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Semi-conductors. Computer chips. Silicon wafers. You’ve probably heard enough about them right now, what with the global shortage of semi-conductor material causing shortages of virtually anything electronic, but if you’re one of the thousands of people who’ve put a deposit on a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, you’re probably feeling an extra twinge of pain as you read this.
According to Toyota Australia, the waiting time for a RAV4 Hybrid, from ordering to delivery, is now around nine to ten months, on average. You might be waiting a few months for a non-hybrid RAV4 too, but with the hybrid requiring significantly more control electronics than its more conventional counterparts, odds are you’ll be able to put a ‘regular’ RAV4 in your driveway much sooner – in fact, for some variants you could theoretically pick up a new one the day you sign the papers.
But should you wait? Petrol prices are rising, after all, so how much is that nine- to ten-month waiting period potentially costing you? Let’s do some maths.
Firstly, let’s split the difference between that nine/ten month time period and make it a more mathematically convenient 285 days, which is 78 per cent of a year. Now, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ most recent data (from the 12 months to June 30, 2020), the average Australian motorist drove 12,100km throughout the year. 78 percent of that is 9438km, which we’ll take as the amount of kilometres travelled during the time you’re waiting for your shiny new RAV4 Hybrid to arrive.
At the time of writing this, petrol prices were exploding thanks to a combination of lockdowns ending in Australia’s two most populated states, as well as tightening supply on the global oil market following a glut of production last year. Capital city prices for 91-octane petrol were hovering between $1.60 and $1.80 per litre, so once again we’ll split the difference and call an average of $1.70 per litre.
With those baseline numbers established, let’s move onto the RAV4. The RAV4 hybrid comes in both 2WD and AWD form, however the petrol variants (with the exception of the niche 2.5-litre Edge variant) are 2WD-only so we’ll compare 2WD with 2WD in the interest of fairness.
The RAV4 GXL grade sits neatly in the middle of the range, with the 2WD 2.0-litre petrol priced at $37,415 before on-roads and the 2WD 2.5-litre hybrid sitting $2500 above it at 39,915. For the 2.0-litre petrol, Toyota’s average fuel consumption claim is 6.5L/100km, while the 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid burns 4.7L/100km on the same combined cycle – a difference of 1.8L/100km.
Now, dividing that fuel economy difference into the average distance travelled in 9.5 months gives us a difference in total fuel consumption between the two powertrains of 169.89 litres, a little over three full tanks of fuel in a RAV4. In dollar terms, that’s $288.80.
So, from a purely fuel economy point of view, that’s what waiting nine to ten months for a brand new RAV4 Hybrid will cost you versus simply buying a conventional petrol equivalent from a dealer’s inventory. For the average middle-class Australian that’s not an especially huge amount, however, as with all things in life it’s not necessarily as simple as reducing things to base numbers.
For one, some buyers may simply not have the luxury of time to wait for the more efficient option, if, for example, their current car is in poor condition or their life situation is rapidly changing. Word of advice: if you’ve got a kid on the way and you want to get a RAV4 to cart them around in, make your order as soon as the pregnancy test is confirmed – the gestation of your car will likely take longer than the gestation of your child.
But waiting might be the wiser thing to do. The Hybrid variants are the volume-sellers for the RAV4 model line, accounting for over 72 percent of total sales volume at last count, meaning those are the ones that will likely retain their value the best when time comes to sell up.
Also, the price of fuel is only going to go up in the long term – a 1.8L/100km difference in fuel consumption might not sound like a whole lot, but depending on how long you hang onto your car it could be the more financially sensible option. At current fuel prices, it would take six years and eight months for the RAV4 GXL Hybrid’s fuel savings to ‘payback’ its $2500 premium over the regular petrol, but as petrol prices creep north then that payback time shortens.
Furthermore, if you drive mostly around town then the Hybrid changes from being “a little more efficient” than the regular petrol, to “significantly more efficient”. The difference on the urban cycle is a huge 3.0L/100km in favour of the hybrid, and that changes the numbers significantly.
Over 9.5 months of predominantly urban driving, that fuel saving equates to 283.14 litres, or $481.34 at today’s fuel prices. It also shortens the payback period to just four years.
Ultimately, the choice on whether to wait for the Hybrid or not is yours to make – we’re just here to arm you with the knowledge to make that decision.