Lexus began selling the RX300 in 1998 as the first sports-utility vehicle that crossed luxury and performance. First considered a compact SUV, it came with a 3.0-liter V6 engine that produced 220 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. Besides becoming reclassified as a mid-size SUV rather than a compact, the Lexus RX300 remained relatively unchanged through the years. The Japanese automaker only produced the RX300 for five years before upgrading it to the RX330.
Although we only have data from three of the five model years, we have determined the best and worst years of the Lexus RX300. We placed the main points in the table below before reviewing the reliability, safety, fuel economy, diagnostic trouble codes (DTC), and more.
Lexus RX300 Engine Reliability Score, Safety Ratings, MPG, Value v.s. Value for the Money, and F.I.R.I.S. – Year by Year
In the upcoming section, we scrutinize the chart displaying the FIXD Reliability score for the Lexus RX300. When assessing the best and worst years of the Lexus RX300, our foremost focus is its reliability. Data collected from FIXD devices installed in Lexus RX300 vehicles allows us to generate an objective score, which we visually present as the FIXD Reliability Score.
The first model year of a new vehicle often exhibits lower reliability than the following years. New upgrades and features require tweaking to work out the kinks. This isn’t obvious in our data on the Lexus RX300 since we only have representation for the final three years of production.
After we look at reliability, we review a graph of the safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for both the Lexus RX300 and the average overall rating of the automotive industry. Next, we look at the average miles per gallon of all trims of the RX300, taking data from fueleconomy.gov.
We use average data from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) to graph the average market value and yearly maintenance costs. Finally, we created an average score from customer reviews across the most trustworthy vehicle websites to create a subjective F.I.R.I.S(FIXD Internet Review Index Score). These websites include Edmunds, KBB, Carguurus, and Cars.com.
After we review the graphed data, we list the most common DTCs and the number of safety recalls for each model year.
The Lexus RX300 was touted as the first luxury SUV, but there are other similar vehicles worth exploring. The Acura MDX and Volvo XC90 were produced in the same model years with similar performance and styles. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are also worth considering due to their history of great performance and reliability.
If you’re in the market for a car, take a look at our article on the USA’s most reliable and cheapest to repair cars in the U.S. Don’t get stuck with a lemon, use our data to help you shop.
Engine Reliability Score – Over The Years
We ranked the Lexus RX300 first by looking at reliability. We devised a unique score of 1 to 10 using our exclusive data. 1 is the worst, 5 is average, and 10 is the best.
We graphed the FIXD Reliability Score with a green line in the chart above. We calculated this score by tracking the number of check engine lights (CEL) reported by our app users and dividing it by the number of cars. We then weighted the score based on the average mileage for that specific model year submitted by owners.
Older model years are usually less reliable due to the continuous wear and tear they experience. This isn’t obvious in the Lexus RX300 since the newest model is 20 years old, and we don’t have enough data on the first model years to include them in our analysis.
The three years of the Lexus RX300 we have in our graph score below average, but the 2002 model year displays better reliability than the other two years.
NHTSA Safety Score – Over The Years
We graphed the average NHTSA safety rating of the Lexus RX300 with a green line and the average safety rating of the automotive industry with a gray line. The RX300 is safer than the industry average for all three years, scoring 4.167 out of 5 stars with each model year.
The Toyota RAV4’s safety rating over the same period is 3.5 stars out of 5 in 2001 and 4/5 in 2002 and 2003. Owning a vehicle with a high safety score improves your chances of getting cheaper car insurance.
If you live in one of the states listed below, we can show you the cheapest vehicles to insure in yours.
|What Used Cars Are the Cheapest To Insure In:|
MPG – Over The Years
While SUVs aren’t known for fuel efficiency, the Lexus RX300 doesn’t fare that awful. In fact, for a 20+ year old vehicle, the fuel efficiency is impressive. A 2001-2003 Lexus RX300 only gobbles an average of 18 miles per gallon. This is below the typical luxury SUV of today, but twenty years ago, the fuel economy was comparable to other mid-size luxury SUVs.
Current Market Value of All Lexus RX300 Years vs. Value for the Money
We used an average of 12,000 miles per year to determine the KBB value of a 2001-2003 Lexus RX300. As expected, the newer years are a little more valuable than the older, with the 2003 model year being worth $2,996, 2002 worth $2,642, and 2001 worth $1,060. Keep in mind that miles are inversely related to value. If a 2001 RX300 had less than 264,000 miles, it might be worth more than $1,060.
RepairPal.com data shows that repair costs for the 2001 Lexus RX300 are $667 annually, while the 2002 and 2003 require $750 for yearly upkeep.
When shopping for a used Lexus RX300, it’s important to keep in mind that not all vehicles are cared for equally. To protect yourself from lemons, take along a FIXD Sensor on your test drive. FIXD connects to a free app on your smartphone to tell you more about the vehicle you’re checking out, including check engine lights and other hidden issues that the owner or dealership may be attempting to hide. Click here to learn more and get FIXD for only $19.99 (regular price $59)!
F.I.R.I.S. – Fixd Internet Review Index Score– Over the Model Years
We created a subjective score from the average score of owner reviews taken from the most popular and trustworthy industry websites. These sites include Edmunds, KBB, Cargurus, and Cars.com. The score is 1-10 and shows that owners enjoy having their Lexus RX300. The best scores belong to the 2001 and 2002 Lexus RX300s at 9.5/10. The 2003 RX300 is only a little lower at 9/10.
Important Features Timeline
1999: Lexus RX300’s first year as a brand new SUV, combining sport and luxury with a 3.0-liter V6 producing 220 horsepower
2000: New Mineral Green Opalescent exterior paint replaces the Desert Bronze Metallic color, gains HID headlights
2001: Brake assist technology and Vehicle Skid Control standard, upgrades to exterior and interior styling.
2002: Value package audio system no longer an option, unchanged from the previous year.
2003: Unchanged from the previous year. Lexus planned a complete redesign for 2004 and rebadged it as the RX 330.
The Best Years of the Lexus RX300
Using our data, we listed the best years of the Lexus RX300. To ensure fairness, we initially compared the FIXD Reliability Score across all model years, followed by an evaluation of safety ratings and yearly maintenance expenses. Due to a lack of data, we could not form an Owner’s Reliability Score. We instead used an average rating based on reviews across the most popular car review sites, the F.I.R.I.S. Score. Additionally, we examined common DTCs and the safety recalls issued by the NHTSA.
FIXD Reliability Score: 4/10
KBB Value: $2,642
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $750
Safety Rating: 4.17/5
We ranked the 2002 model year the best Lexus RX300. It has the highest FIXD Reliability Score at 4/10, and the F.I.R.I.S. Score is an impressive 9.5/10. This means the 2002 Lexus RX300 triggers the least amount of DTCs and is well-liked by owners.
The NHTSA gave the 2002 Lexus RX300 a 4.17 star rating out of 5. The 2002 RAV4 received only 4/5.
The annual upkeep for the 2002 Lexus RX300 is $750 a year, as reported by repairpal.com.
The most common DTC in the 2002 RX300 is P0300, a random multiple misfire. The next most common are P0302 and P0301, misfires in cylinders 2 and 1, respectively. In the RX300, this combination of DTCs most often requires a variable camshaft timing (VCT) solenoid ($1,016-$1,531).
The 2002 Lexus RX300 has five recalls and 103 complaints. All five recalls have to do with headlamps or reflective materials. Of the complaints, 43 are related to the powertrain.
The Worst Years of the Lexus RX300
We used the same data as we did to list the best years to list the worst years of the Lexus RX300 from worst to the “best of the worst.” We first looked at the FIXD Reliability Score and the F.I.R.I.S. Score before evaluating safety ratings. Next, we look over the annual cost of maintenance and repair, the most common DTCs, and essential safety recalls.
FIXD Reliability Score: 3/10
F.I.R.I.S. Score: 9.2/10
KBB Value: $1,060
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $667
Safety Rating: 4.17/5
The 2001 Lexus RX300 has a FIXD Reliability Score of 3/10 and an F.I.R.I.S. Score of 9.5/10.
The safety rating is 4.17/5 stars, above the automotive industry average, and is equal to the 2001 Honda CR-V.
Based on RepairPal numbers, the 2001 RX300’s average cost of repairs and maintenance is $667, which is relatively low for such an old vehicle.
The most common DTC in the 2001 Lexus RX300 is P0300, a random multiple misfire. The next most common is P0305, a misfire in cylinder 5. The third most common DTC is P0304, a misfire in cylinder 4. These codes together require a new variable camshaft timing solenoid, which costs between $1,016 and $1,531. While the most common fix is the VCT solenoid, other possible repairs include:
- Spark plugs: ($66-$250)
- Ignition Coils: ($230-$640)
- Spark plug wires: ($180-$240)
- Fuel injectors: ($1500-$1900)
- Vacuum leak: ($100-$200)
- Fuel pump: ($1300-$1700)
- Fuel pressure regulator: ($200-$400)
The 2001 Lexus RX300 has five recalls and 176 complaints. Over 100 of the complaints are about the power train.
FIXD Reliability Score: 3/10
F.I.R.I.S. Score: 8.9/10
KBB Value: $2,996
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $750
Safety Rating: 4.17/5
The 2003 Lexus RX300 boasts a FIXD Reliability Score of 3/10 and an F.I.R.I.S. Score of 9/10.
The 2003 Lexus RX300 received a safety rating of 4.17/5 stars, which surpasses the automotive industry average. However, it stands lower than the 2003 Honda CR-V, which the NHTSA gave a 4.33-star rating.
According to RepairPal data, the 2003 RX300 demonstrates an average cost of repairs and maintenance amounting to $750.
The most common diagnostic trouble code in the 2003 Lexus RX300 is P0330, which means “Knock Sensor 2 Circuit Malfunction (Bank 2).” The potential repairs for this code include:
- Knock sensor: ($297-$381)
- Knock sensor harness: ($14-$66)
- Temperature sensor: ($392-$427).
DTC P0442 causes the second most common check engine light, “Evaporative emission control system leak (medium).” Pair this with the third most common code, P0446 (Evaporative Emission Control System Vent Control Circuit Malfunction), and it means you might need a new charcoal canister, which costs $753-$1,000.
The 2003 Lexus RX300 has only three recalls and 29 complaints.
What is considered high mileage can vary depending on factors such as maintenance history and overall vehicle condition. In general, high mileage for a Lexus RX300 is typically considered to be around 150,000 miles or more. These vehicles were known for their durability and reliability, so well-maintained examples can often exceed this mileage without major issues. Nevertheless, it’s essential to assess the specific maintenance and repair history of the car to gauge its true condition and reliability, as proper care and timely maintenance can significantly extend the vehicle’s lifespan.
If you’re in the market for a used Lexus RX300 and are open to exploring other luxurious crossover SUV options, consider checking out the Acura MDX. The Acura MDX offers reliability, ample cargo space, and a comfortable ride. Another solid contender is the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, known for its upscale interior and strong performance.
If you’re seeking a touch of European elegance, the BMW X5 is worth considering, thanks to its sharp handling and powerful engine options. The Volvo XC90 is a good choice if you prioritize safety and family-friendliness in your SUV, boasting a spacious cabin and a reputation for safety innovations.
You can also consider the Honda CR-V, known for great safety features and reliability. Lastly, the Toyota RAV4 brings a range of comfort, performance, and dependability that makes it a popular SUV. Each model brings its unique features and style to the table, providing potential alternatives to the Lexus RX300 in the SUV market.
A Note About Data and Information Sources
This article has many details about Lexus RX300 reliability; here’s what we used for our assumptions and recommendations.
- FIXD Reliability Score & Data: Engine reliability information is captured via the FIXD App.
The FIXD Reliability Score is calculated using the number of DTCs per year, weighted by mileage using 12,000 per year. This is then turned into a scale of 1-10 for easy graphing.
This is an objective score.
- F.I.R.I.S & Data: This data is the result of averaging the score of the Lexus RX300 from Edmunds, KBB, Cargurus, and Cars.com.
Those individual Scores come straight from reviewers and owners of the Lexus RX300.
This is a subjective score.
From here we translate the answers into the F.I.R.I.S as all the answers are out of 5.
Keep in mind, that owners may think their car is more or less reliable than it actually is.
One potential problem is that people often buy the same make or model they are used to when they go car shopping, just a newer year.
Ford, for instance, has a number of consumer loyalty awards for the Ford F-Series, Ford Mustang, and Ford Expedition.
Car owners may be so loyal to the make or model they currently own that they would have trouble accurately comparing their cars’ reliability to others.
It’s for this reason that we ask car owners a question that is relative to mileage rather than relative to other cars.
Still, be mindful of the accuracy of these F.I.R.I.S, people’s perceptions and unconscious blindspots can skew data.
We suggest looking at both the FIXD Reliability Score and the F.I.R.I.S for this reason.
- KBB Value: Average private-seller valuations as supplied by Kelley Blue Book (KBB), based on a Lexus RX300 with typical mileage for that respective model year.
- Fuel Economy: Mileage-per-gallon estimates according to the EPA MPG on Fueleconomy.gov
- Annual Maintenance/Repair: Upkeep expenses as reported by RepairPal
- Safety Rating: Crash test data collected and reported by NHTSA. We average all ratings for each year to come up with a simplified, average safety score. This makes it easier to look at on a graph.
Keith Rollins is a copywriter and author that has been involved in the automotive industry for over 12 years. He has written for hotcars.com and is featured on Copywriting.org. When he’s not writing he’s spending time with his three kids, hiking, working on cars, or running. You can see his work at keithrrollins.com.