Owning A Tesla – First Year Cost Breakdown

1 week ago by Steven Loveday 39

Back in November, Ben Sullins from Teslanomics, provided an in-depth year-to-date cost breakdown related to his Model S. At that time, he was only able to provide some month-to-month comparisons. Now that Sullins has been a proud Tesla Model S owner for a full year, he is providing us with an annual cost breakdown.

Sullins says that Teslanomics decodes the data behind Tesla.

Basically, as you have probably seen before, Sullins and Teslanomics do a lot of math and make tables and charts. For people that want to decipher the information, it is an excellent tool. If you sign up on Teslanomics, Sullins will send you analytical tools, workbooks, and other special promotions that you can use yourself to analyze/track your own data.

This is just a snippet of the information that Sullins has compiled over the course of a year of Tesla Model S ownership.

After one year, Sullins found that he saved about 30 percent over having an ICE vehicle. His total yearly costs added up to about $18,000. He mentioned that he bundles his auto insurance with his homeowners, which saved him some money, and he had zero costs for maintenance and repairs.

However, he is not using a traditional five year loan to finance his Tesla. Instead, Sullins has a three year term, so this sort of skews the data (but in a good way, since others would be paying less). In the end, though, he will actually save money financing this way, but the monthly costs are obviously higher.

Over the course of the year, Sullins had a windshield wiper break, and he had to replace the 12-volt battery. Both were taken care of by Tesla, completely free of charge, due to the warranty. To top it off, they came to his house to do the repairs.

Video Description per Ben Sullins on YouTube:

After my first year of owning a Tesla, I decided to take a look back and see what the overall cost was. Of course, many of these figures will vary for you based on your interested rate, loan terms, insurance discounts, and driving habits.

In my first Tesla post I took a look at solely the monthly cost of owning a Tesla … and in this video, I continued the analysis and even extended it. Now I have more data to look at to understand the true cost of owning a Tesla.

The main cost categories I look at are:
– Fuel/Charging Cost
– Insurance
– Loan Payment
– Loan Interest

Overall, I found that I saved over 30% on fuel and paid just under $18K including everything. That amount is mostly in part due to my 3yr term on my loan instead of the traditional longer term loans.

// Question of the day?
– Do you own a Model S or X? How much are you spending per year?
– If you don’t own a Tesla, would you consider paying this much?

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40 responses to "Owning A Tesla – First Year Cost Breakdown"

  1. notting says:

    “After one year […]
    […] and he had zero costs for maintenance and repairs.”

    My ICE car needs every 2 years/30Mm maintenance – which is cheaper than maintenance by Tesla – which means no maintenance costs afer one year. And of course because of warranty/guarranty I also didn’t have to pay for repairs.

    At the beginning of the year, only a few month after the last general inspection (required by law, I’m not talking about maintenance) the hydraulic shock absorber was defective and damaged the tire. At first I thought it’s just a little bit too few air pressure in the tires which damaged the tire slightly – but at the maintenance they showed me that the tire became really bad although it was quite new.
    This probably won’t be different with an EV. So maintenance is necessary. And as I said, it’s quite expensive at Tesla…


    1. Toni says:

      Well, Tesla’s maintenance is not mandatory. You can skip it if you want. Try this with your ICE.

      1. menorman says:

        Millions of people do.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:


          Yeah, and I suppose there are a few who actually don’t come to regret it.

          I’m reminded of a story — supposedly true — about a woman* who took her car in to the auto shop to have it checked out, as the motor was making a funny noise. The mechanic removed the plug from the oil pan — and no oil ran out!

          “When is the last time you added oil?” he asked her.

          “What do you mean?” she asked. “You mean I have to add oil to the thing?”

          *(Apologies for the stereotype)

          1. Spider-Dan says:

            I don’t think “there are no maintenance costs if you ignore the manufacturer-recommended maintenance” is a compelling argument.

            At that point, we are discussing what one thinks will be the result if we ignore the recommended maintenance on Car A vs. Car B, which seems to be more of an exercise in belief systems than anything else.

          2. AlphaEdge says:

            LOL! That’s not so unusual. I remember a local here, yes a woman also :D, who ran her engine dry also. She’s lucky, as she did cause complete engine failure.

            Talk about putting some wear and tear on a engine! LOL!

    2. TomArt says:

      No oil/filter changes? And how much did you pay for fuel? How many gallons did you burn during that time?

      It’s the whole picture, not just any one slice.

  2. sveno says:

    Man I really dislike the 12V SLA batteries.

    Does anyone know of any online shops in Europe that sell decent li-ion drop-in replacements?

    1. Ted says:

      I have a 2011 Volt (fully optioned) and a 2014 ELR (all options). The 2011 Volt (16kw) battery allows 33 miles of EV travel. My 2014 ELR (16.5kw) battery allows 40 miles The Volt only allows me to access 9.8kw of the total of 16kw battery stored energy. MY 2014 ELR allows me to access 12.3kw of the total of 16.5kw battery. I average 3.5 miles per 1kw of energy (about 3 cents per mile). Do you know of any software I can use on 2011 Volt to allow me to access 12.3kw of battery energy? My ELR allows me to access 12.3kw out of a 16.5kw battery.

      1. Bacardi says:

        Hire a hacker…

    2. Bob says:

      Ask these guys:
      They speak english, but I can’t find an english link.

      1. sveno says:


    3. unlucky says:

      You don’t want that. Porsche makes one for their 911. They won’t sell you it without you also having a lead-acid to use when it’s colder out. They sell you a float charger for the lead-acid so that it’s still working when you put it back in later.

  3. Pete says:

    After waranty a Tesla is very expensive…

    1. Joshua Burstyn says:

      Hasn’t been our experience. Costs have been the same as the Hyundai our Model S replaced. Fewer repairs, too.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Are you speaking from personal experience, or are you just repeating what some Tesla basher with a hidden agenda posted?

      Far too much of the latter going around.

      1. Four Electrics says:

        Indeed, many of these agendas well hidden. They are hard to find because they exist only in your mind. Does schizophrenia run in your family, or just bullying? Stick to the facts.

    3. jelloslug says:

      Our company 2013 Model S with ~70k miles on it has had no issues out of warranty.

  4. Terawatt says:

    A pretty worthless analysis from a guy whose strength is supposed to be extracting meaning from data.

    1) You can’t include down payments in the cost of owning a car. Obviously the real cost of ownership is independent of loan term (except for interest, which shows up directly in the interest payments and thus is accounted for).

    2) Even though interest is a real cost of ownership, as long as you use financing, it is just in the way in a comparison to ICE – unless you assume you will get a different rate borrowing for a Tesla compared to the ICE vehicle.

    3) Depreciation is by far the greatest cost of owning a car. But that was excluded.

    4) While the fuel cost advantage will increase with miles driven, it makes zero sense that it should ever turn negative, even with peak electricity rates. This makes me think his fuel cost estimates are also suspicious.

    Using numbers from Kelly blue book to estimate today’s value and calculate depreciation, for his particular car and the rest of the segment on average, plus excluding down payments and interest would have resulted in a much more meaningful comparison of the cost of owning the Tesla versus a typical ICE in the same segment/of similar purchase price.

    Most of his cost ends up being the money he paid to himself, which is what you do whenever you pay off debt. That shows how ridiculous Teslanomics’ understanding of economics is!

    At the same time the ignored depreciation may actually mean the result isn’t very far off in terms of absolute cost for the Tesla. But it almost certainly means the comparison is heavily tilted in favour of the ICE, as luxury cars in general depreciate a lot on average and Tesla so far has kept its value significantly better than average. Since this post is by far the greatest, much greater than all the other costs combined, the conclusion would likely have been much bigger savings​ for the Tesla if the analysis had been more thoughtfully executed.

    1. Leasehackr says:

      Agreed. The biggest expense is depreciation. Fuel savings isn’t a huge factor at $3/gal.

      The cost of operating my i3 REx is much simpler to calculate, since a *lease* is comprised of depreciation expense and finance charge:


      1. Blaine says:

        Can’t agree with this, except maybe for a Tesla. Our Smart ED saves us about 2000 per year given electricity over gasoline. That’s about 10% of the price of the car per year. So over the lifetime of the Smart, it will pay for the car in gas savings alone.

        1. SparkEV says:

          How many miles do you drive to be able to save $2000/yr? At $3/gal and 30 MPG, you’d need to drive 20K miles a year even if electricity is free.

          At $0.12/kWh and 3.5 mi/kWh on average for EV, you’d need to drive over 30K miles per year to save $2K compared to gasser. That’s a lot of miles for SmartED, especially without DCFC.

          1. Jay D says:

            I’ve done over 93,000 i-MiEV miles since Dec. 2011, during which time the average gas price around Seattle has been approx $3.20 Compared to 30 mpg, that’s 3100 gallons saved, worth $9920. EVen with a lot of pricey DCFC usage, my average electric cost has been $0.024/mile, or $2232, for a net savings of $7688. That’s a savings of $1400/yr without factoring in the oil changes, etc… Sure, the fast depreciation would outweigh those savings if I sold the car, but a gas price spike could come along and halt that depreciation any tweet now, and the fuel budget has been a non-issue for my family for half a decade now. Talk about peace of mind!

        2. unlucky says:

          How can it save you that much? I guess you aren’t in the US?


          If you drive a smart ED 15,000 miles per year it will save you $3750 over 5 years. That’s $750 per year.

          If you compare it to a Prius c, the Prius c will only *use* $700 worth of gas a year. Even if you got your electricity for free you can’t save $2000 per year. Compared to a gas smart, the gas smart only uses $1700 gas per year.

          This really emphasizes how silly a car the gas smart is! It costs twice as much to run for a year as the Prius c.

          1. Mark.ca says:

            You can absolutely save 10K in 5 years but depends on your circumstances…
            Say you drive the car i used to drive 99 Lexus RX300 and get 17m/gal, you live in OR where gas is 2.75 and you pay 8c/kw. That 15k miles driven on electric will pay for a 10k car in less than 5 years. The more you drive the faster the payout. So definitely possible in US.

        3. Terawatt says:

          Lifetime fuel savings can be very significant, and obviously more so the cheaper the car is relative to the fuel, and the more you drive.

          But that almost makes it worse! This was supposed to be an analysis of the first year cost of owning a Model S, and he’d driven less than 10k miles – in the US where fuel is cheaper than bottled water!*

          *) Especially if it’s Voss, which I’m sure most of you didn’t know is in fact the exact same water that flows from the tap in a municipality not so far from where I live in Norway! Even weirder, it’s now Chinese-owned. What started with 300,000 Norwegian crowns ended up, after struggling for two decades, getting sold for one billion crowns – with basically zero change in the product (the water) but huge changes in the marketing (including the bottle). It’s a funny world.


  5. Frank says:

    $18K/year cost for his Model S? And $25K if it were an ICE? Those are crazy numbers…

  6. Bill T says:

    I will be curious to see how much model S repair and maintenance costs are on average per year for cars well out of warranty and north of 100,000 miles of hard city miles on them. 100,000 miles is where the men start to get separated from the boys repair wise in my opinion. I am less worried about the power train than the $1K door handles, power seat motors and other expensive bits that can vacuum out the wallet very quickly.

  7. Martin T. says:

    Agree with others – the hidden biggest cost for EV’s and Hybrids is depreciation $.

    I know this by personal experience attempting trade in.

    That must be included when compared to an I.C.E. car.

    1. jelloslug says:

      The Model S has the lowest deprecation of any car in it’s class.

  8. Jonathan Brusco says:

    My 2015 Leaf cost me $17.5K post rebates (out the door). I have 47K miles on it and pay roughly .05/kwh to charge it. This is because I always charge off peak when at home and do about 70% of my charging at work (for free). I have spent less than $150 on service, mostly for tire rotations. I have also spent $470 on a new set of tires. This is all that I’ve needed to do in the nearly 3 years I’ve owned the car. I estimate my savings compared to an ICE to be about $6K so far. Contrary to other comments above, I don’t believe that depreciation is any higher on EVs because these numbers skewed by federal and state tax credits. If I were to sell my Leaf today, I’d probably be lucky to get $10K for it, and if you compare that to the $33K MSRP, then it seems insane, but if you compare it to the $17.5K price I wound up paying, then it is still at least comparable to any ICE car at that price. If you bought a new Nissan Versa in 2014 for $17.5K, you’d be hard pressed to get $10K for it as well, but along the way you would’ve spent $4K in gas and another $1K in maintenance.

    As far as a model S goes, well if you pay more, you’ll depreciate more. Seems fair. Check prices on 2015 BMW 7 series cars and you’ll see 50% of their new value. Anyone who buys a $75K car doesn’t do so because they want to save money. Feel better about yourself? maybe. Save the planet? definitely. Be a trendy innovator? Absolutely.

    1. William says:

      You never had your Nissan Leaf Annual brake fluid flush at least every 10-15k miles? That cost has to be factored in, even if you preformed the work yourself. I am sure you wanted to maintain your Nissan 3year/36K mile bumper to bumper factory warranty. This annual required maintenance is one that Most, if not All Nissan Vehicles are required to have.

      1. Jonathan Brusco says:

        Sorry but NO! First of all, the 3/36 is long gone. Secondly that brake fluid change this is total BS! They wanted $195 for that and it makes no sense at all. First of all, brake fluid changes are necessary only this frequently in climates with very cold winters. The fluid will absorb the moisture in the air and thus need quicker replacement. Secondly, the LEAF hardly uses the brakes in a conventional sense compared to any ICE car. There is at least a 50% reduction in need due to regenerative braking kicking in first. Nissan saying that we need to flush this fluid as frequently as they do is either an attempt at a money grab because the car has lower service needs, a blatant engineering failure on their end, or both. I’ll take my chances.

  9. It seems like this makes a basic error – conflating cost of purchase with the cost of OPERATION.

    The 30% savings is (probably?) based on the cost of electricity vs the cost if you had a similar sized ICE, plus regularly scheduled maintenance.

  10. John says:

    Tesla very inefficient. 65MPGe? Give me a break! I will stick with my Prius Plugin, which can do the same or better even with gas burning. And I don’t have a big battery to replace later.

    1. Mark.ca says:

      You will stick with your Prius alright but for different reasons than fuel economy.

  11. Tej says:

    How much does Tesla motors service center charge you for yearly or 12500 mile service? I saw $1370 the year service package from Tesla. Does it include all services or just regular maintenance like tire rotations and other system checks?

  12. Spider-Dan says:

    As I mentioned elsewhere, this entire article presumes that the owner ignore the manufacturer-recommended maintenance, which is just as costly as other ICE luxury sedans.

    It is not reasonable (or intellectually honest) to compare cost of ownership where we arbitrarily disregard maintenance costs. For years, EV proponents have compared manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedules to ICE cars to show the advantages of owning an EV.

    But when Tesla’s maintenance provides no savings over ICEs, suddenly we can just ignore that cost because you probably won’t need it anyway? You would NEVER accept that argument from any ICE proponent, and you shouldn’t accept it for Tesla, either.

  13. Priusmaniac says:

    To make sense of the table, I think $ of electricity are actually KWh of electricity.

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