2024 RAV4 vs Highlander – Which Should You Buy?


In 2024, the SUV market continues to be increasingly popular as many consumers want comfort for their passengers and extra space for the cargo they haul around day to day. Toyota has two great models that fit the mold! The 2024 Toyota RAV4 and the 2024 Toyota Highlander.

While the two SUVs appear quite similar at first glance, there’s actually a lot differentiating the two.

In this article, I utilize my experience as a Toyota sales professional to break down the differences that will help you decide which model is right for you.

Key Differences

When considering which to buy it is important to analyze your needs. Answering the questions below will help you narrow your search.

  • Do you need a 3rd row? The added 3rd row is the main advantage to the Highlander and the biggest difference between the two models. This provides you with an additional 2-3 seats for your passengers. 
  • How important is fuel economy to you? On average, the RAV4 has better fuel efficiency. It gets about 5mpg better when compared to the Highlander. 
  • Do you need to tow or move anything large? The towing capacity for the Highlander ranges from 3500 lbs. – 5000 lbs. while the RAV4 ranges from 1500 lbs. -1750 lbs. (TRD Off Road and Adventure trims tow up to 3500 lbs.). The Highlander also has a larger cargo capacity than the RAV4 when the 3rd row is folded down.
RAV4 / Highlander (Classic Toyota)

Pricing and Value

Typically, a good rule of thumb for vehicle pricing is more metal = higher prices. Since the Highlander is the bigger vehicle it will usually be more expensive than the RAV4.

The Hybrid options for each model are more complex so, you can expect an increase of about $1500 – $3000 when compared to the gas model.

In this section I will take a deep dive into the pricing of each model and their value over time. 

Gas Models:

RAV4 Starting MSRPHighlander Starting MSRP
LE – $28,675LE – $39,270
XLE – $30,185XLE – $42,420
XLE Premium – $33,075XSE – $44,015
Adventure – $34,870Limited $46,525
Limited – $36,980Platinum $49,725
TRD Off Road – $38,295

Hybrid Models: 

RAV4 Hybrid Starting MSRPHighlander Hybrid Starting MSRP
Hybrid LE – $31,725Hybrid LE – $40,970
Hybrid XLE – $33,235Hybrid LE Nightshade – $41,970
Hybrid Woodland – $34,945Hybrid XLE – $44,120
Hybrid SE – $34,420Hybrid XLE Nightshade – $45,120
Hybrid XLE Premium – $36,125Hybrid Limited – $48,225
Hybrid XSE – $37,385Hybrid Platinum – $51,425
Hybrid Limited – $40,030

When compared to the SUV market in general, Toyotas are on the high end of the pricing ranges.

For sub compact SUVs like the Hyundai Venue, Nissan Kicks and Chevy Trax prices have a starting MSRP as low as $21,275. While these are direct competitors to the Corolla Cross and not the RAV4 I felt that it would be worth mentioning as they share a similar segment of consumers. 

The RAV4’s direct competitors are in the mid-size SUV category. This includes models like the Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Sportage, and Hyundai Tucson which have a starting MSRP as low as $26,540

(Source: KBB – 2 row SUVs)

As for the Highlander, the segment with smaller 3 row SUVs includes the Kia Sorento, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Ascent and many more. These vehicles have a starting MSRP as low as $30,305.

(Source: KBB – row SUVs)

New vehicle pricing is best seen as a “double edged sword”. While at first it may seem obvious to go for a comparable vehicle for a much cheaper price, this can lead to trouble down the road.

Toyota is best known for its dependability and the stats back that up. According to J.D. Power, Toyota ranks 2nd for the 2024 “ Most Reliable Car Brands” rankings. Only falling behind its luxury counterpart, Lexus. So, while you may pay more up front you will find it is worth the investment long term.  

Avoiding the headaches and increased ownership costs that stem from poorly built, less expensive vehicles is priceless to loyal Toyota and Lexus owners.

(Source: J.D. Power)

Resale Value

Another important factor is resale value. Due to the reliability and popularity of Toyotas you can expect your vehicle to hold its value better when compared to other brands. While you may spend more up front you get to take advantage of higher resale value in the future.

Coincidentally, both the Highlander and the RAV4 boast a 5-year depreciation rate of only 21%. This is according to iseecars.com who analyze market data on new and pre-owned vehicles.

This is great for RAV4 and Highlander owners because in most cases, you will not find yourself in a bad situation if you go to trade in a vehicle you financed.

A $35,000 Hybrid XLE RAV4 will be worth roughly $27,650. In most cases, if you financed your vehicle you should have it paid down well below that 21% if/when you go to trade it in at the 5-year mark. 

What does this mean for used vehicle buyers? 

As a Toyota salesperson myself I believe I can shine a bit of light on the current used car market. Between the RAV4 and Highlander the decision factor between the two is about the same as if you were looking for a new one. Since their depreciation is so similar you can expect the pricing for similar-trim models to be proportionally the same as if they were new vehicles. 

If you do not need the 3rd row then you are better off going for the RAV4. More than likely, if you are looking for a pre-owned vehicle your budget is very important to you. If you have a RAV4 and Highlander of the same year model and identical mileage you will find the RAV4 to be priced significantly cheaper. Choosing the lower priced RAV4 will keep your monthly payments and total amount financed lower if you are looking to get a loan for the vehicle.

My personal recommendation for the best pre-owned vehicle purchase is a 3 to 5-year old Toyota RAV4 that is a Toyota certified vehicle. A certified Toyota is inspected by a Toyota certified technician, protected by warranties and is eligible for lower interest rates. You can get more information on that here: www.toyotacertified.com

Drivetrain and Trim Options

In this section I will compare the drivetrains and trim levels for the RAV4 vs. Highlander. Let’s start off with the drivetrain differences and comparisons of the standard features for each. 

Gas:

RAV4 LE – 203 hp. 2.5L 4-cyl. Engine, 184 lb-ft of torque, FWD/AWD, towing capacity 1500 lbs., 8 spd. ECT, 17 inch wheels with a spare included.

The gas model RAV4s LEs have an estimated fuel economy of 27 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway, and 30 mpg Combined for the Front Wheel Drive models. 27 mpg City, 34 mpg Highway and 30 mpg Combined for the All-Wheel Drive models.

Highlander LE – 265 hp. 2.4L turbocharged 4-cyl. Engine, 310 lb-ft of torque , FWD/AWD, towing capacity of 5000 lbs., 8 spd. ECT, 18 inch wheels with a spare tire included. 

The gas model Highlander LEs have an estimated fuel economy of 22 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway, and 25 mpg Combined for the Front Wheel Drive models. 21 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway, and 24 mpg Combined for the All-Wheel Drive models.

Hybrid: 

RAV4 Hybrid LE – 176 hp. 2.5L 4-cyl. Hybrid Engine, 163 lb-ft of torque, AWD only, towing capacity 1750 lbs., ECVT, 17 inch wheels with a spare included.

The Hybrid model RAV4s LEs have an estimated fuel economy of 41 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway, and 40 mpg Combined. It is only available as an All Wheel Drive.

Highlander Hybrid LE – 186 hp. 2.5L 4-cyl. Hybrid Engine, 175 lb-ft of torque, FWD/AWD, towing capacity of 3500 lbs., ECVT, 18 inch wheels with a spare tire included. 

The Hybrid model Highlander LEs have an estimated fuel economy of 36 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway, and 36 mpg Combined for the Front Wheel Drive models. 35 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway, and 35 mpg Combined for the All Wheel Drive models.

Other Options: 

Both the RAV4 and Highlander have had special edition models and trim levels come out of the years as well as differently styled vehicles under the same name. These include the following: 

The Toyota RAV4 Prime – this model of the RAV4 is one of Toyota PHEVs or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. The PHEV has been the stepping stone for Toyota into the Electric Vehicle market. It combines the gas based aspects of the Hybrid powertrain with a fully electric battery that can be charged by plugging the vehicle in. This model is one of the most in demand vehicles in the world with some consumers on waitlists that span as long as 3 years. 

Specs for it are: 177 hp. 2.5L 4-cyl. Plug-In Hybrid Engine, 199 lb-ft of torque, AWD only, towing capacity 2500 lbs., ECVT, 18 inch wheels with a spare included.

 The RAV4 Primes have an estimated fuel economy of 40 mpg City, 36 mpg Highway, and 48 mpg Combined. It also has 94 MPGe. It is only available as an All Wheel Drive.

We have written extensively on this model! If you are interested check out some of our articles here:

Edmunds

The Toyota Grand Highlander – The Grand Highlander is all new for 2024. It is the Highlander’s older brother. Overall they are very similar in that both have 3 rows and offer both gas and Hybrid powertrains. The important distinction is that the Grand Highlander is even larger than the Highlander with improved cargo space, headspace and extra 3rd row passenger room. With that in mind it is also more expensive. 

Specs for it are: 265 hp. 2.L 4-cyl. Turbocharged Engine, 310 lb-ft of torque, FWD/AWD, towing capacity of 5000 lbs., 8 spd. ECT, 18 inch wheels with a spare tire included. 

The Grand Highlander XLE has an estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway, and 24 mpg Combined for the Front Wheel Drive models. 21 mpg City, 27 mpg Highway, and 23 mpg Combined for the All Wheel Drive models.

Car and Driver

Trim levels with notable features:

RAV4 Gas: Most trim levels are widely available.

Trim LevelNotable Features
LEBase model. Apple Carplay, 8 in. Media Display, LED Headlights.
XLEPower adjustable driver’s seat, BSM w/ RCTA, Smart Key System.
XLE PremiumPower lift-gate, moonroof, Softex leather seats, 19 in. wheels.
AdventureRare model. Unique exterior design, Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD, Multi Terrain Selector, Downhill Assist Control. 
TRD Off-roadRare model. TRD Tuned Suspension, All Terrain Tires, TRD skid plate with 8.6 in. ground clearance, TRD Wheels. 
LimitedHeated and Ventilated front seats, Heated outer 2nd row seats, Foot activated Liftgate, JBL Premium Audio.. 

 

RAV4 Hybrid: The hybrid models have a much more limited availability when compared to the gas models.

Trim LevelNotable Features
Hybrid LEApple Carplay, 8 in. touch screen, LED Headlights, Electronically Controlled CVT. 
Hybrid XLEPower adjustable driver’s seat, BSM w/ RCTA, Smart Key System, Electronic on Demand AWD.
Hybrid XLE PremiumPower lift-gate, moonroof, Softex leather seats, 19 in. wheels. Electronic on Demand AWD
Hybrid WoodlandRare model. Two tone exterior paint, TRD Tuned Suspension, 18 in. Bronze Wheels, unique interior Softex design
Hybrid SESport Tuned Suspension, 18 in. Black Wheels, Blue Stitched Fabric Seats, Electronic on Demand AWD. 
Hybrid XSELimited availability. Two tone exterior paint, Heated front seats, 12.3 in. Dashboard Display.
Hybrid LimitedLimited availability. Heated and Ventilated front seats, Heated outer 2nd row seats, Foot activated Liftgate, JBL Premium Audio.

Highlander Gas:

Trim LevelNotable Features
LESeats 8 passengers, Blind spot Monitor, LED Fog Lights, 3 Zone Climate Control, Height-adjustable power liftgate.
XLE18 Inch wheels, 7 inch Dashboard Display, Moonroof, Captains Chairs standard Bench seat Option.
XSESport Tuned Suspension, 20 inch Black Wheels, Sporty accented front grille, twin tip exhaust, Unique interior design.
LimitedLimited Availability. Heated and Ventilated front seats, 11 Speaker JBL Premium Audio, 20 Inch Wheels, Power Folding Mirrors, predictive efficient drive. 
PlatinumLimited Availability. Panoramic Moonroof, Panoramic View Monitor, Heads Up Display, Heated 2nd Row Seats, 20 inch wheels, 12.3 Inch Media Screen. 

Highlander Hybrid: The hybrid models have a much more limited availability when compared to the gas models. 

Trim LevelNotable Features
Hybrid LESeats 8 passengers, Blind spot Monitor, LED Fog Lights, 3 Zone Climate Control, Height-adjustable power liftgate, Available Electric On Demand AWD. 
Hybrid Nightshade LERare model. Appearance package added to Hybrid LE, 18 inch. Black Wheels, Black exterior accents.
Hybrid XLE18 Inch wheels, 7 inch Dashboard Display, Moonroof, Captains Chairs standard Bench seat Option, Available Electric On Demand AWD.
Hybrid Nightshade XLERare model. Appearance package for the Hybrid XLE, Black mixed media interior trim, Hands Free Powered Liftgate, Heated Black Side Mirror Caps. 
Hybrid Limited Limited availability. Heated and Ventilated front seats, 11 Speaker JBL Premium Audio, 20 Inch Wheels, Power Folding Mirrors, predictive efficient drive Available Electric On Demand AWD. 
Hybrid PlatinumLimited availability. Panoramic Moonroof, Panoramic View Monitor, Heads Up Display, Heated 2nd Row Seats, 20 inch wheels, 12.3 Inch Media Screen, Available Electric On Demand AWD. 

Technology and Features

Both the RAV4 and Highlander come with many popular features that you would expect on a new vehicle in 2024. For each model they all have a back-up camera, touch screen media system and digital dashboard display. Wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard on all models, as well as a 90 day free subscription to SiriusXM Radio. Inside you can also find USB ports for your devices and a robust AC system with optional dual-climate control on the higher trims.  

All of the RAV4 models come with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) 2.5 while the Highlanders have the more advanced TSS 2.5+. I will explain these systems and their differences in depth in the Safety Information section below. 

Highlander Interior, Source: Burnsville Toyota

Toyota’s technology differs widely from trim level to trim level. Many trims also offer packages that upgrade much of the features such as the Cold Weather Package, JBL Premium Audio Package, Panoramic View Monitor Package and the Panoramic Moonroof Package. These options allow you to gain many of the features offered on the higher trims while saving money a bit of money. 

For example, an XLE Premium RAV4 has the Cold Weather Package as an available option. This includes a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-position memory function and lumbar support, and rain-sensing, variable intermittent windshield wipers with a de-ice function.

As for the Limited RAV4 you can add the Advanced Technology Package which adds the Smart Key System on all doors and liftgate; height-adjustable, foot-activated power liftgate with jam protection; Panoramic View Monitor with Perimeter Scan, Overhead 360-degree view in low-speed Drive and Reverse, and curb view; and Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging with charge indicator light.

Highlanders come with a bit more features on each of the trim levels when compared to the same level RAV4s. For instance, the RAV4 LE does not come with the Smart Key system while the Highlander LE does. The XLE Highlander comes with Softex leather and heated seats while the XLE RAV4 does not. There are only a few packages available for the Highlander. They are the upgraded 12.3 inch media display screen on the XLE and XSE and the Panoramic View Monitor on the Limited. Additionally, each of those 3 trims can have the bench seat option added to replace the standard Captain’s chairs. 

Other notable features that you can expect on different trim levels for each vehicle are:

  • Qi Wireless Charger
  • Digital Rearview Mirror
  • Drive Mode Selector with ECO, Normal, and Sport drive modes.
  • Roof Rails with racks available.
  • Energy Flow Monitor on Hybrids

Exterior

Next up is a brief description of the exterior dimensions and the colors available for each model.

RAV4

  • Body Construction – Unibody
  • Overall Length – 180.9 In.
  • Overall Width – 73 In. 
  • Overall Height – 67 In.
  • Ground Clearance – 8.4 In.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – ≥ 4610 lbs (Depends on trim and drivetrain)

Available Colors 

  • Ice Cap
  • Magnetic Gray Metallic
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Ruby Flare Pearl (Special +$425)
  • Silver Sky Metallic
  • Blueprint
  • Army Green (Special +$500)
  • Wind Chill Pearl (Special +$425)
  • Cavalry Blue
  • Supersonic Red – RAV4 Prime only (Special +$425)
  • Two tone colors available on Woodland, Adventure and XSE trims. 

See all color options with pictures here.

RAV4 in Cavalry Blue, Source: Toyota of Colorado Springs

Highlander

  • Body Construction – Unibody
  • Overall Length – 194.9 In.
  • Overall Width – 76 In. 
  • Overall Height – 68.1 In.
  • Ground Clearance – 8 In.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – ≥ 5830 lbs. (Depends on trim and drivetrain)

Available Colors 

  • Moon Dust
  • Magnetic Gray Metallic
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Ruby Flare Pearl (Special +$425)
  • Celestial Silver Metallic
  • Blueprint
  • Wind Chill Pearl (Special +$425)
  • Cement (Nightshade trims only)

Interior

Here are the interior dimensions with the color options for the fabric, Softex and leather seats. 

RAV4 

  • Head room front/rear – 37.7 / 39.5 In.
  • Leg Room front/rear – 41.0 / 37.8 In.
  • Cargo room behind front/rear seats – 69.8 / 37.6 cubic feet of space

Available Fabric Colors

  • Black
  • Ash
  • Nutmeg
  • Black – Blue stitching (SE only)
  • Black – Red stitching (Prime SE only)

Available Softex Leather Colors

  • Black
  • Ash
  • Nutmeg
  • Mocha (Adventure only)
  • Black Mixed Media – Blue accents (XSE only)
  • Black Mixed Media – Red accents (Prime XSE only)

Highlander

  • Head room front/2nd/3rd row – 41.2 / 39.4 / 36.1 In.
  • Leg Room front/2nd/3rd row – 42.0 / 38.7 / 28.0 In.
  • Cargo room behind front/2nd/3rd row – 84.3 / 48.4 / 16.0 cubic feet of space

Available Fabric Colors

  • Black
  • Graphite

Available Softex Leather Colors 

  • Black
  • Graphite
  • Harvest Beige

Available Leather Colors

  • Black
  • Graphite
  • Harvest Beige
  • Black Mixed Media – Gray accents (XSE only)
  • Cockpit Red (XSE only)
  • Black Embossed (Platinum only)
  • Graphite Embossed (Platinum only)
  • Harvest Beige Embossed (Platinum only)
  • Glazed Caramel Embossed (Platinum only)
Highlander Glazed Caramel Interior, Source: CapitalOne

Safety Information

Both the Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander have excellent safety ratings and features. The NHTSA has given each vehicle the top safety pick award and a 5 star rating for overall safety. They also have the Star Safety System and Toyota Safety Sense. Below are the crash test ratings and safety features.

RAV4

  • Frontal Crash – Driver 4, passenger 5
  • Side Crash – Front seat 5, rear seat 5
  • Rollover – 4
  • Total Airbags – 8 

The RAV4 is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 which includes:

  • Pre-collision system with Pedestrian Detection
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist 
  • Automatic High Beams
  • Road Sign Assist
  • Lane Tracing Assist
  • Full-Speed Range Dynamic Cruise Control

Non-standard safety options include the Blind Spot Monitor System and Parking Assist Radars. 

Highlander

  • Frontal Crash – Driver 4, passenger 4
  • Side Crash – Front seat 5, rear seat 5
  • Rollover – 4
  • Total Airbags – 8 

The Highlander is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ which includes the same distinct features as TSS 2.5 but with improved functionality and comfort when the features are engaged. Toyota USA has a great video explaining each feature and the differences between the two levels.

The only non-standard safety option is the Parking Assist Radar which are only available on the Limited and Platinum trim levels.

Source: Cobb County Toyota

Which Should You Buy?

Overall, Toyota has produced two excellent SUVs that can provide a great daily driving experience for owners. The two vehicles are equipped similarly in many different ways so when it comes to picking the right choice for you and your family lean towards satisfying your needs. 

Do you need 3 rows? Choose the Highlander. Do you need a large cargo space but still want excellent fuel economy? The RAV4 Hybrid is the best option. Is your budget the most important factor? Then, maybe a pre-owned RAV4 with a certification from Toyota will be the best fit. 

Regardless, if you are in the market for a reliable SUV with a smooth ride that holds its value either the RAV4 or the Highlander will be a great choice! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Many aspects of the two are the same, but the main difference is space. If you need more space, the Highlander is better. However, expect to get less MPGs than the RAV4.

Yes. The Toyota Highlander is bigger than the Toyota RAV4. The Highlander has more head, leg, and cargo space. It weighs more and can also tow more, too.

Yes. The base models of both come standard with 8-speed ECTs. The Hybrid models both come standard with ECVTs.

If you enjoy more technology and safety features on your vehicle, then generally speaking, yes the XLE is worth the extra cost. However, the LE is still going to meet the needs of most drivers.

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