Here's How Much It Actually Costs to Own a Tesla

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  • Some Americans are considering buying Teslas.
  • It would cost my mom about $41,000 to own a Model 3 over three years.
  • The Model 3 is an expensive upgrade, but it offers good value for the money.

We checked out the Model 3, the most affordable Tesla car.

My mom wants to upgrade her Camry SE to a Tesla. Everyone is doing it -- over 1 in 50 cars are Tesla these days. If driving an electric car is piloting a Millennium Falcon spaceship, then driving a gas-powered car is steering an angry space tractor.

But Teslas are expensive. The Tesla Model 3, the most affordable option, starts at around $47,000. The Model Y, a compact SUV, starts at about $65,000, and the Model S and Model X, Tesla's flagship vehicles, begin at around $104,000 and $121,000, respectively.

We've heard you can save money by claiming up to $7,500 in EV tax credits. Plus, charging electricity is cheaper than gas. But is it enough to convince us to upgrade?

It's easy to judge cars by their sticker price, but cars cost more than their upfront price. Here's a breakdown of how much it actually costs to own a Tesla Model 3 over three years.


To purchase a Tesla, we'd take out a loan. Drivers can take out loans through the Tesla website. The default APR for a Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive loan is 5.34%. With a down payment of $4,500 and a six-year repayment term, it would cost about $720 per month to finance a Model 3.

Over three years, it costs about $30,420 to finance a Tesla Model 3, not including potential tax credits. Drivers would pay an additional $25,920 over the next three-year period. Shop around for better deals if you want a lower APR on one of the best personal loans on the market.

Charging costs

Electricity is cheaper than gas. My mom drives about 10,000-15,000 miles per year. Her Camry has an efficiency of about 30 miles per gallon. Let's assume the following is true:

  • Gas costs $4.78 per gallon (AAA average gas price in CA)
  • Electricity costs $0.28 per kWh (EnergySage average price of electricity in CA)

Over three years, it would cost about $2,625 to charge a Model-3. It costs about $5,225 to fuel a gas-powered 2021 Camry SE. That's $2,600 in savings. Longer charging times would partially offset those savings.

However, my mom could charge her car overnight with an at-home charger to reduce the time spent at the Supercharger. Bundling a Tesla wall charger with a Model 3 order costs $400 without taxes, according to the Tesla website.


Electric vehicles are typically cheaper to maintain than gas-powered alternatives. My mom's 2021 Camry SE is under a lease, so she doesn't have to pay for routine maintenance. Toyota recommends drivers bring their cars in for service three to four times per year.

Tesla recommends that owners have their vehicles serviced every 12,500 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. The company also offers a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty on all cars, which covers the cost of any necessary repairs or maintenance.

Over three years, it costs little to nothing to maintain a Model 3. That doesn't include the gradual loss in operating performance due to normal wear and tear. We would spend less time bringing the car to a dealership for routine maintenance.

Battery trading

You'll unlikely need to replace the battery within the first three years of owning a Model 3. If the battery malfunctions, you're protected by a warranty for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Over three years, it costs nothing to trade in a malfunctioning battery. The warranty covers the batteries for all new Teslas. We'd double-check with the company before making a final decision -- things like warranties are updated frequently.


The Model 3 is significantly more expensive than a 2021 Camry SE, so we'll likely have to pay more to get covered. The cost of insuring a Tesla Model-3 is about $2,267 per year, according to CarEdge. The average cost of insuring a Toyota Camry is about $1,474 per year.

Over three years, it costs about $6,801 to insure a Model 3. That's $2,379 more than it costs my mom to insure her current vehicle.

Tesla offers insurance to drivers in California. Insurance considers things like safe driving status and how much you drive. It's worth shopping around to ensure we get the best car insurance.


My mom and I want to make sure upgrading to a Model 3 is worth it. We have a couple of budgeting apps we use to keep track of our finances.

We added up the cost of financing, charging, maintenance, battery trading, and insurance. Altogether, we found it would cost my mom about $41,000 to own a Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive over three years. Yes, we rounded up.

There's simply no way to quickly bridge the cost-savings gap between a $25,000 and a $47,000 vehicle. Over three years, the Model 3 would cost us more money than it saves. Barring significant software updates, the Tesla would unlikely pay itself off anytime soon.

But when considering low charging and maintenance costs, the Model 3 is cheaper to own than an equivalent gas-powered car. Furthermore, it would cost almost nothing over three years to maintain the Model 3.

We'll look further into the cost of car ownership. We don't want to break the budget, but a Model 3 offers good value for its price. I'm crossing my fingers I'll get to hitch a ride in the passenger seat of a four-wheeled spaceship.

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