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Tesla Owners Are Buying Toyota RAV4 Prime Plug-in Hybrids – Here’s Why

The reasons are pretty consistent. Here’s what owners of both Tesla EVs and Toyota RAV4 Primes say.


Many EVangelists have nothing good to say about plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the new Toyota RAV4 Prime AWD crossover. For these purists, a PHEV seems like some kind of a trick or compliance vehicle aimed at avoiding or delaying the “inevitable” switch to battery-electric vehicles. For other green vehicle owners, a PHEV like the RAV4 Prime is the perfect vehicle to meet their requirements.

Related Story: Consumer Reports Suggests Toyota RAV4 Prime As Alternative to the Tesla Model Y

The RAV4 Prime is a hot vehicle right now. Toyota cannot keep pace with consumer demand, and dealers are happily selling any RAV4 Prime they are lucky enough to get immediately upon its delivery to the lot. Some dealers are even charging above MSRP and finding willing buyers. We have been tracking RAV4 Prime owners’ progress from fan, to shopper, to new owner, to veteran owner on various forums and Facebook groups. What quickly became apparent was that many of the new RAV4 Prime owners are also current or former Tesla owners. We asked them if they would explain why a Tesla owner buys a plug-in hybrid Toyota.

Related Story: Toyota Delivered More RAV4 Primes In First 9 Weeks Than Tesla Did Model 3, X, or S

Top Reason Tesla Owners Buy a Toyota RAV4 Prime– Unlimited Range
While PHEVs only have a limited all-electric range, 42 miles in the case of the RAV4 Prime, they have unlimited mileage in the sense that they carry enough liquid fuel to go 600 miles or more before stopping for energy. And when they do stop, they can either grab electrons if time and charging ports permit, or they can stop for a few moments on any corner and add back another 500 miles or more in energy. The hassles and limited range associated with Tesla BEVs are a big reason many of these green vehicle owners say they opted for the RAV4 Prime. Here are their own words:
- We still have our Model 3 and prefer it on trips. But it is only fair as a tow vehicle as the range stinks, and charging is a pain when towing. And to boot, most National Parks have no electric. So when we are towing, the RAV4 Prime is a clear winner. D.H.
- The Prime would be for my wife and family long road trips. It may be a long time before EV’s are practical for long family road trips during busy holiday seasons. B.C.
- While BEVs have made great progress in the last ten years, they are still not there yet when it comes to long-distance travel or at parity with ICE vehicles when it comes to range, charging infrastructure, or just plain old convenience. BEVs are our 95% car, but when it comes to long-distance travel, nothing beats an ICE. A PHEV like the Prime is a great compromise for that part of our travel. G.L.
- Traded the Model 3 because I wanted one vehicle that could go on longer road trips without stopping every 2 hrs. C.W.
- Have had a Tesla Model S for two years now, and I love it. Not a perfect car, but it’s nice not to have to pay for gas and associated maintenance. Plus, it’s dead sexy. That said, we like having a RAV4 Prime for longer trips. J.J.

Second Reason Tesla Owners Buy a Toyota RAV4 Prime - Towing
While not a vehicle that aimed at towing, the RAV4 Prime is used by many owners for towing. It’s rated at 2,500 pounds. Many owners use the tow hitch for other purposes, most commonly to hold a multi-bike rack. In addition to D.H. above, who lists towing as a second reason to own both a Tesla and also a RAV4 Prime, C.W added, “Backcountry camping with tow capability was an extra plus. I do 99% of in-town miles in EV. Nice to do everything with one car.”

Some Tesla Owners Are Waiting For a More Perfect BEV and Own a RAV4 Prime Now
Ask many Tesla and RAV4 Prime owners why they bought a PHEV this year, and they will tell you that for them, there is no perfect BEV yet. One such owner of both technologies is James Klafehn. Mr. Klafehn is a former owner of both a Tesla Model X and a rare 2014 RAV4 EV. His experiences with the Model X were so negative he created a Youtube series on the topic. Quality problems, difficulty modifying and servicing the Tesla, lousy towing range, and a long list of other reasons pushed him from the brand and back into the arms of Toyota. Mr. Klafehn is now the founder and administrator of a popular RAV4 Prime club. So you’d expect that he has no plans to ever return to Tesla. But that’s not the case. Mr. Klafehn thinks that Tesla needs about five more years to sort out its quality SNAFUs, and he says, “I’ll buy the Cybertruck next as long as Tesla improves their quality and service.”

One owner, K.V., posted this overview of why he owns both a RAV4 Prime and why he opted not to purchase a second Tesla: “We have Model 3 AWD + RAV4 Prime in our household. Originally the RAV4 prime was supposed to be a Model Y, But I had bad customer service experiences with Tesla sc (more than one occasion) and felt it was too risky to be locked in with Tesla for 2 cars. I love the TNGA,TQM, PHEV combo from Toyota. Especially the reliability part. Was equally impressed with Tesla tech, FSD and full EV blast of a performance. So, Rav Prime is the workhorse/ road-trip car.”

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

H.D. is currently shopping for a RAV4 Prime. He has both a Toyota and a Tesla and gives this reason for not driving the Tesla this past week: “I have free supercharging, and I still left the Tesla at home for this holiday to get family out of the city. Where I am staying, there is no supercharger within 40 miles from our vacation spot. Nor is there a plug I can get to overnight. So I am supposed to plan an 80-mile trip to recharge my car during the week with family?

S.B. explained how the RAV4 Prime fits into her household by posting this: “My husband drives a model 3 and I have a RAV4 Prime. The combination of these two vehicles is perfect for us. We wanted a larger, more rugged family vehicle that we could road trip in. The Model 3 is perfect for him for a commuter/ smaller road trip vehicle.”

The Toyota RAV4 Prime is a unique vehicle in the market today. It has a projected maintenance and repair cost that rivals the Tesla Model Y. It’s cost for energy is is comparable, and the RAV4 line is a perennial IIHS Top Safety Pick. Unlike Tesla’s models, it is not as sexy, but has a long legacy of being among the most reliable vehicles one can buy. For this vehicle tester, the unstated reason why so many RAV4 Prime buyers are also Tesla owners is that the RAV4 Prime is an electric vehicle. It always has the electric starting torque that makes EVs so much fun to drive. It always regenerates power when braking. And in a typical commute, it only uses electrons. Unlike battery-only purists, some Tesla owners are perfectly happy to take a long trip in a roomy five-passenger all-wheel drive SUV that gets 94 MPGe.

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


Dan (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 11:50AM

Just imagine if all current ICEVs were instead PHEVs like the RAV4 Prime, with 40- to 50-mile all-electric range -- how much less oil/gasoline would be used and how much cleaner our air would be and less-noisy our environment would be. Anti-PHEV BEV enthusiasts are indeed naive about the utility and mostly-electric use of really good PHEVs like the RAV4 Prime and the Chevy Volt.

ML (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 1:49PM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

Where do you think the electric comes from? Lol vast majority of road noise is tires not engine noise... So answer is pretty much no change but I can just see electric prices skyrocketing screwing everyone over..

JO (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 3:09PM

In reply to by ML (not verified)

Reducing the point of pollution to a few power plants instead of a millions of car is a huge improvement. Electric has the potential to come from clean and renewable sources, unlike gasoline which will always be dirty and finite. EV's are quieter and don't contribute to smog.

Al D (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 7:56AM

In reply to by JO (not verified)

No EV is quieter than my 2020 Lexus ES 350 once it starts rolling. EV's will soon be required to make an electronic noise around town.

True, EV's are cleaner when they're recharged with clean electricity, but PHEV's like the RAV4 Prime are nearly as clean if plugged in regularly and used mostly around town. They're much cleaner than hybrids, which are much cleaner than conventional gas burners.

Dolan Halbrook (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 4:45PM

In reply to by ML (not verified)

Where I live, most of my electricity comes from renewables like solar, wind, or hydro, and these sources are increasing pretty much everywhere. The "where does the electricity come from" argument is, in many places, dying as fast as coal plants.

Larry (not verified)    March 31, 2021 - 9:08AM

In reply to by Joe S (not verified)

Ice efficiency is 12-16%. EV efficiency is 70-90%. Unless you failed math, EV cars should never have to care where electricity comes from for the simple reason that they are still using significant less fossil fuel than ICE cars.

John Goreham    March 31, 2021 - 10:42AM

In reply to by Larry (not verified)

Larry, your main point is certainly valid, but internal combustion engines have approached a 40% efficiency over the past decade. Don't take my word for it, the link after my comment is an EPA document on the subject. The reason many green buyers purchase a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle is because they are good at math, not bad. They know what a 94MPGe (RAV4) or 133 MPGe (Prius Prime) rating means, and they also know that they can achieve most of their daily driving without using any gasoline. The hybrid powertrain affords them ranges and towing capability that no BEV can. Thanks for your comments.

Thomas Montague (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 4:58PM

In reply to by ML (not verified)

You think you're so smart with your snarky sarcasm, but you're wrong. The whoosh of tire noise is relatively innocuous like white noise. The scattered noise from an accelerating and/or improperly muffled ICE sounds like a growling animal and immediately arouses the listener's limbic system. This is the tired, old, viagra-propped muscle-car sound that is getting more ridiculous every day. Here's a suggestion: do some research before you gloat your opinion out. Or how about use common sense? Could electric rates really "skyrocket" and "screw" when the vehicle in question is a HYBRID that can use GASOLINE? Did you even read the whole article?

Null (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 9:57AM

In reply to by ML (not verified)

No. You've been fooled.

Auto engineers have worked very hard to make exhaust noise sound like road noise...

Many of the cars produced today actually exceed exhaust noise limits. But given the noise is confused with road noise its deemed ok. Odd it still has all the negative effects.

but hey laws only apply to little people.

Matthew (not verified)    December 30, 2020 - 12:06AM

In reply to by ML (not verified)

On the corner where I live the majority of road noise - particularly the distracting road noise - is engine noise coming out of the stop sign. Especially motorcycles and trucks, bus SUVs and cars can be hella loud too depending on how they're driven.

Ric (not verified)    December 31, 2020 - 7:16PM

In reply to by ML (not verified)

When I bought my model s I also put 11kw of sola on garage to charge it. I set it to change between 11 and 3pm during the day to maximise the solar use. You are right to ask where is the electricity coming from? But the answer can be solar. Another quantum shift to a cleaner world will come when the car batteries can be used to charge the grid at night.

Al D (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 7:27AM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

I expect all ICEV's to be PHEV's in the near future and expect them to be around for a long time to come. Although solid-state batteries will bring EV's into the mainstream, they'll also improve the electric-only range of PHEV's. Owners can still ignore charging stations, but may use them if they can recharge in a short period of time. If solid-state batteries are expensive and difficult to produce at first, most of them may end up in PHEV's and high-end EV's. A $10,000 premium added to a solid-state EV would only be $2,500 on a solid-state PHEV because of its much smaller battery. The improvement in electric-only range and better overall performance would justify the added cost.

VonAlek (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 4:29PM

I wonder how much Toyota is paying to have this BS posted on the internet. It's all lies trying to flip the narrative about legacy autos and the abyss they are about to fall into

Al D (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 8:59AM

In reply to by EV Junkie (not verified)

It's funny how many people are sucked into buying Toyota vehicles every year by all those Toyota shills. As far as hydrogen is concerned, Toyota will be getting involved with fuel cell semis and other large fuel cell transportation vehicles. They'll also be constructing green hydrogen stations and will likely form key partnerships with other companies in the hydrogen game. There's a big future in hydrogen, but myopic people like you won't realize it until it's already here.

APL (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 2:59AM

In reply to by VonAlek (not verified)

Yeah, I'm a Prius owner but I've gotten a few chuckles at the breathless marketing nonsense I've read on Torque News. It's shameless and laughable. This author makes a pretty weak case for the RAV4, which seems like a decent though overpriced vehicle. Anyways, maybe Toyota will have an EV contender someday. But, before that happens, I might be driving an Aptera.

Al D (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 8:10AM

In reply to by VonAlek (not verified)

Who cares what Toyota says? It's what they do that matters. Not only were they accurate about the RAV4 Prime's specs, they underestimated a couple like electric-only range and speed. That abyss you're talking about only applies to vehicles that don't plug in and that is a long way off, thanks to PHEV's like the RAV4 Prime and perhaps thanks to solid-state batteries, which may be expensive and difficult to produce for quite a few years. PHEV's will be the best place for them until production can be ramped up and costs come down. A $10,000 premium added to a solid-state EV would only be $2,500 on a PHEV with a battery only 1/4 as big. The improved electric-only range and better overall specs would justify the higher premium on a solid-state PHEV. Toyota will likely put solid-state batteries in their most profitable vehicles at first and then let demand and government regulations be their guide as the years roll by.

Null (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 10:00AM

In reply to by Al D (not verified)

Class action lawsuit against Toyota for this very vehicle.

The range stated was with a larger tank then is in production.

John Hogan (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 10:49AM

In reply to by VonAlek (not verified)

I am stunned at your ability to ignore this common sense answer to the American family not being ready for the lack of flexibility of a plug in only EV.

Be it the Rav4 or some other plug in hybrid technology. Unless you can afford (and the planet can afford) for you to have multiple cars there is no one car that can serve the normal family. Do you feel a family should have a way to haul it's own supplies and waste as needed? Long haul trucks and cars have become much better in how they treat our planet. The small to medium size delivery and service trucks are the worst polluters on the road. Do you take responsibility for these carbon emissions caused by your choice of vehicle? If you can live a life that your vehicle can support great. Get a wind car or bike everywhere that's your choice. If you are living a more traditional life in America the new Rav4 is one of the best choices you could make for your family and planet.

phillip wandrey (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 4:47PM

I have a regular RAV4 hybrid (Limited trim level). Averaging 43.3 mpg and I absolutely love it!! The ride quality, the seamless switching between engine and electiric power, the tech Toyota put in it, the sound system (albeit not cheap to buy).I did think about the new Venza bc I wanted that damn electrified pano glass roof that changes to a opaque white color when an electric charge is applied to it. It's the first electrified vehicle I have ever owned. I figured I'd try one since I think that is where autos are heading anyway and I am happyI did.

Jerry Mayweather (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 6:38AM

In reply to by phillip wandrey (not verified)

This is the correct answer. Buying a plug in hybrid to be mainly used on trips and towing is a waste. The regular hybrid can do those tasks fine at the same efficiency as the plug in version... at lower cost and higher availability.

Matthew (not verified)    December 30, 2020 - 12:13AM

In reply to by Jerry Mayweather (not verified)

The plug-in doesn't make sense if it will "mainly be used on trips and towing" but it does make sense if one's normal daily usage is within the battery range and you occasionally need a vehicle for trips and towing.

Unless, of course, that need is so rare that renting a capable vehicle as needed is more cost effective - in that case you're back to buying a pure EV.

Jerry Cecere (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 5:59PM

GM should not have stopped making the Chevy VOT in February 2019. My wife and I are retired and switched to a 2017 VOLT from a BEV that year. Now range is never a problem and currently most VOLT use is quite local. Last fuel use was nine months ago, except when ICE activates for "maintenance" every few months. The VOLT is an engineering marvel. I'd bet that TOYOTA deconstructed one for the RAV4 design!

Al D (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 8:19AM

In reply to by Jerry Cecere (not verified)

Don't be silly. The RAV4 Prime is a different animal that uses the same eCVT system Toyota has been using since the Prius made its debut. The upgrades applied to the RAV4 Prime are the plug, a bigger battery placed under the floor, and stronger electric motors at both ends. Unlike the Volt, the RAV4 Prime uses its engine to add power to the front wheels. That's why the RAV4 Prime is so much quicker than the Volt.

EV Junkie (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 11:02AM

In reply to by Al D (not verified)

Heh... See Professor John D Kelly's video on the Volt transaxle -- he actually knows what he's talking about. The Volt has clutches in the transmission which allow the gas engine to power the wheels.
'Don't be silly.'

James Mazur (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 6:09PM

Had a RAV4 rental and hated it. And I'm a Toyota guy-2012 Tacoma, 2008 FJ Cruiser. I thought it was overly loud and noisy, especially at freeway speeds.
Needs some serious sound deadening.

Al D (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 8:33AM

In reply to by James Mazur (not verified)

The RAV4 Prime is quieter on the road than the other RAV4's, but it's not as quiet as my 2020 Lexus ES 350. Only a few high-priced luxury sedans are slightly quieter. I'm hoping there is a Lexus ES Prime in 2024, but I'll switch to the RAV4 Prime if Toyota doesn't plan on expanding the Prime family to one of their midsize sedans. My earphones and earplugs do a great job of killing road noise on long trips. I won't mind road noise in a RAV4 Prime because it has so much to offer. I'll bet it's quieter than the Tesla Model Y on course roads.

Same Story Rehashed (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 9:48PM

Didn't this story appear last month, or a few months ago? I swear I read this before, or was article romm another site. Where is that overbearing editor in chief at when you need em?

Cika Rizo (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 11:16PM

It's a Toyota. Need I say more?
Toyota (and any Japanese vehicle) to cars is like Tim Hortons is to and brown liquid. If you need a transport from A to B, it'll suffice.
Who got an idea to compare it to any Tesla!?