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Which Toyota RAV4 Is the Best: Gas, Hybrid, or Plug-in Hybrid?

Which version of the Toyota RAV4 is the best? Buyers of the RAV4 have three powertrain options: standard gas, conventional hybrid, and plug-in hybrid (known as the RAV4 Prime). Each has its strengths and weaknesses. 

The updated RAV4 was released in 2019 with just the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) powertrain. However, later in 2020, Toyota released the conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants. 

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Toyota RAV4

To find out which is the best, this three-way vehicle review will consist of three categories: specifications, pricing, and cost of ownership. There are many other categories to review a vehicle, however, these were chosen for the most objective review. Let’s begin.

Which Toyota RAV4 Is The Best: Gas, Hybrid, or Plug-in Hybrid?


To compare apples to apples, the comparison will review the XLE Premium trim for gas, XSE for the hybrid, and XSE for the PHEV. Each of these trims are the most comparable to each other. 

All of these trims feature AWD and have a cargo capacity of around 70 ft3 with the second row seats down. 

Here’s how they differ:

Vehicle VariantHorsepower (HP)Range (Mi)Efficiency (MPG)
Plug-in Hybrid (Prime)30242 (electric) +551 (gas)94


The gas RAV4 starts at $32,625, the hybrid starts at $35,625, and the PHEV starts at $42,600.

Vehicle VariantGross Purchase Price
PHEV (Prime)$42,600

However, only the plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime is eligible for federal, state, local municipality, air district, and electric utility company incentives. Through a myriad of tax credits, rebates, sales tax exemptions, and other non-monetary incentives electric cars are cheaper than what they are sold for at the dealer. These incentives typically only apply to new vehicles. 

Depending on your location, these incentives range from a few hundred dollars to over $13,000. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume only Federal incentives apply. In that case, the $7,500 Federal EV Tax Credit will be deducted from the RAV4 Prime net cost. 

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Toyota RAV4 Prime

Keep in mind that states like California, Oregon, and Massachusetts offer additional rebates that can lower the cost of the RAV4 Prime even further. 

If EV incentives research overwhelms you, feel free to work with us as your personal electric car consultant. We can do incentive research for a particular EV for your specific location to ensure you receive the most incentives available.

Again, at times these tax credits and rebates can amount to over $10,000. It would be a shame to leave any of that on the table. 

Vehicle VariantNet Purchase Price (After EV Tax Credit)
PHEV (Prime)$35,100

After considering the EV tax credit, the RAV4 Prime is cheaper than the Hybrid variant. The gas variant is still the cheapest to purchase. As aforementioned, additional state, utility, or jurisdiction rebates may lower the Prime net purchase cost even lower and possibly cheaper than the gas variant. 

Toyota RAV4 Interior

In any case, due to the much higher efficiency of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrain, these two variants will prove to be much more competitive to the gas model. Let’s move on.

Cost of Ownership:


In order to review each model in a fair way, we’ll use the third party resource Plugstar. Plugstar allows prospective shoppers to compare various vehicles including electric cars. Additionally, we’ll assume a $5,000 downpayment, 60 month loan term, and 4% interest rate.  

Five Year Cost of Ownership:

After considering the five-year total cost of ownership, the plug-in hybrid is the cheapest option followed by the hybrid. Interestingly, the standard RAV4 had the cheapest purchase price, yet is the most expensive when considering the true cost of ownership. 

Which Toyota RAV4 Is Best?
Toyota RAV4 Five Year Total Cost of Ownership

Looking at the numbers, the plug-in hybrid costs an estimated $41,674, the hybrid costs $44,514, and the gas costs $46,192 over five years. The reason why the plug-in hybrid cost the least is because it is much cheaper to operate than the gas and even the hybrid.

Which Toyota RAV4 Is the Best?

Hands down the RAV4 Prime is the best. Not only does the plug-in hybrid RAV4 have the most horsepower and total range, it also is the cheapest to own after five years. The total cost of ownership can be even less again with additional state or local EV rebates. 

Toyota RAV4 Prime
Toyota RAV4 Prime

Closing Thoughts:

Despite electric car batteries costing a premium, due to incentives and lower cost of operation, EVs are typically the better financial decision when reviewing the total cost of ownership. For those who fear about range anxiety and where to charge, the plug-in hybrid is a great stepping stone into the world of electric cars.

Personally, my wife and I got a plug-in hybrid for that very same reason. Typical weekday and weekend trips are almost exclusively covered on the electric range. Only during long trips do we use the gas range extender. When we do, we do not need to worry about finding a place to charge since the car automatically “shifts” into hybrid mode. 

If you are interested in the plug-in hybrid Toyota RAV4 Prime or any other EV, check out the complete list of available and future electric cars here. The list provides key vehicle information such as price, range, segment, comparable gas car, and more. Plus, it is available as a PDF by signing up to the email list. Subscribers also receive the monthly newsletter to stay up to date with the latest articles. 

If you are ready to switch to electric cars but are just confused by all the new terms or intimated by all of the incentives programs, schedule a FREE consultation with us as your personal electric car consultant. We’ll help you find the best EV for you as well as identify all of the applicable incentives to help you save the most. Get started today by scheduling your FREE consultation here.