New York Auto Show 2024: here’s the one vehicle I'd buy over all EVs

Toyota RAV4 Prime being driven outdoors.
(Image credit: Toyota)

There’s no denying how the best electric cars generate the most interest among consumers, but despite seeing a handful of new EVs slated to come out this year, my favorite vehicle at the New York Auto Show 2024 (NYIAS) wasn’t even an all-electric model. It was the 2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid SUV that blends the gasoline efficiency of a hybrid vehicle, but can tap into its all-electric power for a range up to 42 miles.

I’ve been spoiled by the potential long-term savings that EVs promise, like the Ford F150 Lightning that I test drove over a weekend. Going through the New York Auto Show also opened my eyes to the broader variety of vehicles we’re getting now with electric cars — like the performance styling of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N or the crossover coupe design of the Polestar 4. However, I still have a lot of concerns about buying an all-electric vehicle.

That’s why I think that the Toyota RAV4 Prime is a more practical option for me, along with those who are thinking about all-electric models — but aren’t convinced yet that all-electric is the be-all and end-all solution. Then there are still the millions of drivers who still drive gasoline powered vehicles, including myself. That’s why I think the RAV4 Prime has what it takes to dip peoples’ toes into the benefits of EVs.

The potential of never having to pay for gas again

Closeup of Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in charger.

(Image credit: Toyota)

After speaking with family members, friends, and colleagues who own an EV, the one thing I often hear from them is the long term savings they’re getting by charging at home. That’s because filling up their EVs is nowhere as expensive as doing it with a gas-powered vehicle. Since the Toyota RAV4 Prime features an advanced gas/electric powertrain, you can theoretically rely on its all-electric power and never have to fill up on gas again.

Its 42 miles of EPA-estimated all-electric driving range pales in comparison to the 250+ mile range I see in other fully electric vehicles, but if your daily commute is less than that, I think it’s a huge incentive to rely on. I’m told it takes about 12 hours to fully charge the RAV4 Prime’s 18.1 kWh battery pack on a standard 120V outlet you have at home. That sounds like an awful long time, but if you’re getting home by 6:00 p.m. and leaving for your commute the following morning around 7:00 a.m., you’ll have a fully charged battery at your disposal.

Better for long distance traveling

2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime parked outside building.

(Image credit: Toyota)

Another reason why the RAV4 Prime is a more compelling option to bridge the gap between gas and all-electric is that it’s more convenient for long range traveling. More often than not, EV drivers have to be mindful about how much charge is left in the battery because it costs a lot more to use a charging station rather than doing it at home.

If you’re planning to do long distance driving, like a family road trip or vacation across the country, it’s more convenient to drive a plug-in hybrid like the RAV4 Prime because you won’t have to make as many (and longer) pitstops than an all-electric vehicle. For an SUV, the RAV4 Prime offers a fuel economy of 40 mpg city and 36 mpg highway — which easily beats what I get from my sedan.

Many new EV drivers get a rude awakening when they encounter their first long range trip because there are fewer charging stations nationwide,  so part of the challenge is for them to plan their route based on those charging station locations.

Cheaper than the vast majority of EVs

Toyota RAV4 Prime against dark background showing off rear lights.

(Image credit: Toyota)

And the last reason why I’m more likely to buy a plug-in hybrid than an all-electric one is because they’re much more affordable. On average, you’re looking at around $50,000 for an EV nowadays. Thankfully you have affordable options like the Tesla Model 3 that’s helping to drive the price down, but even the Ford F150 Lightning Lariat Edition I test drove costs in excess of $69,000.

There’s also the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N for instance, which starts at $66,000. It shows that EVs by and large are still expensive to own, even though tax rebates can alleviate some of that burden. Either way, the vast majority of them are more than double what I paid for my sedan.

Meanwhile, the 2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime starts at a slightly more temperate cost of $43,000. It doesn’t break the bank like these other $50,000+ priced EVs, so I think it serves as a bridge between traditional gas-powered vehicles and all-electric ones. Luckily you have additional options if the RAV4 Prime is still too much for your liking — such as the 2024 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid that starts at $34,000 or 2024 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid for $$38,000.

What I’m ultimately getting at here is that these plug-in hybrids offer the best of both worlds by giving drivers who are unwilling to invest fully in an EV by giving them a small taste of what they hype is all about.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.

  • Fact Checks
    Fact ✓ #1: Tesla Model Y is CHEAPER than RAV4. Tesla Model Y starts at $36,490 (after $7,500 point of sale tax credit), according to ill-informed author the RAV4 is much more expensive at $43,000 😂
    Fact ✓ #2: Plug-in gas engines are very inefficient and wasteful of batteries with only 2 miles of range per kWh. EVs get 4-5 miles per kWh.
    Fact ✓ #3: Tesla has plenty of Superchargers all over the world. Nobody with a Tesla has any limits on traveling.
  • jbc77
    Fact Checks said:
    Fact ✓ #1: Tesla Model Y is CHEAPER than RAV4. Tesla Model Y starts at $36,490 (after $7,500 point of sale tax credit), according to ill-informed author the RAV4 is much more expensive at $43,000 😂
    Fact ✓ #2: Plug-in gas engines are very inefficient and wasteful of batteries with only 2 miles of range per kWh. EVs get 4-5 miles per kWh.
    Fact ✓ #3: Tesla has plenty of Superchargers all over the world. Nobody with a Tesla has any limits on traveling.
    Your “fact no. 3” is in fact wrong. They a trio over a large rural expanse or even through smaller cities without an interstate highway, not in California. It’s an EV (including Tesla) charging desert.
  • CinDenver
    As a RAV4 Prime owner I can confirm that your points about the car are correct and even slightly understated. I’m getting a 48 mile range with EV mode. I charge the vehicle fully in about 8.5 hours in my garage using the 120v charger that came with the vehicle. Living in Colorado, and going up to the mountains regularly, I have used the hybrid mode which is primarily the gas engine. It’s been fine. The range with gas is 540 miles. I think you’d have to be nuts to try to do that drive in the winter in a Tesla or any EV only vehicle because of the risk of a storm or five hour traffic jam on I-70. At times you get stuck not moving or behind a row of 3 plows doing 25 mph with no way to pass them. The gas engine gives me the security I need to make the drive without worry. Same thing for going to a trailhead for a 14er - it can take longer and be more challenging than expected and you do not want to get stuck where there is no cell service.
    Overall the vehicle has been great. I do wish it had a few more amenities, and the visibility is okay, not awesome. I’d give the vehicle an 8.7 out of ten, all around.
  • R3dB3ast1300
    Fact ✓ Have fun waiting for your Tesla to charge while I continue in my trip for as long as I want.

    And let's not forget issues of shorten battery life during hot summers and cold winters.

    What is a fact is that gas infrastructure already exists and it only makes sense to use hybrids that sip gas and charge their batteries on the fly.

    Hybridizing all vehicles could break our foreign oil independence and use the existing infrastructure we already have in place.

    Hybrids are the only design that currently makes sense. I have no problem with full EVs, buy one if you want to - It's good to have options. I have a problem with them being mandated across the board.