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Tesla Model 3 Cost of Ownership Slightly Cheaper Than a Camry (loupventures.com)
64 points by arbie 50 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments



Seems to be predicated upon a number of questionable assumptions-- including that

- a Model 3 is cheaper to insure than a Camry (thus far, the opposite is true-- and it seems optimistic to attain for a car that costs so much more, has higher performance, and higher repair costs)

- the Model 3 will be cheaper to maintain by a massive factor (we'll see; there is maintenance avoided by having an electric car but also Tesla's part costs and availability has been poor)

- resale value will hold up exceptionally well for the Tesla

Basically, the most optimistic values have been taken for the Tesla in every field and the most pessimistic values have been taken for the Camry, and the Tesla manages a slight win.


disclaimer, I own a Tesla model 3.

The whole article and accompanying table is parrot food.

Compared to a Camry the Camry will always win. If I could get lower insurance I would have it already. Maintenance costs for that Camry are highly suspect too, oil changes aren't that frequent nor do they cost that much and most big items are 100k or such. Throw in the service cost for the TM3 are over priced as well. I mean, at most I replace air filters at 25k and wiper blades. I guess tires would make the number that high but it would probably be higher then.

Comparing to an equal price petrol car, yes a Tesla or any EV will save you money over the long run. Compared to something two thirds to half the price, it won't save you money.

Plus, fuel costs should roll in the newest revenue enhancer for states, having surcharges on tag renewals for EVs as a substitute for fuel taxes


I'm a model 3 owner as well, seems overly pessimistic for the Toyota without any good explanations.

However having just switched from a 2004 Forester XT to a new model 3 I can say that the maintenance was substantial. Over the life of the car it was over $100 per month and I spend $160 a month on gas. AWD, a big/heavy SUV, and a turbo doesn't do much for the MPG.

The looming spectre in the luxury/premium new/cpu/used car markets is almost everyone has switched to high compression 2 liter turbos... that seem not to last nearly as well as the motors they replace. Sure they do well on the EPA test, but less well in real world conditions. They also tend to have a surprising high chance of terrible failures shortly after the drive train warranty expires. Subaru has multiple generations issues with it's head gaskets (yes 2), BMW with the high pressure fuel pump, carbon build up, and plastic timing chain. I checked a bunch of forums from BMW, Toyota, Ford, and Subaru and it looked pretty scary.

One forum I read mentioned a sad story of a shortly after warranty engine destruction after taking it in to check on an engine light just the week before. Cost was around $20k for the new engine. That triggered 20 pages of similar sad stories. This was a few years ago and a month later BMW had a major change to it's CPO warranty which makes me think that it's not a particularly rare occurrence. The most common recommendation is when buying used to get an older car that still has a NA 3 liter turbo instead of buying a newer used car with the 2 liter turbo.

So I think a fairer comparison would be 10 year of electric car ownership vs ICE. After all nobody throws away a car after 3 years.


It's 5 years, which is in the ballpark of a typical timeframe for ownership of a new car.

Yes, as cars get older they get less reliable. This is likely to be true of the Tesla, too.

The number is kinda baked into the real resale value, anyways. A good part of what subsequent buyers are willing to pay is based on their inferred operating costs.


The main assumption everyone makes is that Tesla/electric cars will be more reliable compared to ice cars as they have fewer moving parts. Electric cars haven't been around long enough yet for long term evaluation.


You just put in writing what I've been thinking whenever I come across these articles.

One thing I would expand on is the resale value for Tesla. The EV technology is changing so rapidly that there may be groundbreaking changes or improvements in the 3-5 year span that would render a TM3's resale price useless. It's much more unlikely that the same will happen for a Camry, the threshold of innovation for gas-powered cars have been pushed much more closer to its limits than EVs.


And the cost of financing, which is highly variable based on the individuals credit worthiness.


If you’re financing a new car and worried about the cost of ownership, you should probably think about the reducing the biggest cost with a new car on finance.

I.E don’t buy it using money borrowed from someone else.


That depends on the interest rate, I usually qualify for near zero rates, my last loan was something like 0.9%. When an index fund can return more than 5% in recent years it makes more sense to finance the car and leave the cash in the market. I can't think of a situation where the cost of ownership isn't considered, you should always consider what it costs to own any object. Even the ultra-rich will shy away from vehicles due to running costs, re: Bugatti tire change cost.


Cost of taxes are highly variable too. Not just sales tax, some jurisdictions apply yearly property tax to vehicles.


Or folks may not require any financing. In which case, the model 3 is even more cheaper per mile than the camry.


Time value of money applies whether you need financing or not.


They also appear to budget $0 for a home charging station, which means either you're doing all your charging at Tesla chargers, are lucky enough to have a charger at work that is regularly available, or charging at home via a very slow 1-2kW outlet.


The mobile charger comes with the car. With the range and supercharging network few people need to carry the mobile charter.... especially since you can use other networks as well.

So I just use my included Tesla charger in a NEMA 10-30 (the older dryer standard) and get 24 miles of charger per hour. Plenty, it's rare that I drive for 5+ hours a day, even then in 10 hours (food + sleep) I can have another 240 miles or so. If I need more (very rare) I can use the supercharging network, on my longer drives I typically see several superchargers go by.


I charge my other manufacturer electric vehicle from a standard outlet every night over 12 hours or so it's sitting there because I drive it less than the charge needed every day, much like the vast majority of people would.


A lot of people would at least occasionally get in trouble with 4MPH charging.


Each tesla comes with a mobile charger with adapters for nema 14-50 (220 dryer outlet) and 5-15 (standard 110 outlet).

I'm not sure what the model 3 charge rate is in mph for these scenarios.


120V charging is around 4MPH in most electric vehicles.


Which Car Models Have the Lowest Maintenance Cost?

Based on total car maintenance costs over 10 years: Rank:Make_Model@Cost Cheapest:Toyota_Prius@$4,300 2nd_cheapest:Kia_Soul@$4,700 3rd_cheapest:Toyota_Camry@$5,200

They think a Camry costs $4000 over 5 years to maintain, whereas Your Mechanic thinks it is $5200 over 10 years - something smells. Fix that, and the advantage goes away.

I think it is very unlikely the Model 3 costs less to maintain than a Camry over 10 years (projected). Toyota are insanely much better than any other manufacturer - I am sceptical a new manufacturer with a new model can jumpstart reliability figures like that. Are they including expected battery replacement costs?

https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/the-most-and-least-expe...


I think the model 3 batteries are good for a huge number of lifetime miles, like 500k

For comparison I once rode in a prius with 400k miles, and it had had the engine replaced multiple times.


> For comparison I once rode in a prius with 400k miles, and it had had the engine replaced multiple times.

That's odd, and definitely not normal.

Firstly, the Prius was the least expensive model maintenance-wise in the link above.

Secondly, I have heard from multiple people that the Prius engine just keeps running because it doesn't get the same loads as a normal car (makes sense).

Finally, taxi drivers drive reliable vehicles that are cheap to maintain, and the Prius is the car of choice for taxi drivers where I am (and here that's categorically not a side-effect of other financial incentives).


This was a taxi.

I think he also said they didn't like the newer prius versions, I thought because they didn't have as much room in them.


I am a new model 3 owner in the UK and the insurance is astronomical. Despite having a license for more than 9 years (usually the maximum for UK insurers), having no convictions, it being stored on a driveway with CCTV my quote was £2,600 p.a. I do live in London and haven't owned a car for a few years so(no claims discount not being applicable). While I was expecting an expensive premium, I wasn’t expecting something so outrageous! For context I owned a sporty car when I was 19 and had just passed my test my insurance was £1200p.a. I consider myself, and the car, considerably safer and this expected something around this mark. I am hoping next year I will see a significant drop in price. I wonder how ‘real word’ their calculations where?


I've just had a look at quotes where I am (a couple of hours away from London) and got £900/year. That's quite a lot (I think for a Ford Focus and a Volvo V70 I pay about £200 each) but you're really getting screwed!

I wonder how much is just the sheer value of the car rather than insurers considering them to be particularly risky?


Strangely, I found that insurance on cars over ten years old gets really expensive, to the point where the car is effectively uninsurable. I don't know why - but it was surprising, coming from a place where I insured a '95 Mazda for about $35 a month


Manufacturers stop keeping new parts in stock around that time, so spare mechanical parts and/or body panels begin to become scarce.


There's no point in paying for comprehensive insurance on a car that old. You only need liability.


The values I quoted are for third party insurance (akin to liability in the US)


I think its both. Insurers are by nature risk averse. I suspect, from your comment you also have no claims years? Still £900 is a lot.


Ah, managed to miss that bit - yes, I do. In that case I'm surprised your quote wasn't more!


>no claims discount

While stating your argument you left this as the last one, as if it is the least significant one. In reality it is the most significant one and you should lead with it, otherwise you run the risk of sounding disingenuous.

>license for more than 9 years [...] when I was 19 and had just passed my test my insurance was £1200p.a.

I assume you did not adjust the £1200 value for 2019 according to inflation, GBP purchasing power, et cetera. Nine years is quite a long time for price changes. Have you tried getting a quote for a "sporty car" in the current year?


It's worth noting that without a no claims bonus insurance is high in general.

Ireland (so utterly dysfunctional insurance market) but as a person in my mid-30's with impeccable driving record but no NCB (hadn't owned a car for years) I pay ~€1550 for the cheapest possible insurance on a 10 year old Honda Jazz. It should be under half that with a year of no claims.


I came to same conclusion as an European (Finn).

As my Prius is approaching ten years age, I'm going to retire it and get new primary car. I calculated that new Corolla Hybrid with best trim + gas for 5 years will cost roughly the same as SR+ with electricity (inc. 2 KEUR rebate).

Btw, currently I pay 300 EUR per month for gas (~1.5 per litre), while SR+ monthly loan payment starts from 450 EUR (with 5 KEUR down payment). Electricity is relatively cheap (and green!) in Finland, also insurancing a Tesla has no premium. It starts to look like a bargain!

We drive a lot, almost 50,000 km per year. Of course there are lot variables, but I'm pretty sure that gas and ICE car taxation won't get any cheaper. Not to forget that SR+ is definitely more fun daily driver.


So 750 Euro for the car and electricity. Wouldnt it be cheaper to use other means of transportation?

I guess thats not even the end of the line since there probably are other costs like taxes, insurance and repairs?

I use several types of transportation every day (Bikes, Scooters, Mopeds, Buses, Trains, Cabs) and I pay less then 300 Euro a month for it all. And its much less hassle since I can just start wherever I am and never have to search for a parking space, walk to my car or deal with any maintenance.


750 euro? I think you misread. Electricity for SR+ would cost less than 100 EUR per month, 300 EUR is my current gas cost for Prius.

I live in countryside, so there is no practical alternative transport options available. Moved from a city 5 years ago and have been happy. Family-sized housing in Helsinki costs way too much and public transportation works poorly (IMO). Of course, in the end it comes down to personal preference of life style.


Speaking as a fellow Finn, yes the cost of gas/diesel for those who drive a lot (= everyone living outside of bicycle/running range from work) is insane. I don't understand why the negative attitude towards electric in Finland when it is astoundingly expensive to drive with ICEs. We have a fully working inexpensive charging network spanning all inter-city roads and city centers. If you do a little bit of homework FREE charging can be found.

Currently drive a plugin which has allowed me to drive with electric only to and from work and will absolutely never buy a ICE again, it is just too expensive to drive them here.


To what extent do you have variable kWh rates based on time of day in Finland? Assuming nearly full implementation of smart metering. One of the interesting features of a Tesla is that if you use it for daily commuting, the car can be set to charge overnight between 10pm and 5am, during the hours of lowest kWh rates.


In the Nordic electricity market the hourly kWh price is negotiated one day in advance, i.e. I can check today what will be the kWh price for each hour tomorrow. I've chosen a pricing model market price + fixed margin, so in theory it gives me lot of room for optimizing the bill via home automation etc.

Typically the night time rate is much lower, but the price of energy itself is only 1/3rd of the whole bill, the grid company taking another 1/3 and the rest is for taxes, so that smoothes out the price difference.

I'm planning to install solar panels in the near future. The payback time is 7-15 years depending on the amount of DIY work.


Actual price of electricity is negligible, around 4-6 cent/kWh. There is really very little wiggle room here. The rest is tax and electricity transfer.

You can choose to buy your electricity from anyone but you have to pay the local monopoly for the transfer. Electric transfer/infrastructure has been sold abroad by our very forward thinking smart politicians and thus that money is never seen again.

Both cost double that of electricity or more. So the total is around 13-17c/kWh. Smart metering saves only a few cents per kWh. These two rates have been going up really fast and will lead to a solar/wind revolution in short order.


> Actual price of electricity is negligible, around 4-6 cent/kWh. There is really very little wiggle room here.

That's the average energy price, and what typically pay if you have fixed pricing per kWh, but there is lot of variance hourly/seasonally. Sometimes in the night time the price of energy can be almost nothing (e.g. hydro power reverses overfilling), but of course you still have to pay for grid company + taxes. To take advantage of that, you need a "market price" plan with your energy company. E.g. I try to store the cheap night-time energy into water boiler + floor heating.

An electric car is very good match for cheap nigh-time energy, as you typically charge overnight.


In finland are gas prices relatively stable, or do they increase over time?


The resale value for the Camry is bogus. I paid about $10k for a less nice Camry as the one mentioned in the article that was 7 years old with 130K kms. For a 5 year old LE with low kms I’d expect $13-17k resale.


There's a huge spread between trade-in value and prices on a dealership lot. It's completely reasonable to expect to get $8-10k in trade-in for a five year old Camry, and totally reasonable to expect to pay $15k to buy that same car from the dealership.


Lol... Nobody spends $4k on maintenance over the first five years of a brand new Camry's life.

Id like to see how a Model 3 is cheaper to insure as well... seems questionable at best. I'd have to get quotes to disprove it though.

In fact, right now I have an econocar that's almost 10 years old and I'm certain I've spent less than $4k in maintenance over that decade. I've gotten new tires twice (~$1,300), new battery (~300), brakes (~$400), oil changes (~$300), turn signal bulbs (~$10) and that's really all I can remember.


Not mentioned: cost of repairs. The running joke with Tesla's seems to be you're not a real owner until it's been on a diesel truck.


The Gas/Electricity cost comparison are off.

CA electric rates average 15.34c/KwH Tesla gets 27 KwH per 100 miles which comes out to 4.14$ per 100 miles for the Tesla A Camry at 50mpg uses 2 gallons costing 7$ per 100 miles.

So, on a per elec/gas basic the comparison should be: 2250 vs 3804

And, if you live in the bay area, then your electric rates can easily be 18, or 19c/KwH nearly putting the TM3 on par with the camry.

Also, as other pointed out: in the long term, the camry will cost much much less on maintenance than a TM3. if those TM3 door handles go out, that's 1500$ each just for that.

a year or two ago KBHD said nearly every Youtuber who's ever reviewed a Tesla (with the exception of 2), has at some point had their Tesla's up on a flatbed truck.

I don't know if they've improved the reliability since then but I think Tesla still has a lot to prove in this category, especially considering how expensive they are to repair.


I've heard this, but it refers to the model S (which KBHD has). The model S is VERY complicated, there's like 20 computers sprinkled around, I think there's even one in the doors. The parts are sourced from numerous manufacturers and were not designed together. There's multiple control networks, etc.

The model 3 was designed with much closer to a clean start over from what Telsa learned. Radically less parts, radically less cables (I think it's 10x less), and things that should be centralized (like the computers) are. In fact they have won some awards, look up the Tesla "superbottle".

I've talked to a many model 3 owners, am active on various Tesla forums, and there's a pretty lively slack channel where I work. Things do seem MUCH better with the 3 than the S, at least older S. It does seem like Tesla is updating the model S over time, but it's maddeningly hard to track exactly what those changes are.

In any case don't hold the S against the 3, it does seem like they improved quite a few things with it. Time will tell if they do similar with the Y, they at one point claimed they could do another 10x reduction in cabling.


I wonder what it would like compared to a Camry hybrid. While, as EVs come down in price it is likely hybrids will disappear, on this comparison it could be cheaper. Not as much fun as the Tesla mind you - which is worth something to many.


How are the repairs for a Tesla Model 3 cheaper than for a Camry.

$60 oil change x 20 = $1200. Everything else is the same or pricier for a Tesla.


And 20 oil changes is ridiculously high for a modern engine. BMW service intervals in Europe using synthetic oil are about 35K km.


Many folks have different opinions about oil, seems most fair to the the car manual, especially since any warranty claim will likely depend on following their schedule.

The toyota maintenance schedule for the Camry specifies every 10,000 miles (16000km). Unless you: are towing, have a car-top carrier, carry heavy loads, drive less then 5 miles when cold, drive on dirt/dusty/muddy roads, drive on melted snow, have excessing idling/low speed drive, etc.

Also the Camry uses a somewhat unusual oil 0w-16, there is a more commonly available variety... but they recommend a full flush, replace the filter, etc when every you switch back to 0w-16.


A mechanic which has put gas equipment for my car said that this is CRAZY. Oil could bear 35K km, but not the oil filter. He said that car should have oil change at ~10K km.


If I were your mechanic I'd say that too. Heck, there is a whole industry that is working hard to convince you to change your oil every 3000 miles or three months.


I think it really depends a lot on quality of oil and age of engine.


The manufacturer incurs a lot of liability by setting the oil maintenance window so high. So I don’t think they would do that without data to support this requirement.

If the oil filter truly couldn’t last, then there would be many more failures. Which would be payable by the manufacture (either through warranty or class action law suit).

Based on this simple analysis, I believe the manufacturer docs vs. a mechanic with no skin in the game who also makes money from frequent oil changes.


Unless they know it will last 150k miles and don't care beyond that. Or put more cynically, have set the window for artificial obsolescence of their vehicles early enough to goose sales, but late enough that their reputation and liability don't take a hit.


That’s why I mentioned class action suites. If a manufacturer did that, it would be a dream for a law firm as it would be pretty easy to show the damage of doing 5 oil changes over 150k miles as recommended (vs 15 or 30 or whatever). Of course consumers would get $5 or something small, but a law firm would get millions that would be paid by the manufacturer.

Again, hard to know. But when the manufacturers have something to lose from being wrong and random mechanic who sells oils changes doesn’t, it makes it easier to man vehicle maintenance.


Most Toyota engines have 10k oil change intervals and many dealers now offer free oil changes for life. Over the past five years, the only maintenance I've paid for on my Toyota has had four sets of wiper blades, a 12v battery, and tires. It didn't even need the tires, just the stock Goodyears are garbage and I didn't want to drive another snow season on them.

All-in maintenance costs were in the neighborhood of $700 over five years.


I think you forgot fuel filter, air filter, spark plugs and couple of belts.


A Camry at 5 years needs none of that. Plugs last until 120k, fuel filter might actually be lifetime, chain drive timing, which is recommended change at 100k but most people don't, because most people who own Toyotas don't do maintenance, air filter should be every 20kish, but won't hurt the average car too much to go 120k.


Oil in a diff (AWD car), oil in gearbox, oil filter. Break pads and discs (EV use regen breaking so the wear difference is significant).

In 5 years you may need to replace clutch etc.

No sure if EV needs any coolant replacements.


How would you drive in order to renew a clutch after 5 years? Usually a clutch lasts well beyond 10 years. Costs for break pads and and discs are also very low, unless you have ceramic break.


Speaking as a brand new manual transmission driver: Learning


Driving a lot, say 80k a year. Driving on Uber or tracking.


There's a lot of arguing here about the true cost of a Model 3. But the larger question is trends. The only reason electrics have a higher sticker prices today is the huge cost of the battery pack. But cell prices are dropping rapidly. They went down 35% in the last year alone.

The experts say this is going to continue, and in another 2 or 3 years ev's will equal ice's in sticker price, and then continue to fall. That plus various other factors will lead to ev sales skyrocketing and ice sales plummeting. A lot of the ice manufacturers like VW and GM have realized this is coming, and so they are working hard to convert over to ev's.


The savings from 1-3 years of depreciation on a comparable Camry makes this a complete non-debate. I love Tesla(s) as much as anyone else, but their cars are still luxury goods.


So this compares a new model 3 to a new Camry. But on the principle that most people buy their cars used, I'd be more interested in a breakdown of the ownership cost of buying 1-5 year old vehicles. The purchase price on ICE vehicles goes way down in the first year. Does the same hold for EVs?


Critically, this doesn't take into account that the model 3 has the lowest probability of injury [1] of any car ever tested by the NHTSA. Driving a car with a higher probability of injury means you must calculate the cost of a fractional injury and what this might cost you and your passengers in lost time and/or quality of life, nevermind the case where the injury is fatal.

[1]: https://insideevs.com/news/356489/tesla-model-3-safety/


How would you best factor that into maintenance costs?


Possibly dumb questions:

1. How long would the batteries last on the Tesla?

2. Do they need to be serviced more often if you live in colder climates?

3. Wouldn't battery health affect resale value??


Batteries are damaged by heat, not cold. It's just that the damage is revealed in cold weather.


Thanks, TIL.

So given all this, how long do the original batteries last in California heart?


Teslas have active battery temperature management, even when parked in "deep sleep" mode, and very robust heating and cooling capacity. Left on a hot Arizona parking lot, our Model S will occasionally run the AC for the battery. This is a huge improvement over our Leaf, which lost 30% of its battery capacity during a single summer of being parked on Scottsdale blacktop.


These cars aren't even remotely comparable when you look at performance.


Brand new perhaps, that Camry is going to hold resale value given it is a Toyota and should run a couple of few hundred thousand miles with routine maintenance, those batteries going to last 200-300k miles in the Tesla?


$0.03 per mile and roughly $260 per year.

I was assuming Tesla saves more.




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