Subaru Outback or Toyota Rav4

I’m really bad at making decisions and I need some new wheels after my old Honda has become so rusty it won’t pass inspection. I’ve narrowed my choices down to the 2015 Outback or the 2015 Toyota Rav 4, I live in the cradle of the Subaru world, northern Vermont, where the winters are pretty horrendous. About 20% of the cars on the roads here are Subarus for good reason because they handle like no other in the ice and snow so I’m attracted to that aspect. Yet, Subaru’s have had a lot of reliability issues lately with bad head gaskets and piston rings. I owned a 93 Subaru Legacy and it was a total piece of junk and in the shop more than on the road.

I think the RAV4 AWD might be a good compromise - not as good in bad weather yet more reliable. I tend to keep a car a long time - 12 to 15 years - so I’m in this for the long haul.

Just wanted to get any thoughts on this dilemma.


The first thing is that, while you aren’t exactly comparing apples to oranges, you are at least comparing tangerines to oranges.

What am I talking about?
I am referring to the fact that these two vehicles are in two different size classes.

If you want to compare things on a level playing field–so to speak–you should either be comparing a Rav-4 to a Forester, or you should be comparing an Outback to a Highlander or a Venza.

IMHO, you couldn’t go wrong with either one, as they are both extremely reliable.
Statistically, the Rav would have an edge, reliability-wise to either an Outback or a Forester.
However, I can tell you that my friend’s very well-maintained Rav has not been as reliable as either of my Outbacks. Anecdotal evidence surely does not trump a statistical study, but I thought that I would mention my own experiences.

I think that you should buy a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide, as that will give you a wealth of information on all of these cars. I can tell you that the Outback is now their top-rated AWD wagon, and that the Forester is now their top-rated small SUV, but I think that being able to read all of the details in that publication would be much more helpful to you than anybody’s comments on this site would be.

Get the Rav 4. I believe it has better fuel economy.

Go test drive both vehicles and buy the one you like the most. They’re both good vehicles and will serve you well.

Personally, I happen to like the Rav4.

The RAV 4 will cost you less in upkeep over the long run. It will have better fuel economy as well, so it would be my choice, provided both cars pass muster by a competent mechanic.

“provided both cars pass muster by a competent mechanic.”

Because the OP specified 2015 models, I believe that he is talking about new cars, not used ones.

“Get the Rav 4. I believe it has better fuel economy.”
“The RAV 4 will cost you less in upkeep over the long run. It will have better fuel economy as well.”

As I stated previously, if the OP is going to compare equivalent vehicles, he should be comparing a Rav-4 with a Forester. Obviously if he is going to compare it to a heavier vehicle in a larger size class, such as an Outback, then the mileage comparisons are not realistic.

If he was to look at the Rav’s real competitor–the Forester–the numbers are actually in the Forester’s favor:
Rav 4–18 mpg city/31 mpg highway
Forester–18 mpg city/35 mpg highway

And, CR’s “real world” overall gas mileage with these cars was as follows:
Rav 4–24 mpg
Forester–26 mpg

In any event, the OP should drive them both and buy what he likes, rather than what any of us recommend, but I thought that it would be good to give him some reality on the class of vehicle to which he should be comparing the Rav 4.

Maintenance will cost you a lot more than repairs and these cars should be about equal over the first 5 years of ownership. The Outback uses a CVT and the RAV-4 a conventional 6-speed automatic if it makes a difference to you.

Given the prior Subaru experience you relate, why risk it? I’d go with the RAV 4. Get the 4WD version only if you absolutely need the improved traction. Otherwise avoid 4WD b/c of worse mpg and repair and maintenance costs. I think a 2WD RAV 4 with a manual transmission would be a pretty good choice. Controlling traction on snow covered roads tends to be a little better with manual transmissions than automatics for some reason.