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Saturday, 08 April 2023


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I don't have personal experience, but everything I've read indicates the RAV4 hybrid has an excellent reliability track record. Toyota has been at the hybrid game a long time and likely has it figured out as well or better than most other automakers. The plug-in hybrids (Prime) are a little newer, and long-term reliability is still to be seen, although I like the idea and would be willing to buy one.

The biggest problem with Toyota right now is you can't actually buy anything because they have zero inventory (at least in my area). Plan to order, wait months, and pay a large premium over MSRP. Honda is the same in this part of the world (central California).

I'm personally likely headed in a different direction soon. I want something quick and fun to drive but still affordable. The Mazda CX-30 is catching my eye and may soon open my wallet. I drove the turbo version the other day, and it was great fun. Now, the big question... Soul Red, white, or that funky gray color with a hint of blue in it.

Get a Kia Sportage hybrid or the plug in kia sportage hybrid. Rav 4 is long in the tooth and according to my friemd who is in the electric and hybrid buisness Kia is just plain better now

The Prime can be plugged in and charged up, allowing pure (limited) electric running. The regular hybrid doesn’t.

The answer to which is best depends on the driving it will be used for and whether cheap electricity is available. The Prime will be batter if you live somewhere with emissions free zones (mainly big cities) and need to run pure electric mode. Also the prime will be a good choice if you do lots of short trips, which are within the all electric range, and you have access to cheap power, for example solar panels on your roof to keep the battery charged.

Otherwise stick to the regular hybrid. In fact if your main trip is a long freeway drive, you might even be better off with the standard RAV4. The hybrid is only a benefit if you get some opportunity to recover energy, for example stop-start driving around town, or perhaps somewhere hilly, where you can recover energy as you coast downhill.

They should have equivalent—and excellent—reliability, assuming she can actually find one to buy. But only get the Prime if it will be charged every night, so as to run most miles in electric mode. Otherwise, she’s just hauling around an expensive and heavier battery. That battery will need to be replaced someday, a cost which can be justified only by years of cheaper operating cost. Also, I imagine chargers for long routes aren’t plentiful up in your neck of the woods (and aren’t much help for plug-in hybrids on longer trips, anyway).

I'd go with the Prime. The battery on the hybrid will eventually give out and would likely need an expensive replacemnt.
The Prime is more old style engineering so your local blacksmith will be able to repair it.:-) Who knows where electrics are going, things move fast and change there. (Cameras, Computers )

[The Prime is a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) and the Hybrid is a HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) so the Prime is presumably the more battery-dependent of the two. Richard Nugent stated that the Prime must have charge in its battery to run, and I don't think that's true. But I don't really know. --Mike]

All depends on if her most frequent journeys are within the battery range.

I have a hybrid Mini which my teenager thinks is the only cool thing about me. I must admit i find it a very well designed car, but compared to a Lexus or Toyota, I dont know its longevity. My most faithful reliable car was a Lexus IS200 … but it was boring.

The problem with hybrids is the fuel tank is half the size of a normal car. One journey to go 60miles and back and half the tank is gone. However, mostly i potter around town and the shops and can go for 3 months without using any petrol.

PS as i get older, i prefer cars a little higher up to ease the knee when getting in and out. Mini Countryman was perfect for my mother compared to a full SUV as she was not so tall.

The Hybrid. If you run out of fuel/battery - you can dump in a gallon or two of gas & drive off. You can't dump in electricity. With the hybrid you can walk or hitch a ride to get gas, or have someone bring a can of gas to you.
Doubt you can have someone bring a load of electricity to you where you may be stranded.

If you haven't banned it, chatgpt4 has this (admittedly 2021-limited): In summary, the RAV4 Prime offers better performance, an all-electric driving range, and greater fuel efficiency but comes with a higher price tag compared to the RAV4 Hybrid. On the other hand, the RAV4 Hybrid is more affordable and still offers good fuel efficiency and performance, albeit without the all-electric range. Your choice between the two models will depend on your priorities, driving needs, and budget.

The first consideration is availability: both models are on serious backorder (particularly the Prime) of up to a year.

Second Toyota is a good choice for longevity, so either will do in that regard. The Corolla also comes in a hybrid version.

Next, the Prime must be charged using a 120 or 220 outlet, so one must be added to her parking spot (ideally a garage). The hybrid does not require charging as the gasoline engine recharges the battery (but there is a “plug-in hybrid” version that CAN be charged on house current, but does not require charging…it just gets better mileage).

Most important: the Prime MUST be recharged at home or at a charging station when the battery is depleted. No access to electricity, then car will not run. Range is also limited (30-50 miles per charge). The hybrid versions can run on their gas engine just like a regular car when their battery is depleted (but mileage suffers). So long trips are not a problem.

Also important for your neck of the woods: batteries lose a lot of efficiency in cold weather… especially in REALLY cold weather!

Two YouTube channels with excellent car reviews that I would recommend are: Motormouth and Alex on Autos.

Depends on what type of roads you will be driving on most.
If it’s mostly highway the hybrid will not benefit you.
If however it’s mostly city then hybrid will give good gas mileage.
I think the hybrid batteries last for 10 years.
If you plan on keeping the car longer then 10 years stay away from hybrid.

I'm not a "car guy" but I've been window shopping a lot lately and IMO this is not the time to invest in a ten-year car. For one thing street prices are still very high and supplies, especially for PHEVs like the Prime, are low. But more importantly the industry is in a sea-change transition, and infrastructure will follow (most people aren't taking that into account). She should consider leasing if possible or hang on for a year or two if possible. Just my .02

That said, if money's not an issue, I'd go for the Prime, assuming she can even find one to buy. The Prime has a lot more electric range if she plans to plug it in. If she's not going to plug it in, it's just a heavier, pricier hybrid, but given the state of things, it might be worth the premium just to have the option later.

I understand that your local grid isn't too reliable, which probably takes BEVs off the table.

That depends. How many miles per year? How long are typical trips? What is the budget?

"The best choice of PHEV battery capacity depends critically on the distance that the vehicle will be driven between charges. Our results suggest that for urban driving conditions and frequent charges every 10 miles or less, a low-capacity PHEV sized with an AER (all-electric range) of about 7 miles would be a robust choice for minimizing gasoline consumption, cost, and greenhouse gas emissions. For less frequent charging, every 20–100 miles, PHEVs release fewer GHGs, but HEVs are more cost effective."


Mike, Another VERY IMPORTANT consideration for Ms Wexler is the predominance of the electronic interface in any new auto. All cars use touch-screens for almost all operations: heat, ac, fan, radio, safety features, cellphone speaker, etc. (some models have NO buttons or knobs, just a screen). It will be overwhelming for her coming from a twenty-plus year-old car unless she is conversant with cell phone/tablet/iPad interface and usage. One of her important criteria for making a choice should be this consideration (some brands/models still use knobs for a few features which would help her transition).

If she is not that up to speed, then she will need a savvy advocate to accompany her when she goes car shopping (she must NOT depend on anyone in the dealership to help her in this regard). The learning curve can be quite daunting, so afterward, she’ll need some tutoring/training as well.

If her current car is reliable, maybe she should be encouraged to keep it for a while longer? You know what they say about making big decisions right after incurring a personal loss….

The RAV-4 is a Toyota, therefore almost certainly ultra reliable. Most of the Japanese and Korean equivalents would be the same. So, pick a dealer near her who you would trust and go.

I'm afraid I can't answer your question directly, Mike - here in Germany we have to "normal" RAV-4 (which is a "full hybrid" like ours, meaning it charges itself), and the RAV-4 plugin hybrid which goes farther electrically, but yes, you need a house or garage where you can plug it in as the word says.

Overall, sales figures for full hybrids are quite good here I think, and they're reliable. Older models like ours don't yet have a Li-Ion battery, and these batteries also need an annual service around here to keep the guarantee upon them for up to 10 years, but I think most owners don't report much about them because there isn't much to report, and they last a lifetime (of the car, which means, at leat 15-20 years until repair costs get higher than the car's remaining value).

So we bought a Yaris (full) Hybrid of the 2017 model range some 2 years ago, very happy with it - like with every Toyota before it.

Hope that helps?

We are retired and bought a RAV4 Hybrid last year and love it. We thought about getting a Prime but the wait list back then was months long. As it was we waited 2 months to get the one we have. I think supply is better now. The prime has additional battery that can be charged from the plugin and gives a short range on battery only. The prime helps if you do a lot of short trips and not much long driving. The engine will come on in the winter to provide heat and make sure it is warmed up if it is needed for extra power. This is our 3rd Toyota hybrid, we had a Hybrid Camry and Prius before this.

I suppose which is "best" would depend on the type of driving she does. The Prime can supposedly go about 40 miles on a charge, so she could conceivably use very little gasoline if most her driving is local. I'm not sure about the infrastructure she'd need for it -- does the Prime need a charging station for reasonable charging times, or can she just plug it into an outlet? That's an additional cost to consider.

There also may be a tax credit on the Prime, which is based on the battery size, though I'm not sure how that works.

I drove a Prius for about 5 years, and I really miss the 55 mpg it gave me. But I found myself taking it places where I really needed AWD and more ground clearance, so I'm now in a Subaru.

I found that the hybrid technology works very well, at least on vehicles designed for it from the ground up. Existing vehicles that have been reengineered to hybrid systems are often not particularly good values. For example, Subaru offered a hybrid model of the car I bought (the Crosstrek), but they wanted almost $10K more than the model I got. The difference in gas mileage wasn't significant enough to be worth the extra cost to me. Of course the price of gas makes a big difference in that calculation. The higher the price of gas, the quicker the cost of the hybrid systems pays itself off.

Standard hybrids are proven and seem more reliable at the moment. They never need to be plugged in and Toyotas 2.5 liter naturally aspirated engine has been in production for years and uses both port and direct injection to keep the intake ports and valves nice and clean. I've never been a fan of CVT's but if anyone can do it right it's probably Toyota and Aisin.

The tiny turbocharged 3 and 4 cylinder engines we see today paired with a CVT are meant to improve fleet fuel efficiency. I would imagine that these last gasp internal combustion engines are not meant to last forever. Turbos operate in a hostile environment and those tiny, unproven engines are always under pressure.

Im on my sixth RAV4, now a 'new shape, petrol hybrid. Great car, averages 50mpg (imperial) and you can lock up the centre diff, which is very useful as I drive on a lot of single track and farm roads. Better to have a petrol hybrid than plug-in.

My daughter had a Range Rover Evoque II, which,as a specialist rural surveyor, has to go places a car won't. Except that the software updates to do normal stuff, like go up a steep hill, etc., were difficult. So she boughta RAV4 hybrid, 'Black Edition' which she loves with the twin girls, 19 months, as she has so much space.And the RR was only about 30mpg, whereas the Rav4 is 50ish.

I live in a semi-rural area, no garage, plenty of rain, and have a simple-to-use charging station installed 50ft from my house. Easy peasy with some electricians’ help. It’s made by ClipperCreek and is on a 240V, 40amp circuit. I think, for those cars, a ‘refill’ using this type of Level 2 charging after a 20 mile trip would probably be less than 40 minutes.

My 2019 Honda Insight owners manual is 675 pages long. That doesn't even cover the car's Android Auto, which updates several times a year, changing the interface with nearly every update.

My 10 year older Ford Flex owners manual is only 378 pages long.

My Canon RP, the 'simplified' R system camera, has a users manual of 612 pages.

If I didn't have a smart phone to carry all these manuals I'd be up the creek. Thank God the phone's manual is only 180 pages long!

I'm not sure where Mr. Nugent is getting his information, but PHEVs, including the RAV4 Prime, will start without a charged battery and run as a hybrid. Even at "0" charge, the car will reserve more than enough power to start the gas engine. The gas engine can also be tasked to charge the battery, though that's a wasteful way to do it.

On the other hand, Toyota warns against driving the Prime without gas, though it admits it can be done.

However, it makes little sense to get a PHEV if you can't plug it in. They tend to cost significantly more than HEVs and get worse gas mileage without a charge.

From Toyota: "RAV4 Prime will continue to run as long as there is enough fuel in the gas tank, so you don’t have to worry about running out of battery power while on a longer trip." and "You should never drive RAV4 Prime without gasoline in the tank. While, under certain conditions, you may drive on electricity alone, the vehicle always requires gasoline to operate properly." https://www.toyota.com/rav4prime/faq/

I second Mr. Nugent on interfaces though. It's getting harder to find any sort of new car that doesn't use touch screens for at least some functions. Maybe they're in cahoots with camera designers.

Speaking of Toyota, it did a complete about-face on electric vehicles last week, ditching their current BEV platform for a new one and saying they'll be making 1.5 million EVs a year by 2026. They're way behind and the new CEO knows it.

Hey, Mike. You haven't posted my comment yet, so you may want to add this note. Perhaps because this is a photo forum rather than a car forum, some of the comments have misleading or completely incorrect information. For example, Richard Nugent's statement that the Prime must be charged or will not run is simply incorrect. And Speed's comment suggests that the Prime has an all electric range of 7-10 miles. Also not true. Toyota claims an all electric range of about 40 miles. Based on my experience with the Prius Prime, that's probably about right.

My experience is different than other commenters here. Owner of a ~ 2018 Rav-4 Hybrid (not the plug-in kind) - we're looking to trade it in and don't plan to buy another Toyota again. We bought it new, but it has not been reliable and the driving experience leaves a lot to be desired. It also has little torque (slow to accelerate) and is a real pain on the highways. It also gets relatively mediocre mileage on the highway. On the plus side, the Rav is a good city commuter car that gets decent mileage if you spend a lot of time in traffic, if that's your neighbor's situation. And it is pretty roomy inside - good for hauling stuff around as needed.

Our other car is a Subaru Crosstrek - and that one I'd recommend, but alas it is a gas-only engine.

We've had no problems charging our BMW i3 outside in the rainy West of England; 8 years, 7 months and counting. Some snow, too, but not as much as you get.
The driving profile you describe is near perfect for the plug-in version. Mrs Wexler would need someone to add a suitable and legal outlet, preferably with the cord fixed to the house. Drive in, plug in, lock car, forget until the next journey - it's that easy. Here in the UK, electricity is much more expensive than it was 18 months ago (war), but the running cost for this scenario would be attractive. It depends on the relative cost of electric power to gas where you are.
I would be advising her to avoid charging anywhere away from home, at least until she's very comfortable with the car. Just buy gas as usual.
A local friend emailed me yesterday, saying that her eldest and his wife faced a mindfield with ante-natal care in Washington DC. I think that neologism aptly describes public EV charging, at least here in the UK.

Some observations.

First off, Consumer Reports says that you don’t need to plug in the Prime cars for them to operate, which makes sense. Of course, if you never plug it in, then you wasted the extra cost and get to lug a bigger battery around.

Second, it’s not the case that the Prime only makes sense if you primarily make short trips. If you take a long trip, you’ll still get the 44 miles (Toyota claim) of battery power, and therefore don’t use gas for those 44 miles.

Third, Toyota says that the Prime cars will partially charge the battery just like a hybrid. It will only fully charge the battery when plugged in. So again, no reason to buy it if you won’t plug it in.

We installed a 240V outdoor outlet at our vacation home in Vermont (no garage), and it was pretty costly - north of $1,000. Costly enough that it will eat up lots of your potential gas savings, especially if you don’t drive very much to begin with. If you average 20 miles 5 days a week that’s 5,000 miles per year. @ 40mpg (what the RAV hybrid is rated at) that’s 125 gallons; even at $4.50 a gallon, that’s only $563/year - if you can manage all of the miles on the electric motor. And that’s on top of the premium you paid for the Prime, and what you pay for the electricity itself. So it’s hard to justify based on the energy cost savings.

Of course, one might place a significant value on the reduction in carbon emissions from the electric motor usage. Those 125 gallons of gas are about 3,000 pounds of CO2.

I checked the Toyota website and the RAV-4 looks just like my Honda CR-V. The climate controls are on the dash in knobs and buttons, but the radio only has a volume knob. If a new owner is unfamiliar with touchscreen interfaces, they will need someone to program the radio buttons on the touchscreen. Then there are 15+ more buttons on the steering wheel.
The plethora of buttons on the steering wheel will be a problem as they have symbols only.
I'm a long time techie, but it took fully a month before I managed to program the features I wanted on our 2012 Honda CR-V. I'll bet I customized more than 100 features, including the instrument panel readouts to get rid of all the distracting graphics.
The Honda instruction manual has 675 pages BTW, only 51 pages more than my Nikon Zfc (624 pages)!

Unless she wanted a plug-in hybrid (the Prime) I would just get the vanilla hybrid. Nothing to learn - just start it up and go.

I have to agree with the guy who suggested waiting a couple years. I’d look into buying something late model used just for short term.

Then see where this goes, both the costs and the technology!

Between non availability and high pricing, this is a terrible time to be in the car market.

Maybe pickup a 2-3 year old Honda CRV. Once the market settles down, either keep that if she likes it, or trade for what she has her heart set on instead.

Neither, because they're both Rav 4s. There are better alternatives. By chance I met a guy the other day who was driving his father-in-law's Rav 4 Hybrid. I'm not sure which variant it was. He filled me in on the car's shortcomings. "It's noisy, it feels cheap. And look at this..." He opened the rear door, adding, "That's as far as it goes." Barely opening past a 45 degree angle, the door stays in the way of accessing the child seats in back. The Rav 4 got tepid reviews from Edmunds.com and Consumer Reports. And it looks like a Star Wars action figure. I can't let that much ugly into my life!

None of that matters if you mind is set on Toyotas, your friend would be well advised to keep looking. I'd suggest the Ford Escape, which should be more economical and available than the faddish Rav 4.

As for the question of plug-ins vs. conventional hybrids, look at your driving habits. Do you make a lot of short trips within plug-in EV range? I do, and I see real benefits from my Ford C-Max Energi, a plug-in (PHEV) from 2017. It's recorded 60.4 gas mpg to date. Our other car is an otherwise identical hybrid, sans plug. It's been stick on 38 mpg for the six years we've owned it. Both have been utterly reliable with no significant repairs needed over 120K combined miles on the road.

If you can plug it in at home, and of you can afford today's high prices, the plug-in is a better choice. On the other hand, if you drive little, less than 6-8k miles or so a year, buy whatever you want. After all, you can't save more gas than you are using now.

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