Toyota RAV4 vs. 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 - December 16, 2022
2023 Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 was one of the first compact SUVs with passenger-car underpinnings on the market when it was introduced in 1996. Since its introduction, the RAV4 has become a staple in Toyota’s lineup of 11 SUVs. Another indispensable option is the midsize Highlander. While the Highlander isn’t as popular as the RAV4, it plays an important role in Toyota’s lineup as the next step up in the brand’s lineup.

In this comparison, we’ll look at the key similarities and differences between the RAV4 and Highlander. While some are obvious, like size, interior space, seating capacity, and cargo capacity, others, like fuel economy and reliability are closer than you may think.

Whether you’re searching for a family-oriented SUV or a fuel-efficient daily driver with a roomy cargo area, this comparison can help you decide which model is right for you.

Highlander vs. RAV4 Price

2023 Toyota RAV4

As the smaller SUVs of the two, the RAV4 is the more affordable option. Pricing for the RAV4 starts at $28,910 with destination, making it far more affordable than the Highlander which costs $37,755. The price difference between the RAV4 and Highlander’s base models is a large $8,845.

Because of the large price difference between the two, the RAV4 is available with far more affordable lease deals than the Highlander. This month, the RAV4 is available with a lease deal from $349 per month for 36 months with $2,999 due at signing. The Highlander’s lease deal is far more expensive, as it requires $509 per month for 36 months with $2,999 due at signing.

In the compact segment, the RAV4 is priced competitively for the class, as it’s more affordable than the Ford Bronco Sport, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee, GMC Terrain, Jeep Compass, and Mazda CX-50. For the midsize class, the Highlander is more expensive than the majority of its rivals, as it costs more than the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Chevrolet Traverse, Subaru Ascent, Kia Sorento, Volkswagen Atlas, Nissan Pathfinder, and Ford Explorer.

RAV4 vs. Highlander Dimensions & Cargo Space

2023 Toyota Highlander Interior

The midsize Highlander is much larger than the RAV4. The Highlander is 194.9 inches long, 68.1 inches tall, and 76 inches wide. The RAV4 is 14 inches shorter in length, one inch shorter in height, and nine inches shorter in width. The dimensions make the RAV4 far easier to drive than the Highlander.

The Highlander’s larger size makes it the roomier of the two SUVs. The major difference between the two models is that the Highlander offers seating for up to eight people, while the RAV4 can only seat up to five people. The larger size also translates to more interior space, as the Highlander has more front headroom, front and second-row legroom, front and second-row shoulder room, and front and second-row hip room.

When it comes to cargo space, the Highlander is far roomier than the RAV4. The Highlander has 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 48.4 cubic feet of space behind the second row, and a total of 84.3 cubic feet of cargo space. The RAV4 has 37.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and a total of 69.8 cubic feet of total cargo space.

Highlander vs. RAV4 Reliability

2023 Toyota Highlander

On the reliability front, the Highlander is the more reliable of the two SUVs. In Consumer Reports’ rankings, the Highlander finished in second place out of 17 midsize three-row SUVs. The SUV earned a score of five out of five for reliability and four out of five for owner satisfaction.

The RAV4 landed in 13th place out of 20 compact SUVs the organization tested. The compact SUV earned a reliability rating of five out of five and has an owner satisfaction score of four out of five.

RAV4 vs. Highlander Fuel Economy

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Interior

Toyota offers both the RAV4 and Highlander in gas-powered and hybrid models. The RAV4 is also available as a plug-in hybrid, which is rare for the compact class.

The RAV4 comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination results in a combined fuel economy rating of up to 30 mpg. For 2023, the Highlander comes with a standard turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. While the EPA doesn’t have official fuel economy figures yet, Toyota claims the engine will be able to get up to 25 mpg combined.

When comparing hybrid models against one another, the RAV4 Hybrid has the edge. The RAV4 Hybrid comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. The electrified SUV is rated to get up to 40 mpg combined, despite coming with all-wheel drive. The Highlander has a similar hybrid powertrain, but comes with one electric motor with front-wheel drive as standard. This model can get up to 36 mpg combined.

RAV4 vs. Highlander: Which Toyota To Buy

For consumers that don’t need a midsize SUV with three rows of seats, the Toyota RAV4 is the more well-rounded option. While it doesn’t have the same interior space as the Highlander, it is more fuel efficient and is easier to drive. The RAV4 is also available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain and has an available rugged trim that is impressive off-road. Plus, the RAV4 is far more affordable than the Highlander.

Shoppers looking for a three-row midsize Toyota will naturally gravitate toward the Highlander. While the Highlander is more expensive, it brings far more interior space, a larger cargo area, a more powerful standard engine, and a standard third row of seats. The Highlander Hybrid may not have the same fuel economy figures as the RAV4 Hybrid, but the electrified midsize SUV has impressive figures for the class.

We recommend that shoppers compare the two vehicles and weigh the pros and cons for their specific needs to choose an option that best fits what they’re looking for.

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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