Total Cost of Ownership

Total Cost of Ownership


A potential buyer here, clearly I'd like to own a Model S as we'd use it heavily as our commuter car and put around 20k miles per year on it. It wouldn't be a toy car but the one we rely on (although we have plenty backup cars). Our last new purchase was a Toyota Sienna in 2004 and I vowed I'd never buy new again and lose out on the depreciation curve, but here I am. I'd like to focus this discussion on total long-term cost of ownership, as we would own and use this car until it died (Our 9 year old Sienna has almost 230k miles on it now).

I don't need to address the purchase price, that is easy to discern.

When we buy a car, we will have the option (actually obligation) to purchase a service plan in order to get the warranty. This four year plan is $1900, although to us that really means 50k miles as that is the mileage limit and we'll hit that before we go 3 years. As per the website, an additional 4 years/50k miles at that point costs $2500. So for $3400 you get a service plan for the first 100k miles. I don't know exactly what that covers and doesn't cover, but it looks almost like you really only have to worry about wear and tear plus tires. Is that right?

Ok, with that as the first discussion, my next discussion is what happens after 100k miles? Will software updates and at least monitoring of the car be at no cost, with service at whatever the prevailing rate at the time? Will there be an option to further extend the service plan?

Now let's move on to battery. We would purchase the 85kwh battery option, which means 8 years unlimited miles. That's great! And if we drop an extra $12k it appears as if I can go ahead and replace that battery pack at 8 years. Here are my questons with respect to that. When can we pay that $12k? It would be much more convenient to time that payment with when the tax incentive/refund is paid out (next year when I file my 2013 taxes). Is there a window of time where that option is available, and if so how long is the window? If we do this battery pre-purchase, at 8 years if the batteries are still stable, do I have to replace the battery pack at that time or can I wait until the originals are ready to be replaced? What if my batteries are replaced under warranty at 7.5 years, certainly I wouldn't want to use up my $12k investment 6 months later? If we have that new set of batteries replaced, what is the warranty on those? Is it also 8 years unlimited? Is this pre-purchase transferrable, which would make a 6 year old car much more marketable to a potential buyer who knows that while the life of these batteries at that age is suspect, you get brand new ones soon!

The cost of connectivity is something that will be announced at some point in the future, but is something that also contributes to the long-term cost of ownership.

I understand all the savings on gas, routine maintenance (such as belts, oil changes, air filters, etc etc.), so the purpose of my post is to focus on things required to keep the car going.

In closing, to buy a Model S, in my opinion, is not an effort to save money. I can buy a nice luxury family car for cheaper and still save money long-term buying gas and doing maintenance. That's ok with me, I'd still prefer the Model S because of the new technology, the cool factor, the quiet ride, the different factor, etc etc. The purpose of my post is solely to get a grasp on what the total cost of ownership would be simply to see if it is even viable. I've never spent half of what the purchase price of this car is on another car.

'85 Ferrari 308 GTS/QV (euro)
'91 Bentley Turbo R (make an offer to help fund a Model S downpayment)
'39 Rolls-Royce Phantom-III
'57 Chevy Bel Air
'78 Mercedes 450SEL (make an offer to help fund a Model S deposit)
'91 Volvo 940 Turbo
'94 Toyota 4Runner
'04 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
'13 Tesla Model S wannabe.....

DouglasR | April 25, 2013

Not quite correct on the service plan:

4-year service plan = $1900
4+4 year service plan = $3800
4-year New Vehicle Limited Warranty = included in purchase price
4-year extended service agreement (warranty) = $2500

Battery option is purchased up front, but I don't know whether it has been offered yet.

SamO | April 25, 2013

20,000 miles/year in a Toyota Sienna (MPG 24) = 833 Gallons/year
833 x 8 years = 6,666 gallons of fuel
Fuel Costs
@$4 = $26,666
@$5 = $33,330

Electricity Costs
@350wh/mile = 56,000 kWh
@$.07 = $3920
@$.11 = $6160

Obviously any supercharger use would reduce your electricity costs.

As for service costs, best guess would be $600/year for service after 100,000 miles.

riceuguy | April 25, 2013

Also, rather than wait for your refund, you can just adjust your withholding to reflect the $7500 credit and recoup it within a couple of months.

swhardy | April 25, 2013

Cliff Hannel has put together a great TCO calculator. It can be downloaded directly at

His site is full of other helpful items. The trip calculator is especially beneficial, I can't give enough credit to him for the work he's done.

GeekEV | April 25, 2013

@riceuguy - I've done that too, but was actually informed (by the IRS, yes I asked) that if they catch you doing that it's technically fraud. Apparently you may only claim the number of exemptions their worksheet says you can claim. I know it all works out in the end, but she was quite adamant about that. Also, she and my HR department advised that claiming too many exemptions and/or claiming exempt is a good way to trigger an audit. As a result, my conclusion was that if you wanted to try and skate through with that trick anyway, I wouldn't claim more than 8 - 10 exemptions, which will (typically) take more than a couple of months to earn it back, if you even get it all in the course of a year.

jdesmo | April 25, 2013

@SamoSam - not so.
1) Here on Long Island, electricity is 0.23/KWH
2) + accounting for charging efficiency (~85%)
3) + accounting for vampire drain of 8 miles/day

Than we arrive at 20 year use 86,322KWH , with cost of $19,854

JaneW | April 25, 2013

jdesmo et al

Nobody seems to have mentioned that up to 25% of the electricity you use is generated by the car.
That changes the costs considerably.

DouglasR | April 25, 2013

@Geek EV

It is not fraud to claim extra allowances. The IRS person you talked to is wrong. You must have a reasonable basis for the allowances you claim, but it is perfectly legitimate to increase your allowances on your W-4. See, e.g.,

pvetesla | April 25, 2013


Kleist | April 25, 2013

2 hrs driving in an ICE same trip in the model S feels like 1 hour. As a commuter car what value has that ?
I hate when I have use the Benz... now its nickname is the old rattle box.

skymaster | April 25, 2013

How could you even put numbers to the "magic carpet ride" of the Tesla Model S? I would not know where to begin.

rdalcanto | April 25, 2013

Long Island rates are ridiculous! In Salt Lake City we pay .08 to .09/kW depending on time of day.

ferrari308driver | April 25, 2013

Virginia Power has a pilot program where I live where if you get a dedicated charger for your EV, they do time-of-day rates. From 0600-2200 the rate is higher than normal usage with the rest of the house, but the off-peak hours from 0100-0500 it is very low at just over 5 cents per kwh. This four hour window is plenty time for me to charge (with dual chargers) every third day (60 mile round trip per day, so that's just 180 miles of use plus around town).

The numbers above from SamoSam are compelling but on the other hand gas isn't $4.00 or $5.00. Maybe it will go up with the normal pace of inflation, but then generally dollars in 8 years are less valuable than dollars spent today. And to counter that, our minivan barely gets 21mph, actually probably a few tenths less with the big V6 and AWD.

I'm trying to talk myself into this but it's a bit beyond my budget. Again the purpose of this thread was simply to get all the numbers laid out in front of me so I'm making an honest assessment of what it would cost me.

TMac | April 25, 2013


20+ cents per Kwhr is much too high
At those rates you should consider solar
Especially in NY state which has generous rebates 5k on top of 30% federal credit
Your Kwhr would be prices would be much lower over long haul and insulate you from future electricity price hikes


Kleist | April 25, 2013

On CA the rates are $0.36... and and at the same time CA has the bulk of the cars. Once you have the car it is no longer about saving, it is about the elegance of the ride.

riceuguy | April 25, 2013

@Geek EV, what the IRS lady described to you was well meaming but incorrect. What she probably meant was that you cannot deliberately underwithhold, which is true. However, since you know you are getting the credit, you are not actually underwithholding, As long as your withholding in the end matches your actual tax liability or greater, you have done nothing wrong. DISCLAIMER: Although I do have a masters degree in accounting, I'm terrible at accounting and am NOT a CPA!

Brian H | April 25, 2013

I think the Wh/mi of 350 he used as an estimate was net of all regen, so there is no additional electricity from the car.

jdesmo | April 26, 2013

@TMac TMac - can not really have meaningful solar on north shores of L.I.
area is dense with trees, very hilly, and most towns don't allow touching the vegetation for many environmental reasons, not least of which is erosion and storm-water drainage/ run-off control and protection of the many (beautiful) bays and bodies of water.

FLsportscarenth... | April 27, 2013

On Long Island ratepayers are paying for the retards who built Shoreham to 98% complete then decommissioned it...

I am not a big nuclear fan (a nuke so close to NYC with out a good evacuation route is a bad idea in the first place - would have been ok with the Oyster Bay - Rye Bridge - but the NIMBYs killed that) but if you built Shoreham, you may as well use it... (and build the bridge too...!!! - hmm could have let Shoreham pay for the bridge...)

The level of insolence (sunlight received) in New York State is pretty crappy, as far as renewable energy, wind power in Central and Western NY and especially on the Tug Hill Plateau makes a lot more sense (wind generators on Long Island itself is political nonstarter due to rabid NIMBYism - thinking is so woolly there that they will not even finish 495 to the north fork and the Sunrise through the south fork to relieve the endemic traffic jams and eliminate the pollution from idling cars EVERY weekend).

LIPA rates are a market distortion caused by extremely poor planning and leadership and made worse by brainless politicians, the people of Long Island pay billions for their stupidity...

FLsportscarenth... | April 27, 2013

My guestimate is that if you keep a Model S for its entire life (15 - 25 years), it may well pay for itself twice over in fuel and repair savings. If you sell it after 5 years you are just taking the depreciation hit for the next owner who will REALLY benefit from the MS efficiency...

herkimer | April 27, 2013

agree that the lifespan of a model s is likely to be very long,
with the savings and efficiency growing as time and mileage goes on and on! ...after 200 thousand miles 12 or 14 years, it will be still be marvelous! Truly the Model S is built to last, and to update and adapt as well! Upgrades will be steady! As with everything Tesla, the "model" of the Model S will appear even more revolutionary as time goes on by, year by year.

Only need to buy once, and the car will start out awesome and just keep getting better.... hmm, kind of reminds me of that linear acceleration!

herkimer | April 27, 2013

On the other hand, if you get tired of that one, you could just trade it in one day, while its in for service, and drive away with the nice new, fully loaded P85 that was your loaner! Or maybe, by then, a nice new Model X, with some amazing new features).

Kind of boggles the mind, somehow!

Just starting to see the format of a radically new model of automobile manufacturing, sales, and service that Tesla is creating.
As it grows, and takes shape, it will seem even more amazing than it looks now!

FLsportscarenth... | April 27, 2013

Tesla has the right formula. Ten years from now, economy buyers will be wowed by used Teslas and TM will be cultivating the next generation of buyers... The more options, variants and models they add the more of the overall market they will be destined to take. Tesla means style, quality and operational savings...

I think it will be a challenge to find a Tesla driver that would go back to ICE... At least for their daily driver... I understand the thrill of driving a classic even if it is a ICE, but even so would be interesting if TM made conversion kits for classic ICE cars...

Brian H | April 27, 2013

Elections and stupidity have consequences.