Electric vehicle pioneer Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is attempting to revolutionize the automobile industry, and with visionary CEO Elon Musk at the helm, it looks to have a bright future in a fast-growing market. Knowing this, investors have bid up Tesla's shares to the tune of 787% in the past year. The S&P 500 has risen by a comparatively meager 18% in the same period. The downside to Tesla's stellar gains, though, is that its stock now looks overvalued. 

The company is trading at 1,130 times past and 232 times future earnings, and boasts a market cap of about $405 billion. At those levels, many years of success are already factored into Tesla's share price. As such, investors today might be better served to look elsewhere for growth stocks. One in particular that is worth your attention is Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG). Here's why the healthcare giant is a better growth buy than Tesla right now. 

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An industry ripe for growth

Intuitive is best known for its da Vinci surgical system, the leading robotic-assisted surgery device. It enables surgeons to conduct minimally invasive surgeries, performed through small incisions using laparoscopic cameras and smaller instruments. Such surgeries offer several advantages over traditional operations, including less bleeding, less pain, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery times. Those benefits explain the da Vinci's popularity, and why it looks to have a long growth path ahead. 

Further, medical device giant Medtronic estimates that only 2% of surgeries worldwide are performed using robotic-assisted devices. Because of these factors (and others), we can expect the market for such systems will grow rapidly in the coming years. Research firm Grand View Research thinks it will be worth $8.24 billion in revenue by 2025, up from $2.9 billion in 2020.

It's worth noting that robotic-assisted surgical devices aren't cheap -- Intuitive Surgical's da Vincis cost between half a million dollars and $2.5 million.

robotic assisted surgery device.

Image source: Getty Images.

Not all healthcare facilities can afford that price tag, but the company does offer leasing arrangements, so hospitals can acquire the device without laying out the entire cost up front. Intuitive Surgical will be able to attract more customers thanks to this option. At the end of the second quarter, 5,764 da Vinci systems were installed worldwide, up 9% year over year. Expect the number of da Vincis in use to keep growing at a good clip. 

Building a competitive advantage

Even if its industry is on an upward trajectory, investors may question whether Intuitive Surgical will be able to remain the dominant player. One major reason to think it will is that the company has carved out a competitive advantage for itself, which will help it stay ahead of the competition. Launching robotic-assisted surgical devices on the market is no easy task. Just building these complex machines is daunting, and that's only the first step.

Companies then have to earn clearance from regulators (the da Vinci system was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration back in 2000). Following regulatory clearance, companies have to build accompanying instruments, market their products to healthcare facilities, and properly train medical staff to use the machines.

Intuitive Surgical has already jumped through these hoops. Competitors hoping to knock the healthcare company off its pedestal will have to do the same before they can catch up. And while its peers fight this uphill battle to make a dent in the industry, Intuitive Surgical will continue to look for ways to strengthen its position in this market. For those reasons, investors can expect this company to remain one of the biggest players in its market for many years to come. 

The key takeaway for investors

Intuitive Surgical isn't a cheap stock either. The company's price-to-earnings ratio is 78, while its forward P/E is 82. But both of those metrics compare favorably to Tesla's. Further, Intuitive Surgical's $86.4 billion market cap is also less than 20% that of the electric-car maker. While both of these companies are leaders in high-growth industries -- and both are worth adding to your portfolio -- at current levels, Intuitive Surgical looks like a much better buy. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.