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?"
Tesla 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