Following up on my 5 year cost of ownership comparisons between the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+), the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (C300 and C300 4MATIC), and the Audi A4 (Premium and Premium Plus trims), it’s time to run an updated comparison between the Model 3 SR+, the BMW 3 Series, and the BMW 4 Series. It seems like this is the most relevant comparison you can make with the Model 3 SR+, since the Model 3 and the 3 /4 Series are both supposed to be very sporty, premium-class, and status-imbuing models. Many argue that Tesla has displaced BMW at the top of this influential vehicle class.
Regarding the cost of ownership comparisons, I think everyone already knows that the Tesla Model 3 is going to cost much less over several years of ownership. But what’s the damage? Let’s have a look at some cost comparisons, and after that I’ll also compare some key specs for the trims analyzed here and a handful of notes about the assumptions used.
According to my number crunching (which, to reiterate, is based on numerous assumptions that can vary by person, region, and how the future plays out), the 5 year cost of ownership of the Model 3 came to $30,002, the 5 year cost of ownership of the BMW 3 Series came to $49,292, and the 5 year cost of ownership of the BMW 4 Series came to $51,940. The starting point for the BMW models was the company-provided MSRP. If I had used local dealer prices instead of MSRP for the 3 Series and 4 Series, the story would be dramatically worse for the BMW models. Here are the results of my cost of ownership analysis in chart form:
Don’t like the results? Don’t like the assumptions? Copy my Google Sheet and run your own analysis with your own details and best guesses at what the future holds. I think everyone should do this.
It’s not all about money, of course, especially in this premium car class. So, let’s have a look at what these models offer consumers.
Acceleration: The Model 3 SR+ is just as quick as the BMW 330i xDrive from 0 to 60 mph. Importantly, though, the Model 3 feels much faster thanks to the instant torque of its electric motors and powertrain. The 440i Coupe is slightly slower than both of the other models. (Side note: If you try to really “save money” on the BMW and get the simple 330i, the 0–60 mph time rises to 5.6 seconds.)
Handling: It seems the models are fairly close in the terms of handling, but the world’s top automotive journalists have repeatedly concluded that the Model 3 wins. The low center of gravity from the skateboard design of the batteries, the quick access to power from the electric motor, and Tesla’s super smart software apparently offer the most handling chutzpah.
Safety: Tested thoroughly for probability of injury in an accident, the Model 3 logged the best score of any car ever tested by the NHTSA. It also won a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, the highest possible rating, and it performed extremely well in European and Australian safety testing systems.
The BMW 3/4 Series also got 5 stars from the NHTSA and the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, but clearly did not top Tesla in the more detailed calculations for the NHTSA — we don’t know about the IIHS rating system.
Interior design: I think interior design is one of the areas where Tesla most soundly embarrasses BMW, but the funny thing is that there are plenty of people who think the opposite. Tastes vary. Tesla’s new minimalist interior design is one of the most enjoyable things about the car for many of us, but it’s a huge turnoff to others. Go for a ride or take a multi-day test drive if you’re somewhere in the middle and need more time and experience to consider things.
Infotainment: You’ve got a computer on wheels on one hand — including the YouTube, Netflix, gaming, music, and maps that go with that — and you’ve got BMW’s knob-based infotainment systems on the other. I had a BMW i3 and now have a Model 3 SR+. In my opinion, you absolutely can not spend a significant amount of time with infotainment systems from these two automakers and conclude that the BMW system is even in the same league. Nothing out there compares to Tesla infotainment.
Autonomous driving tech: Come on.
Cargo space: The Model 3 offers slightly less cargo space than the BMW 3 Series or 4 Series. Interestingly, this is a reverse of previous years.
Is there a good reason to buy a BMW 3 Series or 4 Series instead of a Tesla Model 3? There must be a few for specific use cases or individuals. However, the Model 3 is sportier than the “sporty” BMWs, the Model 3 has better tech of all sorts, and Tesla has essentially usurped the slogan “the ultimate driving machine.” Additionally, Tesla is stealing the title of Most Loved Car Brand Among Boys.
All in all, I’d conclude that the final score between the Tesla Model 3 and the BMW 3/4 Series is 47:3.
Of course, I’m biased — I bought a Tesla Model 3 SR+.
If you’d like to buy a Tesla and get 2,000 miles (3,000 km) of free Supercharging, feel free to use my referral code by October 1: https://ts.la/zachary63404. After October 1, it’s presumed that you will get 1,000 miles (1,500 km) of free Supercharging by using that referral code (or someone else’s).
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