Project

1997 Toyota RAV4: My first-ever car, and my plans for it

Tale of the tape

Back in its day, my RAV4 had an MSRP of $21,480 (base MSRP was $17,218). In today’s money, that’s $35,448.96 (base MSRP of $28,415.28). For comparison, a base 2021 RAV4 could be had for $26,250, while this one’s closest equivalent, the 2021 RAV4 Limited with the optional all-wheel drive comes out to $36,180.

As for how this black beauty came into my life, I was looking for a car to fill the void (my part of the driveway). Uber and Lyft service in my Old Dominion home had dropped during the past few months to the point where it was easier to get food from Uber Eats than a ride to the airport (or the laundromat, in my case).

One night, I got lucky. The black RAV4 appeared on CarGurus for a price of $2,000. Purchased new in April 1997, the crossover landed with one family in 1999, where it would spend the next 20-plus years between two relatives.

I reached out to the owner through CarGurus, met up with him the next day near the local IMAX theater, cut him a check, and took home the RAV4 with 211,411 miles on the odometer.

Moving the corners around is the 3S-FE inline-four. Back in 1997, it made 120 hrsprs and 125 lb-ft of torque. Can’t say how much it makes now, though it can handle the hills of U.S. 460 well enough.

Inside, it’s all Nineties, from the patterned cloth seats, to the AM/FM/cassette stereo with optional CD player. My RAV4 also comes with a dealer-installed security system, meaning if I had a programmed key fob, I could lock and unlock the doors from outside. Alas, such a fob wasn’t among the things I brought home, though I could probably find such a piece online.

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