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Synthetic Oil For The Toyota Rav4 (Does It Need It?)

Toyota and many other car manufacturers have been using synthetic oil in their vehicle motors for years. Although synthetic oil is commonly known as a type of oil that is predominately used for larger engines like aircraft jets, and also in high-performance vehicles, more cars on our roads are taking synthetic oils over convention oil every day.

The Toyota Rav4 uses synthetic oil, and the recommended oil is typically SAE 0W-16 for the best results and performance. Your vehicle model and trim may take other oils, so it is always best to check your vehicle manual or find out from your local dealership or mechanic to be sure.

If you don’t already know, your vehicle needs oil. Manufacturers and professionals in the vehicle industry suggest having the oil and filter changed at least every 3000 – 10,000 miles depending on what type of oil your car takes.

Keep reading on to find out more about the Rav4 and the best-recommended oil to use for your favorite Toyota.

Does the Toyota Rav4 Take Synthetic Oil?

The Toyota Rav4 uses synthetic oil in its engine.

The recommended and preferred synthetic oil to use in a Rav4 is usually the SAE-0W-16 but you can use other synthetic oils if this is unavailable.

The type of oil that your Rav4 uses may differ between models, trims, and years. For example, the 2019 Toyota Rav4 is recommended with SAE 0W-16, while the 2016 Rav4 prefers the SAE 0W-20. In fact, most Toyota Rav4 vehicles before the latest fifth-generation Rav4, prior to 2019, are recommended with SAE 0W-20.

All Toyota Rav4s hold a capacity of 4.6 quarts.

If the usual synthetic oil is not available for your Rav4, your mechanic will most likely use SAE 5W-20 as an alternative synthetic oil but it’s recommended that the next time you fill your oil up you go back to the original 0W-20 or 0W-16.

Here are the best synthetic oils to use for a Toyota Rav4

  • SAE 0W-16
  • SAE 0W-20
  • SAE 5W-30
  • SAE 5W-20

For best results, always consult your service manual and keep replacing your synthetic oil with the same synthetic oil every time you change your oil and filter.

How Often Should I Change the Synthetic Oil in my Rav4?

Synthetic oil changes have the same recommendation for every vehicle using synthetic oil and it’s generally anywhere between 7,500 miles and 10,000 miles or one-two times a year.

Though in saying this, synthetic oil can usually keep your car going well over the 10,000-mile mark, but to be safe and to keep your car well-maintained, we’d recommend sticking to the recommendation.

Regular and on-time oil changes are like a spa for your car. Oil changes improve the overall performance of your car by allowing the following:

  • Cleaner engine
  • Longer engine life
  • Clean oil produces lower vehicle emissions
  • Reduction in wear and tear of the engine and moving parts
  • Improved mileage
  • Improved and smoother engine operation

What is Synthetic Oil?

Synthetic oil is a man-made “faux” oil, almost like synthetic leather, but with chemicals.

Synthetic oils differ between manufacturers and may not even be completely the same in the chemicals that are used as the trade secrets aren’t shared with competitors.

Synthetic oil has some performance advantages that make it better than conventional oil, we’ll go through that more below.

Here’s a brief recap of synthetic oil and how it’s made:

  • Synthetic oil is made from artificial chemicals
  • Most synthetic oils have a crude oil base
  • Full synthetic oils do not need the use of petroleum
  • Synthetic blends incorporate both conventional and synthetic oil, which will help protect your engine slightly better than conventional oil
  • A main chemical ingredient used in the making of synthetic oil is polyalphaoslefins

Synthetic Oil VS Conventional Oil

As mentioned above, synthetic oil is better for the performance of your vehicle and its engine and has multiple outweighing benefits over conventional oil.

Though some cars still use conventional oil, as of 2019, according to Consumer Reports, around 70% of new cars on the road in the US are taking either fully synthetic or blended synthetic oil.

This is why cars are lasting longer on the roads and brands that once had an expected lifespan of 99,999 miles now have the ability to last up to the average of 200,000 miles or more, depending on the make and model of your car.

Compared with conventional oil which America founded in 1859 in Titusville, (Apparently it was actually found in China thousands of years ago, which if you know about the history of China, this shouldn’t surprise you) whereas synthetic oil was only founded in the 1920s.

Since then, synthetic oil has only been improved repeatedly and is being used more often than conventional oil because of its numerous enhanced benefits.

Here is what you need to know about both conventional and synthetic oil:

Conventional Oil

  • “Founded” in 1859
  • Has been the worlds most important source of energy since the 1950s
  • Works to prevent overheating in your vehicle’s engine
  • Lubricates the moving parts of your car’s engine
  • Reduces friction and wear

Synthetic Oil

  • Founded in 1929 – 70 years after conventional oil
  • Synthetic oil contains fewer impurities than conventional oil because it is man-made in a lab
  • Some synthetic oils still use crude oil as a base ingredient in their production process
  • Synthetic oils are made with additives, not all additives are shared by production companies to “keep trade secrets”
  • Synthetic oils are made with high-quality additives that are better for your engine than conventional oil
  • Synthetic oils do not degrade and break down as quickly as conventional oils
  • Synthetic oil handles extreme weather better and can give your engine protection in colder weather, allowing quick and easy start-ups
  • Improves fuel economy
  • Reduces engine drag which provides better horsepower
  • Oil changes are more expensive, but they are also needed less frequently

Here is a table showing the differences of each type of oil:

 Conventional OilTraditional Oil
CostApproximately US$35 to US$75Approximately US$65 to US$125
IngredientsDrilled from the groundAdditives
Breaks downHas a 5-year shelf lifeHas a 5-year shelf life
Requires Oil ChangeEvery 3,000 – 5,000 milesEvery 7,500 – 10,000 miles
Benefits for vehicleKeeps the engine running and lubricates moving parts in the engineKeeps the engine running for longer with heat tolerance, cold-weather protection, and longevity. 

The fewer impurities and the chemical additives that create synthetic oil make it less prone to sludging as conventional oil does. Synthetic oil provides better protection for your engine and prevents wear and tear in the engine and the moving parts of the vehicle that need constant lubrication.

How Do I Know if My Car Takes Synthetic Oil?

Check your user manual, it will have all the relevant information you need in there.

If, however, you have bought yourself a used vehicle and the manual has grown legs and disappeared, you can note down the vehicle identification number (VIN) and check with a local dealership who should be able to look it up on a database for you.

You can change from regular oil to synthetic oil at any time, but we would recommend you have your engine oil and filter flushed and cleared out before doing this. It may be best to have this done at a garage and to ask the mechanic’s professional opinion.


Oil is essentially for a car what blood is for humans. Our life source. Yes, the engine is what gives the car life, but the oil is what keeps the engine running smoothly and protects the engine from overheating and breaking down, along with all the parts that go under the hood of your car.

The Toyota Rav4 takes synthetic oil, and this may be what keeps the engine running longer than many of Toyota’s competitors. The Rav4 boasts a long lifespan, great engine performance, a smooth ride, cheap maintenance costs, and you only have to have your synthetic oil changed every 7,500 – 10,000 miles.