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Tesla Model 3 vs BMW 330i & Audi A4 — 5 Year Cost of Ownership

It’s been a long time since I conducted some new 5 year cost of ownership comparisons between the Tesla Model 3 and other top vehicles in its class. The $1,875 federal EV tax credit for the Model 3 has gone away in that time, and we’re into a new model year. So, I decided to get back into this by comparing the the Tesla Model 3 to the BMW Series (the 330i xDrive Sedan, to be specific) and Audi A4.

It’s been a long time since I conducted some new 5 year cost of ownership comparisons between the Tesla Model 3 and other top vehicles in its class. The $1,875 federal EV tax credit for the Model 3 has gone away in that time, and we’re into a new model year. So, I decided to get back into this by comparing the the Tesla Model 3 to the BMW Series (the 330i xDrive Sedan, to be specific) and Audi A4.

These kinds of analyses always rely on several assumptions that can vary a great deal from person to person. So, I think it’s important to familiarize yourself with the assumptions, check out the spreadsheet used for this, and copy the spreadsheet if you’d like to input your own assumptions. I’ll discuss the assumptions in more detail on the bottom of this article, but jumping to the fun stuff, I will first share my results from 3 different scenarios comparing the Tesla Model 3 to two gasoline-powered models. There’s a “moderate” comparison, a high mileage + high gas price comparison, and a low mileage + low gas price comparison. Here we go:

15,000 Miles, $3 Gas
(5 Year Average)

20,000 Miles, $4 Gas
(5 Year Average)

10,000 Miles, $2 Gas
(5 Year Average)

As you can see, even changing annual miles and gas prices quite significantly, the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus easily has a much lower 5 year cost of ownership. There are other assumptions you could change as well, though, and I’m sure most readers will have different scenarios in their heads for their own lives. So, I’ll quickly explain each assumption, the metrics I used, and considerations you might want to keep in mind when you run your own calculations. (Again, feel free to just duplicate my spreadsheet and modify assumptions as you see fit.)

Miles per year: Regarding miles driven per year, some people drive 3,000 while others drive 30,000. You can pick the median (around 15,000), but no calculation is useful for you if it doesn’t match your situation. Of course, with the coronavirus crisis, who knows how many miles you’ll drive next month, let alone this year? Pull out you Magic 8 Ball and get to work trying to decipher the answer. I thought it made sense for a broad audience to run a scenario for 10,000 miles, one for 15,000, and one for 20,000.

Price of gasoline: Remember that this figure should be an average of the full 5 years. Also, note that you can scan different gas price averages by region or state. And don’t forget that the world has gone upside down for a bit and the price of oil went below $0 this week (on a quite serendipitous day no less). You may need more than a Magic 8 Ball to come up with an average price of gas over the coming 5 years. Perhaps runes or Tarot?

Price of electricity: While this one may be much easier for a person to estimate for themselves, the options again range by a huge margin. The price per kWh for me to charge my Tesla Model 3 these past 8 months? $0. So, $0 is indeed the correct figure to plug in for my calculation, but I understand that’s unusual and it may be a bit higher for you, Ken, or Barbie. You could use the US average price of electricity here for broad calculations, but I figure many people will have at least some free charging options they use from time to time (at work, the store, a friend’s house, or the local thing-once-known-as-a-coffee-shop). Others will have rooftop solar, bringing down the cost of charging. In the end, any figure for a broad audience is arbitrary whether you recognize it or not. Consider what your average price should be based on where and when you expect to charge. Consider special time-of-use (TOU) or EV charging rates if your utility offers them. Consider Superchargers and fast chargers if needed. Consider local free charging options.

Down payment: Take your best guess.

Interest rate: Check with a few banks. I also recommend checking Tesla financing, which gave me my best deal. (Tesla has a large network of banks it uses for this.) I used 4% interest for these scenarios even though the rate I’m paying is lower than that.

Sales tax: This varies a bit across the US. I used my local sales tax rate here in Florida.

5 year resale value: This is another place where a Magic 8 Ball or some tea leaves could come in handy, but I used Kelley Blue Book’s estimate for the Model 3 and Edmunds estimates for the other cars. Edmunds doesn’t have figures for the Model 3, and Kelley Blue Book doesn’t publicly publish estimates for most models — the Model 3 just happened to be a highlighted leader.

Maintenance costs: This is another one where I had to split the sources. Edmunds provides estimates for most models, but Edmunds doesn’t offer any data on this for the Model 3. Some readers in the past have considered it unfair to use Edmunds for other models and Paul Fosse’s calculations for the Model 3, since Paul is possibly more cash-efficient and frugal. So, this time around I decided to use 50% more than Paul’s estimate. Nonetheless, again, feel free to input your own best estimates for these models or others.

Efficiency: I used official ratings for these.

That’s basically it for the assumptions and calculations. I think the 3 scenarios above were reasonable, fun, and interesting, but I also think it’s critical to input your own figures. For that matter, you should also pick the actual cars you’re considering buying. Have at it, and share your results in the comments below if you feel tickled by them.

Related: 33× More 2019 Audi A3 & A4 Than Tesla Model 3 On Used Car Market Per Car Sold

Want to buy a Tesla Model 3? Feel free to use my referral code to get some free Supercharging miles with your purchase:

You can also use the code when buying a Model S or Model X, or can get a $250 discount on Tesla solar with that code. There is currently no use for a referral code when putting down a reservation for a Cybertruck or Model Y

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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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