By on February 15, 2018

A guest showed up at the apartment yesterday, ready and prepared for when things got hot. No, stop thinking that, you weirdos — it was my landlord. He was replacing my smoke detectors. God.

Nice guy, I should point out, certainly the best landlord I’ve ever had. Anyway, as tends to happen with this fellow, we got to talking about cars. Also per the norm, he found himself on the fence regarding a purchasing dilemma — one that’s no doubt familiar to many readers. 

Like many of us, my landlord has an aging parent who wants to ditch a reliable but increasingly decrepit sedan and enter the crossover club. Everyone’s doing it. There’s a good reason why passenger car sales drop each year, and this is but one example.

Without asking his father’s price range, I suggested he replace his 2003 Volvo S60 with a Toyota RAV4. While the current generation’s body doesn’t do it for me (does any crossover do it for me?), the rock-solid powertrain, good resale value, and supremely comfortable front seats make it an obvious top pick.

Oh good, he said, I looked at one. It was a Limited model, apparently, decked out in Toyota’s finest, but it also served as a dealer loaner for a span of about 4,500 miles. I have to assume it was a well-used 2018 model, as the dealer apparently wanted $42,000CAD for it. Not having all the time in the world in the middle of the day, I didn’t stop to check Toyota Canada’s website for a firm MSRP on that model, but his quoted price seemed steep. Turns out it is. A loaded Limited model with optional Platinum package, after delivery, retails for $41,902. Yikes.

Meanwhile, my landlord, channeling his father, had discovered an opportunity: Acura Canada has $5,000 in manufacturer cash waiting for anyone willing to drive off in a new RDX. A similar-sized crossover, but a premium marque. Something tells me his Volvo-driving father rates highly the status a badge can bring; certainly no amount of options turns a RAV4 into a Lexus, at least not on the outside.

A loaded 2018 RDX Elite retails in the Great White North for just over $49,000. With $5,000 on the hood, that brings the MSRP to roughly $44,400 after delivery and fees. A pretty narrow gap between it and the RAV4.

Having not driven an RDX in ages, I can only remember when the existing (refreshed) generation was new. Good, ballsy power from Honda’s trusty 3.5-liter V6 — about 100 ponies more than the RAV4’s perfectly decent 2.5-liter — and a very soft suspension are the two things I recall from that long-ago drive. That V6 isn’t the thriftiest thing, though, and it demands premium unleaded. As this is Canada, 91 octane gas often warrants an extra 15 cents a liter, with premium prices currently hanging around $1.35 a liter (that’s over five bucks a gallon, Americans.)

While I didn’t ask my landlord just how much leeway his father was allowing himself with this car purchase, nor how fixed his income is, I can’t say if a hefty gasoline budget would hurt him in the pocketbook. It’s also possible he won’t put all that many miles on it, making this a non-issue.

I could tell my landlord was leaning towards the RDX, but wasn’t deep-sixing the idea of a loaded RAV4 just yet. At that price, however, who wouldn’t take the Acura? Strangely, the Toyota dealer wasn’t budging on the price of this pricey loaner, and Toyota Canada isn’t offering the kind of incentives Acura has on hand. (There’s $1,000 off for cash buyers right now, nothing more.)

My advice to my landlord was to go back to the Toyota dealer and, not having anything to lose except an overpriced loaner, play hardball. Just for fun, to see how far the salesman budges. Naturally, the price of the RDX will come up as a bargaining chip during this showroom conversation, and I sort of wish I could be there to see it. My father once left a Toyota showroom and bought a Jeep (then two more) after an unpleasant experience with a salesman, possibly at that same dealer, so it seems there’s some real stubbornness going on there.

At this point, I fully expect to hear that my landlord’s father picked up a loaded RDX. It’s winter, and with a next-generation 2019 model on the way, his timing might prove opportune. I imagine our readers have better ideas on how to spend $40,000CAD earmarked for a crossover, and there’s nothing stopping them from weighing in in the comments section.

Let’s have it, actually. If given a choice between only these two vehicles, how low would that Toyota dealer have to go? Or is my landlord simply looking for crossover love in all the wrong dealerships?

[Images: Toyota, Acura]

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57 Comments on “A Landlord’s Conundrum: Loaded Lesser Model, or Discounted Premium?...”

  • avatar

    I couldn’t read through all the details, but if the prices of a basic car and a loaded car are basically the same, the loaded one will have a lot more doohickeys to fail. And there is at least a chance that the smaller number of failure-prone doohickeys on the less-loaded car might be of somewhat higher quality. You’re always better off buying a simple product of higher quality than spending the same amount of money for goop. Especially in this day and age when most of the added options are failure-prone electronic gewgaws.

    • 0 avatar


      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Yeah my head just exploded too.

        There must really be a run on the RAV-4 up there. Here in Houston it’s $3-5k off every day. Personally I’d do the RDX because you won’t see yourself around every corner. Or I’d seriously consider the Rogue – solid Japan-built, $4-6k off any given day.

        • 0 avatar

          “solid Japan-built,”

          Unfortunately these days that phrase is becoming less and less relevant as the Japanese cost-cut as much as anyone else. I was appalled at the build quality issues on a J-VIN ’09 Forester (water leaks, prematurely rusted brake lines, prematurely failing wheel bearings), and those vaunted Japan-built Nissan CVTs aren’t exactly “solid” historically. I say this with a heavy heart, as there was indeed an era of cars when the J-VIN really meant something.

  • avatar

    This would be a different question if we were talking loaded model from a lesser brand versus a stripper from a premium marque, but as written in the article, it’s a loaded used car advertised within spitting distance of a similarly loaded premium car. Go for the Acura; it’s new and nicer inside.

  • avatar

    RDX for only $3k more than a RAV4? No-brainer.

  • avatar

    Acura of course.

    In this area leftover Lacrosse and Impala with similar features are being advertised for a similar price. However while the Impala’s price represents a $6K to $7K cut the Lacrosse price cut is closer to a full $10K.

    Lacrosse for Impala money? I’d choose the Lacrosse.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Absolutely. For one thing, the LaCrosse, being newer, has a much longer wheelbase than the XTS or the Impala.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Blasphemers the both you! Everyone, and I mean everyone knows ANY AND ALL Buicks only appreciate in value from the moment you drive them off the lot. When you go to trade them in, they’re advertised for the highest price of any brand listed on Autotrader. You can look it up! Any used Buick, regardless of mileage, will sell for twice the price of ANY used Japanese car. Rant over. Mssrs. Dan and Kyree,a Lacrosse for the price of an Impala? That’s very tempting. As tempting as a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day.

  • avatar

    Even a base RDX is quite well equipped, plus you’d get an extra year of basic warranty versus the RAV4.

  • avatar

    The generational gap (RDX on last Honda platform) makes it a little more interesting. My folks just traded in this RDX for one of the up-trim new Honda CRV’s.

    There were various factors playing into the trade. But while they liked the RDX, they significantly prefer the CRV. They particularly like the upgrade in handling—the new CRVs handle much better than they have any right to.

    But if they were more normal buyers, the RDX would be the right answer. Solid and luxurious. But they appreciate good handling and the new Honda platform is a significant upgrade.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      I completely agree. We shopped all the import brands for my girlfriend’s new vehicle and chose the 2018 up-level CRV. It has a more efficient drivetrain, better handling and AWD performance than the current Acura RDX (which isn’t SH-awd any longer). The new CRV interior is even better and the infotainment is vastly superior to the Acura’s system. Top trim CRV in all black looks surprisingly slick.

      The 3.0L V6 and 6spd auto transmission are the best Qualities of the RDX over new CRV.

      • 0 avatar

        My parents have a 2018 CR-V AWD EX and I have a 2018 RDX AWD Advance and hands down I find the RDX to better even if we were to compare a CR-V Touring to a RDX Advance. Don’t get me wrong the CR-V is a great care with better tech, lower price, and better gas millage but I find the dealer experience for most Honda’s at least in the NY Tri-State area to be horrid, the CR-V is louder, the CR-V rides harsh compared to the RDX, and even with the turbo the RDX is faster and smoother. My parents live in Maine and snow wise the RDX is just as good if not slightly better than a CR-V due to the V6 engine.

  • avatar

    I would get base model of base car…

    “the rock-solid powertrain, good resale value, and supremely comfortable front seats make it an obvious top pick.”

    If the engine burns oil (or whatever it does for oil to disappear), is this still rock-solid? My 2.7L Highlander started burning @100K miles. My co-worker says that his 2008 Camry burns oil like crazy too. So?

    My boss has ’16 Rav4. He says, seats are NOT comfortable. He is just average-built

    • 0 avatar
      Landau Calrissian

      I definitely believe the 2008 Camry burning oil; it’s a huge problem on the 2AZ-FE 2.4L 4-cyl. My wife’s Scion tC got it real bad after 100k, to the point where a set of spark plugs with less than 10k miles got fouled from it.

  • avatar

    Doing a quick search it looks like the Acura is 60 decibels at 65mph and the Toyota is 65.3. That’s a lot louder. One big way they differentiate mass market vs. premium is the amount of sound deadening and other sound mitigation technologies.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yes. My Golf TDI was very quiet despite Diesel. My Jetta base way louder. Same basic car at two different price points. The TDi was the quietest small car I have seen. The CTS is soundproofed in every niche and you cal listen to chamber music at 80 mph

  • avatar

    I think the correct response is to tell the Toyota dealer to get bent for quoting your LL a brand-new price for a used vehicle.

    But in general, I’d choose a fully loaded budget car over its luxury-brand variant. Contemporary cars are loaded with a lot of once-premium features. If I was in the market for a mid-size sedan, say, I’d go for the Jetta over the A4. I understand the A4 is nicer and has a better engine and transmission, but the bits of the car I interact with – namely the seats, steering wheel and stereo/environmental controls – aren’t going to be worth the premium price to me, as a standard VW has gotten to be actually incredibly nice.

    In the end, I’m sitting in the same traffic as everyone else, so whether the car is 150 hp or 300, I’m still going 20 mph at rush hour. If safety and comfort are basically identical, I’d opt to save a lot of money rather than give into image/branding.

    • 0 avatar

      Audi is 61.6 decibels. The Jetta is 64.9. That’s a large gap.

    • 0 avatar
      The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

      Try offering 10,000 off on the loaner vehicle. Heck, it’s basically been a free rental car for heaven knows how many uncaring drivers. The dealership has probably already reported the car as “sold”, so they might just be happy to see it go away.

      My experience with Canada is that with their harsh winters and salted roads, cars tend to rust into the wrecking yard right around when the last payment gets sent in. Lots of families buy the lowest trim of whatever they need for that reason.
      Maybe not all of Canada is that way, but east of the Great Lakes sure is.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll always go the other way, and have. A stripper premium vehicle over the loaded non-premium. I typically don’t want all that crap anyway, but want the better basic engineering. And the gulf in dealer experience between the non-premium brands and premium brands is wider than the Grand Canyon.

  • avatar

    Just went to Toyota’s website, there is a $12,000 spread between a base model LE and the loaded Platinum trim. The upper trim levels in the Rav4 simply aren’t worth it IMO, they aren’t that much nicer than the base model and there isn’t $12,000 worth of tech in that price either(oohhh, sunroof, leather seats and some driver aids are not worth $12,000 extra).

    If the Acura dealer is willing to deal, go with the RDX, that’s a nice SUV and I like that it still has a big bore V6 under the hood. Makes cooler noises and is a lot more refined/quiet than a 4 cylinder.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, the new RDX is gonna have the same turdo crap that the rest of Honda is going to! (There will be a 3.0T V6 at some point, but Lord knows when that might be, and in what trim that might be available; probably top-line only!)

      So if you don’t mind having a “lame duck” model, now’s the time to move on the RDX!

  • avatar

    Only 2 things can change this in favor of the RAV4 over the RDX:

    – The Toyota dealer comes to his senses on the pricing of a technically used RAV4, no matter how nice it is, to the tune of $3-4K


    – The landlord’s dad drives a lot of miles (seems unlikely) such that the extra operating expense is going to add significantly to his cost over time

  • avatar

    To me, there is no comparison here. Although the current generation Rav is fine (and the suspension tune is better than post refresh), I would have the RDX any day of the week. IMO, the Rav seats suck. Too narrow and not enough adjustment to get comfortable. Fine for short trips but annoying over 2 hours. And it’s not like the infotainment is much better in the Toyota.

    If I was landlords dad, take the big discount. Get the more comfortable, quieter Acura and enjoy for many years!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Acura. Then drive slowly past the Toyota showroom with middle finger extended out the sunroof. If they want the same money for a used Limited as the MSRP of a Platinum, they’re not coming down low enough to make it worth choosing over the Acura.

    If he can afford $42000 for a RAV, he can afford $44000 for a nicer vehicle. And if he can’t, then he should step down one level to an RDX Tech trim.

    The RAV4 seems best at the low-mid trim level; loading it up with premium features still leaves you with cheap bones and a small engine.

  • avatar

    RDX. sounds like Landlord’s dad has been fiscally prudent his entire life.

    Splurge for what literally may be the last car that he ever buys-drives. especially as a diligently maintained RDX will last 10+ years easily.

    [a couple of thousand CAD isn’t that big of a delta anyway]

  • avatar

    I had a an RDX and drove the RAV. neither can compare to the KIA Sorento SX which I’ve seen pretty loaded up as low as 35k in the USA. I’m lucky, with synthetic oil @ 75mph Iwas getting 32 MPG, @ 70 mph it was 36mpg on reg gas. around town I’m getting 20mpg.I had to ditch the RDX because of back problems. it has the worse suspenion system even though I had placed a couple of sand bags in the back to keep it from bobing up and down. even though the KIA is also a FWD the added weight of the 3rd seats adds so much to the driving comfort of car as well as a far better suspension system.

  • avatar

    RDX with a Honda V6? RUN. RUN FAST. RUN FAR.


    VCM destroys engines. A Honda V6 is a lease/warranty queen. The Toyota, he’ll be able to keep forever.

    • 0 avatar

      You can use those VCM cheat tool to “disable” the VCM on Honda V6. Problem solved.

    • 0 avatar

      Are they still having VCM issues on new MY2018 engines?

      Car makers that aren’t Maserati or VW usually get sh*t like that sorted out within 2-3 years.

      • 0 avatar

        Once a car maker has an issue, it *never* goes away. See any rusted-through 2018 Mazda3 for example.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, VCM is still an issue.

        Between the glass transmissions and now VCM, a V6 Honda is the worst thing you can consider.

        4 cylinder models? Well, now they’re all highly stressed turbos. Really, Honda? And all the auto transmissions are CVTs.

        Honda’s gold standard is a 4 cylinder naturally aspirated engine hooked to a manual tranmission. When they go outside of that, they’re toast. They’re warranty/lease queens.

        VCM solved a problem: EPA mileage rating. That’s it. Honda didn’t care that it created other MAJOR problems for the owners post-warranty.

        • 0 avatar

          The Accord in my avatar just ripped off a 33.1mpg average between Toledo and Detroit, round trip, which is damn good for winter gas, three aboard, 80mph cruise.

          I’ve had no oil-consumption problems whatsoever, except for maybe a half-quart loss during break-in, over a 1,500 mile period. Blackstone oil analyses have proven normal.

          The only problem has been that the VCM operation has always been noticeable in really cold weather, and this winter, it’s seemed a little more so.

          That said, I know that the system has been problematic, particularly in the 2008-2009 Accords, and the previous-generation Pilots and Odyssey’s. (Oddly, my Dad’s 2011 Accord’s more complicated VCM (two deactivation modes, four and three cylinders, versus my 9th-Gen’s three-only) is less intrusive than mine!)

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Why a Rav4 and a RDX only?

    I know you are referencing CAD, but 40K+ for a Rav4? Yeah, no. Not now, not ever.

    There has got to be a better value out there that is comfortable to ride in and does not use expensive gas. Depending on the age of the LL pop, will he actually remember to put in the 91 octane? Most likely he has been pulling the 87 lever his entire life and we expect him to remember now? I don’t buy that for a minute.

    Why not an Escape, Equinox, CR-V, or any of the other options out there that are nice and can be had for a decent price?

  • avatar

    I actually like the current model looks better then the feminine looking new 2019 RDX! It is a good buy with $5K off already from Acura and could get another $1.5K more from the dealer too.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I dug my Mom’s 2014 RDX. Great city car. I liked it more than she did: she went back to an Audi A4 after only nine months of the Acura because it’s the only car company she both likes and provides a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Of the two choices you lay out, the Acura is the obvious one to me. Your landlord’s dad is unlikely to be a high mileage driver. Fuel economy differences should not be his primary consideration.

    I’m of the school that believes that luxury is best when its built in, not added on. Therefore the top level trim of a basically built-to-a-low price car is not what I’d buy, especially when you’re stuck with the same 4 cylinder engine as the stripper. (I hate low-revving, large displacement 4s. They remind me of the farm tractors I operated when I was a young teenager. Anything bigger than 1.8 liters is just coarse)

  • avatar

    Acura, all day long and twice on Sunday.

  • avatar

    Local Toyota store has new ’18 Rav4 Platinums for $2760 off of MSRP, including a $1000 rebate. Comes out to just under $35K in USD. I’d personally save $3K and go the XLE trim, but that’s just me.

  • avatar

    My parents just faced the same shopping decision, in the same country, with a slightly lower budget.

    Their choice was the CR-V with most of the mod cons (EX trim). It was quick enough for them, the fuel efficiency is excellent, and some sharp bargaining brought it home for about $38k including all taxes and fees.

    The things that bug enthusiasts about this thing (CVT etc.) don’t bug them.

    • 0 avatar

      The Honda CVT is about the nicest one out there. Drove a similar vehicle, and was impressed with the way that transmission and the 1.5T worked together.

      As I’ve said, I’ll probably wind up with an Accord 2.0T Touring in 14 months or so; I haven’t had a chance to hoon one from my dealer’s service loaner fleet around, but I’m sure that’ll convert me. My real misgiving is long-term reliability.

  • avatar

    For what it’s worth, the fuel economy cost should be a negligible difference between an RDX and the S60 he already has (I used a FWD 2.3T for reference). On top of that, the feature count he’s accustomed to is what’s found on a 15 year old luxury car, so what few gadgets the Toyota might have over the Acura would potentially go unnoticed, but I’m sure the Toyota’s relative crudeness might be more easily apparent.

  • avatar

    It’s always been my opinion that most “features” on cars are a waste of money, so I tend to err toward the base version of a nicer model.

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