How do You Pick Between the Toyota Highlander and the RAV4?

Toyota is one of the most reliable car brands out there. The Japanese based carmaker’s lineup offers an optimal combination of comfort, power, and fuel-efficiency. In fact, in many ways, Toyota competes with itself the most. The carmaker’s SUVs in particular offer tons of variety with the Highlander and RAV4 being among the most popular brands. Both the Highlander and RAV4 are fan-favorites, but how do you choose between the two?


View this post on Instagram

Don't stop until you hit the top! ⛰️#RAV4

A post shared by Toyota USA (@toyotausa) on

Looks are how we first connect to cars. With that being said, the Highlander and the RAV4 are pretty different when it comes to style. The RAV4 subcompact is sporty and rugged by nature which gives it a sexier look. Oppositely, the Highlander is more understated and polished. Since the Highlander is a mid-sized SUV, it’s also viewed more as a family-friendly option. The RAV4’s casual and flashy exterior is appealing to younger and older drivers alike and is also versatile enough to be a family car too. 

Power and capability

Power and capability are the main differences between the Highlander and the RAV4. The RAV4 is the smaller option and seats five while the Highlander can seat eight comfortably. Naturally, the Highlander has more cargo space over the RAV4. 

Subsequently, the current RAV4 has a smaller engine and gets an overall 30 mpg while the latest Highlander gets an overall 24 mpg. Both SUVs only offer a single engine option. The Highlander’s 3.5-liter V6 generates a 295-horsepower while the RAV4’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces a  203 hp. With the Highlander, you get more power but the RAV4’s small engine offers more fuel-efficiency. Both the Highlander and RAV4 are available as hybrids. 

If off-riding is your game, then the RAV4 is the clear winner over the Highlander. The current RAV4 model offers the Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims which can handle even more rocky terrains. But, if you want more towing capacity, it’s the Highlander all day. The current Highlander can pull up to 5,000 pounds while the RAV4 taps out at 3,500 pounds.


View this post on Instagram

Ready when you are. #Highlander #Hybrid

A post shared by Toyota USA (@toyotausa) on

The RAV4 isn’t an uncomfortable ride by any means, but the Highlander really has an edge here. The Highlander accommodates a wide variety of people and masterfully absorbs bumps in the road. With the RAV4, you’re more likely to feel the grooves. It’s also worth mentioning that the Highlander offers a quieter ride while the RAV4’s soundtrack consists of a louder engine and a higher noise level in general. 

As far as interiors go, the inside of both the RAV4 and the Highlander SUVs are on the simple side, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 


As members of the Toyota family, the RAV4 and the Highlander have related safety features. Both are top safety picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety organization. Toyota is adopting advanced safety features as standard so this also makes the lineup more attractive to buyers.

So, which SUV do I pick?

Even though it came first, the RAV4 is seen more as the spunky kid sibling compared to the Highlander. The current Highlander offers more space, comfort, and power with a  starting price of $34,600. On the other hand, the current RAV4 is more cost-efficient and starts at $25,950, plus it’s more fuel-efficient and adventure-ready. The Highlander is probably the better option for families, but the RAV4’s versatility makes it a more well-rounded option.