Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has breathed new life into the automotive industry by taking what many had seen as a pedestrian, old-economy industry and turning it into a hallmark of innovation. The release of the mass-market Model 3 electric vehicle has many people looking more closely at Tesla both as a carmaker and as an investment, yet the share price has already climbed so far that many people aren't sure how to buy Tesla stock without taking on a lot of risk. The following three strategies offer ways to get exposure to Tesla, and each has pros and cons that could make one of them the best pathway to investing in the automaker over the long haul.
1. Biting the bullet and investing your available capital upfront
The simplest way to buy Tesla stock is simply to figure out how much money you have to invest in the company and then buy shares in one fell swoop. The key advantage of this simple method is that you get all of your available money working for you as quickly as possible, giving you full exposure to future increases in the stock price. Given the speed at which Tesla shares have climbed during the past several years, many investors who delayed in making purchases have regretted their decision. Making a single purchase also keeps you from having to consider more complicated strategies that require you to pay closer attention to the stock over a longer period of time.
The downside of a single purchase is that if the current price turns out to be a high point for Tesla, then you've committed all of your capital at what turns out to be an inauspicious time. For long-term investors who believe in the carmaker's prospects, future growth is likely to dwarf the differences in timing an initial purchase. If you have a shorter timeframe, then a single upfront purchase carries more risk, and alternatives like the ones below could fit your risk profile more closely.
2. Easing into your Tesla stock position
An alternative to a full investment in Tesla stock upfront is to figure out how much you want to invest and then divide up that amount into several pieces. For instance, if you have $10,000 to invest, you might plan to buy a couple of shares each month over the next 12 to 15 months, depending on what happens with the stock price in the interim.
The advantage of this method is that you can benefit if stock prices fall between the time you start investing and when you've established your full position in Tesla shares. The disadvantage is that if the stock simply keeps climbing, then your later investments will cost you more than if you'd simply bought all of the shares at the beginning. Again, for long-term investors, that's not as big a concern. But if you're particularly risk-averse and could panic if a full position fell shortly after you bought it, then making gradual purchases is more likely to keep you comfortable with your Tesla stock.
3. Using options on Tesla stock
Another way to get exposure to Tesla stock is through the options market. Buying a call option gives you the right to purchase Tesla stock at any time before the option expires, with the price you have to pay set by the terms of the option contract. One advantage of buying options is that they're much less expensive than the underlying stock, but the risks are correspondingly greater. Specifically, if the stock price stays below the agreed-upon strike price that you'll pay for the stock under the option, then the option will expire worthless, and you'll lose all of the money you paid for it. Even if Tesla shares rise, they might not rise enough to make the call option profitable.
The other options strategy to consider involves writing put options. This involves your committing to purchase shares at a set price if the person you sell the put option to decides to exercise the option. That usually won't happen unless the stock price falls below the option's strike price, and if it does, then you'll have to pay the higher strike price rather than getting to purchase cheaper shares on the open market. To compensate you for this risk, you receive the option premium from the buyer, which is yours to keep regardless of whether the option gets exercised.
With Tesla, the difficulty with options is that the standard contract requires blocks of 100 shares, which at current share prices involves a $30,000 to $40,000 commitment. If that's more than you're willing or able to invest in Tesla, then options strategies won't work well, and trying to wedge them into your portfolio can lead to unanticipated risks that could blow up in your face.
Tesla has a lot of promise, but buying shares at current prices can be a challenge. Nevertheless, if you want to know how to buy Tesla stock in a way that fits with your risk profile, the three strategies above give you a range of choices to pick from.