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Comparison Chart: Tesla's New Base Model Y vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime - You Pick A Winner

We compare and contrast two similar green crossovers. The similarities include price, acceleration, cargo space, passenger space, and green credentials. Which would you choose and why?


Tesla surprised the EV enthusiast world this past week by promising to build a very low priced entry-point version of its hot Model Y crossover. Why Tesla did so is up for debate. The Tesla Model Y is presently selling robustly everywhere. Tesla can't seem to build enough of the pricier ones to meet demand, and Tesla can always use more revenue to build Superchargers and Gigafactories. So why drop a low-cost version of a vehicle that Elon Musk himself called "Unacceptable?"

RAV4 Prime Image by Kate STesla Model Y Base Trim - Responding To Market Changes
The reason is that Tesla is not alone in the green crossover world. A bunch of green crossovers are now available and LOT more are coming in 2021. Tesla wants a Model Y at a low price point to help it seem more closely aligned with competitors like the soon-to-launch Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4. Let's see how the newly announced "unacceptable" base trim version of the Model Y compares with the Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle which is already on the market.

Tesla Model Y Base Trim vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime - Price
The first objective comparison is that of price. The new base trim of the Tesla Model Y costs $43,190 including the destination fee according to Tesla's online configurator today. The RAV4 Prime competes with this base trim at varying price levels. That is because the RAV4 Prime has a tax incentive of $7,500. The base RAV4 Prime SE has a price after the tax break of $31,595. The fully-loaded RAV4 Prime Premium with every option package that we tested had an as-tested price with the destination fee included of $48,060. After the tax break, that equates to a consumer cost of $40,560. For nearly all buyers, the RAV4 Prime costs less than the least expensive Model Y. We broke out the pricing above. Note that your state may have additional incentives. The RAV4 Prime seems to have an advantage on the purchase cost.

Tesla Model Y Base Trim vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime - Value
Value is defined in many ways, but in this objective analysis we will look at the warranty and included maintenance of the Model Y vs. the RAV4 Prime. As you can see, the RAV4 Prime has a longer warranty on the powertrain, on the hybrid components of its powertrain, and a longer battery warranty. The Model Y has an advantage on the full bumper to bumper warranty.
More Details: Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. Tesla Model Y Maintenance Cost Analysis - A Surprising Outcome

Like the Model Y, the RAV4 Prime was designed to have a very low cost of maintenance and repair. The Toyota comes with a zero cost of maintenance for the first two years. Tesla offers no included maintenance. You can view the required maintenance of the Model Y vs. the RAV4 Prime, including links to the manuals, at our deep dive on the subject of repair and maintenance costs. Or you can check out Consumer Reports' study on the subject. Both project the RAV4 Prime to be a bit less expensive to repair and maintain.

Tesla Model Y Base Trim vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime - Performance
Performance such as "Handling" and "Comfort" are subjective. No outlet we are aware of has reviewed the new base Model Y yet, so a comparison of those attributes is not possible yet. However, acceleration, towing capacity, and range can be quantified. Car and Driver tested the RAV4 Prime and found it to accelerate to 60 MPH as quickly as 5.4 seconds. Tesla says their new base Model Y can accelerate to 60 MPH in 5.3, and we believe Tesla. If you see anything but a tie here, please pass the Kool-Aid.

Tesla can tow up to 3,500 pounds, an advantage over the 2,500-pound rating of the RAV4 Prime. We recently compared the practical tow ranges of these two vehicles in winter. You can view that breakdown at our deep dive on the subject. We feel the RAV4 Prime has a distinct and meaningful real-world towing range advantage. Draw your own conclusion on this.

One aspect of performance is all-wheel drive. While Tesla certainly offers the Model Y with AWD, it is at a higher price point. AWD is an advantage in wet weather, winter conditions, and when towing. Every RAV4 Prime comes standard with AWD.

Tesla's annual energy cost for the new base model Y is not yet listed by the EPA. Toyota's is $750 per year for a combination of electricity and liquid fuel. We guestimate the Tesla Model Y will have a cost near $550 based on its other trims. So, over 10 years, Tesla would have a $2,000 fuel cost advantage.

Tesla Model Y Base Trim vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime - Features
In our features listing, we focused on the base Model Y vs. the RAV4 Prime XSE Premium with every package. As we explained above, most customers buying today will have a lower cost for the fully-loaded RAV4 Prime. Use your own judgment on the importance of these features. Many Tesla drivers love the minimalist interior and large single screen the Tesla offers. Other drivers of Tesla ask where the head-up display and heated steering wheel are and why they are not included in a premium vehicle. Mazda offers these and more for under $40K in the CX-5 and has for years.

Tesla Model Y Base Trim vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime - Reliability
We offer no opinion on which model is more reliable. Here are some objective facts. Consumer Reports ranks Tesla second to last among all manufacturers for reliability. A recent JD Power survey on reliability ranks Tesla last overall in initial quality. If you feel that Toyota's history of reliability is anything but obviously better, no amount of surveys we list will change your mind.

Many commenters under our stories comparing the similarly-sized, similarly priced Model Y and RAV4 Prime claim that these two vehicles "Are never cross-shopped against one another." We have proven this to be objectively false via surveys and customer interviews. We have communicated with Tesla owners who have purchased a RAV4 Prime and we have done a deep dive interview with a RAV4 Prime owner who did consider the Model Y before buying her Toyota.

We've laid out the facts as we can find them here for you to compare and contrast the Tesla Model Y base trim and the Toyota RAV4 Prime. Based on what you now know, which would you lean toward and why?

Image credits: Top of page image courtesy of Tesla Model Y Press Kit
RAV4 Prime charging image courtesy of Kate S.
RAV4 Prime towing image courtesy of RAV4 Prime owner Johan Sivlér

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 15, 2021 - 3:08AM

A couple points. First is the price. The current combination of high demand and low supply of the RAV4 Primes have resulted in much higher dealer prices (in the mid-to-high $50K range) currently, which puts the price closer (after subsidies) to the AWD long range Model Y which is quicker, and has 326 miles of range. As for performance of the RAV4 Prime. It's great! I like that Toyota highlight's it's PHEV model with such brisk acceleration. However, that speed comes with a charged battery combined with the gas motor. So if the traction battery is depleted, or if you are running purely on battery power, acceleration is way down from the combined speed capability. C&D's testing showed lower real world EV-only range and lower combined gas mileage, but of course this varies on many conditions and driving style. As much as I mention the drawbacks of the RAV4 Prime, I am actually a fan of the vehicle, and it should be a great value once the supply of them goes up and dealer gouging drops. I think that Elon's "unacceptable" EV comment, and claimed decision to drop the RWD version was specifically made to have buyers move up to the more expensive models, and to have less buyers waiting for the RWD model to come out. It's a cheesy move, but I knew from the announcement that Tesla would be coming out with the less expensive Model Y after all, because with the popular RAV4 Prime, VW ID.4, Mach-E, Volvo, Polestar, Bolt EUV and many other lower priced EV crossovers due this year, he needed to compete better on price. Personally I don't need AWD, and as much as the RAV4 Prime is a compelling crossover, if they were anywhere near the same price, I'd pick the Tesla Model Y instead. In fact since I don't need another crossover, I'd probably get the less expensive Model 3 SR. But that's just me.

John Goreham    January 15, 2021 - 8:30AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

As always, great viewpoints, Dean. I have made some edits to the second paragraph partly inspired by your comments that will show when the server updates. It's interesting how many folks point to the differences in the RAV4 Prime's performance in different modes. Having driven it, I didn't notice it feeling anything but quick in normal or EV. One thing most don't realize is that in "Normal Mode" the vehicle will always default to EV mode unless you floor it or the vehicle can benefit from a warm engine for heat. So while EV mode may be satisfying, if you head out on a 50 mile trip, you will use up the EV battery anyway, so there is not much sense in locking out the gas engine. Also, the battery always is there to assist you in a hard launch in normal mode. The traction battery never fully depletes, despite the meter being at "0". The RAV4 Prime is AWD all the time in every launch. I confirmed that with Toyota. So, for a quick merge in traffic, or just for fun, unless you lock out the gas engine, the RAV4 Prime is a very quick vehicle. Around town in EV mode, it feels very satisfying, though the full 0-60 MPH sprint time is lower because that involves more power than just launch torque as speeds rise. If you get a chance to drive one, let us know. What struck me most was how different it felt from a RAV4 Hybrid or Venza.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 15, 2021 - 3:37PM

I'm on my 4th plug-in hybrid now, and the driving dynamics are definitely different from conventional gas powered cars. As you mentioned, real-world, day-to-day impressions in normal driving are that the car is quick. And in fact the instant torque from a stop feels like a powerful V8. Of course the RAV4 Prime is more powerful and quicker than any of my PHEVs, so I figure than the impression of acceleration is even better. With the GM EREV system it also keeps a traction battery reserve, and so when it goes to "zero" it still has 15% capacity left, which is actively used for hybrid operations. This is how I manage 40MPG+ just in hybrid mode. I live at some elevation so I start in EV mode and gain 4 miles of range with braking regeneration just going mostly down hill for 10 minutes. And if it is cold outside I turn on the seat and steering wheel warmers. But then when I get on the freeway and I either want to heat up the car, or I've got a long way to drive, I switch over to Hold mode which holds the traction battery power and runs the generator motor, which is very efficient at highways speeds. Then when I get off the freeway I switch back to Normal (EV) mode for maximum efficiency. One point of owning a PHEV is that it makes you very aware of how much energy/fuel that you are using at any time. It's sort of a fun game to play to try and be the most efficient that you can be, while still driving normally.

Bret (not verified)    January 15, 2021 - 3:49PM

I have looked at both, weighted more towards a plug-in but chose teslay y for reasons not even listed. Number 1, system updates. Electric cars do not depreciate as fast so it is actually a decent investment if you keep it longer. The main reason I update cars is for the latest tech. With tesla I will always have the latest. Tesla feels more luxurious. Why settle for a Toyota when you can have a Lexus for the same price? Tesla has more places to charge. Finally, I can charge at home and don't have to go to gas stations. The one thing that sells me on the prime is the convenience of gas over charging on long trips, which would be about 3 times a year.

Mark (not verified)    January 16, 2021 - 8:16AM

Spare Tire:
Model Y - Nope
RAV4 Prime - Yes

I looked at both vehicles and went with the RAV4 Prime. I can't rule out a Tesla in the future, but the missing dashboard, no buttons or switches where you really need them, lack of spare tire and no Apple Car Play didn't appeal to me and my practical side. iPhones will always provide more tech than any Tesla screen will even with software updates.

The cost difference with rebates was $14k which is hard to overlook.

It took 2k miles to burn the first tank of gas, yes 2,000 miles. Charging at home accounts for nearly all of my energy use and I get the thrill of riding an "electric" car nearly all of the time. In really cold weather the engine kicks on to heat the cabin and defrost the windows and I can tell you it does this better than the battery alone.

In the end, the RAV4 Prime is simply a much more practical and far less expensive vehicle which suits me. But not everyone values things this way.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 17, 2021 - 12:34AM

Many new vehicles do not have a spare tire, and fewer still have a full sized wheel as a spare, and those are usually trucks and SUVs. Personally, I don't miss the dashboard or knobs and switches. But you have every right to choose the vehicle that best matches your needs and tastes. So congratulations on your new RAV4 Prime. Remember to check back in and tell us how you are enjoying it over time.

Suriya (not verified)    January 17, 2021 - 2:01AM

Just add one more comparison

Availability: Tesla all states, Rav4 Prime selected states
Number of cars manufactured. Tesla: 500000 Toyota: 4000

John Goreham    January 17, 2021 - 10:16AM

In reply to by Suriya (not verified)

Thanks for your comment Suriya. You may not be aware of it if you live in a large urban area, but there are states without a Tesla store. Yes, you can certainly buy one and it can be made available to you or delivered. Just like you can buy a Toyota RAV4 Prime out of state. Like Tesla has in the past, Toyota initially launched this new green vehicle in the 12 ZEV-compliant states. It took Tesla nearly a year to make the Model 3 available outside of California. I'm not sure where you got your delivery figures, but Toyota delivered about 337,000 green vehicles in the US in 2020. Tesla delivered about 204,000. Globally, Toyota outsells Tesla by over 20 to 1. The Model Y launched before the RAV4 Prime this past year. Bear in mind that the Prime is just one of 2 green trims of the RAV4 and the RAV4 Hybrid and Prime outsold the Model Y in 2020 and are presently matching the Model Y in monthly deliveries. As far as we can estimate. You see, Tesla does no reveal its US sales, nor does Tesla break out its individual model delivery numbers.

Chris Forsyth (not verified)    March 8, 2021 - 8:08PM

You wrote "let's see how the model Y ... compares to the Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle which is already on the market."

But the RAV4 Prime is barely on the market in a practical sense. I have been trying to buy one since August, and so far no dealer had even been willing to put my name on the waiting list, which is already "full". So other than from out-of-state dealers who are marking up the vehicle over MSRP this vehicle isn't really available.

On the other hand, I used the time waiting fruitlessly for a RAV4 Prime to learn more about the Model Y (including from this article). This week I'll take delivery of a Model Y long range, MSRP $48,990 -- not much more than the XSE Premium RAV4. The VIN indicates that my new model Y will be about the 140,000th produced. Meanwhile Toyota is reported to have delivered fewer than 4,000 RAV4 Primes in the US in 2020.

Gary Henson (not verified)    March 12, 2021 - 11:02AM

I love my RAV4 XSE Prime with the Premium package. I did compare it to the Tesla model Y. My primary concerns were long trips and charging wait times, reliability and OMG insurance costs are so high. My R4P will only cost $1,200/Yr and that's at max coverage. I'm also concern about electrical companies power blackouts. What do we do then? Another small problem is the model Y has no retractable shade for the panoramic sunroof. Sometimes I need my shade from the sun. lol

Great article. Thank you.

Gary Henson (not verified)    March 12, 2021 - 11:03AM

I love my RAV4 XSE Prime with the Premium package. I did compare it to the Tesla model Y. My primary concerns were long trips and charging wait times, reliability and OMG insurance costs are so high. My R4P will only cost $1,200/Yr and that's at max coverage. I'm also concern about electrical companies power blackouts. What do we do then? Another small problem is the model Y has no retractable shade for the panoramic sunroof. Sometimes I need my shade from the sun. lol

Great article. Thank you.