Owning a Tesla is a dream come true for so many people. The car is gorgeous, fun to drive, and the closest thing to perfection that you’ll find in the EV market. The only problem is that cars like Teslas often have a lot of hidden costs.
Most of the hidden costs of owning a Tesla are pretty universal as compared to gas-powered cars or other EVs on the market. Things like maintenance, repairs, insurance, accessories, cleaning, fuel, and inspection costs should be expected with your new Tesla. Some Tesla-specific costs are for the Premium Connectivity subscription, heightened prices for repairs from Tesla-certified technicians, and destination fees for delivering your car.
My goal is to pull back the curtain and show you 18 of the most popular hidden costs associated with owning a Tesla. These are a combination of first-hand reports from a number of Tesla owners. I’ll also cover some ways to save money with your Tesla to offset these costs.
What Is a Tesla?
Tesla is a car manufacturer that specifically makes electric vehicles. They currently offer four models of the vehicle with a fifth on the horizon, the Cybertruck.
Despite just being a car manufacturer and retailer, the company has a cult following. People either adore or detest Tesla and what they stand for.
Basically, their goal is to make EVs that are worth driving.
Their entry-level Model 3 is the gold standard when it comes to “affordable” EVs. Sure, you can get a Chevy Bolt for a few thousand less… but why would you? The Model 3 is a Tesla, after all.
You’ll notice that whenever a new EV hits the market, the first thing that people do is compare it to the closest thing that Tesla has on its brochure.
Why Do People Love Teslas?
If you didn’t know any better, you might think that saying the word “Tesla” earns you a million dollars. Everyone seems to be talking about them, but why do people love them?
To be honest, I’m a huge Tesla fan. Since they first came out and I realized how impactful this car manufacturer would be, I was hooked.
They are the only brand to make a luxury EV worth driving. If you ask certain people, they’re the only electric car that anyone should consider.
In every comparison between a Tesla and a comparable EV, the Tesla wins as long as you’re willing to pay more. They’re fast, have some insanely high-tech features like self-driving (though they can’t legally claim their cars drive themselves), and they rarely need servicing.
People also love Tesla because they made it through an industry that was trying to extinguish them at every turn. They single-handedly took on Big Oil and won. Tesla is also the only car manufacturer that sells directly to consumers without dealerships.
At the helm of Tesla is a crazed billionaire that people really believe in. He wants to deliver the best possible EV, and I’m all ears.
The Upfront Costs of a Tesla
This cost isn’t really hidden, but I want to talk about the upfront costs to expect when you pick up your new Tesla. As you probably know, there are different models of Teslas to consider. Here’s how the MSRP’s break down:
Model 3: $39,990 to $69,990
Model Y: $53,990 to $74,990
Model S: $89,990 to $148,990
Model X: $99,900 to $143,490
You will find lower prices if you know how to get a Tesla for cheap (or you can read my guide to learn how). Even so, you can plan on spending a lot of money upfront to own one of these gorgeous luxury EVs.
18 Hidden Costs of Owning a Tesla
The real thing that you want to know is what hidden costs will pop up as you own your Tesla. Here are some of the 18 major costs to prepare yourself for.
1. Installing a Charger
They won’t tell you this on the website, but an electric car charger can get kind of expensive. I wrote a guide about picking out the best EV charger, so you should probably start there.
A high-quality, high-tech charger could run you upwards of $1,000 after it’s all said and done.
You might also need an electrician to come out and help install the charger depending on the type that you get. Anything faster than a “Level 1” charger requires professional installation so you don’t burn your house down.
For a more modest charger, you’re probably just looking at a few hundred bucks.
Even if you plan on using a public charger or one located at your job, I’d suggest installing a charger. Getting laid off would be even more devastating if it means losing your only access to a charger, too.
2. Using Tesla’s Supercharging Station
Did you know that Tesla’s supercharging stations aren’t free? Electricity doesn’t grow on trees, after all (well, maybe it does. I’m not an electrical expert).
You get charged around $0.25 or 25 cents per KW of energy used from one of these stations.
That means that recharging to a 250-mile range will cost around $20 and 150 miles is half that cost.
Still, I should point out that supercharging your car is generally a bad idea. It quickly kills the life of your battery, so you shouldn’t make a habit of it. I’d say that you should only use it in emergencies.
3. Minor Servicing Fees
Since a Tesla is a car, it needs some maintenance. EV owners often point out that electric cars don’t need to be serviced often, so that’s a good thing.
You should still factor in the added servicing fees, though. Expect to have your Tesla serviced every 2 to 3 years. These appointments will cost a few hundred dollars.
4. The Real Costs of Repairs
You’ll also need to think about repairs that pop up from time to time. Things like cracked windshields, broken components, and mechanical failures will still happen.
This is where things get a little ugly. Aside from windows and bodywork, you’ll need to go to a Tesla-certified technician for repairs.
A diesel mechanic won’t be able to pop the hood on your Tesla and get to work. That’s the major downside of owning an EV that uses cutting-edge technology.
Since these mechanics need to be specifically trained, finding one is harder and more expensive. A simple repair could easily cost double on a Tesla thanks to this little caveat.
In addition, a Tesla is a little tricky to navigate when it comes to making repairs. So much is done through sensors and computers that it is harder to troubleshoot an issue.
With an old car, repairs are easy. Everything is mechanical, so you just need to look around for long enough and have a certain degree of mechanical prowess. With a Tesla, things aren’t so simple.
5. You Need to Go to a Professional for Repairs
Along the same vein, you probably won’t be able to do a majority of these repairs on your own. A lot of car enthusiasts don’t even have a budget for car repairs since they do all the work themselves.
With a Tesla, you’ll need to factor in repair costs. Remember, even the most trustworthy mechanic is going to charge a lot for repairs. That’s how they stay in business.
6. Premium Parts Mean Premium Prices
To add insult to injury, you should remember that Tesla is a luxury car brand. Luxury cars use premium parts which equate to high invoices from mechanics.
It’s why some people will never own a BMW. The nicer the car, the more expensive it becomes to repair and replace components.
You can take the repair costs of your reasonably-priced and reliable Camry and throw them out the window when you consider what Tesla’s repair costs will be.
7. More Features Can Really Cost You
Earlier, I was talking about the MSRP ranges for the different Tesla models. The reason there’s a range in the first place is due to the added features.
This might not be a hidden cost, but you should realize that the more features you add to your car, the more expensive it becomes.
Not only does this apply to the upfront cost, but also the cost to maintain the vehicle. Sort of like how a fancy expensive watch seems like a great idea until you have to fix or service it.
8. Don’t Forget About Insurance
When you’re crunching numbers before buying your Tesla, don’t forget about insurance. The average cost to insure a Tesla is 40% higher than the national average. That’s a lot. It works out to about $2,215 every year.
Of course, as you add in additional coverages, your insurance price goes even higher.
This concept makes sense, though. Your insurance provider needs to make money on the exchange and they’re insuring an expensive vehicle that’s costly to repair.
9. The (Comparatively Low) Fuel Costs
Remember that your car runs on electricity, not air. This means that there’s a fuel cost that you’ll need to budget for.
This value won’t be anywhere close to what you’re paying to fuel up your gas-powered car.
A Tesla 3 averages around 3.6 cents per mile in fuel costs. This makes it pretty easy to figure out what your weekly commute will cost you. If you drive 20 miles a day, 5 days a week, then you can expect to pay around $3.60 for the electricity.
This figure comes from what you pay the electric company each month. Your Tesla will get plugged into your car charger which is hooked into your home’s electrical grid. As it recharges, it’s using electricity that you pay for.
Since electricity is pretty cheap if you’re in the US, driving an EV is a great way to reduce your fuel costs. Still, it’s a hidden cost associated with your Tesla. $3.60 a week isn’t a lot, but it turns into just shy of $200 a year, assuming you don’t drive your Tesla anywhere else but work and home.
10. Premium Connectivity Subscription
This is a hidden cost that surprised me while I was talking to a buddy who just signed the paperwork for his Tesla. You have to pay for a monthly subscription to use some of Tesla’s features. Weird, right?
What’s covered in this Premium Connectivity Package?
- Live Traffic Visualization
- Satellite-View Maps
- Video Streaming
- Music Streaming
- Internet Browser
If you got your Model 3 before June 30, 2018, then you get grandfathered into this package and don’t have to pay extra. But, if you bought your car way back then, you probably already know the hidden costs and you wouldn’t be reading this.
If you got your Tesla on or after July 1, 2018, then you’ll need to pay $9.99 a month to keep these features.
The only connectivity feature that comes standard on a Tesla for free is their Navigation package.
11. Inspection and Registration Fees
Another unavoidable cost when it comes to owning a car is the inspection and registration fees. For most people, a registration fee only applies to you when you’re buying the title, and it’s a one-time fee.
Depending on your state and how your vehicle is financed, you might need to pay a registration fee every year or so. I’m looking at you, New Jersey.
Inspection fees pop up every few years, depending on what state you live in. This is when you drive over to your local DMV and hate your life for a few hours. They’ll do a full-car inspection and determine whether or not your car is legal to drive on the road.
The good news? You don’t have to worry about an emissions test. It basically boils down to the standard safety equipment on your car like your lights, tires, sensors, and horn.
12. Shelf Life of the Battery and Motor
Unlike a gas-powered car’s engine, there’s a predicted shelf life when it comes to an EV’s battery and motor. Remember, these two parts are the brain and heart of your car.
As you rack up the miles, they become less reliable and ultimately die. Still, they’ll last longer than a gas-powered car.
Consumer Reports estimates that an EV’s battery will fail after 200,000 miles and the motor will do the same at 400,000 miles.
Taking the right precautions with a gas-powered engine can let it last indefinitely as long as it’s built well. The same isn’t true for a battery or motor. It’s a lot like the battery in your old iPhone or laptop that dies after half an hour. The more it’s used, the shorter it lasts on each charge.
13. Washes, Cleaning, and Detailing
This isn’t a Tesla-specific hidden cost, but it’s one you can’t ignore. Washing, cleaning, and detailing your car is a quick way to make it last longer.
After dropping 60 grand on a car, the least you can do is extend the car’s life.
If you’re going to get serious about keeping your car clean, you need to start with the right car care products. Soap, washing mitts, microfiber towels, and a wash bucket will take you pretty far. I prefer to do the washing myself since it saves some money and I can confirm the quality is up to par.
If you want to save some time and don’t mind spending, you can sign up for a monthly program at your local carwash. Just make sure they wash or detail the car manually, it’s not all done through a carwash machine.
Getting rid of dirt and debris from your car will keep your paint fresh, avoid rust, and keep the pesky sun at bay.
It should also give you a heightened sense of pride in your car. There’s nothing like seeing a shiny Tesla in your garage.
14. Added Mods and Accessories
When you want a car to feel more personalized, you’ll be tempted to add accessories and mods. I’m a huge fan of doing this.
Weather-proof floor liners can also protect your interior and make your car look cooler from the inside. The list goes on and on about little accessories that make your Tesla look better.
Just don’t think about adding a custom muffler or exhaust tips to make your Tesla sound louder. That’s not going to do anything since it’s an EV.
If anything, just throw in a nice car stereo system and blast the noise of a naturally aspirated V-10.
15. Nice Winter Tires
If you live in the cold northern half of America, you might consider getting some nice winter tires. If your area sees a lot of snow, this hidden cost becomes a must-have.
Snow tires might seem expensive, but they’re a lot cheaper than the repair costs associated with spinning out into a ditch or tree. It’s something I’m a big advocate for.
Go ahead and spec out some snow tires from your local tire shop and see if you want to spend the extra for added safety this winter.
16. Collision Repair Costs
After a collision, the repair cost for your Tesla will be a lot higher than you expect. For one, it uses an aluminum frame which is harder and more expensive to repair than a steel one.
In addition, there are a number of expensive electronics that were probably damaged in your collision.
I mentioned this earlier, but Teslas are also more expensive to work on as a whole. This idea factors into collision repairs as well.
17. Destination Fee
A truly hidden cost of buying a Tesla is the destination fee. This is something that isn’t clearly discussed on Tesla’s site.
This is money that you have to spend to have your Tesla delivered to your house or pick-up location. It costs $1,200 regardless of your state, which model you go with, and whatever features you add on.
However, you won’t know this unless you do some serious digging. I had to pull up three different sub-panels on their site just to see the tiny “Destination & doc fee” hidden.
However, this only seems to be the case if you’re buying the car with cash upfront. The fee gets hidden in the monthly lease or loan payment otherwise.
18. Acquisition Fee
If you’re leasing a Tesla, get ready for an acquisition fee. This is a lease-only fee that amounts to $695 (per Tesla’s site).
This is another fee that was hard to find. It shows up at the fine print at the bottom of your lease calculator terms.
This fee is a part of the “due at signing” amount, in case you were curious.
Does This Mean You Shouldn’t Get a Tesla?
Some readers might be panicking at this point. After all these hidden costs, is it really worth it to get a Tesla? It absolutely is. None of these points should dissuade you from buying a new Tesla for yourself.
Even if you add up all the hidden costs, you’re looking at a small percent of the original sticker price on the vehicle.
It’s like saying you shouldn’t buy a house because you’ll have to pay for electricity to keep the lights on.
At the end of the day, it’s still worth it to get a Tesla as long as you can afford it. Not sure if you can? Check out how to figure out how much car you can afford.
4 Ways Your Tesla Saves You Money
It might be a little upsetting to learn about how many hidden costs there are when it comes to owning a Tesla. I have some good news though. In this section, I’ll talk about a few ways that your Tesla actually saves you money.
This will combat the previous section.
1. Fuel Costs
The number one way that a Tesla saves you money is through the fuel costs. I mentioned earlier that a Model 3 costs about 3.6 cents ($0.036) per mile to operate.
Comparatively, a standard gas-powered car costs 15 cents ($0.15) for the same mile. Gas is simply more expensive than your home’s electricity.
This saving could be monstrous, depending on how much you drive each year.
Every 1,000 miles you put on your odometer is an estimated savings of $140. If you drive 15,000 miles a year, you’re saving around $1,710 annually.
What about a Tesla that lasts 15 years? $25,650 in fuel savings alone. Your Model 3 pays for itself every 23 years in fuel savings alone.
2. Lower Depreciation
Another huge benefit of Teslas is that they hardly depreciate. Their depreciation value is much better than the average rate for cars nowadays.
For reference, depreciation is a term that refers to a car’s value after a certain amount of time. A study shows that the Model 3 has a depreciation of just over 10% over 3 years. The average for the market is 39.1%.
That means that a 3-year-old Model 3 is worth 90% of the original sticker price while a typical car is only worth 60.9% of its sticker price.
I know that was a lot of math and numbers, so here’s the short answer: if you plan on selling your car, a Model 3 is a no-brainer. You will barely lose money after selling it 3 years after you bought it.
3. Less Routine Maintenance
A universal truth of EVs is that they don’t need the same maintenance that ICEs need. The service interval is less frequent and the items that need to be maintained are fewer.
There are no oil changes or fuel filter replacements when it comes to EVs. Instead of 2 or 3 trips a year, you just need one trip every 2 to 3 years for maintenance.
If you put dollar values here, you’ll save a few hundred each year.
4. Lasts Longer Than an ICE
Another way that you’re saving money is through the total life of your car. If you’re one of those “drive it into the ground” car owners (like me), then you’re looking for a car that lasts forever.
I like to think about it this way: take the MSRP and divide it by how many years the car lasts. This is the only value that you should care about.
Buying a car for 20 grand sounds great until it dies within 5 years.
These Teslas are built to last a long time. It’s easy to hit 300,000 miles on the odometer with no major issues. For the typical driver, that works out to 25 years. The better you care for your Tesla, the longer it will last.
On the other hand, ICEs tend to conk out around 200,000 miles. That’s 8 years that you’re gaining by choosing a Tesla. 8 years of saved money and no need to go car shopping.
There you have it, a list of 18 hidden costs of owning a Tesla. Now that you know what to expect, there won’t be any surprises in the next years. If you want some more information about your new EV, check out the rest of my blog. Also, see my full list of highly recommended products for car owners.