Is the Ford Explorer Really a Better Option Than the Toyota Highlander?

When looking for a midsize SUV, many are torn between the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander. Both have similar features and price points, so how can you know which one is best? Kelley Blue Book recently made a comparison of the 2020 Highlander and Explorer and declared one of them the winner. Which SUV fared better, and what led Kelley Blue Book to reach that conclusion?

The 2020 Toyota Highlander’s pros and cons

Researchers from Kelley Blue Book were impressed with the Highlander’s standard V6 engine as well as its available hybrid powertrain that provides an exceptional 36 MPG on the highway. They were also keen on this SUV’s abundance of standard features, which include tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, a rearview camera, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.

They also liked the fact that the Highlander’s three rows of seating offered enough room for either seven or eight passengers. Rounding out the top of the list was the Toyota Highlander’s reputation for reliability and great resale value.

Although the hybrid option is a plus, critics claim that the 2020 Highlander’s hybrid engine has less power than those in previous generations. They also felt that the third row of seating was rather cramped and was therefore more suitable for children rather than adults.

The 2020 Ford Explorer’s pros and cons

The 2020 Ford Explorer also offers a hybrid option. In addition, it comes with a number of other engine choices, including its famous turbocharged V6 and four-cylinder options.

Kelley Blue Book noted that the 2020 Explorer had been completely redesigned, resulting in “an Explorer for every taste.” In particular, they noted that the Ford Explorer offered everything from sport to luxury trims, as well as some optional luxury, sport, and winter packages.

When it comes to towing capabilities, the Ford Explorer outperforms the Highlander. The Explorer has a towing capacity of up to 5,600 pounds compared to only 5,000 pounds for the Toyota Highlander.

As with the 2020 Highlander, the Ford Explorer also contains three rows of seating. However, the maximum seating capacity is only seven rather than eight passengers. Like the Highlander, the Explorer’s third row of seating also feels very cramped, and therefore might not be suitable for adults.

The 2020 Explorer is a high-quality vehicle; however, it will likely not maintain its resale value as well as the Toyota Highlander. This could be a problem for anyone wanting to sell or trade their vehicle within the next few years.

The price factor

Although Ford makes several different trims, models, and packages available, going up a trim level can raise the price of the Explorer considerably. Accordingly, it can quickly go from a moderately priced SUV to a very expensive one.

Higher trim models may be more expensive, but consumers will probably still find the Ford Explorer more affordable than the 2020 Toyota Highlander. That’s because the base model Explorer XLT is priced slightly less than Toyota’s entry-level Highlander L. Accordingly, an Explorer will likely be easier on your budget if you are not interested in many bells and whistles.

Does the 2020 Ford Explorer come out on top?

Jim Hackett (R), president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, and President of Global Operations Jim Farley speak at the reveal of the new 2020 Ford Explorer SUV at Ford Field
The 2020 Ford Explorer | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Both vehicles have a lot of advantages as well as quite a few similarities. Which one of the two did Kelley Blue Book declare the winner? Overall, they chose the 2020 Ford Explorer because of its base engine choices, higher tow rating, and lower overall price. Of course, there are still plenty of reasons to choose a Toyota Highlander, so you should use this information only as a guide to help you determine which one is right for you.