Toyota Hybrid or Tesla – Which One To Buy

Toyota has been making hybrids since 1997. Even though Tesla is a two-decade company, it has made mass-produced vehicles since 2017. 

This article would help potential car buyers to make an objective decision about whether to buy a Tesla or Toyota Hybrid.

Here is the bottom line:

  • Toyota Hybrid and Tesla cost about the same to drive 150,000 miles.
  • Buy Tesla if you want a pure electric vehicle with a better charging network. But these vehicles are expensive.
  • Buy Tesla if you can put up with Tesla’s Service Center (TSC) Issues. If you live far from a TSC, avoiding Tesla is better.   
  • If you want a reliable, economical, and excellent gas mileage car, buy a Toyota Hybrid.
  • If the ElectrifyAmerica charging network is okay, Lucid, Rivian, Porsche, and Ford’s EV are also competitive with Tesla cars.

Toyota Hybrid vs. Tesla Purchase Price:

[Table 1] The following table shows the MSRP of Toyota Hybrids. The price excludes delivery, processing, handling, dealer and distributor fees.

Toyota Hybrid ModelsMSRP
Prius Prime$28,220
Prius$24,625
Corolla Hybrid $23,750
Camry Hybrid$27,480
Avalon Hybrid$37,350
Highlander Hybrid – Most Expensive$39,055
RAV4 Hybrid$29,075
RAV4 Prime$39,800
Venza$32,890
Sienna Hybrid$34,710

We want to point out that these are introductory prices. Most dealers will add some addons to make their profit margin wider. Some dealers even add markup. Thus the actual price would be $2,000 to $3,000 higher. 

[Table 2] The following table shows the MSRP of Tesla vehicles as of writing this article. The price excludes delivery, processing, handling fees.

Tesla ModelsPrice
Model 3 RWD – Cheapest$46,990 (267 miles range)
Model 3 Long Range$54,490 (334 miles)
Model 3 Performance$61,990 (315 miles)
Model Y Long Range$62,990 (318 miles)
Model Y Performance$67,990 (303 miles)
Model S$99,990 (375 miles)
Model S Plaid$135,990 (348 miles)
Model X$114,990 (332 miles)
Model X Plaid$138,990 (311 miles)

As we can see from Table 1 and Table 2, the most expensive Toyota Hybrid is still cheaper than the cheapest Tesla Model 3, which has a range of 267 miles. Therefore, Toyota Hybrid is a better choice than Tesla for a frugal buyer. 

Refueling or Recharging Cost:

The fuel cost to drive a Toyota Hybrid is comparable to Tesla. In fact, Hybrid will get better fuel efficiency than Tesla vehicles because these EVs get poor mileage on the highway. 

[Table 3] The following table shows the total refueling cost to travel 150,000 miles on different Toyota Hybrids at $4/gallon. 

Here’s the calculation model. The Prius Prime gets 54mpg. To travel 150,000 miles we need 150,000 / 54 = 2,778 gallon gasoline. At $4/gallon, total cost is $4 x 2778 = $11,112. 

Toyota Hybrid ModelsFuel Cost (max)
Prius Prime$11,112 (54mpg)
Prius$11,320 (58mpg)
Corolla Hybrid$11,538 (52mpg)
Camry Hybrid$11,764 (51mpg)
Avalon Hybrid$13,953 (43mpg)
Highlander Hybrid$17,143 (35mpg)
RAV4 Hybrid$15,789 (38mpg)
RAV4 Prime$15,789 (38mpg)
Venza$16,216 (37mpg)
Sienna Hybrid$16,667 (36mpg)

[Table 4] Electricity prices fluctuate depending on location, state, and season. The following table shows the total recharging cost to travel 150,000 miles on different Tesla at $0.30/kWh. We used Tesla’s estimate provided by https://www.fueleconomy.gov/ on 2022 Models.

Here’s the calculation model. According to EPA (https://www.fueleconomy.gov/ ), The 2022 Model 3 RWD has an MPGe of 138-city, 126-Highway with 25 kWh/100 miles. The Model 3 RWD has a range of 267 miles. So, to travel 150,000 miles at 25 kWh/100 miles rate, we need (25 x 150,000) / 100 = 37,500 kW electricity. At $0.30/kW, cost comes to 37,500 kW x $0.30/kW = $11,250. It’s a minimum cost because Tesla gets less mileage than advertised on the highway. 

Tesla ModelsRecharging Cost (Least)
Model 3 RWD$11,250 (25kWh/100miles) 
Model 3 Long Range$11,700 (26kWh/100miles)
Model 3 Performance$13,500 (30kWh/100miles)
Model Y Long Range$12,600 (28kWh/100miles)
Model Y Performance$13,500 (30kWh/100miles)
Model S$12,600 ((28kWh/100miles)
Model S Plaid$14,850 (33kWh/100miles)
Model X$14,850 (33kWh/100miles)
Model X Plaid$16,650 (37kWh/100miles)

Toyota Hybrid Service and Parts:

Toyota makes one of the most reliable cars in the industry. A Toyota Hybrid will go more than 100,000 miles without a single issue and last for more than 15 years, 300,000 miles with proper maintenance.

Toyota is one of the most pro DIY friendly companies. They openly sell genuine Toyota parts at https://parts.toyota.com/. Anyone can work on a Toyota Hybrid, and all the spare parts are readily available not only from Toyota but also in the after-market.

Tesla Service Issues:

Similar to John Deere, Apple; Tesla is an anti-repair company. It means Tesla doesn’t allow third-party auto shops to work on Tesla cars. Every repair — minor to major — must be performed at a Tesla Service Center (TSC). Furthermore, the collision repairs must be performed at a Tesla-certified auto body repair shop. Tesla doesn’t publish any repair manuals or sell spare parts to independent auto repair shops. 

Since the inauguration of Model 3, the number of Tesla vehicles has increased rapidly, but the number of Tesla Service Centers hasn’t.

In 2021 alone, Tesla sold more than 1 million vehicles, and as days go by, the total number of cars in the Tesla fleet will multiply rapidly. But the number of Service Centers hasn’t increased with the vehicle sales.

Currently, the wait time to receive a Tesla Service appointment is over a month, which will deteriorate over time as more Tesla gets sold. Furthermore, Tesla routinely reschedules and cancels service appointments. A reschedule means another 2-3 weeks wait time.

Collision repair is another problem. The collision repair times are insane. Typically, repairing a Tesla after a collision takes 2-3 months. Sometimes, it could be 4-5 months. It’s primarily because all the spare parts are shipped from Tesla, and they take a long time to send those.

For the last 5 years, Tesla Service has been a disaster. 

There are owners who have had good Tesla service experience. But those are the minority group probably in Californian’s bay area. 

It’s not uncommon to see that some famous people call out Elon Musk on Twitter about their service issues, and Elon would reply, “looking into it,” to fix the famous person’s Tesla. Tesla enthusiasts would say that no other car company CEO engages with customers as Elon does. Yet, in reality, it proves how poor Tesla Service is that one needs to attract the attention of Elon Musk to fix his car.

Toyota Hybrid vs. Tesla Reliability and Maintenance:

Many exaggerate Hybrid vehicle maintenance. A Toyota Hybrid is virtually maintenance-free.

Toyota Hybrid uses a simplified design, and there’s no drive chain, starter motor, alternator, V-Belt, cones, drums, etc. Thus the transmission and engine last a long time. Furthermore, every Toyota Hybrid is an electronic motor-driven AWD. Hence Hybrids are even better than non-Hybrid Toyotas’.

Here is the service schedule unique to Toyota Hybrid:

  • Engine oil changes every 10,000 miles or 6 months.
  • Transmission and rear differential oil change every 60,000 miles or 5 years.
  • Spark Plug changes every 120,000 miles.

The following maintenance list applies both for Tesla and Toyota Hybrid vehicles:

  • Coolant: For Tesla, high voltage battery and inverter coolant change. For Toyota Hybrid, engine and inverter coolant replacement.
  • Brake Fluid Change if the moisture content in brake fluid exceeds 3%.
  • Brake pads and rotors replacement if it wears too much. Both the Tesla and Toyota Hybrid use regenerative braking technology. It’s reported that these brake pads and rotors can last up to 100,000 miles.
  • For Tesla, cabin air filter replacement. For Toyota Hybrid, engine and cabin air filter replacement and Hybrid battery filter cleaning. The engine air filter costs only $15-20. 
  • Tire rotation every 5,000 miles.
  • Washer fluid refilling.
  • Wiper blades change if cracked or damaged.
  • 12V battery replacement every 3 years.

On paper, a Toyota Hybrid needs 3 extra maintenance than a Tesla. But from real-world experience from actual owners, Toyota Hybrids are way more reliable than Teslas are.  

Moreover, anyone, even an owner, can work on their Toyota Hybrid and do all the maintenance at home. There are thousands of available tutorials on YouTube.

In contrast, a Tesla must be serviced in a Tesla Service Center. No one, even the owner, is allowed to work on their Tesla. Parts, service manuals, and tutorials are all unavailable.

Every state has a handful of Tesla Service Centers (TSC). Here is the official map of the available TSC. The number of TSCs is infuriatingly low.

Therefore, maintenance on Tesla is more of a hassle than on Toyota Hybrids’.

High Voltage Battery Warranty and Cost:

Every Toyota Hybrid high voltage (traction control) battery has a 10 Years 150,000 miles warranty. 

Tesla Model S and Model X have an 8 Year 150,000 miles warranty. And the Model 3 and Model Y have a warranty for 8 Years 120,000 miles.

However, the Toyota Hybrid battery lasts longer and is also cheaper to replace. Numerous reports have shown that the Toyota Hybrid battery routinely exceeds 15 years. A Toyota Hybrid battery costs $4,000 to replace if it’s required. 

On the contrary, the cost to replace a Tesla High Voltage battery ranges from $16,000 to $22,000.

Insurance:

Vehicle insurance premiums depend on various factors such as drivers, driving record, vehicle location, vehicle price, make and model, miles driven in a year, etc. 

However, on average, Toyota Hybrids are cheaper to insure than a Tesla, as Tesla takes a long time to repair, and a simple repair costs tens of thousands of dollars.

A few years ago, Tesla started their insurance business. It’s not because Tesla wants to expand its service but because it’s generally too expensive to insure a Tesla vehicle. 

Tesla Self Driving vs. OpenPilot for Toyota Hybrid:

One of the selling features of Tesla is self-driving. But it costs $12,000 as of writing this article, and not every purchaser is allowed to access all the features that Tesla self-driving software offers.

The Tesla self-driving (FSD) software is not complete yet; it’s still in beta version. Only a handful of owners with high safety scores are admitted into this program. 

Furthermore, the Tesla FSD is not transferable. It’s tied to the vehicle for which the software was purchased. 

George Hotz is the founder of Comma AI. Before hiring Andrej Karpathy as the AI director of Tesla, Elon Musk tried to hire George Hotz for their Self-driving software department. 

Toyota Hybrid owners can also make their vehicle self-drivable by Comma AI’s Comma Hardware and OpenPilot software. Open Pilot works on every Toyota Hybrid vehicle. Compared to the Tesla FSD, it’s cheaper but has almost all the highway driving functionality. 

Therefore, Tesla FSD and OpenPilot are similar in publicly available self-driving features. But the OpenPilot is a way more economical choice than Tesla’s FSD. Even though FSD has a monthly subscription service, Comma’s solution is still cheaper.

Resale Value:

Tesla holds better resale value than a Toyota Hybrid on the used car market. 

Conclusion:

Many buyers want to purchase a Tesla, not an EV. We say it’s your money, your decision. However, we highly encourage every buyer to take some time before spending that hard-earned money and do more research between Toyota Hybrid and Tesla.