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Toyota vs. Lexus | Differences to Consider Before Buying

I’ve owned a Toyota for going on 20 years, and so I might seem a bit biased in writing this. However, as an insurance adjuster and the son of a car dealer, I have been inside of and driven just about every car imaginable. One thing I learned from an early age is that driving luxury comes with a price tag, and you don’t always get what you pay for when it comes to quality.

In fact, there are a lot of cars on the market today, and if you’re not familiar with them or don’t have a favorite brand, it can be hard to decide what car to buy. Many car brands fall under the same corporation and have many similarities, like Toyota and Lexus.

Lexus is a brand within the Toyota Motor Corporation that focuses on luxury cars exported to the US from Japan. Each car within the Toyota brand (Corolla, Camry, etc.) has a luxury Lexus equivalent with more features, higher performance, and arguably more reliability, albeit at a higher price.

In this article, I will explain how Lexus and Toyota are the same and different, and which one is better in terms of cost, reliability, and maintenance. Then, we’ll compare a few of the popular Lexus and Toyota models and offer some resources you can use as a Lexus or Toyota buyer or owner.

Sign-Outside-of-a-Toyota-Lexus-Dealer

Are Lexus and Toyota the Same?

Lexus is part of Toyota Motor Corporation, so all Lexus cars are Toyota, but not all Toyota cars are Lexus. Lexus is one of five brands that Toyota sells, the other four being Daihatsu, Hino, Ranz, and Toyota itself. The Lexus brand focuses on luxury vehicles. 

Lexus means luxury export to the US and was launched in 1989 when Toyota Motor Corporation wanted to venture into the luxury car market. Toyota originally marketed the brand to the United States but quickly expanded to other countries. 

Then, in 2005, Toyota finally sold Lexus cars in Toyota’s home country of Japan, where they’re now the highest-selling luxury cars in the country. Lexus is now sold in seventy countries worldwide.

Lexus cars are manufactured in Japan, the United States, and Canada, with more than ten different Lexus models being made and sold. Some of the models have a hybrid version.

If you want to learn more about how Lexus got started and how the brand has adapted since it first started, check out this video:

Related How Much Does a Used Car Dealer Make per Car? | Average Markup.

Does Lexus Use Toyota Parts?

Lexus and Toyota cars use so many of the same parts that they are fairly close to the same car after production. Lexus vehicles just are fitted with either more luxury versions of the same components or additional standard features not offered in Toyotas.

Because of the overlap in parts, Lexus mechanics can work on Toyota cars and vice versa. The dual mechanics is beneficial to Lexus and Toyota owners who live near a dealership or other mechanic that services the cars. 

However, if you have the option to go to your car’s dealership, you should. By going to your specific dealership, you can guarantee that the technician will know how to service your car. If you go to another dealership, it can create problems with the warranty, so check your warranty policy.

Are Lexus and Toyota Parts interchangeable?

A great many of the parts are interchangeable between Lexus and Toyota. In fact, you can often get the same exact part for cheaper just by buying it under the name “Toyota.” To find out for sure about an individual part, you can call the parts department or any Toyota or Lexus dealer.

My father and brother do a lot of mechanical work on vehicles, and they often will buy the non-luxury version of parts from a “u-pull it” or junkyard. They are exactly the same part, but often much, much cheaper.

Does Lexus Use Toyota Engines?

Lexus brands use virtually the same exact engines that are found in their Toyota counterpart. Lexus cars have one of these three engines: a four-cylinder, a V6, or a V8. For example, the Lexus ES and the Toyota Avalon use the same 3.5Ltr V6 Engine.

Each engine has a different number of cylinders, and the more cylinders, the more powerful the engine is. So, the V8 is two times as powerful as the four-cylinder engine. 

However, engines with fewer cylinders have more advantages. They weigh less and are more fuel-efficient. The more cylinders in the engine, the more it will weigh and cost. 

Is Lexus as Reliable as Toyota?

Lexus is rated to be just as reliable as Toyota, if not more, in some cases. In a 2021 study by Consumer Reports, they named Lexus as the most reliable car brand for 2022, out of the twenty-eight total, including Toyota, which came in third. 

The study analyzed data from more than three hundred thousand cars in seventeen categories, then scored them to determine the most reliable. Some of the categories in the study include squeaky brakes, transmission issues, problems with the four-wheel-drive system, and broken interiors. 

Thanks to Lexus’ top ranking on the reliability report, you can be confident that your Lexus is a reliable car to have on the road. But, if you decide to go with a Toyota instead, you can still be confident that it’s a reliable car.

Lexus rides on the highway against the backdrop of road junctions and overpasses

Is a Lexus More Expensive To Maintain Than a Toyota?

Lexus vehicles are more expensive than their comparable Toyota vehicles. The cost of maintenance for a Lexus is higher than for a Toyota, but they’re cheaper to maintain than other luxury vehicles.

As discussed earlier, a Lexus car has a lot of performance features that a Toyota doesn’t. So, there’s more to maintain and more for the mechanics to know about, which costs more for you as the Lexus owner. 

Is It Better To Buy a Lexus or Toyota?

Choosing between a Lexus and a Toyota can be a hard decision because they are both reliable cars and come in a range of sizes comparable to each other, no matter what you are looking for.  But is it better to buy a Lexus or a Toyota, and what factors should you consider when choosing one?

The cost is the biggest factor to consider when you’re torn between a Lexus and a Toyota. A Lexus can cost nearly twice as much as its Toyota equivalent. So, if you’re on a budget, you should go with a Toyota, as it can save you thousands of dollars.

Furthermore, a Toyota is a great choice if you’re a family buying for a teenager as their first car. Toyotas are reliable and won’t break the bank, especially if you decide to get a used car. And if you, as the parent, have a Lexus, you’re still all going to have cars within the same car family. 

But, if you’re not worried about cost as much as you want something stylish or with some extra features that Toyotas may not offer, you should go with a Lexus. Lexus cars are fancier and have some performance features that a Toyota doesn’t. If you often drive or drive on less common roads, a Lexus can give you more peace of mind. 

And Lexus cars tend to be more affordable than other luxury cars on the market. But they still come with nice interiors and high-tech features that make luxury cars desirable.

If you want an affordable luxury car with lots of performance features and high reliability, a Lexus is the better option. However, if you can’t afford the high price of a Lexus, you can get a Toyota and enjoy driving a highly reliable car with lots of options, some of which are the same as Lexus. 

What Is the Most Reliable Lexus?

So, we already know that Lexus is the most reliable car compared to other cars on the market, including Toyota, but which Lexus is the most reliable? 

A study from Consumer Reports named the Lexus GX as the most reliable truck/car/SUV of 2022. The Lexus GX is a seven-passenger SUV that comes in seven colors. It has off-road capability with four-wheel drive, and there are five different terrain options to help you navigate the road wherever you go. 

You and your passengers will be comfortable with heated seats, customized heating and cooling options for each of the three rows, and a comfortable steering wheel designed to keep your hands relaxed during even the longest of drives.

Related How Much Does a Car Actually Cost to Make? | A Cost Analysis.

If you want to learn more about the Lexus GX, check out this YouTube video from Everyman Driver that goes over the pros and cons of the car:

What Toyota Is Comparable to the Lexus IS?

Having driven the same Corolla for over 15 years, I was surprised when I found out there is almost an exact “luxury” equivalent Lexus model, the Lexus IS. Since Old Bessie (What I named my car) has lasted for so long, I am glad I saved my money. Corolla starts at about $20,000, while the Lexus IS starts at nearly $40,000!

Toyota Corolla is comparable to the Lexus IS. The Lexus IS is the smallest Lexus vehicle, classified as a compact sedan. Toyota’s version of a compact sedan is the Toyota Corolla. However, the Lexus IS is much more expensive than the Toyota Corolla.

A Lexus IS can cost nearly double that of a Toyota Corolla. The actual cost difference depends on the year, if you buy new or used, and what upgrades you have on the cars, but the difference between them can be significant.

Needless to say, I have no regrets about my purchase. I mean, look at the two cars side by side.

Black-2020-Toyota-Corolla-LE
2020 Toyota Corolla LE
Black-2021-Lexus-IS300
2020 Lexus IS 300

Sure, the Lexus looks a bit “sportier” or whatever. But, if you put some new wheels and tinted the glass of the Corolla, is the difference worth $20,000 to you? And, if you’re worried about impressing your friends, you could just buy the Corolla and order some “Lexus” emblems, and very few would even realize the trick.

Lexus is more expensive because it’s a luxury vehicle, and it has a style and social connotation that are better than a Toyota. The Lexus IS also has all-wheel drive and more than double the horsepower of the Corolla. 

The cool thing is that the Corolla has a few advantages, like gas mileage. For both highway and city mileage, the Corolla can have more than twice the mileage of a Lexus IS. In fact, my Corolla has over 400,000 miles on it and has more than paid for itself double over the past 15 years versus the old SUV I used to drive.

Related An SUV vs a Sedan for Long Drives | Pros and Cons.

Is Camry Better Than Lexus?

The Toyota Camry is the second smallest Toyota, and it’s classified as a midsize sedan. The Lexus equivalent to a Camry is the Lexus ES, Lexus’ midsize sedan. The Lexus ES costs more than the Toyota Camry since it’s a luxury car.

But is a Camry better than a Lexus ES? Well, the answer is subjective. It really depends on what you’re looking for. 

The Lexus is more powerful than the Camry, has more features, and costs more. For example, the Lexus ES is more powerful than the Camry, with fifty percent more horsepower. The Lexus ES has a six-cylinder engine, whereas the Camry has four cylinders. 

But, there are also different models of the Camry and ES that have varying horsepower. A hybrid Lexus ES has much less horsepower than the standard Lexus ES, but it still has over ten more horsepower than the Camry. And, there’s a Camry with a six-cylinder engine, but it still doesn’t have as much horsepower as the Lexus ES, with one less horsepower.

As far as handling and size go, the Lexus has a driver-adjustable suspension system and a variable-assist power steering system that make driving longer, faster, and on tricker roads easier to handle. The Camry doesn’t have any of these features. The Lexus also has more legroom, a larger trunk, and larger wheels than the Camry.

Finally, the Lexus will remember different seat and mirror positions for different drivers and automatically adjust to suit whoever is driving. The seat moves back, and the steering wheel rises when you turn off the car for easy in and out.

You can learn more about the differences between the Lexus ES and the Toyota Camry in this video from AutoNation:

Learn More About Lexus and Toyota

If you’re a Toyota or Lexus owner or are considering buying one of them, you should learn more about the cars and choose one. The resources in this section will teach you more about the two car brands and car buying in general from Amazon.com: 

  • Taylor Made: Car Buying Tips to Save You Time and Money: This book is a general guide to car buying. You’ll learn how to buy a new car, including how to choose a dealership, making sure your trade-in value is as high as possible, and how to negotiate a fair price without having to sacrifice the products and features that are important to you. 
  • Lexus: The Relentless Pursuit: This book is all about Toyota’s pursuit to start a luxury car brand, how Lexus became one of the most popular luxury cars, and how the brand holds a high standard for quality, customer service, and marketing. 
  • This YouTube video is all about Toyota’s history and how it earned its reputation for making reliable, affordable cars, and how they have changed as a company over time: 
  • The Toyota Way, Second Edition: Finally, if you’re looking to start or run your own business or just want to be a better business person in general, you can learn a lot from this book and business guide, including leadership models, skills for scientific thinkings, how to create a business improvement plan, and how Toyota has gained and retained a loyal customer base. 

Bottom Line

Toyota and Lexus are both brands within the Toyota Motor Corporation. Toyotas are affordable, reliable cars, whereas Lexus’ are luxury vehicles that are more expensive, possibly slightly more reliable (debatable), and have additional technological and performance features.

Each Toyota model has a Lexus equivalent comparable in size, but the Lexus is more just expensive with a few more standard features. However, compared to other luxury vehicles on the market, a Lexus is one of the most affordable options.

Personally, I would much rather buy a new, fully-loaded brand new Camry, which would cost about the same as a 4-year-old used Lexus ES with average mileage. Run the numbers yourself at nadaguides.com, and then make an informed decision before you buy.

Thanks for reading!

For more, check out 8 Things That Can Make a Car Not Street Legal.

Photos courtesy of hendricktoyotaconcord.com

Pat

Tuesday 30th of January 2024

What happened to the GS 300&350 series of lexus? Also if they are so popular, why aren’t there more dealers?

Jeff Marval

Thursday 25th of August 2022

I mostly agree with you, but the driving experience is not the same (noise, comfort, handling,...). No matter how many options you add to a Toyota it won't become a Lexus. You can compare feature by feature (eventhough they're not implemented exactly the same way), but again driving makes the difference... and you can consider that important or not depending on your selection criteria.

Jim James

Thursday 25th of August 2022

I think you are right in some models, but in others the driving experience feels exactly the same to me. For example, the ES350 and Camry just feel like the exact same car when I've driven them.

James Mushapa

Saturday 20th of August 2022

Thanks for this article on Toyota and Lexus it has really helped me to make a decision coz I found a used 2007 Lexus IS base, and am excited coz i want something different from a Toyota and its using a 4GR engine which is also in the Toyota mark x so was wondering whether this two cars use same spares like cvjoints, rack ends and tyrerod ends please advise.

Jim James

Saturday 20th of August 2022

Based on my experience writing estimates on wrecks, I've found that Lexus/Toyota very often do use the same exact parts... seemingly like 95% of the time However, it is not 100% of the time. I am not sure about those exact parts, but if you call any Toyota/Lexus dealer and ask for the parts department, they will probably be willing look up your exact car and tell you if the parts are interchangeable with the comparable Toyota model.