4Runner or Highlander, Which Is a Better Used Buy?

Toyota’s 4Runner has a long history of being one of the great off-road-focused stylish SUVs. The Highlander, however, does almost everything the 4Runner can do, seats seven a little more comfortably, and comes standard with a third row.

If you’re looking for a good used family hauler that doesn’t look like a minivan, and you don’t need mountain goat four-wheel-drive capability of a 4Runner, should you look at the Highlander instead?

On the used market, 4Runners are increasingly more expensive, which Highlanders remain a used family-hauler bargain that can seat eight comfortably, yet still have all-wheel drive.

While they are both in the same mid-size SUV segment, they are both aimed at entirely different audiences.

The basics on the Highlander and 4Runner

Reliable SUVs and trucks from Consumer Reports
The Toyota 4Runner SUV off-roading | Toyota

The fifth-generation of 4Runner was released as a 2010 model and has remained much the same. It’s been updated with everything from special suspension packages, infotainment, Apple Car Play, and mild facelifts since then. The various TRD packages make the 4Runner one of the most capable off-road SUVs, too. It’s powered by a 270-HP V6.

The 4Runner is more of a truck: it’s a traditional body-on-frame vehicle that’s more like a Tacoma.

Highlander is more family focused

Side view of silver Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the best SUV for commuting in 2022
2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid | Toyota

The fourth generation of Highlander was released as a 2020 model. But if you’re looking used, you’re more likely to find a third-gen Highlander for sale, which was for sale in the US from 2014 to 2020, which we will compare here. The Highlander was available with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower, or the same V6 as the 4Runner. It was also available as a Hybrid that could get as much as 28 miles-per-gallon.

The Highlander is built on the Camry platform, so it’ll be more comfortable on the highway. Plus, you can get all-wheel drive.

Economy and safety: the Highlander wins

If you’re looking for a family hauler, economy and safety are probably on the top of your list.

The base four-cylinder Highlander gets 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The six cylinder makes hauling easier, and it doesn’t come with too much of a fuel penalty, dropping to 21 mph in the city, but up to 27 on the highway. They are hard to find used, but if you can find a Highlander Hybrid, it’s one of the most efficient seven-seater SUVs on the market. It can achieve a combined 29 mpg.

The 4Runner, because of its five-speed transmission and its comparative heft, gets only 17 in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

When it comes to safety, the Highlander was a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. From 2016 to 2019, it earned the highest rating. It also earned a fiver five-star NHTSA rating.  

If you’re looking for a family hauler, economy and safety are probably on the top of your list.

The base four-cylinder Highlander gets 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The six cylinder makes hauling easier, and it doesn’t come with too much of a fuel penalty, dropping to 21 mph in the city, but up to 27 on the highway. They are hard to find used, but if you can find a Highlander Hybrid, it’s one of the most efficient seven-seater SUVs on the market. It can achieve a combined 29 mpg.

The 4Runner, because of its five-speed transmission and its comparative heft, gets only 17 in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

When it comes to safety, the Highlander was a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. From 2016 to 2019, it earned the highest rating. It also earned a fiver five-star NHTSA rating and has active safety features.

Used Highlanders and 4Runners hold their value

A third-generation Highlander can be had for as little as $22,000 for an LE package. A fully-optioned 2019 XLE with low miles can easily be $45,000 used on Edmunds.com. Most, however, are in the $25,000 to $30,000 range. In 2019 a new Highlander’s MSRP was between $36,606 and $47,982, which means they are holding their value.

Related: Why do Used Toyota 4Runners Have Insane Prices?

A 4Runner, on the other hand, in 2019 started at $40,000 and with options could reach $54,711. On the used market, for the same years to a Highlander (2014-2019), you can find a 4Runner for about $20,000, but those have nearly 200,000 miles.  SR5 or Limited package 2014 4Runners are about $25,000, while a premium TRD Off-Road Premium sells today for almost what it sold for new in 2019.

There’s a lot to love about each

The 4Runner’s four-wheel-drive options, and body-on-frame construction, make it one of the most popular off-road vehicles. It can also be ordered with a variety of extras, like Crawl Control, which can help get you unstuck. While it can’t seat eight, it can seat seven with an optional two-person jump seat. But most people buy the 4Runner because of its nice high sight lines and its off-road abilities.

The Highlander, however, can seat eight, has a smooth six-speed transmission, and is designed to be more comfortable on the road. The Highlander also has a dozen cupholders, softer-touch plastics, and a more friendly interior.

Related: It’s Hard to go Wrong With a Used Highlander