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2020 or 2021 Toyota Camry: Which Is the Better Buy?

The Toyota Camry is the brand’s best-selling passenger car. As consumer demand for SUVs continues to grow, the midsize sedan remains strong with a gas-powered version and a hybrid variant.

Sales of last year’s model remained relatively steady despite the pandemic. The 2021 model, in its eighth generation, is better than ever, with minor updates and a sleek new design.

Though both the 2020 and 2021 Toyota Camry are reliable vehicles, one is the better buy.

The 2021 Toyota Camry’s advanced safety features

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The most significant improvements to the 2021 Camry involve updates to the Toyota Safety Sense system. All 2021 Camry models have the newest version of the driver-assist technology included.

The innovative safety features include radar cruise control, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure assist, and automatic high beams. Lane-tracing assist and road sign assist are also standard. 

Upgraded innovative features for this year’s model include cyclist detection, lane-centering steering, and intersection support.  

Available trim levels for the Toyota Camry

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“The Camry lineup is more diverse than ever, with 17 different variants to choose from,” MotorTrend explains.

Toyota offers gas and hybrid powertrains in the 2021 Camry’s LE and SE trims. There’s also a snazzy Nightshade edition of the sporty SE model and a gas-powered XP trim. 

Also, the XLE and XSE trims offer four-cylinder and V6 gas and hybrid powertrain options. New for the XLE trim is heated leather upholstery with a herringbone pattern. The XSE received a new honeycomb grille design for 2021. And the high-end sporty TRD, starting at $32,185, packs a 24-valve 3.0-liter V6 engine.

Last year’s base L model is discontinued for 2021, while the XSE trim is now available as a hybrid. All-wheel drive, introduced in the 2020 model, is now included on more trim levels for 2021. Several exterior tweaks, such as a revised fascia and front grille, offer a sportier stance. New color options include an arctic blue replacing the bold red color of previous models. New wheel designs are also available in the 2021 Camry.

The powertrain options from the 2020 models carry over into the new Camry, using a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 206 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. The 3.5-liter V6 pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission for 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. And the 2.5-liter hybrid variant is also the same as last year’s model, paired with a 118-hp electric motor to create a total output of 208 hp.

Car and Driver reports minor interior updates. They include a repositioned 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that rises above the dash for tablet-style operation. An all-around improved environment offers unmatched comfort in the 2021 Toyota Camry.

Which model year is the better buy?

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The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in the nation for 19 consecutive years. So, either the 2020 or 2021 model is a reliable option.

Toyota hasn’t made any substantial price changes to the 2021 model. The LE trim remains at the same price point, and the SE through XSE trims see a slight increase of $315 to $415. The biggest jump is on the TRD trim, which raised in price by $1,015.

Cars.com recommends, “For the gas-only Camry, a 2021 model makes the most sense if the upgraded safety tech is paramount, even given the potential price increase.” However, it “may be a tough pill to swallow if you’re shopping for a TRD.”

Toyota went in the other direction with the 2021 Camry Hybrid, lowering the cost by as much as $1,345, depending upon the trim level. With an MSRP of $27,270, the 2021 model is the better choice.