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Shocker: Tesla Model 3 vs. Honda Civic — 15 Cost Comparisons Over 5 Years

When I got started on this analysis, I thought, “Well, looks like we finally have a car that is going to come out with a lower 5 year cost than a Tesla Model 3.” Nonetheless, I was super curious to see the results and see how close the Model 3 came to different Civic trims. I did not expect that the Model 3 would beat the Civic on cost in several scenarios. Does it? Does it, really?

When I got started on this analysis, I thought, “Well, looks like we finally have a car that is going to come out with a lower 5 year cost than a Tesla Model 3.” Nonetheless, I was super curious to see the results and see how close the Tesla Model 3 came to different Honda Civic trims. I did not expect that the Model 3 would beat the Civic on cost in several scenarios. Does it? Does it, really?

Photo © Megan Gale, used with permission

As before, all of my assumptions are included underneath the article and most are included in the charts. I try to use objective, respected, third-party sources for every factor possible. Because some factors vary so much from individual to individual, and even from state to state, I’ve run five scenarios for the Tesla Model 3 versus each of the three Honda Civic trims I chose for this analysis:

  • High Gas Price, High Electricity Price
  • Moderate Gas Price, Moderate Electricity Price
  • Low Gas Price, Low Electricity Price
  • High Gas Price, Low Electricity Price
  • Low Gas Price, High Electricity Price

Of course, no financial value is put on the greater safety of the Tesla Model 3 or the fact that it’s approximately 10× more fun than a Honda Civic. Some things are simply priceless.

By the way, if you missed previous comparisons, see:

As always, you can change any assumptions as you wish by copying/duplicating this Google Sheet.

Getting to the details of this analysis, below are comparisons between the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+) and the Honda Civic LX (CVT), Civic EX (CVT), and Civic Touring (CVT). As a reminder, you can actually get a cheaper Tesla Model 3 if you go into a Tesla store or call a Tesla store. That said, most people will buy the SR+, the US federal tax credit for Tesla buyers will be cut in half again on July 1, and you can also potentially get a below-MSRP Honda Civic at a local dealer (if the dealer doesn’t trick you into adding various extra items or services), so I think it’s fair to leave the $35,000 Model 3 Standard Range (SR) out of the picture in these comparisons. Nonetheless, if you really want the lowest priced new Tesla possible, go into a store and order the SR in black!

Image © Kyle Field, CleanTechnica (permitted for use anywhere with credit)

High Gas Price, High Electricity Price

This scenario uses $5/gallon for gasoline and $0.20/kWh for electricity. Remember that both prices are supposed to be an average of the 5 year period. Also remember that the $/kWh figure is not as simple as picking a residential electricity price. Some people will have free workplace or public charging, some will have low-cost solar panels on their roofs, some will have to pay for public charging/Supercharging, some will have low “time of use” (TOU) electricity prices. For this “high-fuel-cost” scenario, I thought the two figures above were sensible, but feel free to copy the Google Sheet yourself and input figures that you think would match your situation over 5 years.

Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic Touring
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $27,300.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,911.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $11,247.60
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $17,963.40
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $3,257.35
Price of Gas $5.00
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.20
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,210.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $750.00 $2,272.73
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $31,690 $35,794
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic EX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $23,400.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,638.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $9,640.80
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $15,397.20
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,687.68
Price of Gas $5.00
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.20
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,159.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $750.00 $2,272.73
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $31,690 $32,608
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic LX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $20,250.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,417.50
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $8,343.00
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $13,324.50
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,227.56
Price of Gas $5.00
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.20
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,335.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $750.00 $2,272.73
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $31,690 $30,251

Low Gas Price, Low Electricity Price

This scenario uses $2.10/gallon for gasoline and $0.07/kWh for electricity. See the notes in the section above if you skipped them. Also, as an example that the cost of electricity can go much lower than even $0.07/kWh, note that in 9 months of electric car ownership in Florida I spent $0 charging — yes, $0.00. I don’t have home charging and every charging station I’ve found and used in my city (at grocery stores, the beach, parks, the mall, downtown, and elsewhere) is free to use. So, in some situations at least, you can put an EV electricity cost of $0, but I didn’t do so here since I didn’t want to be skewered alive by people who don’t have free charging everywhere, instead choosing $0.07/kWh. The lowest average gas price I can find in any state in the USA is $2.619 (in New Mexico), but I got pretty extreme and went lower — down to $2.10 — for this scenario. Don’t ask me how you could actually have such a low average gas price over the coming 5 years.

Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic Touring
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $27,300.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,911.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $11,247.60
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $17,963.40
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $3,257.35
Price of Gas $2.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.07
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,210.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $262.50 $954.55
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $29,253 $29,203
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic EX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $23,400.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,638.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $9,640.80
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $15,397.20
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,687.68
Price of Gas $2.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.07
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,159.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $262.50 $954.55
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $29,253 $26,017
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic LX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $20,250.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,417.50
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $8,343.00
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $13,324.50
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,227.56
Price of Gas $2.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.07
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,335.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $262.50 $954.55
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $29,253 $23,660

Moderate Gas Price, Moderate Electricity Price

This scenario uses $3.10/gallon for gasoline and $0.13/kWh for electricity. See the notes in the sections above if you skipped them.

Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic Touring
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $27,300.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,911.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $11,247.60
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $17,963.40
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $3,257.35
Price of Gas $3.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.13
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,210.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $487.50 $1,409.09
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $30,378 $31,476
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic EX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $23,400.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,638.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $9,640.80
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $15,397.20
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,687.68
Price of Gas $3.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.13
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,159.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $487.50 $1,409.09
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $30,378 $28,289
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic LX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $20,250.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,417.50
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $8,343.00
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $13,324.50
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,227.56
Price of Gas $3.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.13
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,335.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $487.50 $1,409.09
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $30,378 $25,933

High Gas Price, Low Electricity Price

This scenario uses $5/gallon for gasoline and $0.07/kWh for electricity. See the notes in the sections above if you skipped them.

Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic Touring
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $27,300.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,911.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $11,247.60
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $17,963.40
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $3,257.35
Price of Gas $5.00
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.07
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,210.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $262.50 $2,272.73
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $29,253 $35,794
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic EX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $23,400.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,638.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $9,640.80
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $15,397.20
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,687.68
Price of Gas $5.00
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.07
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,159.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $262.50 $2,272.73
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $29,253 $32,608
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic LX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $20,250.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,417.50
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $8,343.00
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $13,324.50
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,227.56
Price of Gas $5.00
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.07
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,335.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $262.50 $2,272.73
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $29,253 $30,251

Low Gas Price, High Electricity Price

In this scenario, I used $2.10/gallon for gasoline and $0.20/kWh for electricity. See the notes in the sections above if you skipped them. I personally think this scenario is the least likely/common, but trying to be fair to people living in extreme edge cases, here it is.

Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic Touring
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $27,300.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,911.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $11,247.60
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $17,963.40
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $3,257.35
Price of Gas $2.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.20
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,210.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $750.00 $954.55
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $31,690 $29,203
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic EX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $23,400.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,638.00
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $9,640.80
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $15,397.20
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,687.68
Price of Gas $2.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.20
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,159.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $750.00 $954.55
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $31,690 $26,017
Car Tesla Model 3 SR+ Honda Civic LX
Purchase Price $40,900.00 $20,250.00
Sales tax $2,863.00 $1,417.50
Destination & doc fee $1,200.00 $920.00
5 Year Resale Value (via KBB) $19,918.30 $8,343.00
Incentives -$3,750.00 $0.00
Cash Cost after Incentives & Resale Deduction & Taxes/Fees $21,294.70 $13,324.50
Interest after 5 years (assuming $5000 down and 5.5% interest rate) $5,665.02 $2,227.56
Price of Gas $2.10
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.20
Average Miles Per Year 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Costs (5 Years) $980.72 $3,335.00
Miles/kWh 4 33
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 454.55
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/4) 3,750.00
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $750.00 $954.55
5 Year Total Cost of Ownership $31,690 $23,660

Assumptions included in the comparisons above:

Again, you can change any assumptions as you see fit by copying/duplicating this Google Sheet.

Image © Zach Shahan, CleanTechnica (permitted for use anywhere with credit)

Any final thoughts?

My final thoughts are that I can’t believe anyone would look at this info, drive a Tesla Model 3 (much quicker, much smoother, better handling, much safer, much better tech, and much cheaper), and actually buy a new Honda Civic rather than a Tesla Model 3 — unless they were forced to do so by a local gangster. That’s not to say everyone can afford a Tesla Model 3, though. If upfront cost is an important barrier and someone simply cannot afford a Model 3, I understand that, but then it doesn’t make sense to me to buy a new car at all — but that’s another story.

Interested in buying a Tesla Model 3 (or Model S or Model X)? Need a referral code to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging? Use ours: http://ts.la/tomasz7234 (or use someone else’s if they helped you more).

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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