If you’re looking at Toyota SUVs, you’ve likely run across the Highlander and the Rav4. They both have excellent reputations, but each is unique. When considering the pros and cons of the Toyota Highlander vs. the Rav4, keep in mind that neither is better than the other, but one may suit your preferences and lifestyle more.

Toyota Highlander Vs. Rav4

The Highlander is a midsize crossover that has been one of Toyota’s best-selling cars for years. The Rav4 is a compact crossover with all-wheel drive and plenty of cargo space. Both have great qualities.

Toyota Highlander: Pros

toyota rav4 vs highlander

The Toyota Highlander boasts many positive features.

Smooth Ride

The Highlander is a very comfortable ride, even on bumpy roads. Its well-refined suspension system ensures a smooth driving experience, whether you’re cruising through the city or out in the countryside.

Safety Features

Toyota gave this vehicle a wide array of advanced safety features. Driver-assist technologies such as lane departure alerts, dynamic radar cruise control, pedestrian detection, and automatic high beams are just a few. These help reduce the collision risk and enhance your and your family’s safety on the road.

Spacious Interior

Three rows of seats give you plenty of room. Whether you carpool and take other kids to school or have a larger family, eight ample seats are waiting for everyone.

Towing Capacity

The Toyota Highlander’s towing capacity is incredible compared to the Rav4. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which means you can easily tow boats, trailers, or other equipment. 

Powerful Engine

You can choose a standard V6 or a hybrid engine. The V6 offers more robust performance, while the hybrid option offers better fuel efficiency than you may have expected from a larger crossover.

Better Visibility

Visibility is a key factor in safe driving. With elevated seating and large windows, you can see easily in all directions to merge, park, or maneuver through the city.

Toyota Highlander: Cons

These are a few disadvantages of owning a Toyota Highlander vs. a Rav4.

Little Off-Road Capability

The Highlander wasn’t made for rugged terrain. It does have an all-wheel-drive system, which works well on paved roads and even gravel, but it may not perform well in mud, on steep inclines, or when crossing obstacles like rocks. The Highlander may not be your top choice if you go off-roading often.

Handling

The ride is smooth, but it’s not as agile as the Rav4. It is larger, making it more difficult to maneuver on winding roads or tight city streets.

Pricing

Thanks to its many features, it also comes with a higher price tag. Some people think it’s a worthwhile investment, especially for its safety features. If you are very budget-conscious, the Highlander may not be for you.

Rav4: Pros

Rav4 Vs. Highlander

Now it’s time to take a look at the Rav4’s best features.

Fuel Efficiency

The Rav4’s fuel efficiency is much better than that of the Highlander. This is especially true if you purchase the hybrid version. This model combines electric motors with a gasoline engine to give you better fuel economy without sacrificing capability. It even rivals some sedans.

Cargo Space

When comparing the Toyota Highlander vs. Rav4, cargo space is an obvious win for the Rav4. The cargo space is generous, and the rear seats even fold down, allowing you to haul more oversized items like bikes or furniture. The back features a wide-opening door, which makes it extra easy to load and unload.

Compact

Another pro of the Rav4 is that it is compact. This makes it more maneuverable and more straightforward to park, especially compared to the Highlander.

Off-Road Capable

While you may not have expected it, the Rav4 is surprisingly capable of handling off-roading. It has all-wheel drive and can easily navigate rocky obstacles, shallow streams, or muddy trails. It is ready for any adventure.

Cost-Effective

The Rav4 offers excellent value for money. It’s affordable, sleek, and has features rivaling more expensive SUVs. It’s refined yet accessible and is great for people on a budget who don’t want to compromise comfort or quality.

Low Maintenance Costs

It is smaller and uses simpler mechanics than the Toyota Highlander, making it less expensive to maintain. This means you’ll spend less on replacement parts, oil changes and other routine maintenance costs.

Rav4: Cons

This car has many excellent features but has a few cons when comparing the Toyota Highlander vs. the Rav4.

Road Noise

The Rav4 is louder on the highway than other cars, especially on the highway. This may detract from your driving experience, primarily if you’re used to better sound insulation and looking for a more peaceful freeway commute.

Less Towing Capacity

This model can tow, but only up to 1,500 pounds. The Highlander is a better choice if you want to regularly tow larger items.

Limited Seating

The Rav4 can only accommodate five passengers. This is enough space for smaller families, but if you need to carpool or have a larger family, a Rav4 may not cut it. Some Rav4s come equipped with a third row of seats, but this is most suitable for smaller children or occasional use, as this last row tends to be cramped. The Highlander provides more space and comfort.

Interior Quality

The interior of the Rav4 is well-designed but tends to lean more toward function than luxury. It has easy-to-maintain plastics and fabrics but lacks a refined touch. People who prioritize premium finishes may want to consider the Highlander.

How to Choose: Toyota Highlander Vs. Rav4

Which vehicle you choose ultimately depends on your personal preferences and your needs. The Highlander is likely a good choice if you prioritize space, nicer finishes, and towing capacity. If you want a more agile, fuel-efficient and budget-friendly car, then the Rav4 is a great option.

Regardless of whether you choose the Toyota Highlander vs. the Rav4, you should definitely protect your investment with a quality vehicle protection plan for your peace of mind, especially if you’re purchasing the vehicle new. Check out our best vehicle protection plans on our website.