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Tesla Model 3: 3-Year Review & Total Cost Of Ownership Comparison

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Three and change years ago, I went to the local Tesla shop and picked up this blue beauty (his name is Yan). It was my first EV, though my company owned a Nissan Leaf I drove around a bit so I was already pretty enthused about EVs. I’ve never been a flashy guy, nor did I ever care about fashion, cars, boats, etc., but I have had climate anxiety for 30 years, and swore that my biodiesel VW Jetta would be the last internal combustion engine car I ever owned (that was 2011). I keep my promises, so here it was in 2019 that I found myself in need of an upgrade. At that point, in my opinion, the Model 3 had been out long enough that I felt, at last, that affordability <> sustainability <> practicality had truly reached a point of comfort for me. The sexiness of this car was just a cherry on top, at least for me.

Total cost, $41,000 (blue was a $1000 upgrade over the base white) plus taxes and fees, so a total of about $43K. I got a $1500 tax credit, so let’s call it roughly $42K, just to keep it simple. In this article, I will lay out the total cost of ownership of this car for 3 years and about 20K miles of driving. Spoiler alert, the total is about $45K, 3 plus years later. Here’s how.

Fuel Costs


The amazing efficiency of EVs never ceases to blow my mind. I did a post on how cheap it was to charge my Tesla, and how many miles I got per kilowatt hour, as a comparison to a gas car. I measured it at about 115 miles per “gallon equivalent” (I know MPGe is not as simple a metric as it should be, but it’s useful enough here, and hey, 115 beats the f**k out of any gas car known to man, even if it’s an imperfect metric). I have never once paid to charge my car. My home has excess solar, and a Powerwall backup, so I normally just charge during the day (I actually put a timer on the plug) and consistently add mileage to my car that way. There are a lot of Volta and other free chargers around my town (as there are in a lot of places), and occasionally I’ll add some Level 2 charging that way. My trick is to go into my local garage where there’s a couple of chargers and park across from them if they’re not open, open my laptop and do some work til I see someone leaving, and fwhoooop! Slide right in there. Some of our local chargers are 2 hour limits, some 4, so about 50-100 miles added per session, depending.

Driving a gasmobile 20,000 miles (let’s just use a similarly priced model like a Nissan Maxima) would cost:

20,000 miles / 24 mpg (combined…it’s 20 in the city (f**king 20!), 30 on highway) = 833.33 gallons of gas x $3.79 per gallon (the AAA estimate at the exact moment I’m writing this post) = $3158.33

Maintenance Costs

$56. An authorized Tesla mechanic came to my house once to fix…something. I honestly can’t even remember. I honestly was shocked that it wasn’t under warranty, but there was something I did that caused it to not be under warranty. Now, my roof glass is cracked (whoa whoa, I hear everyone in the room yelling at me at the same time). Tesla, your roof glass on the 2019 models was weak-sauce, and I think you knew it. And that’s it — there’s been not a single shred of other maintenance required that over-the-air software downloads don’t fix while I’m sleeping without a care (at least about my car) in the world.

Just the oil changes alone on this number of miles would be about $350 for a gasmobile. And of course, when you go for an oil change, the guy comes back with a handful of bolts and nuts he’s removed from under your chassis and looks at you very concernedly, “You really ought to change these out — they’re really worn,” so tack on a few hundred a year in extra fees from your local jiffy pops. Don’t forget your spark plugs, and that timing belt probably needs to be changed out soon, you know, and when we’re in there, it’s probably the best time to do your O2 sensor and your widget filtermajiggy. You don’t want to let that go too long, right gasmobile car owner??

Upkeep Costs

About $75. I’ve bought some windshield washer fluid. I know, I could use distilled water and save some money. I was in the store and saw it, and, you know. I also know that I am behind on rotating my tires. Haven’t even done that yet. I paid $55 for Tesla’s factory touchup paint kit, which I wrote about in my 8 things that suck about my Tesla Model 3. It was the worst $50+ I’ve spent in a long time, and that’s really saying something — I have bought some things that just absolutely failed to perform. The paint kits from Tesla suck, do not buy.

Aftermarket Goodies

$150. I picked up some heavy duty floor mats, cupholders, a sun shade for that weak-sauce roof glass (ahem, just a little bitter), and a trunk organizer from EVAnnex. No regrets here.

Insurance Costs

This one is the heaviest – I’m a single dude, and even though I have a pretty good driving record, insurance is pricy. It’s about $1K per year.

Health Care

Just as a side note, I’m pretty sure I got violently ill from food I ate after gassing up a car one time — the pump handle was kinda gross, and I just sorta forgot to wash my hands (bc it is not convenient to do so) after supporting petrodictators around the world with my hard earned money. So…yea. None of those costs here.


And that’s it, folks! Nothing to see, nothing to hide. But wait! There’s more!

There’s the resale value:

(screen shot taken today).

Given that I could literally now sell my car for more than I spent buying, fueling, insuring, maintaining, and upkeeping for 3+ years, I’d say the case is so f**king closed on this “debate” that you can share this article with anyone who still has a single shred of doubt about whether they can afford an EV. Is it more if you don’t have excess solar? Yes, of course. But trust me folks, it still pencils in every imaginable way. And now more than ever there are leasing options for EVs in every place around the world to soften that initial purchase price.


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Written By

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 16,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 27 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.


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