Toyota RAV4 Prime Image courtesy of Toyota
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Consumer Reports: PHEVs Like RAV4 Prime Have Lower Maintenance & Repair Costs Than BEVs Like Tesla Model Y

A Consumer Reports study concludes that plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius Prime and Honda Clarity have lower lifetime maintenance and repair costs than battery-only vehicles like the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf.

A new study just released by Consumer Reports has come to the conclusion that plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 Prime will have a lower lifetime cost of maintenance and repair than battery-electric vehicles such as the Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model Y. Interestingly, Torque News came to the same conclusion in a recent analysis published back in August.

Related Story: Toyota’s RAV4 Prime PHEV Rivals Battery-Electric Vehicles Like Tesla Model Y For Reduced Repair And Maintenance Needs

PHEVs are vehicles that can drive on electricity alone for many miles. In the case of the Honda Clarity, 47 Miles on a full charge and for the RAV4 Prime, 42 miles. Once this range is achieved, the PHEV then uses its high-efficiency hybrid engine. In our testing of the RAV4 Prime this past month, we observed a 46 MPG result when the vehicle was operated in hybrid mode. Total range of PHEVs is usually twice that of the best battery electric vehicle ranges, and over 600 miles is typical.

Ford, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi have all announced two-row PHEV crossovers for next year. Toyota’s RAV4 Prime is on sale now. The RAV4 Prime is presently selling out at dealers, and is one of the fastest-selling automobiles in America.

The Consumer Reports study looked at model year 2020 and 2021 vehicles and leveraged historic data gathered from actual owners of vehicles of various types. It concluded that battery-electric vehicles have the edge in maintenance and repair costs through the first 100K miles. However, it also found that over the vehicles’ total lifespan of 200K miles, the type of vehicles with the lowest cost of maintenance and repairs were plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles.

Consumer Reports bundled various models in each category, internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE), plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEV), and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) to determine an average cost per mile of maintenance and repair. It found that over the lifespan of the vehicles, the breakdown is as follows:
ICE vehicles have a cost of $0.061 per mile
BEVs have a cost of $0.031 per mile
PHEVs the lowest cost at $0.030 per mile

Furthermore, the study finds that the average lifetime costs of the various vehicle categories for repair and maintenance are as follows:
ICE vehicles have a cost of $12,285
BEVs have a cost of $6,276
PHEVs the lowest at $5,915

Related Story - Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. Tesla Model Y Maintenance Cost Analysis - A Surprising Outcome

In a recent Torque News deep dive, we looked at the difference between modern plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles like the Toyota Prius Prime and traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. A close look at the design of modern PHEVs reveals that most of the maintenance items have been designed out. For example, there is no timing belt to change in a Toyota RAV4 Prime. This accounts for one of the single-largest scheduled maintenance costs in a typical ICE vehicle. The RAV4 Prime also has no accessory belt. Nor are transmission fluid changes required in normal driving conditions. The RAV4 Prime does not use a traditional geared transmission, nor does it use a conventional CVT. These design changes have been proven reliable over many years in other Toyota products including the Prius, RAV4 Hybrid, and Prius Prime.

The study found no meaningful difference in the lifetime repair and maintenance costs of BEVs and PHEVs compare to ICE vehicles. They had the same approximate savings of $4,600.

You can view the summary of the Consumer Reports study here. However, we suggest a longer look at the full study report found here. You may need to be a subscriber. Consumer Reports is a publication that usually requires payment for its content.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and automotive supply chain market. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. 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

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"The data show that repair and maintenance costs are slightly higher for PHEVs than for BEVs until the 100,000-mile mark, and slightly lower beyond 100,000 miles. It should be noted, however, that there is a higher degree of uncertainty in these numbers because of a lower sample size: A little over 200 PHEV vehicles with more than 100,000 miles, and only 55 BEVs. Furthermore, the 55 BEVs with more than 100,000 miles were predominantly early versions of the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, suggesting that our projections may overestimate the long- term maintenance costs expected from current-generation BEVs as automakers learn from their early models." The article is misleading as CR says in their own words. PHEVs are a great value in lower costs but even with reduced maintenance one still has oil and filter changes (and attendant disposal issues/fees), fuel costs, and miscellaneous ICE items such as plugs, plug wires, starter, alternator etc.
Yes, Consumer Reports does have a small sample size. However, remember that modern PHEVs like the Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime are designed very differently from older ICE vehicles. For example, there is no alternator in either one. Nor is there in a RAV4 Hybrid. Plugs in both are changed once every 120,000 miles. Plug wires are not a maintenance item in either and have never been a common failure point. And there are plenty of wires in a BEV. Is there a "starter" in a modern PHEV like the Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime? Do a bit of Google research and see what you find. As we mention in the story, there are real reasons why the modern PHEVs are dramatically lower in repair and maintenance than traditional ICE vehicles. In JD Power's most recent Initial Quality Study Tesla was dead last. That data comes only from owners of the vehicles studied. Could the tide turn in favor of BEVs? Sure. And when the data show that you will read it here.
There are no accessory drive belts in the Toyotas mentioned in this story. And the brand has a very good reputation for quality with regard to the other items you mention (ps - all caps indicates shouting). Bear in mind too that a PHEV does not have to have a zero cost of maintenance and repair to be first on this list. It just has to have a cost equivalent to the BEVs. Join some Tesla groups on Facebook and see how many owners post problems, premature wear, and needed repairs.
What is up with the comments section? I get email updates and do not see the comment here? The articles are good but the platform is flaky with respect to commenting. Much more engagement with a fuller featured comment section. And you can still moderate the trolls.
Sorry about the lag, Mark. We review the comments for language and inappropriate content (and spam). It being a holiday weekend, we are a little behind. The e-mail replies are automated after a post is approved. Thank you for your patience. We value your comments.