Toyota RAV4 Prime & Tesla Model Y Detailed Comparison

2021 Tesla Model Y and Toyota RAV4 Prime Feature Differences

Early this year, I had a Volkswagen ID.4 on pre-order for a long-term business vehicle.  Due to delays with the AWD model, I was about to put a deposit on a Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD instead.  At the time, it was clear that new car supplies were shrinking and the Y was the only readily available similarly-sized plug-in SUV in the Midwest.  That’s when a Toyota RAV4 Prime became available, if I was willing to wait a few months.  Honestly, any of them would be great additions to our long-term electrified fleet, though the Prime isn’t necessarily a direct competitor to the ID.4, Model Y or Mach-E.  Still, I had already driven a RAV4 Prime for a review last fall and liked it enough to wait for one to appear at my Chicago area dealer.

(Courtesy of Toyota USA)

I was pretty sure that I’d end up with a Y anyway, knowing that any number of manufacturer or dealer issues could end up leaving me without the Prime, as they were very difficult to obtain in the Midwest.  In that time, I looked more closely at features and was surprised that a detailed list of features and specifications was not available on the Tesla website.  They cover the major ones, but even a customer service representative could not send me a complete table like you can find for almost every other vehicle.  The best they could do was send me a copy of the owner’s manual that at least has many official specifications.  Sadly, Tesla no longer has a media relations department like other manufacturers, so that wasn’t an option for information, either.

So, I researched elsewhere and did test drives.  There may be important differences depending on your preferences and requirements.  Again, I’d have been very happy with either one.  Even so, for others making the unusual choice between a full EV and a plug-in hybrid, this comparison might help.  According to Toyota’s comparison tool they are somewhat similar overall-

2021 Tesla Model Y vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE w/Premium Package
Spec Tesla Model Y Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE/PP
Starting price (US $) 60190 48650
EPA Fuel Economy (MPGe) 125 94
Length (in.) 187.0 180.9
Width (in.) 75.6 73.0
Height (in.) 63.9 67.2
Wheelbase (in.) 113.8 105.9
Ground Clearance (in.) 6.6 8.2
Curb Weight (lbs.) 4416 4300
Max Payload (lbs.) 886 1230
Max Towing (lbs.) 3500 2500
Cargo Volume (cu. ft.) 68.0 69.8

The Model Y long-range starts at $60,190 in white exterior and black interior, including $1200 destination & doc fee.  This includes a 4-year, 50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 8/120k battery warranty.  The Rav4 Prime starts at $39,565 for SE trim, but the more likely comparison to the Model Y is the fully loaded XSE trim with Premium Package that has an MSRP of $48,650, including $1215 destination fee.  The RAV4 Prime still qualifies for up to $7500 in a federal EV tax credit for buyers who meet IRS requirements, resulting in a possible net cost as low as $41,150.  Toyota provides a 3-year, 36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, 5/60k powertrain warranty, 8/100k hybrid system warranty, 10/150k battery warranty and 2/25k free maintenance.

Where to start?  To me, these are the clear reasons to consider the Model Y:

  • No gas.  Pure EV range of ~326 miles
  • Performance. Quicker, better cornering & road feel, more responsive braking
  • Tech.  Much better camera, display, infotainment and app quality
  • Perfect NHTSA 5-star crash test results and very low rollover risk.
  • Small 3rd row seat is an option
  • MSRP.  Tesla owns their dealers.  No shenanigans like some Toyota dealers requiring thousands over MSRP in markups or expensive dealer add-on packages.  On the downside, that also means no deals for well under MSRP if we ever return to a buyer’s market and recently has led to 8 month delivery times or longer.

A few other nice feature advantages:

  • Frunk
  • Passenger-side front seat height & tilt adjustments
  • Custom factory order options including tow hitch
  • Back seat is slightly wider with more leg room
  • Power folding side mirrors
  • Subjectively a much more stylish and upscale interior, especially in white
  • “Self-Driving” autopilot option ($10,000)

Tesla Model Y White Interior (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)

These alone are enough to convince many buyers, especially those who have a level 2 charger at home, along with a good local charging infrastructure and perhaps a second car as well.  Many people will do fine with ~300 miles range but there are exceptions. Live in an apartment or anywhere with only level 1 charger access? Live where it gets very cold and EV range takes a big hit, especially if you don’t have a second car to use in a pinch?  Driving state or county roads in the Midwest on a long road trip where you can forget about finding a supercharger, let alone a level 2 charger?

For those even willing to consider a hybrid powertrain, the RAV4 Prime XSE with Premium Package has its own advantages:

  • Range Extender. 42 miles all-electric and over 500 highway miles on a 5-minute gas fill-up
  • Good IIHS crash results and a top performer w/adaptive headlights
  • Side mirrors with Blind Spot and turn signal indicators
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Braking
  • Heads Up Display and gauge cluster keeps eyes forward and on road
  • Safety Connect automatic collision notification & emergency assistance
  • Digital wide angle rear-view mirror camera with HomeLink
  • Ride comfort, especially on uneven roads
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Sirius XM Radio
  • Panoramic moonroof tilts up & opens in front and has retractable shade
  • Extra ground clearance is handy for snow and light off-roading
  • Compact spare tire
  • 1500W AC outlet in cargo area
  • Cargo area is slightly taller and boxier
  • Cargo cover standard
  • Still qualifies for up to $7500 federal tax credit
  • Toyota quality & reliability may appeal to some
  • Insurance cost for me was considerably less
  • Overhead console with sunglass holder
  • Full array of knobs and buttons for climate control and audio

Toyota RAV4 Prime Interior (Courtesy of Toyota USA)

Apologies for any errors or omissions.  Tesla does remove and add features without notice and it is difficult to tell for sure, as they do not seem to provide a full list of features to make it easy to compare to other vehicles.

Anyway, the stars aligned, and I did end up buying a RAV4 Prime once it arrived in June.  I’m very happy with it so far.  I detailed some likes and dislikes here, after a couple months of ownership. Ultimately, I almost always drive less than 40 miles a day and have a garage to charge overnight, so the limited EV range was adequate in my situation.  Also, I’m pretty certain my wife would have hated the lack of a conventional gauge cluster, knobs, and buttons in the Model Y.  I liked the Y’s spartan, futuristic interior, but I know it isn’t for everyone.  The excellent handling from the stiffer suspension on the Model Y has a strong appeal as well.  Still, I’m driving the suburbs and not on the track, so for a compact SUV on Chicago area roads, the smoother ride of the RAV4 Prime has similar appeal. Some will prefer the more rugged and boxier SUV styling on the RAV4, but the more rounded hatchback-style of the Model Y is sleek and more aerodynamic.

Tesla Model Y (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)

I have no doubt that I’d really enjoy the Model Y, though likely for different reasons than I appreciate the RAV4 Prime.  One of each would be a very nice garage!  To be fair, I’ve only driven the Y on relatively short test drives and ridden along as a passenger, so most of my opinions are from a limited time in the vehicle and from internet research.  For example, the leading Consumer magazine currently ranks the RAV4 Prime tied for the highest score among hybrid/EV category vehicles, while the Model Y is one of the lowest.  They also praise the Model Y for handling, acceleration & braking, while they tout the RAV4 Prime for ride comfort & controls.  Obviously, some of these differences may be critical to one driver’s preferences, while others may not matter at all to a buyer with a different situation.

Photos courtesy of Carseat Media LLC, Tesla, Inc. and Toyota USA, updated 11/30/21 .


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  2. Heather September 12, 2021
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      • Heather September 20, 2021
  3. Peter J Harrison September 10, 2021
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