Tesla’s cheapest Model 3 car costs more than two of the top-selling EVs its same size combined.
Tesla’s new Model 3 is the runaway sales leader in America for luxury EVs, and for EVs overall. What many shoppers may not realize is that the Model 3’s least expensive model, the Mid-Range, Real Wheel Drive, has a true cost to a buyer about double that of popular affordable EVs like the Chevy Bolt battery electric vehicle (BEV) and Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle (EREV). There are many reasons why this is the case, but you won’t have to take our word for it. The states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island have already done all of the math for you.
Elon Musk has been crossing his fingers behind his back when speaking about or tweeting about the price of the Model 3 since before it even arrived. EV fans and Tesla’s marketing team badly want you to think the Model 3 “starts at $35K.” However, it simply does not, even in its newest stripped-down version, and even after incentives. Here is the full breakdown of the purchase costs to a buyer of the least expensive Model 3:
Model 3 Mid-Range, RWD In Black Only= $42,900
Mandatory Delivery Fee = $1,200
Price before incentives is $44,100
Federal Tax Credit = $-3,750 (Until July 1st, after that it drops to $1,875)
State of Mass Rebate = $-1,500 (Mass residents only)
Current Model 3 cost after incentives = $38,850
That is the final price for a resident of Massachusetts who opts for a bare-bones Model 3 in black. Red paint adds $2,500, but we’ve left that out of the pricing to show the least costly Model 3 possible. Other states offer different rebates. Some more, some none at all. We chose Massachusetts because the state has a great website where dealers post up the best offers on their green cars. Tesla doesn’t participate, and Elon Musk explained to CNN exactly why the company never offers a discount, saying, “There can never — and I mean never — be a discount on a new car coming out of the factory in pristine condition,” Musk added. “This is why I always pay full price when I buy a car and the same applies to my family friends, celebrities, no matter how famous or influential.” It should be noted that after stating this, Musk accepted the first Tesla Model 3 built as a gift from a fellow Tesla board member.
On the Drive Green website, Chevy Volt LTs start at About $17K. Other dealers have other prices that rise to as high as about $24K. The destination and delivery fees are included and the website shows all of the fine print. The best deals usually require that the vehicle be financed through GM. Bolt LTs start at about $21K and rise to about $25K. Tallying up the two best deals shown, we arrive at $38K. Just under the price of the least expensive Model 3.
The Volt is about to retire, but there are many other EVs for sale on the Mass. Drive Green site priced around half the cost of a Model 3. The Ioniq EV starts at $21K, the Nissan Leaf S starts at $22K and the Prius Prime, the top-selling affordable EV in America in 2018, starts at about $18K. We’ve checked the availability of the EVs in Mass and have found them to be very accessible. The Honda dealer closest to us had four Clarity PHEVs in stock and they start at around $21K. The Clarity was the top-selling affordable EV in America for the past two months.
We are not comparing apples to apples by showing the prices of a base Model 3 and a base affordable EV from the other long list of brands. The Model 3 has performance advantages, but bear in mind the one we have priced out does not have Autopilot, does not have access to free Supercharging, does not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and comes with cloth seats. Aside from straight-line performance and the brand name, the Tesla Model 3 priced at double the affordable models is a pretty bare-bones car.
- BestRide confirmed the accuracy of our Tesla Model 3 example with Tesla of Dedham, Mass. by phone.
- The deals at the Mass DriveGreen website update periodically, so check the site for the most recent prices and call dealers directly for availability.