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How long until you break even?

When I converted my 85 Mazda RX-7 to plug in electric (2010) this was one of the frequently asked questions. It seems like a kind of stupid question because nobody ever asks that about any ICE car because it never does. In the case of the RX-7 I spent about $20000 to make an 80 mile range EV. I got an average of 205 wh/mile (no regen or it would have been better) and before the conversion if I drove in a reasonable manner I would get around 16 mpg around town. With a cost of 12 cents per kwh the $20k investment would actually eventually pay for itself in fuel savings. Using $3 per gallon you crunch the numbers and get 140774 miles to pay off the $20000. In reality it will be less than this because of the lack of oil changes and other service concerns that simply don't exist in an EV.

So what about the Model S? After taxes my Model S cost me about $70000 as a pre owned. But I have the free supercharger so in theory I could do all my charging at the supercharger and have zero cost for my fuel. Not even comparing to an ICE my Model S would be paid for by Tesla at 1944444 miles

$70000 price / $0.12 (cost of KWH) = 583333 KWH

583333333 wh / 300 wh/mile = 1944444 miles

At my current 20000 miles per year average in the S this means 97 years. Better not plan on that.

But what about if you compare to a similar ICE car. Things look a lot better.

An equivalent ICE which gets about 20 mpg around town and consumes $3 per gallon gasoline vs Model S at 300 wh/mile and 12 cents per KWH (no supercharging).

Miles ICE MS Difference
100000 $15000 $3600 $11400

100000 * ($70000/$11400) = 614035 miles and the fuel savings have completely paid for the car plus taxes. For the person who drives 12000 miles per year this is 51 years. If you did 100% free supercharging then this drops to 466667 miles. In my case this works out to 23 years of driving and the car has completely paid for itself. Since I am 62 now I probably shouldn't plan on that working out either. Model 3 will do quite a lot better because it is a less expensive car and the WH/Mile numbers are better from what I have read.

Next time someone asks how long until it pays for itself I can say less than 21 years.

Yes, it is a silly idea.

Doug Ingraham
2013 Model S "The Woman in the Red Dress"
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I had a Chevy Sports Sedan a rare import from Australia and it cost a fair bit more to insure than my wife's 2014 Impala and my 2005 Sierra combined, the Tesla cost more and the few quotes I have gotten from other companies are higher yet.
Tesla is over 2.5 times as much to insure as my wife's Impala, same coverage both clean license.
Yes an Impala is a much cheaper car.

The Sports Sedan is mechanically a Camaro, 6.2l 415hp RWD better handling than a P85 but with a boring 4dr. body and only 12,700 imported over 4 years.

If a Honda cost as much to insure as a Tesla I will guess you were in a high theft area and the Honda a hot target.
Gas around here is so cheap, and electricity so expensive that I'm barely saving anything on a gas car. I didn't buy the Tesla to save money, I bought it cause it was awesome.
Having lived in Bergen County for 7 years I remember NJ gas prices and electricity rates.

Now, I have the luxury of $0.065 electricity rate to charge the Tesla and Premium Unleaded at just under $6.00 a gallon...but you get it exactly right...the car is just awesome!
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People, it isn’t fair to compare a model S to just any ICE car. To be fair, one would have to compare it against an ICE car with similar capalities and performance. Yes, none really exist but you may get closer with say an high spec’ed BMW 5 series or Mercedes. If you do that, then the payoff equation changes a lot.


Well-Known Member
Sep 30, 2015
Seattle area, WA
People, it isn’t fair to compare a model S to just any ICE car. To be fair, one would have to compare it against an ICE car with similar capalities and performance. Yes, none really exist but you may get closer with say an high spec’ed BMW 5 series or Mercedes. If you do that, then the payoff equation changes a lot.
Actually, you should only compare the capabilities you actually use. If you drive your Model S in Chill mode for example, no problem finding ICE cars with matching performance. You may find ICE cars with capabilities you would use if you had them, like smartphone integration, surround view, blind spot warnings that work, complete stop emergency braking, coat hooks, door pockets, etc.

Different people buy Tesla's for different reasons. Mine are a combination of performance, safety and cargo capacity. I don't think you'll find many people that bought a Tesla to save money, and if you do, those people either have some really unique situation or just didn't do the math right.
First of all, I bought a Tesla because of the Supercharger system and for the fact that it was the only car at the time that could seat seven passengers. It was always my dream as a kid to drive an electric car coast-to-coast. I was able to do this with the Tesla.

This has actually been one of the cheapest cars for me because I rent it out on Turo. My average cost per month (including electricity, repairs and car payments) is about $420. I was purchasing a Nissan Leaf and my payment was $850 per month (long story, gist of it was that I lost a lot on my trade-in). I also had a 2016 Honda Pilot which cost me over $1,200 per month with the payment and gasoline and oil changes.

In any case, this car is amazing and is so versatile and yet so much fun to drive. It is my all-time favorite vehicle.

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People, it isn’t fair to compare a model S to just any ICE car. To be fair, one would have to compare it against an ICE car with similar capalities and performance. Yes, none really exist but you may get closer with say an high spec’ed BMW 5 series or Mercedes. If you do that, then the payoff equation changes a lot.

Other than straight line speed what amazing capability does my 2014 P85 have.

2014 and earlier Tesla are most comparable to highend German cars due primarily to price, price, price and maybe price, a Chevy of the same era can read you a text, and has more seat adjustment. Heck my Wife's 2014 Impala even tells you tire pressure and which one is low, which is going to cost me $550 to upgrade my Tesla to.

"Believers" tend to not even register facts like the front seats are what they are because they were adequate and CHEAP, this is the first vehicle I have owned since an 1980s pickup that didn't have adjustable headrests for example.

Tesla due to weight and performance are tire hungry too compared to most other cars which is additional cost.

A P100D does have a lot of capabilities that very few other cars do but most of us don't own those, much as we would like to.

Don't get me wrong I love the car just challenging folks to be a little more honest about what they are.
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@SSedan, everything you wrote about that you don't like about the Model S have been adressed and corrected in my 2017 Model S, so I'm being honest when I say I believe this is the best car in the world when all things are considered. Not the most luxurious, but the best, yes.

Now I'd like to point something out: don't you think comparing your Model S with the Impala on a single point of comparison is kind of stretching it the other way? :)

As for original OP: When calculating total monthly operating costs, I break even since the very first month when compared to my plan B car which was a 4 cyl Acura TLX. Not a bad proposition at all...


Active Member
May 11, 2015
SoCal, CA
It all depends on how much you drive, how much is gas you paid previously and how much electrical cost you have. I drive approx 90 miles per day averaging 6 days a week and paid fairly high for Premium unleaded in California. I have only preferred to use Chevron or Shell in my Lexus. I pay around 11 cents per kWh for electricity at home and have solar panels.

So, my ROI would definitely be quicker than some people.
Sauce, the Impala resides 3ft from my MS, is similar size, same exact year as my MS, so is my frame of reference.

Not really anything I hate about the MS, just not unrealistic about what it is.

I would love to have the mag-ride from my Chevy Sports Sedan on the MS but being in the Midwest it is flat so I have almost no use for the air suspension but can see how elsewhere it would be great.


Active Member
Jun 9, 2013
Never break-even
- drive a lot more;
- drinking coffee while car is charging at a Super Chargers cost money too;
- because we drive more we spend more time going somewhere which inevitably ends up going to a restaurant or a Starbucks;
- more frequent changing of more expensive tires. Sure, you can drive like a nanny but why do you have a Tesla?
- I wash my car more often, which cost more money too.

No, don't buy this car and expect to have more money in your pocket at the end of the day, because you won't.

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