Toyota RAV4 vs. Toyota Highlander

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - February 12, 2020

To meet the demand of consumers, Toyota offers a variety of crossovers and SUVs. From compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 to the midsize Toyota Highlander, the Japanese automaker has a vehicle for seemingly everyone.

The RAV4 and Highlander are two of Toyota's most popular models. Though they compete in different segments, they share a lot of traits. Consumers could find themselves shopping both when searching for their next vehicle.

Is the smaller RAV4 the better buy over the larger Highlander? That’s what we’ll aim to answer below.

See a side-by-side comparison of the RAV4 & Highlander »

What the RAV4 Gets Right

Being the smaller of the two, the RAV4 sets things off with a more affordable price tag. The RAV4 is priced at $26,970 including destination, while the Highlander carries a price tag of $35,720. That $8,750 difference means consumers can get into a RAV4 Limited and still save $220 over the base Highlander. For consumers on a budget, the RAV4 is the clear choice.

Thanks to its smaller size and engine, the RAV4 is the more efficient option as well. The regular RAV4 is rated by the EPA to get up to 30 miles per gallon combined, while the best the Highlander can get is 24 mpg combined.

Both are available with hybrid powertrains, but the RAV4 Hybrid still bests the Highlander Hybrid. The RAV4 Hybrid has an EPA rating of 40 mpg combined, compared to the Highlander Hybrid's 36 mpg combined.

For consumers that are interested in off-roading, the RAV4 is available in a few rugged trims that the Highlander can’t match. The RAV4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road both come with a multi-terrain select system for different types of terrain, while the TRD Off-Road trim ups the ante with a TRD-tuned suspension. The TRD Off-Road can also be fitted with a surround-view camera specifically for off-roading.

What the Highlander Gets Right

While the RAV4 only has seating for five, the Highlander comes with seating for up to eight as standard. Consumers can also opt for a total of seven seats with second-row captain’s chairs. If seating more than five is a necessity, only the Highlander will fit the bill.

In addition to having more seats, the Highlander also has more cargo capacity. The RAV4 has 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and a total of 69.8 cubic feet of cargo space. The larger Highlander has 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, 48.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and a total of 84.3 cubic feet.

Both the Highlander and RAV4 are only available with one engine, but it’s the Highlander’s that offers better performance. The midsize crossover comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 295 horsepower. The smaller RAV4 features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 203 hp.

For consumers that are interested in towing, the Highlander handily beats the RAV4. The Highlander has a 5,000-pound towing capacity, while the RAV4 Adventure is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Need Room for a Family?

Both the RAV4 and Highlander come with similar tech features, have similar safety features, and even look similar. But the major difference between the two is that the Highlander has seating for up to eight, while the RAV4 only has seating for up to five.

If you don’t need a third row of seats, the RAV4 is an excellent option for the majority of consumers looking to stay on budget, save money at the gas pump, and get into something that's easy to drive.

Our Verdict: Toyota Highlander

With the redesign, the Toyota Highlander improves on everything that made it such a great option before. It’s more spacious on the inside, more powerful, and has better towing. Over the Toyota RAV4, the Highlander’s extra seats and power make it a better choice for the majority of consumers.

Take a closer look at the Toyota RAV4 »

Take a closer look at the Toyota Highlander »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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