I was really excited about the Model 3 from Tesla. Unfortunately, the math started to creep into the plan. This was supposed to be the $35,000 electric car for the masses. The reality showed this wasn’t the car for me. Once I saw that silver paint was an additional $1000 cost, I cancelled the pre-order. It felt like being nickeled-and-dimed. Higher expense, along with long production times, broke the budget and the fun.
If Tesla is charging the same price for silver-metallic paint, as they do on the Model S / X, then the same $1200 delivery and documentation fee seems likely too. That’s $2200 right there. It gets worse. The base model, standard battery car, is not available until November 2017. The more expensive model (+$9000 for the bigger battery) gets higher priority. Dual drive is not available until next year. That puts the $7500 Federal Tax Credit in jeopardy. Soon after Tesla delivers 200,000 cars in the United States, the incentive phases out.
The $7500 incentive will likely drop to $3750 early-to-mid next year. Two fiscal quarters after that, it drops another 50% to $1875. That’s a problem if your Tesla isn’t expected until November 2018. Since my reservation was further down on the schedule, waiting longer would only prolong the disappointment.
Adding it up, it looks bad. With a 50% drop in the tax credit, $1000 for paint and $1200 for delivery, the $35,000 car is more like a $40,950 car. That’s before any other options. A maxed out Model 3 can reach near $60,000. The Model 3 should easily surpass that milestone as more options become available.
Meanwhile, I’m not convinced having a center mounted screen is an ideal setup. Rather than an iPad-like controls, glaring at my face, I prefer a traditional speedometer and physical controls.
When compared to the 2017 Ford Focus Electric, which is available today, the price is far more competitive. Most colors are no extra charge. Ruby Red or Candy Blue are available for $395. Even the most expensive color, White Platinum, is $595. The delivery fee for the Ford is not cheap. $875 is not far from Tesla’s delivery fee, but Ford has a huge incentive for the Focus Electric. $3350 in saving and 0% APR financing for loans up to 72 months.
After the $1700 New York Electric Car Rebate and the full $7500 Federal Tax Credit, the car is below $20,000. That’s similar in price to a regular Ford Focus. The Electric model is loaded with features, like CarPlay, heated seats, ambient lighting, Sony audio (with 9 speakers) and perimeter alarm.
What makes the Tesla great is largely unnecessary. A 130 mph top speed is basically jail time on NYC roads. 5.6 seconds to go from 0-to-60 sounds exciting, but it was never a buying decision for me before.
The big difference is range. A base Model 3 has 220 miles of range. A Focus Electric has 115. The reality is that 220 miles is still not enough comfort for long trips, while 115 is plenty for an average daily commute.
Teslas have that sex appeal. I like the exterior look of the Model 3. Yet, I don’t need a flashy car. That’s why I think the Focus Electric is great. It looks just like a regular car. Plus, I like the interior of the Focus. That’s the side of the car that I would see the most.
I’m disappointed about the Model 3, but it would be irresponsible for me to get that car. It’s approximately $10,000-$20,000 more expensive than the Focus Electric. Seeing how much Tesla is charging for paint, how much will annual maintenance or repairs cost? How much more is insurance going to be? After adding it up, those little snowflakes of charges turned into a blizzard of expenses. I like the Model 3, but not that much.