Third-Row Seating in the Toyota RAV4

If you’re hunting for an SUV with third-row seats, you may be looking at Toyota, particularly the RAV4.

You’ll want to know that some older RAV4 models include third-row seating, but more recent models do not.

In this quick guide, we’ll explain which RAV4 models have it and suggest alternatives if you decide the RAV4 isn’t a good third-row vehicle choice for you.

rav4 with third row seats

3rd-Row Availability

The modern Toyota RAV4 does not have third-row seating. However, some RAV4s produced between 2006 and 2012 were equipped with third-row seating for up to 7 people.

All recent models of the RAV4 accommodate up to 5 people including the driver. Toyota doesn’t offer the option to add a third row either.

If you want a third row, your best option is to purchase another Toyota model. We’ll talk more about Toyota’s other vehicle models later in this article.

Pros and Cons

3rd-row seats on your RAV4 might sound like a great option, but there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider.

The obvious benefit is that you’ll be able to fit more passengers in your RAV4. However, this is only the case if your passengers are small enough to fit in the 3rd row.

RAV4s with 3rd-row seating were not designed with additional interior space to accommodate the extra seats. This means seating space is small in the 3rd row and also sacrifices cargo space.

Owners of RAV4 with third-row factory seating said that those seats were too small and uncomfortable for most adults. Unless you want the extra space for children, it may not be worth purchasing an old RAV4 model or one with significant mileage just to have the extra seating.

Aftermarket 3rd-Row Seats

Some buyers wonder if they can customize a RAV4 with third-row seating after purchasing. In other words, can you install an “aftermarket” product that isn’t made by Toyota but that’s fitted to the vehicle post-purchase?

No, you cannot and should not install aftermarket third-row seats in your Toyota RAV4. This used to be possible, but it’s now deemed unsafe by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA).

In April 2020, the NHTSA published this press release warning drivers not to purchase aftermarket benches as they’re not certified by the Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standards. As these seats as often used for children, consumers must avoid installing them or purchasing vehicles with these installed.  

Safety Concerns

Aftermarket seats are installed in cars that aren’t designed for third-row seating.

Here are the top reasons why aftermarket third-row seats are unsafe:

  • The seats may not be sufficiently secured to the vehicle
  • The seats may not meet seatbelt safety requirements
  • The seats’ construction and other specifications may not meet minimum safety requirements
  • The vehicle’s suspension is not designed to handle third-row seating

In the past, a company called “Little Passenger Seats, Inc.” has supplied aftermarket third-row seating for vehicles like the Toyota RAV4. However, the NHTSA has deemed the products manufactured by this company unsafe for the above reasons.

The Department of Transportation is instructing drivers who own and use these products to discontinue use immediately. Again, because these seats were often marketed and used for children, it’s important to heed these warnings.   

Alternatives to Consider

If you were hoping to find a RAV4 with third-row seating or a capacity for 7, then this article likely hasn’t helped your search. While the RAV4 is best used for 4 or 5 people, some other Toyota vehicles can meet your needs.

Consider the following three Toyota models with third-row seating!

Toyota Highlander

toyota highlander
File:2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD front NYIAS 2019.jpg” by Kevauto is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

In terms of size, the Toyota Highlander sits between the RAV4 and the Sequoia.

All new Highlanders come as three-row crossover SUVs. Those who need the extra seats (up to 8 people!) will love it. It’s not as cumbersome to drive as the Sequoia, but it does give up some additional space as a result.

Most people will consider the third-row “kids only” because it’s tight. There’s also below-average cargo space behind that third-row seat, which means you might end up using those seats as at least a partial storage area depending on what or who you’re hauling.

The top rivals of the Toyota Highlander include the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Mazda CX-9, and Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

Toyota Sequoia

toyota sequoia
Toyota Sequoia 5.7L Limited 2010” by RL GNZLZ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

All new Sequoias have third-rowing seating. This is a three-row SUV with 7 or 8 seats depending on the configuration you prefer.

You can trade out a second-row bench seat for a pair of captain’s chairs if you’d like to give your passengers a bit more space to spread out. Its cargo area is one of the largest in its class, so you won’t be giving up much space even with the additional row.

Thanks to its V8 engine, the Sequoia also has a lot of power. If you’re looking for a vehicle to haul boats or trailers. This is a great option. Where the Sequoia struggles most is fuel economy and technology. With its size and power, it’s no surprise that the Sequoia doesn’t get great gas mileage.

The technology isn’t great either, but the release of the all-new 2023 Sequoia will solve this problem. It’s been more than a decade since this model got a significant update from Toyota, so we’re glad to see an overhaul finally being released.

The top rivals of the Toyota Sequoia are the Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, Nissan Armada, and GMC Yukon.

Toyota 4Runner

toyota 4runner
Toyota 4Runner Limited 2014” by RL GNZLZ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Toyota 4Runner does not have a standard third row, but it is available as an option. This vehicle comes in various configurations that allow you to find the right setup. Here are the models that have third-row seating available:

  • 2022 Toyota 4Runner SR5
  • 2022 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium
  • 2022 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Furthermore, keep in mind that a third row significantly decreases the available cargo space in your 4Runner. This should be a consideration if you routinely haul luggage or gear.

The top rivals of the Toyota 4Runner include the Land Rover Defender and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, Toyota RAV4s with 3rd row seats are hard to find since they are producing them anymore. They existed only in early models of the SUV between 2006 and 2012.

Today, it’s not recommended to install aftermarket seats in your RAV4 to upgrade the seating capacity to 7 people due to safety concerns.

However, Toyota offers other SUVs like the Highlander, Sequoia, and 4Runner that can help meet your needs for third-row seating.

Would you consider a third-row RAV4? Let us know in the comments!

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