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What You Need To Know About The Rav4 Hybrid Fuel Tank Lawsuit

The Rav4 Hybrid is the current best selling hybrid model Toyota has. What they are not telling you is what could happen if you buy one.


I recently went, and test drove a Toyota Rav4 Hybrid. Honestly, I was very impressed with the vehicle. Toyota does make great quality cars like the Prius.

As one of the world's largest automobile manufacturers, Toyota is not without fault. There is a recent accusation against Toyota for an issue that some Rav4 Hybrid owners claim has broken their confidence in the car company.

I want to explain the lawsuit and also show why owners of the Rav4 hybrid should not worry.

The Rav4 Hybrid Fuel Tank Lawsuit
The lawsuit is straightforward to understand. In all reality, the issue with Rav4 Hybrid will not bring harm to anyone who owns the car, as long as you pay attention. The vehicle is not under a safety recall for the issue, but it does have owners worried.

The issue with the fuel tank is this. You cannot fill the fuel tank to the full capacity when the gauge shows empty, and the fuel light is on. Many consumers have reported that they can only fill the tank with 8 gallons of fuel, while others have reported 10 to 12 gallons.

2019 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid Incorrect fuel tank reading

The concern is that consumers cannot drive the estimated 580 miles that Toyota says it can go. Instead, owners are reporting 400 miles or less of the estimated range.

I can see how this would upset someone who just bought a $30,000 vehicle. I would expect it to work properly, as well. However, Rav4 Hybrid owners should not worry, and here is why.

The Reason Rav4 Hybrid Owners Should Not Worry
When you put your trust and faith into a company like Toyota, you expect you will get a product or service that will take care of your needs.

What happens when your car does not work as advertised is that your confidence in the carmaker, fails. What is worse is when you are not the only one who has the issue. It may seem as if Toyota lied to you about the car, and you all of a sudden feel duped by the giant car maker.

2020 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid Instrument cluster with fuel gauge

All of these feelings are entirely normal and are expected; however, you should not lose faith altogether. Toyota is ranked very high in customer satisfaction. As a mega car corporation, they have millions of customers who are the lifeblood of their business. Toyota will make it right; they always do.

For example, take a look at Prius and the hybrid battery failures they are having. Toyota could have said no to replacements but instead, they increased the battery warranty coverage. More on that story here.

Knowing this tells me that Toyota will do everything they can to correct the problem to keep their customer base happy and loving their products. Know that this issue is not one of safety unless you completely ignore your fuel gauge and miss the gas station. Your Rav4 Hybrid will still be safe, you may need to fill up more often is all.

I know right now it sucks to have the issue on your Rav4. I bet you have felt taken advantage of by your dealer or by Toyota. The thing is, it will be made right just give it some time. Major fixes like this take some time to collect data and come up with a viable solution for you.

Toyota is not the only company with issues, and honestly, they have the fewest problems per 100 out of any other carmaker on the planet. So, contact your dealer and get a warranty claim going for your Rav4 Hybrid if you have the issue and know that help is on the way.

Thank you all for reading. I look forward to seeing you in the next story. 3 Reasons The 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Could End Prius Production.

Watch this Toyota Prius truck with a nice little bed and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube for daily automotive news analysis.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.


Peter (not verified)    May 18, 2020 - 8:04PM

Thank you for sharing your view. I don't think we should give Toyota a break on this one. They know that all the hybrids have the shrinking fuel tank issue but falsely advertise long driving range. A permanent fix might be available in September at the earliest that is 18 months after this was reported by owners. I support the lawsuit as it forces Toyota to devote some attention. Dealerships are now refusing to touch cars with the issue or record it to avoid any risk of legal action. This doesn't strike me as a company that is willing to stand behind its product but one that is running away from responsibility.

gth (not verified)    May 20, 2020 - 10:13AM

In reply to by Peter (not verified)

Agree the article is rubbish and missing a lot of detail on the problem, moreso for a headline that says 'what you need to know'.

Hopefully someone can find a write off model, drill a hole in the fuel tank and get a good solid measurement of its capacity. Might not solve the problem, but it would shed more light on it than this Toyota Happy Ending puff piece.

robert (not verified)    May 26, 2020 - 6:09AM

In reply to by gth (not verified)

Drill a hole in the fuel tank and get a good solid measurement of its capacity? No need to drill a hole, if you pump from a gas station and you can only put in 10 gallons. That's an issue and should be addressed by the manufacturer!

Kmac (not verified)    August 17, 2020 - 7:46PM

In reply to by Peter (not verified)

I agree that a class action lawsuit is needed.i bought the 2019 over a year ago now and they still don’t have a solution. I filled three formal complaints with Toyota and a case with their engineering team. They sent a worthless piece of paper warranting my RAV4 hybrid for 100,000 miles regarding the gas tank issue but I have a sinking feeling I will have 100 k on the car without resolution. Then they will tell me it’s out of warranty, This article is BS and I think they are either too optimistic about Toyota’s integrity or are being compensated by Toyota.

Timothy Parker (not verified)    May 18, 2020 - 8:34PM

What You Need To Know About The Rav4 Hybrid Fuel Tank Lawsuit:

Toyota is a great company, so ...
Suck it up.
Shut up.

See ... all fixed.

Jim Persinger (not verified)    May 18, 2020 - 9:44PM

The author’s conclusions are contrary to Toyota’s own actions on the matter, though! Toyota is NOT offering to make this right. In my case, my 2019 model only takes 3 gallons, making it essentially worthless in rural Kansas. It has been in the shop for over 190 days! Toyota is not only refusing a fix or buyback, their response to my request for arbitration is to argue that the 3 gallon tank is a “normal operating characteristic.” So no, Toyota isn’t “making it right” on the fuel tank issue, in fact it affects almost all 19 and 20 models, and they fraudulently are failing to disclose the defect to customers. And they are stalling customers like myself who need a functional vehicle, actually hiring an attorney to stall me. For a vehicle costing over $40k, it’s unacceptable, and Toyota’s handling of it is telling customers loud and clear that they don’t value us.

R. Ross (not verified)    July 21, 2020 - 9:19AM

In reply to by Jim Persinger (not verified)

Good morning,

I'm looking into purchasing a 2019 or 2020 RAV4 Hybrid. Been doing my investigation and getting a lot of misleading information from Toyota Customer Service, and starting to investigate the Toyota new car dealers directly on specific vehicles they have on their lot for sale by Vin#. Yesterday I spoke to Toyota customer service via their 800 customer support line. I was told that they are aware of the issue, it's currently under investigation. Additionally, they informed me that they have a "Customer Support Program" in place now at all their Toyota new car dealer franchise locations which allows their service departments to access Toyota's database, search for the affected vehicle by VIN to verify if it qualifies for the "Customer Support Program". The consumer does not have access to that database to check for themselves through any other public database access method. The rep would not disclose any details of what the "Customer Support Program" includes. I asked if the the VIN # of the potential purchase vehicle does not show up as a vehicle qualifying for the "Customer Support Program you go ahead and purchase that particular vehicle based on that information, and then later it presents as an issue then would it automatically fall under the "Customer Support Program". The rep indicated that the internal list of effected Vin#'s is updated frequently and if the vehicle you purchased is added to the list after purchase then Toyota would send a letter to the registered owner advising that their vehicle qualifies for the "Customer Support Program" The rep described the issue as "Distance to Empty" issue.

Jeff (not verified)    May 18, 2020 - 11:44PM

This feels like a sponsored article. I fully agree this is not a safety issue but it does effect the value of my vehicle. I was not informed about the problem from the dealer when clearly the dealer and Toyota knew. I believe Toyota is a good manufacturer but I don't believe they will be able to make this right.

Toyota Owner (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 8:17AM

Why is this article so ridiculously verbose? Then, it didn't really get into detail of what the issue actually is our the status of the lawsuit.

Romeo H Raabe (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 8:21AM

How many years will it take to figure this out? Assuming I trade mine in, I will lose money as who wants an suv with a tiny 10 gallon tank.
How long will they stall on this or are they incapable of designing a has tank?

Neil (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 8:30AM

I had a Rav 4 Hybrid 2019 wit this issue, and while torque is touting customer satisfaction that is not the case. Worse is this is not the first time Toyota has had fuel tank issues with a Hybrid. Read up on the Prius and how they handled that.

Mark Smith (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 8:42AM

Are you a Toyota therapist? Very little factual data here but more emotional support for poor rav 4 owners. Which is fine I guess; however, previous articles blistered the screen with fiery barbs from upset customers. This milquetoast article lulled me to sleep. And if you are buying a new hybrid XSE you are paying 40k. You can get a fully loaded 2018 F150 4x4 Ecoboost loaded with leather, towing, Moonroof with less than 30k miles for less than this 10 gallon tanked little tank.

Cminuspeon (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 9:14AM

I'd like to point to Toyotas handling of the Toyota Prius fuel tank issue. Their gas tanks would rupture randomly and Toyotas fix? IGNORE IT UNTIL IT WENT AWAY. To their credit they ended up fixing the faulty fuel tanks in the next generation. But anyone buying a 2nd Generation Toyota Prius Toyota would like to say... F you, we have your money.

I wish I knew about Toyota and its ignore it attitude but I ended up with a faulty fuel tank in my hybrid as well. Additionally no android auto in 2019 rav 4 hybrids. Thanks lying salesman

S.Donna Hugh (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 10:22AM

I'm not sure where you got the data to state Toyota has the "fewest problems per 100 out of any other carmaker on the planet..." However, if one reviews the number of TSB's issued on this current year RAV4, Toyota has a lot more issues than a gas tank insufficiency. I am a current owner of a wonderful 2002 4Runner, and was investigating a purchase of the 2020 RAV4 ...not gonna do it! It appears that this version is spending more time in the shop than on the road. I hope Toyota continues to "tweak" the problems. Thanks for writing about the Toys!

Dan (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 10:41AM

I have a 2019 Rav4 Hybrid, all you have to do is remove the nosal a couple of inches and continue to add the gas. You can then fill it up completely. Not rocket science people.

Jim Persinger (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 2:22PM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

I am completely utterly shocked that the 90,000 plus people affected by this issue never thought to do that! Especially in an extreme case like mine, where it only takes 3 gallons. Oh, yeah... We did, and it doesn’t work for most of us. Glad to hear you’re in the minority who have a solution. And in any case, it’s a manufacturer defect, they are committing fraud by not informing people about it before purchase, and it compromises the resale value of these model years, including yours. Yeah, you’re out of pocket on this issue too. So there are serious financial losses here, not fixable by holding the nozzle a few inches out. Knowing that isn’t rocket science.

Tony Primavera (not verified)    May 20, 2020 - 7:09AM

In reply to by IShick (not verified)

You fail to tell the a tubal design problem with the RAV4 tank. It is made like a saddle bag to fit around the AWD rearend. The pick up is at the bottom of one side. Once you pump out 4 gallons the saddle on one side can not flow to the pump pickup. This means only 9.5 gallons is obtainable from the design. Look up a replacement tank to see the design error.

Lauren (not verified)    May 20, 2020 - 2:05PM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

This is my experience as well. If I'm careful I can get 13+ gallons in my tank shortly after the fuel light comes on. Also there's been some in-depth testing of the tank that showed the reserve in the tank after the light came on was a lot more than expected. It could be as simple as a fuel sensor coming on too early making you fill up more often.

Kmac (not verified)    May 26, 2020 - 6:12PM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

I am getting 13.5 gallons only if I go to a station that allows the pumps to “trickle” flow. It still takes 10 minutes to fill and often overflows. The dealer knows the issue, but says Toyota doesn’t have a solution. The service manager told me the trick to get it full because he had the same issue on a RAV hybrid his daughter owns. I’m disappointed because Toyota just wants the issue to go away. I’m going to join the class action lawsuit because I think it’s the only way to get them to address the issue. This article is BS.

Ben Karpen (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 12:14PM

But isn't this a normal Toyota feature? Both our tC and 4cyl Camry fill up with 2 gallons less than rated once the light turns on. I've always figured it's a dummy light to save people from running out of gas. Looks like they're doing the same thing here and people need to learn to (in time) trust their odometer and fuel gauge over their fuel warning light.

Robert Stodieck (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 12:41PM

"What they are not telling you is what could happen if you buy one."

What a lame scare line. The answer is "you might not be able fill the tank to full capacity. Uuuu scary.
You must write for electrek on your days off.

KenB (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 1:45PM

I fail to understand what the issue really is. What happens if you fill the tank when the gas light is on. Do you get less mileage or does the pump stop before the tank is full? Can you fill the tank when the light is not on? Other than not being able to get a full tank of gas, what is the problem? Just make sure the gas tank is not on empty the next fill up and you should get a full tank.

Doug (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 3:53PM

In reply to by KenB (not verified)

If you refuel when the gas light is on you can put in about 9-10 gallons when the pump shuts off automatically. The owner's manual says it has a 14.5 gallon tank and there should be about 2.2 gallons remaining when the light comes on ... so where's the missing 3 gallons? Either the tank isn't actually full (a problem with the refueling system), the tank has far more gas in it than it should (a problem with the gauge or measurement system), the tank is smaller than it should be (a problem with the tank itself), or some combination of these.

The workarounds all violate the guidance in the owner's manual: you either have to keep refueling after the pump shuts off, forcing it in until you think it's actually full and risking overfilling and damaging the evap system, or you keep driving well after the low fuel light comes on and the gauge reads empty, risking running out of gas, burning out the pump, and getting stranded.

There are reports of people "topping off" with multiple gallons of gas. There's also reports of people who drive 100 to 150 miles after the gauge reads empty. Something is seriously wrong.

It doesn't matter if you fill at a half tank or at empty, you get the same result: the '19-'20 RAV4 Hybrid has about 9-10 gallons of usable fuel in it, despite having a 14.5 gallon tank.

Should we compare to the Prius tank fiasco a few years back? It was fundamentally similar, with the tank not filling to the advertised capacity. At least with that one it was documented in the owner's manual as part of the design of the vehicle (a bladder tank). Toyota fought and won that lawsuit. The RAV4 doesn't have a bladder tank and this behavior is directly contrary to the owner's manual.

Oh, and the problem seems to only affect North American models. Which means whatever is different between the America models and everywhere else is the cause (my money is on the emissions system).

This article is pure garbage. It reads like a paid promotion for Toyota. And don't get me wrong: I do trust Toyota and I hope they come out with a fix. But when? How much leniency do we give them? Some people are halfway through their lease and Toyota has yet to do anything more than acknowledge a problem to the media and offer an "interim fix" that doesn't actually fix anything. They refuse to buy back the defective vehicles and refuse to fix it under warranty (because they can't). They've promised individuals (as part of dispute resolution) to have a fix by certain dates ... all of which have come and gone. The latest rumors for a fix (nothing official, mind you) are this fall.

I want to have confidence in Toyota's customer care here. But they've been silent. Barely an admission that there's a problem, a token repair that even they admit probably won't fix it, and absolutely no communication of when a fix might come. I'm willing to give some leeway on timelines due to Coronavirus, but even that doesn't excuse the communication problem. And so I've basically accepted that my fuel gauge is broken and my car has a 12 gallon tank. Which still makes for a very usable vehicle, but disappointing to some.

StephenKlares (not verified)    April 27, 2021 - 8:34PM

In reply to by Doug (not verified)

I have a 2021 Rav4 Hybrid and I was able to get 11gallons after fuel light came on. I m not sure if anyone else has looked at this but my info center said I got 39.7mpg but when I divided my fuel gallons which after trying to top off it 11.7gallons into the 426miles I got the actual average mileage is 36.3 almost 3.5 mpg difference which is a big difference. Also this was useing cruise control to accelerate and stop, I didn't drive heavy footed or go above the 65mph speed limit. My area is pretty flat not many hills. If this is the case for other drivers this means there being dishonest about there actual fuel economy. What gets me is Toyota saying that you get better in city mileage over Highway, this can not be true. You use 3 to 5 times the fuel to get a vehicle up to speed opposed to cruising without stops.

JOHN (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 3:33PM

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid also has seems to have an issue with the fuel tank or fuel gauge. Once the fuel tank is "full", the Distance to Empty is nowhere near the 600 miles claimed. And, you can't get 17.1 gallons in the tank - it shuts off about 2 gallons shy. Ugh. Other than that, it's a great vehicle and I've been getting 38 MPG!