degrees in a flat area and came to a stop facing a tree 4 feet straight ahead. A second or two later the car then leaped forward into the tree with engine roaring, car continued to race at high rpms with front bumper wrapped around tree. The only way I could stop the high revs was to turn off the ignition. I injured my back.

- Highland, NY, USA

Search for these popular complaint phrases...

Not what you are looking for?