Three years ago, Torque News was one of the first publication to challenge the myth that electric vehicles cost less to maintain than gasoline-powered cars. Time marches on and we felt an update was needed since the Tesla Model 3 will soon define the electric car in America.
The Tesla Model 3 has now arrived. Tesla is a bit behind on its paperwork and hasn't yet finalized its on-line pricing. However, Tesla does have a list of all of its other vehices. Tesla's published maintenance prices make it easy to compare the cost of maintaining a Tesla to other cars in other segments. There really is no car exactly like the Model 3, but for comparison, we will use some internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and hybrids at about the same price point. We will use the least expensive maintenance costs listed, the Model S RWD for our Tesla Model 3 estimate.
Before we begin we need to time-stamp this story. Like all costs, Tesla's service plans may increase over time. As of today, Tesla's service plan page lists the following costs to maintain one of its vehicles. The plans were previously listed for individual models, but Tesla has changed the page to reflect all of its vehicles.
First year or first 12,500 miles = $475
Second year, or 25,000 miles $ 725
Third Year, or 37,500 miles $475
The total of these three equals $1,675, but Tesla offers a pre-paid "Three-year or 37,500 miles" plan for $1,550, which saves a Model 3 owner $125.
Year Four, or 50,000 miles is a whopper. $825. However, Tesla also offers a "Four-year or 50K miles" plan costing $2,325. The prices repeat at the same intervals. Like all Mfg. maintenance costs, these prices don't include tires.
Let's now compare the prices of a model that is often compared to the Model 3, the BMW 3-series. Here is BMW's maintenance cost schedule: Year One, Year Two, Year Three - Included. No cost.
This is a change for BMW, who had previously included four years of maintenance, but for the model year 2017, dialed it back a year because most of its customers keep their car just three years. BMW has an estimated 10K service interval (more on this follows) for oil and its first major service is usually after 60K miles. However, BMW uses condition-based maintenance. The vehicle's computer keeps tracks of the life of the service items. On Bimmerfest.com, we found that prices for the first non-covered service between 40K and 60K ranged from $79.00 to $379.00. Oil changes and inspections for a BMW usually cost around $100 unless more is needed. So, for the first three years BMW has no maintenance costs, but following that, it seems the BMW would always be less expensive than the Tesla to maintain given that every 4 years the Tesla costs a minimum of $2325. One interesting fact; BMW's EVs also have included maintenance, making them the least expensive EVs to maintain in the U.S.
One exciting new premium sedan is the Jaguar XE. It is designed to compete head to head with the BMW 3-series. Jaguar now includes five years or 60K miles of service with all new cars. Again, it is hard to see the Jaguar costing more for routine maintenance given that it starts with a nearly $4,000 advantage over the Tesla heading into year six.
The Prius may not be as exciting as the Model 3, but it presently outsells all of Tesla's vehicles combined every month. The Prius also has a similar, but lower price point to the new Model 3. Toyota includes 2 years or 25,000 miles of maintenance at no added cost. Heading into year three, the Toyota Prius is ahead of the Tesla Model 3 by $1,150 in maintenance costs. That is a hard head start to overcome since the Prius is designed for low cost of maintenance. Unlike many popular ICE cars, there is no timing belt to change in the Prius. The Prius' traction battery is even serviceable after it lives out its hundreds of thousands of miles of expected life.
The Tesla Model 3 is a game-changing EV. It will be the most popular electrified car if all goes to plan. However, it will also be one of the most expensive cars in the U.S. market to maintain.