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Electrically powered and automatically driven, Teslas are one of the most sought after cars on the market today. The Model S and the Model X, with the Model 3 rolling out at the end of the year, are the three Tesla model types, and each has its own associated expenses. In this article, we break down what the true cost of owning a Tesla may look like.
How much does it cost to own a Tesla?
Teslas are expensive vehicles. The most basic currently available, the Model S, is $68,000 while the most inclusive trim is $134,500. The Model X runs from $85,500 to $135,500. In comparison, a 2017 Toyota Camry has a sticker price of about $23,000. The Model 3 is expected to start production in mid-2017 and released by the end of the year and the beginning of 2018. The starting price will be $35,000 for the most basic version of the Model 3. Below you can see the prices for the current 2017 Models below:
*Based on 12,000 miles per year in Los Angeles
The higher the trim number, the better the battery and the faster the car. The "P" in the P100D stands for "performance" and the Model S version has a range of 315 miles (97 more than the 60) and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. The Model X P100D has a range of 289 miles. Those are just the starting prices for the vehicle; to add some of the more well-known features like automated driving, you will need to pay extra. Below we list the prices of some extra features:
Est. Lease Cost/Month
|Enhanced Automated Driving||$5,000||$82|
|Full Self-Driving Capability||$3,000||$49|
Subzero Weather Package
Ultra High Fidelity Sound
|High Amperage Charger Upgrade||$1,500||$25|
If you choose to add any of these bells and whistles, you can simply select them when ordering your Tesla online or in the dealership. If you choose to add any of these upgrades after delivery the price will be slightly higher. Consider adding the upgrades before delivery if you plan on having them to save some money
How much does it cost to lease a Tesla?
Whether you own the hatchback Model S or crossover SUV Model X or are waiting anxiously for the Model 3, you are going to need to spend a good deal of money to lease a Tesla. Even if you lease, we found you will need at least a few thousand dollars at signing due to sales taxes and delivery fees.
We go over the major cost factors in more detail below, but in the following table, you can see a quick estimate of what leasing a Tesla vehicle may cost per month, based on a sample driver living in Los Angeles and driving $12,000 miles per year.
Cost (Monthly Payment + Insurance + Charging - Rebates)
|Model S (60)||$1,146/month + $5,127 at signing*|
|Model S (P100D)||$2,134/month + $6,457 at signing*|
|Model X (75D)||$1,471/month + $5,558 at signing*|
|Model X (P100D)||$2,211/month + $6,543 at signing*|
*includes first month payment
The monthly values we use above reflect the payment of the car, insurance and electricity costs for charging the vehicle less the tax incentives and rebates. The values we use are all averages using our profiled driver and will fluctuate depending on your circumstances and where you live.
A large portion of the money due at signing comes from sales taxes and vehicle registration fees, so if you live in a state like Oregon, where there is no sales tax, the money due at signing will be less. The standard "down payment" is $5,000 but you can go as high as 25% of the vehicle's value for a down payment.
As for the Model 3, since it has not been released yet, we cannot accurately say how much it will cost to own it. Its starting price will be $35,000 which is about half as expensive as the basic Model S60. Insuring the car and the cost of charging it may be similar to these other vehicles, and we estimate that monthly payments could roughly be around half as expensive.
Cost of insuring a Tesla Model S and X
Both vehicles carry a relatively expensive price tag and have special parts that tend to make some cars more expensive to insure. We obtained car insurance quotes for the two Tesla models based on several samples of locations and driver types:
Insurance costs based on city
The Tesla Model S costs an average minimum of $2,691 per year to insure while the Model X costs an average minimum of $2,784 for our sample driver. That's an average $771 more than what it would take to insure a Toyota Camry by comparison. We collected rates for a 30-year-old single male driver who opted for full coverage and found that it can be cheaper to insure the more expensive car depending on where you live.
New York City
The difference between the S and X is expected as we found previously, and the SUVs tend to be more expensive to insure. The X version was not more expensive in New York or Chicago however, so it may be depending on where you live, the Model X may be more expensive than the Model S.
Overall, if you live in a big city and own a Tesla, you should expect to spend at least $2,000 per year for full coverage. Smaller cities and towns in a state will be on the cheaper side, to see what your insurance rates may be in your town, put your zip code in the box on top to start a quote.
Based on type of driver
Whether you're 30 and single, 45 and married, or have a lot of accidents on your record, the rates at which you can insure a Tesla will differ. We limited our search to just Los Angeles, and got quotes for a variety of drivers who own a Model S:
Min. Yearly Car Insurance Rate
Single 30 Y.O Female
|Married 45 Y.O. Female||$2,364|
|Married 45 Y.O. Male||$2,364|
|Single 30 Y.O Male w/ Accident||$4,344|
Being married and older generally means getting cheaper car insurance rates, since companies consider you to be less risky drivers. Having an accident on your record from within the last five years will send your rates skyrocketing.
Collision and comprehensive insurance
The bulk of the insurance cost comes from collision and comprehensive insurance; the part of your auto policy that covers the costs of damages due to accidents you caused or from external, non-accident-related causes.
We highly recommend having those coverages, no matter the cost. Teslas can be expensive to repair, and should you cause an accident without collision insurance, it will likely cost thousands of dollars out of pocket to repair. It will be better to spend $1,000 to $2,000 per year on collision and comprehensive insurance than $5,000 on one accident or incident.
Cost of charging a Tesla and gas savings
Being an electric-powered car, you no longer have to buy gas to get around places when you own a Tesla. That being said, fueling your car is not free either — charging a Tesla requires a good deal of energy. So will the electricity bill be less or more than the gas bill?
On average, a Tesla Model S will need about 3 kWh per mile. Electricity in the U.S. costs an average 12 cents per kWH. Similar luxury cars to the Tesla Model S get around 25 miles per gallon, meaning if you drive the following amount of miles per year assuming an average gas price of $2.29:
Est. Cost of Gas
Est. Cost of Electricity
As you can see, the more miles you drive with your Tesla, the more you will actually save. We should note though that the miles your Tesla gets per charge depends on numerous circumstances. Cold external temperatures give you fewer miles per charge — so if you drive your Tesla in generally colder areas you may need to pay more per charge. Driving with the heat on also gives you fewer miles per charge.
Savings from tax rebates
Finally, you may also be able to save some money through rebates and tax incentives since Teslas are electric cars. All states currently give up to a $7,500 tax break to electric car drivers. Some states also give additional benefits as well. Be aware though, if you lease the vehicle only California, Colorado and Massachusetts offer the incentives. In the map below you can see how your state does with tax rebates, per Tesla's estimates.
It should be noted that all the values are also an "up to" amount. It is not likely you will qualify for the entire tax break or rebate. The total amount you will be saving is based on different factors like the type of battery you choose. In Pennsylvania, only the first 250 applicants will be eligible for the $2,000 rebate.
As well, when Tesla sells over 200,000 units nationwide, the $7,500 incentive will start to be "phased-out". One year after the 200,000th unit is sold, there will be no more incentive for Teslas. As of March 2017, the threshold has not been hit yet. To read more about your state's electric car tax incentive go here.
Frequently asked questions
How much does a Tesla car cost?
The cost of a Tesla ranges from $39,990 for a base-level Model 3 to $148,990 for a fully specced Model S.
How much is insurance for a Tesla?
We found that full coverage car insurance for a base-level Model S costs $2,691 per year on average, depending on where you live and the amount of coverage you choose.
How much does it cost to charge a Tesla?
If you drive a Tesla about 12,000 miles per year, you'll spend about $480 per year. That's a bit less than half the cost of gas for the same mileage.