A Close Look at Tesla’s Model 3 Potential Cost in Australia

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, June 7, 2014: CEO & Chief Product Architect Elon Musk plugs in a Supercharger to a right-hand drive Model S at the UK launch of Tesla Motors' Model S electric car at the Crystal. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Tesla’s Model 3 is supposed to be the “trickle-down” version of the awesome Model S we all want but can’t afford. With the Model 3’s reveal just a few weeks away on March 31st, I thought I’d explore some of the financial aspects pre-reveal, so I can decide whether or not to put a $1,000 deposit down, or wait for someone else to make an electric car I can afford.

We know that the Model 3 will start at US$35,000 in the USA, before any government incentives. Tesla are nice guys and do pretty much a straight USD-AUD currency conversion on their cars, unlike other manufacturers who love to slap on an extra 10 or 20% just because we’re Australian. Anyway…

USD$1 is worth around AUD$1.40 lately, so at current pricing, you’re looking at the Model 3 having a price of $49,000. There’s always a little fluctuation buffer, let’s say 2% – which would bring the price bang on $50,000 (or a classic $49,990).

Each state in Australia adds stamp duty to the sale of a new car – in Victoria you can use this calculator to work out the price. On a $50,000 car, the stamp duty is $1600.

In Australia we pay GST on cars, which is 10% (at the moment – cunts up in Canberra might up this in the next year or so). 10% of $50,000 is $5,000.

Then there’s registration, which in Victoria, changes depending where you live, which for me is $660.50.

You also probably want the Tesla Wall Connector installed, so you can charge your car at home, faster than the 10A from a standard power socket. This is worth AU$900 but is free with the Model S. Dunno if they’ll continue that with the Model 3, but let’s assume they do. Tesla doesn’t include installation, the price of which will vary depending on your house. For me, I’m gonna guess is around $300-ish. Should just be a matter of adding a new circuit to the switchboard and running some wire through the roof into my garage – I’ve got 3 phase power too so shouldn’t be a problem load wise to achieve 40A.

  • $50,000 base
  • $1,600 stamp duty
  • $5,000 GST
  • $660.50 rego
  • $300 home charger install

Total drive away price: $57,560

If we expect a Model 3 to cost at least $57,560, we can start to compare it to other cars in regards to operating costs because even though the sticker price is high, the running costs are lower.

The big cost saving is the lack of a petrol burning engine. I drive ~30,000km/yr and my current car (2014 Toyota Corolla) uses around 7L/100km. Right now at my local servo E10 fuel goes for $1.07. If the price of fuel continues to hover at around $1.10/L (which it looks like it will for the near future), that’s $2310/yr.

The Tesla’s fuel is electricity, which is cheap, but not free. I guess that the base model battery will have 60kWh of capacity (as per the Chevy Bolt), which is good for around 300km. I pay 15.76c/kWh (after discounts) for electricity right now. So to buy 60kWh of energy will cost $9.45 for a full “tank” (~300km). Only $945/yr to go 30,000km.

If you’ve got solar panels (like me), you’ll save money too of course, by charging when the sun is shining. To work out exactly how much you’d save is an exercise in futility. What I pay for power is calculated in 30 min intervals. So if in that 30min I generate 1.8kW and use 1kW, I’m credited for the 800W I exported. If I generate 1.5kW and use 2.5kW, I pay for the 1kW I used. On a sunny day, I’ll get around 30kWh of generated power – that’s the entire day. Enough for half a battery charge on a 60kW Tesla. Chances are most days you aren’t running the battery down to 0%. My average daily usage is ~85km, which would use about a third of the battery – 20kWh, which is less than I generate a day. However, if I’m out all day and come home at night, there’s no sun, so I’m sucking down electricity at grid rates (offset by the piddly 5c/kWh feed in tariff). But yeah, solar power & electric cars – the cost saving is almost impossible to estimate, so I won’t.

Summarising fuel costs:
Petrol: 30,000km @ 7.7c/km (7L/100km consumption, $1.10/L) = $2310/yr
Electricity: 30,000km @ 3.15c/km (30kWh/100km consumption, 15.76c/kWh) = $945/yr

==

The other cost of owning a car is maintenance. I drive around 30,000km/year, which is 150,000km over 5 years. Here’s Tesla’s service rates for the Model S, which I assume would be the same, or hopefully cheaper for the Model 3. You can see it’s pretty pricey, so I’d skip the 20,000km service which is a piece of piss to do myself for under $50 if I can source the cabin air filter from somewhere and the 40,000km service can be done at any mechanic for $300 and do the other stuff myself for $50. It’s just changing brake fluid and servicing the AC which any competent mechanic can do.

20,000km – $50
40,000km – $350
60,000km – $50
80,000km – $975
100,000km – $50
120,000km – $350
140,000km – $50
Total: $1,875

The Corolla, over 5 years of ownership, will need the following services. Prices after the initial 60,000km are taken from Lube Mobile’s website. No doubt, if I took it to a Toyota dealer, it’d cost even more.

10,000km – $140
20,000km – $140
30,000km – $140
40,000km – $140
50,000km – $140
60,000km – $140
end of fixed price service period
70,000km – $214
80,000km – $762
90,000km – $272
100,000km – $514
110,000km – $214
120,000km – $388
130,000km – $214
140,000km – $214
150,000km – $272
Total: $3904

So while the Tesla is cheaper, it’s not that much cheaper than the Toyota to make a big difference. On maintenance I’d save $1203 over the 5 years of ownership. Shame really, as that’s one of the things I was looking forward to most – no servicing! At least I can get away with taking it to the mechanic for 40,000km instead of every 10,000km.

To summarise the total running costs:

Tesla
30,000km @ 3.15c/km (30kWh/100km consumption, 15.76c/kWh) = $945/yr
Servicing over 5yrs/150,000km ($1875) – $375/y
Total yearly cost for Tesla – $1320

vs.

Corolla
30,000km @ 7.7c/km (7L/100km consumption, $1.10/L) = $2310/yr
Servicing over 5yrs/150,00km ($3904) – $780/yr
Total yearly cost for Corolla – $3090

The Model 3 only has a ~$1770/yr advantage over the Corolla in terms of running costs. Over 5 years of owning the car, that’s just $8,850. Considering the Corolla costs $22,990 new (who’s the goose paying RRP?), adding on cost savings of $9,000 makes the Tesla “worth” $31,990.

Yeah, the Model 3 will likely be way nicer, even in base model form, than the Corolla. And the convenience of an EV for day to day driving will be great – always leaving the house with a full tank and less maintenance. But can I afford a $60,000 car when my current one is absolutely fine? For $60,000 that’s really the domain of a Mercedes A250, BMW 318i, Lexus IS200 or countless other entry level prestige cars I’d normally not give a rats arse about because I can’t justify the extra cost over a more conventional Toyota, Mazda, Kia or Hyundai. But a Tesla, man, I could treat myself and go against every cheapskate bone in my body.

That’s ultimately what the Model 3 will come down to – a really nice car that costs more than I can justify. If you’re in the market for a $60-$70k car anyways (which isn’t that uncommon – Mercedes Benz sold more passenger cars than Ford in 2015!), the Tesla Model 3 is another car for the list that’ll be hard to look past.