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Highlander vs. Explorer Showdown: Which Mid-Size SUV Reigns Supreme?

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April 19, 2023
toyota highlander vs ford explorer comparison

In the highly competitive mid-size SUV market, the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer have long been popular contenders. Both vehicles offer a blend of style, performance, and family-friendly features, making the decision between the two a tough call for many buyers. In this head-to-head comparison, we’ll dive into the key similarities and differences between these two popular SUVs. From powertrains and fuel economy to interior comfort and technology, we’ll help you navigate the nuances to determine which mid-size SUV best suits your needs and preferences. So, buckle up and get ready for an exciting ride as we pit the Toyota Highlander vs. the Ford Explorer in a battle for mid-size SUV supremacy.

2023 Toyota Highlander – A Comfortable Yet Lackluster Mid-Size SUV

toyota highlander vs ford explorer

Price: $37,755 – $52,010+

MPG: 21-36 city / 28-35 highway

See listings near you with local market price data.

The 2023 Toyota Highlander offers a comfortable and versatile experience in the mid-size SUV segment. With eleven trims to choose from, including hybrid and non-hybrid powertrains, the Highlander has a range of options to suit different needs. Although it doesn’t necessarily stand out among fierce competition, the Highlander still delivers a pleasant interior, modern tech features, and a suite of standard driver-assistance features. How does the Toyota Highlander compare vs. the Ford Explorer? Cost of ownership data is a standout in this SUV match-up.

Why It’s Great

  • Wide range of trims and powertrain options
  • Standard suite of driver-assistance features
  • Nicely equipped interior
  • Available hybrid powertrain for fuel efficiency

For 2023, the Highlander’s standard V-6 has been replaced by a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 265 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy remains the same, with a combined rating of 24 mpg. Additionally, the Limited and Platinum trims receive a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and power-folding exterior mirrors, while the XLE and XSE trims get a hands-free power-operated rear liftgate.

Performance

Standard 265-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine

Available 243-hp hybrid powertrain

Eight-speed automatic transmission for non-hybrid models

Continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) for hybrid models

Features

Seating for seven or eight passengers

Cargo area: 16 ft³, 84.3 ft³ with seat area

8.0-inch or 12.3-inch infotainment display

Optional 11-speaker JBL audio system

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration

2023 Toyota Highlander cargo area

Safety and Driver-Assistance Features

The Highlander is known for superb crash test ratings. Check out the official ratings from the NHTSA here

  • Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  • Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross-traffic alert
  • Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist

Warranty and Maintenance Coverage

Toyota’s warranty is in line with the segment competitors. However, buyers get two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance.

  • Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
  • Hybrid-component warranty covers eight years or 100,000 miles
  • Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 25,000 miles

Total Cost of Ownership

2023 Toyota Highlander comparison

According to our CarEdge cost of ownership data, the average cost of owning a Toyota Highlander for 5 years is $31,828. This total will vary per vehicle, driver, and location. These ownership expenses include:

  • Depreciation
  • Insurance Premiums
  • Maintenance and Repairs
  • Loan Interest
  • Fuel Costs

Depreciation

The Toyota Highlander is forecast to depreciate 21% after 5 years and have a 5-year resale value of $36,496. This is for a top-of-the-line, fully equipped model. If you purchase a used Toyota Highlander that is 2 years old, then you could save $5,676 compared to buying new, and still have a relatively new model with plenty of useful life remaining. If you plan to keep this vehicle for 3 years then your total cost of depreciation would be $8,196.

Insurance

Auto insurance for a Toyota Highlander will cost about $1,752 per year. This beats the national average for popular SUV models by $473. Our car insurance comparison study assumes a 40-year-old good driver with full coverage and good credit that drives around 13,000 miles per year.

Fuel

A Toyota Highlander gets an average of 28 MPG, which will cost a total of $6,600 for fuel after 5 years, or about $1,320 annually. These estimates are based on $3.00/gallon, assuming 12,000 miles driven per year – 55% city and 45% highway. Fuel costs will be considerably higher with higher fuel prices.

Maintenance

A Toyota Highlander will cost about $5,771 for maintenance and repairs during its first 10 years of service. This beats the industry average for popular SUV models by $3,362. There is also a 16.08% chance that a Highlander will require a major repair during that time. This is 5.42% better than similar vehicles in this segment.

Interest

At 4.75% APR for a 72-month loan, a Toyota Highlander with an out-the-door price of $45,959 with a 20% down payment would cost $5,609 in total interest over the loan payoff period. See what financing rates you qualify for today. See what financing rates you qualify for.

Here’s a full breakdown of Toyota Highlander total cost of ownership, with additional data, calculators, and charts.

2023 Ford Explorer – A Stylish and Spacious SUV with a Sporty Edge

Highlander vs Explorer
2023 Ford Explorer

Price: $38,355 – $56,965+

MPG: 20-27 city / 26-28 highway

See listings near you with local market price data.

The 2023 Ford Explorer is a mid-size SUV with a sportier edge. It offers a range of trims and powertrain options, including a compelling hybrid model. Its sleek design and well-equipped interior make it an attractive choice for families seeking space and versatility. How does the Ford Explorer stack up versus the Toyota Highlander? We’ll find out.

Why It’s Great

  • Stylish design and spacious interior
  • Range of trims and powertrain options, including a hybrid model
  • Sporty driving dynamics
  • Well-equipped interior with modern tech features

For 2023, the Explorer lineup gains a new King Ranch trim, featuring unique exterior and interior design elements, and the off-road-oriented Timberline trim gets a slight power boost for its 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. Ford also made some equipment adjustments across the trims.

Performance

Standard 300-hp 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine

Available 365-hp 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 engine

Optional 318-hp hybrid powertrain

Ten-speed automatic transmission

Features

Seating for six or seven passengers

Cargo area: 18.2 ft³, 87.8 ft³ with seat area

8.0-inch or 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system

Optional 14-speaker B&O audio system

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration

2023 Ford Explorer cargo area

Safety and Driver-Assistance Features

The Ford Explorer is about as safe as mid-size SUVs get. Check out the most recent NHTSA crash test ratings here.

  • Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  • Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross-traffic alert
  • Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist

Warranty and Maintenance Coverage

The Explorer lacks the complimentary maintenance that the Highlander has. 

  • Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • No complimentary scheduled maintenance
  • Hybrid component warranty coverage lasts for 8 years or 100,000 miles

Total Cost of Ownership

2023 Ford Explorer interior

According to our CarEdge cost of ownership data, the average cost of owning a Ford Explorer for 5 years is $43,220. This total will vary per vehicle, driver, and location. These ownership expenses include:

  • Depreciation
  • Insurance Premiums
  • Maintenance and Repairs
  • Loan Interest
  • Fuel Costs

Depreciation

The Ford Explorer is forecast to depreciate 37% after 5 years and have a 5-year resale value of $30,870. Drive a new Ford Explorer off the lot, and it will lose over a quarter of its value in the first two years. If you purchase a used Ford Explorer that is 2 years old, then you could save $3,931 compared to buying new.

Insurance

Auto insurance for a Ford Explorer will cost about $1,795 per year. This beats the national average for popular SUV models by $430. Our car insurance comparison study assumes a 40-year-old good driver with full coverage and good credit that drives around 13,000 miles per year.

Fuel

For a Ford Explorer that gets an average of 23 MPG, it will cost a total of $7,810 for fuel after 5 years, or about $1,562 annually. These estimates are based on $3.00/gallon, assuming 12,000 miles driven per year – 55% city and 45% highway. Fuel costs will be considerably higher with higher fuel prices.

Maintenance

A Ford Explorer will cost about $5,771 for maintenance and repairs during its first 10 years of service. This beats the industry average for popular SUV models by $3,362. There is also a 16.08% chance that an Explorer will require a major repair during that time. This is 5.42% better than similar vehicles in this segment.

Interest

At 4.75% APR for a 72-month loan, a Ford Explorer with an out-the-door price of $49,432 with a 20% down payment would cost $5,941 in total interest over the loan payoff period. See what financing rates you qualify for today. See what financing rates you qualify for.

Here’s a full breakdown of Ford Explorer total cost of ownership, with additional data, calculators, and charts.

Toyota Highlander vs. Ford Explorer – Which Is Better?

When comparing the total cost of ownership between the Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander, the Toyota Highlander stands out as the better option. With an average 5-year cost of ownership of $31,828, the Highlander is considerably more affordable than the Ford Explorer, which has an average cost of $43,220.

The Highlander also has a lower depreciation rate of 21% after 5 years compared to the Explorer’s 37%, making it a better investment in terms of resale value. Additionally, the Highlander offers lower insurance costs at $1,752 per year, compared to the Explorer’s $1,795.

In terms of fuel efficiency, the Toyota Highlander offers a bit more savings with slightly better MPG. This difference translates into significant savings on fuel costs over time for those who drive a lot. Moreover, the Highlander has lower maintenance and repair costs during its first 10 years of service, further adding to its cost-effectiveness.

Taking all these factors into account, the Toyota Highlander emerges as the better choice for potential buyers seeking a balance between performance, features, and long-term value when compared to the Ford Explorer.

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