October 2, 2017

Toyota 4Runner vs. Highlander- Which One We Purchased and Why

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Stephen and I debated the Toyota 4Runner vs. Highlander for years and recently we finally purchased one of them. After talking with so many different people including friends, family, “car people”, and salesmen, I’ve learned this Toyota debate is very common. Maybe you’re going through that debate and this can help you make your decision. Maybe you’re not and you’re just here to hang out for a bit. Either way is cool with me! Thanks for stopping by!

About a month ago now, Stephen and I decided that it was time for me to get a new car. My little ol’ Volkswagen Golf named Duckie had been with me since my senior year of high school (I’m not going to say the number of years to prevent myself from feeling so old) and he was starting to age a bit, to put it nicely. My parents purchased Duckie from a family friend with cash and I would say it might’ve been one of their greatest purchases to date. That car got my brother and I safely around town during high school, back and forth to Virginia Tech dozens of times, and to my first “big girl job” in Kentucky before he ended up in the Phoenix desert. I’ll never forget the feeling that I had when we brought that ugly duckling home for the first time. It’s hard to put into words. A lot of other kids at our high school had beautiful new cars but I was on cloud 9 with my little Duckie.

This new car had been a long time coming. We’d been talking about it for nearly two years now. There were so many times that Stephen and I went to car dealerships to narrow down our search. Eventually, we decided our next car would be the Toyota 4Runner or Highlander.

The 4Runner has been my dream car since I was little. I grew up riding in my dad’s big trucks, learned how to drive in a truck, and always loved sitting up higher in trucks; I’m just a truck kind of girl. The 4Runner is built on a Tacoma chassis while the Highlander’s is basically the same as a Camry. The 4Runner fit the bill perfectly for me and considering Stephen also had a hatchback sedan, we knew we wanted something bigger. Stephen was always a fan of the Highlander because of its practicality but this girl was set on a truck.

Once we got serious about looking, it all happened really fast. We had our heart set on a used 3rd row seat 4Runner in Virginia but decided to look around the area to see if we could get a good deal for a new one. At the first dealership we went to I told the salesman I was interested in a 4Runner and somehow we ended up having a long conversation about the 4Runner versus Highlander. He himself had a decked out 4Runner so it was good to hear his perspective. He asked me if we plan on having kids which (surprise!) we do so he seriously suggested that I consider the Highlander. I was really hesitant at first because my heart was so set already but I really appreciated how candid and honest he was. These were some of his reasons why…

  • The Highlander is much more comfortable in the 3rd row than the 4Runner.
  • The Highlander has automatic lift gate for the trunk. This is not a big deal to me but he said it’s so much easier to get groceries/stroller out/etc.
  • The Highlander gets better gas mileage.
  • The Highlander has more cargo space (surprisingly).
  • The Highlander has more safety features than the 4Runner.
  • The Highlander has vents in the back and the 4Runner doesn’t. This is a big deal with carseats because air can’t reach the baby. He had to get a nozzle for the A/C to reach the carseat.

Our friends who have had their 4Runner for the past year agreed with the salesman, some of these “issues” seem minor but they can be deal breakers. It really is all about practicality. By the way, I want to mention that the limited 4Runner does have some of these things. However, that was a no go for our budget.

Stephen and I test drove both the 4Runner and Highlander and it was simple, even though they’re both great cars, I prefer the way the 4Runner drives over the Highlander. Was that really hard to predict though? I’m a truck girl, remember! We also sat in every seat of all of them, messed around with all of the bells and whistles, etc. I really loved both of them but Stephen was right, we needed to be more practical.

After visiting three dealerships and spending hours upon hours with salesmen, we were finally able to negotiate the price of the Highlander down to within our budget. The color, interior, and model was everything we wanted. We were also able to trade in Duckie for a decent amount which was great. We were proud of ourselves and celebrated by trying out a new taco truck.

We’ve already put 1,600 miles on the new Highlander from traveling, hauled big thrift finds home, and driven a car full of people (plus a car seat) around comfortably. It has treated us well so far and we’re really happy with it! I’m so excited to see where it takes us. Hopefully we have as many great memories with it as I did Duckie. I’m sure somewhere down the line the day will come when I get my 4Runner. It’s just not quite yet!

Now, the big question is… What do we name IT?! Comment below with your suggestions!

Oiselle Roga Dress (worth every single penny and it’s currently ON SALE!)

with joy
jordan jean


  1. […] Car we purchased: Toyota Highlander XLE (you can read about why we ultimately chose to purchase the Highlander here) […]

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