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Toyota Corolla vs. Tesla Model 3 — Cost Comparisons Over 5 Years

Let’s start out by being very clear — in no universe should a Tesla Model 3 be competing with a Toyota Corolla on cost. The Model 3 is, objectively, a vastly superior vehicle. It is far safer, tremendously quicker, has much higher tech, is larger, and is considerably more prestigious. The only reason we’re running this comparison is because, shockingly, the Tesla Model 3 does compete with the Toyota Corolla on cost.

Let’s start out by being very clear — in no universe should a Tesla Model 3 be competing with a Toyota Corolla on cost. The Model 3 is, objectively, a vastly superior vehicle. It is far safer, tremendously quicker (5.3 seconds to 60 mph vs. 8.5 seconds to 60 mph), has much higher tech, is larger, and is considerably more prestigious. The only reason we’re running this comparison is because, shockingly, the Tesla Model 3 does compete with the Toyota Corolla on cost.

Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3 photo by Megan Gale (used with permission).

As always, critical factors in any 5 year cost comparison can vary a great deal from individual to individual or from place to place. I could fill the beginning of this article with paragraphs and paragraphs about the assumptions — as if I’m writing in a boring academic journal — but I don’t want to scare people away from looking at the summary results. To dive into the assumptions, make sure to go to the bottom of this article. Also, I strongly encourage anyone genuinely comparing cars to jump over to my Google Sheet for such comparisons, copy a tab, and start your own cost comparison. Put in the assumptions that fit your situation best (competing models, miles driven per year, loan details) and then see how the numbers turn out.

Thirdly, I do highly recommend these other cost comparisons:

This comparison between the Tesla Model 3 and Toyota Corolla, two of the USA’s top selling cars, will include the following general scenarios:

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

For the Model 3, I’m not using the $35,000 version of the car that you can get by going into a Tesla store or calling Tesla and ordering it. Instead, I’m using the $39,900 Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+). For the Toyota Corolla, I picked the cheapest Corolla, the Corolla L (I really shouldn’t have), the Corolla LE Hybrid, and the top-of-the-line Corolla XSE (which still, of course, does not compare to the Model 3 on safety, acceleration, tech, or really anything else).

On to the comparisons!

Tesla Model 3 kids Top image by Toyota. Bottom image by Zach Shahan , 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 an estimated average of the whole 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, and some (like me) will have $0 in charging costs due to ubiquitous free charging in their cities. 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.

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates at 15,000 miles per year

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

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.

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

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.

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

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.

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Chart: Tesla Model 3 vs Toyota Corolla - 5 Year Cost Estimates

Assumptions included in the comparisons above included:

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

Any final thoughts?

Tesla Model 3 Supercharging Oxnard, CATesla Model 3 Supercharging Thousand Oaks, CATwo photos of black Tesla Model 3 by Kyle Field , CleanTechnica (permitted for use anywhere with credit).

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

 

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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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