Toyota RAV4 With a Manual Transmission: Does It Exist?

Enthusiasts love the thrill of manually shifting a car. It provides more control and helps you harness the engine’s power better. For that reason, many people want to know if the RAV4 manual transmission option exists. 

I show you what RAV4s come with a manual transmission, so you can find the model year that suits you the best. I will also show you the differences between an automatic vs. manual transmission. Lastly, this guide will reveal some problems with the RAV4 manual transmissions that you should know about. 

manual gear shifter

Modern RAv4 Transmissions

Sadly, the latest Toyota RAV4 doesn’t have the option to add a manual transmission. There’s no option in North America, but it has been available in other countries.

The gas-powered RAV4 includes a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that pairs with a Direct Shift 8-speed Electronically Controlled automatic transmission. This standard transmission also includes intelligence (ECT-i) and sequential shift mode for a more exciting experience.

If you prefer the hybrid models, you can enjoy the Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) with sequential shift mode. 


Used RAV4 Manual Availability

old toyota rav4

Yes, you can find a pre-owned RAV4 with a manual transmission. This option was made available in 1996 to 2005 Toyota RAV4 SUVs. 

As you search your local area or nearby dealerships, make sure you limit the online search to only include manual transmissions. There won’t be as many available, but you may find a model that suits your needs. 

I recommend checking out Autotrader or CarGurus.


Manual vs. Automatic

There are three types of transmissions used on the RAV4 since its inception. These include the following:

  • Automatic transmission (gasoline-only RAV4s)
  • Electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) (hybrid RAV4s)
  • Manual transmission (certain model years)

If you are on the fence about whether to get an automatic or manual transmission with your RAV4, there are several aspects to consider. First, to get a manual transmission, you need to buy an older RAV4. For that reason alone, the possibility might be out of the question for you. Before purchasing an older SUV, consider these points:

  • There’s probably no warranty unless you pay for it
  • Older RAV4s aren’t as fuel-efficient
  • It’s impossible to customize some of the features included in a used SUV
  • It may have other mechanical problems that cost money to repair

When you purchase a new RAV4, you get an automatic transmission with the latest technology included. These transmissions are manufactured to provide a long lifespan. 

If you still feel like the manual might be worth it, or you are wondering what the differences are, consider these critical pros and cons.

Pros of a Manual Transmission

Manual transmission enthusiasts love older technology. It’s hard to pull them away from a manual because of these benefits.

  • Vehicle has a lower purchase price
  • Offers the driver more control
  • Fuel-efficient for comparable models for that model year
  • Improved acceleration
  • Repair bills are lower
  • Improved braking/stopping power

Cons of a Manual Transmission

Despite all of these benefits, there are some downsides that must be considered. Here are a few you should know about. 

  • You must practice often to use it effectively
  • Requires more coordination with the three pedals and shifting motion
  • Lower resale value when you go to sell it (except special models)
  • Tiring to drive in stop-and-go traffic
  • Harder to find 
  • Can be difficult to control on a hill 
  • Stalls easily

Pros of an Automatic Transmission

Evaluating why the automatic transmission is a good idea is just as important. Here are a few key points.

  • Less stressful driving experience
  • Retains resale value
  • Easy to find – new and used
  • Ideal for stop-and-go traffic
  • Easy to drive, even as a beginner
  • Shifts automatically, without any thought
  • Shifting is smooth and quick

Cons of an Automatic Transmission

Additionally, the automatic transmission has a few more drawbacks, although they aren’t game-changing. Here are some to consider. 

  • The cost to purchase is higher
  • Repairs costs are higher
  • Less fuel-efficient than an identical model with a manual transmission


Manual Transmission Problems

Before you invest money in a used RAV4 with a manual transmission, it helps to research any potential problems. According to RepairPal, RAV4s have had some difficulty with the manual. The main issues involve these complaints:

  • Worn-out shift bushings lead to manual popping out of gear
  • 5th gear failure leads to manual popping out of gear

These two complaints may seem like a problem, but you must also evaluate the automatic transmission. There have been issues with the automatic not shifting right once it has a lot of miles on it. It also tends to overheat when a failure occurs. 

This information shows that either transmission can cause problems because it’s a mechanical part. Whichever one you choose, it’s best to follow all of the recommended maintenance schedules to keep it running at its best.


Buying a Manual RAV4

Even though you aren’t going to find a new Toyota RAV4 with a manual, you can still purchase a pre-owned model with the equipment you want. Here are a few places to look for your used RAV4.

Before you put money on a used RAV4, make sure you inspect it well. You may also choose to get a CARFAX vehicle history report to ensure there is no trouble with the title or SUV. 


If your heart is set on a RAV4 with a manual transmission, you have to buy it used. However, you should be able to hunt one down for a reasonable price because of how old it needs to be. 

Our best recommendation is to start with local dealerships, whether you want to buy new or used. You can let the team know what you are looking for, and they can help you track it down. Even if they don’t have a RAV4 to fit your needs, you may be able to see other models that are similar, so you know what you are looking at. 

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