Budget Buys: Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V at $15k

When looking at the Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CRV, it can be tough to decide. Both are solid choices in the small crossover space. Read on to see how they compare.

Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V

netcarshow.com | hondanews.com
netcarshow.com | hondanews.com

If you’re in the market for a small crossover SUV that offers lots of cargo space, good fuel economy, and has a solid reputation for reliability, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V spring to the forefront. These two crossovers are stalwarts in the segment. The RAV4 practically invented the unibody crossover – basically an SUV built on a car platform – when it debuted in 1994. Honda wasn’t far behind, launching the CR-V in 1997. Since then, these two models have been popular choices with buyers even in today’s highly competitive market. We’ll see how used 2013 models compare which will stay within a $15,000 budget.

RAV4 vs CR-V Specs

Toyota RAV4

2013 Toyota RAV4 - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota RAV4 - pressroom.toyota.com

For the 2013 model year, Toyota introduced a newly refreshed RAV4 which got fresh styling. While the styling might not be to everyone’s taste, it gave the RAV4 more road presence. Under the hood, you’ll find a single engine option consisting of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. The engine came mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. Power is sent to the front wheels, while all-wheel drive was available as an option. The 2013 RAV4 returns good fuel economy with front-wheel drive models getting 23 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. The RAV4s equipped with all-wheel drive drop slightly to 22 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined. You can read more about the Toyota RAV4 by reading our overview here.

Honda CR-V

2013 Honda CR-V - netcarshow.com
2013 Honda CR-V - netcarshow.com

The 2013 Honda CR-V was still fresh off a recent redesign and benefits from slightly more conventional styling. The CR-V was also offered with one engine choice, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, developing 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. It was connected to a five-speed automatic transmission and sent its power to the front wheels as standard, with all-wheel drive as an option. The fuel economy in the CR-V matched the RAV4 with front-wheel drive CR-Vs achieving 23 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. The all-wheel drive models get 22 mpg in the city, 29 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 25 mpg.

Inside, the RAV4 and CR-V both seat five people with plenty of space, but official passenger volumes favor the RAV4 with an EPA passenger volume of 108.2 cubic feet compared to the Honda’s 104.1 cubic feet. The story continues for the cargo areas where the RAV4 has a small advantage, offering 73.0 cubic feet of cargo space compared to 70.9 cubic feet in the CR-V. The safety technology of this era doesn’t match today’s cars, but the Toyota was offered with blind-spot monitoring. If you want to learn more about new safety tech, you can check out our article here.

Driving & Performance

2013 Toyota RAV4 - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota RAV4 - pressroom.toyota.com

The story of similarities continues when you climb behind the wheel of either crossover. The power output of their engines is similar which means acceleration is essentially even. Neither crossover offers breathtaking acceleration, but both can get up to highways speeds without struggle. If you need to use your vehicle for light towing, both the CR-V and the RAV4 can handle up to 1,500 pounds. When the road gets twisty, both crossovers have confident handling characteristics, with easy steering and taut suspension. To help you eke out the best fuel economy possible, both crossovers offer ECO modes that decrease the responsiveness of the throttle to help encourage thriftier driving.

2013 Honda CR-V - hondanews.com
2013 Honda CR-V - hondanews.com

If you live somewhere that gets snow, you’ll want to make sure you find a model with all-wheel drive. While the front-wheel drive models hold their own, the all-wheel drive models give you extra reassurance when driving in snow by shuffling power to the wheels with grip. To learn about our choices for the best compact SUVs, read our comparison here.

Comfort & Interior

The RAV4 has seating for five people, and even your rear seat passengers will find the space offered perfectly adequate. The interior was offered with standard cloth trim while the upper trim models received a faux leather called Softex. Honda also offers cloth seating as standard, but has the option of real leather seats.

As mentioned, the interior volumes are very similar, with a slight nod toward the Toyota. Even the ergonomics and the interior layouts are similar. Both have clear, easy-to-read gauges, simple climate and infotainment controls, and good sightlines from behind the wheel. If you’re wondering how the RAV4 compares the its Korean rival, the Hyundai Tucson, read our review here.

Trims & Features

2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited - pressroom.toyota.com

Not to sound like a broken record, but the RAV4 and CR-V are similar when it comes to trims and features. The 2013 RAV4 was offered in three trim levels. The base LE trim got the standard across all trims 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed auto. Power was sent to the front wheels, and the LE trim had 17-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, air conditioning, ABS, and traction control. The next trim level, the XLE, upgraded to 17-inch aluminum wheels, premium cloth seat trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated exterior mirrors. The top Limited trim received 18-inch aluminum wheels, heated front seats, Softex seat trim, and driver lumbar support. You can read more about the RAV4 in our review here.

2013 Honda CR-V EX-L - hondanews.com
2013 Honda CR-V EX-L - hondanews.com

The 2013 Honda CR-V also offered just three trims. The LX trim came with the 2.4-liter engine connected to the five-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive was standard along with 16-inch steel wheels, manual air conditioning, cloth seats, and remote keyless entry. The EX trim received premium cloth seats, 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, and a power sunroof. At the top was the EX-L trim which benefitted from a dual-zone automatic climate control system, leather seats with heated front seats, and heated exterior mirrors.


Choosing between the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V is both an easy and difficult choice. The choice is easy because both vehicles are excellent choices, offering reliability, ample interior space, and good fuel economy. Plus, both the RAV4 and CR-V have historically retained their value better than their competitors. Where the choice becomes more difficult is choosing between the two. Both 2013 models can be found for under $15,000 with moderate mileage. Our ultimate suggestion is to drive both and choose the one that feels best to you. Either way, you’re getting a great crossover you can be proud of.

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Jim Carlson

For Jim Carlson, a passion for cars goes back to riding in his uncle's 1971 Corvette! That established a lifelong interest in cars that hasn't subsided. Whether he's detailing a car, going for a drive, or walking through a car show, Jim takes the time to appreciate what makes a car 'go.' He’s especially fond of sports cars. Jim's reviews and articles are filled with a broad knowledge about cars, but he also puts to use his fiscal expertise, thanks to a Bachelor's Degree in financial management from the University of Minnesota, Morris.

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