Total Cost of Ownership

Total Cost of Ownership

Does anyone have any good estimate of what they might think the resale value might be after 5 years? 10 years? I'm trying to figure out total operating costs and that would help. Has anyone contacted any insurance company that has been able to provide an insurance quote for the Model S? Also, based on experiences with the Roadster, what have maintenance and repair costs been yearly thus far? Thanks.

jbunn | November 14, 2011

I asked my agent (Farmers) about this 6 months ago, and his answer was the industry needs a few years post release in order to determine what the cost of repair and potential for damage is in the real world. Apparently this is part of their normal underwriting process. He said for the first few years, insurance premiums would be comperable to other vehicles in that price range.

Robert.Boston | November 14, 2011

"for the first few years, insurance premiums would be comperable to other vehicles in that price range."

Model S owners will probably benefit from this--while I expect that our maintenance repairs will be rarer and therefore less costly than an ICE vehicle's, our accident repairs will be more costly because of the aluminum frame and panels. Insurers cover accident repairs, so they come out on the short end of that assumption.

Brian H | November 14, 2011

perhaps offset by reduced fatalities (safety features and lack of flammable fuel)? Re which, note the thread posting just up:
Camero 2012 just got all 5s.

jbunn | November 14, 2011


I can give you some thoughts on other operating costs. Assume 12 to 15K per year in mileage. Assume electricity 1/6th cost of fuel at $4.00/mile.

For example I have a 13 year old car, paid 45K back in 98, gets 17.4 MPG. Assuming average price of $4.00/gal for the NEXT 13 years, I would spend 45K in fuel plus oil, filters etc.

Point is that an ICE has the potential these days by the end of it's usefull life of costing as much in gas as it does to purchase the car.

Now, assume gas continues to go up. 10 years from now?. 4 bucks?. Hmmm... Guessing no. Now assume solar, wind, etc. Electricity will rise, but not as fast as gasolene. Curretly 1/6th, and as gas rises, could fall to 1/8th, 1/10th etc.

I'm betting on rising gas prices along the historical curve, and economies of scale on the renewable energy front. Getting an electric car because I can't afford not to.

Robert.Boston | November 15, 2011

A further point: the physical depreciation rate on a Model S should be much lower than in a comparable ICE vehicle. There are simply fewer parts that are subject to wear-and-tear: pumps, valves, pistons, bearings, etc. The one obvious exception is the battery; a reasonable estimate would be to depreciate the battery fully over 10 years. OTOH, the replacement cost of the battery 10 years from now is likely to be much lower, and the battery much more capable.

Mycroft | November 15, 2011

In parts of western WA, EV is already 10% of gas.

Brian H | November 15, 2011

Heh. You typo'd "$4.00/mile" (instead of gallon). That would be an Abrams M1 model, I assume? ;)

Here, gas is >$5/gal, and power is ~7¢/kwh, the cost ratio works out to 0.03¢/mi for electricity, 0.287¢/mi for gas, for a ratio of about 10.4%.

Ramon123 | November 15, 2011

The HUGE item that hasn't been mentioned is the cost of battery replacement. Hopefully, 8 or 10 years from now, batteries will be both 1) available and 2) cheap. If one had to pay at current prices,
you might want to sit the car aside until prices come down - right now it looks as though the retail replacement cost of the 300 mile battery pack is roughly $35,000 to $40,000. Ouch!

BYT | November 15, 2011

I'm buying the 160 and maybe replace it with a higher volume battery in the future when I am forced to.

Brian H | November 15, 2011

I think you can prepay the replacement for $12K up front. Or maybe that was a Roadster program?

Robert.Boston | November 16, 2011

@Brian H: that was/is a Roadster program, although there might be something similar for the Model S. We'll have to wait and see. Tricky to evaluate, though; suppose 8 years ago you had bought "PC insurance" that would replace your then-current PC with a new one that had identical capabilities. Heh.

VolkerP | November 17, 2011

to stretch that comparison, imagine you paid $300 extra for a $2000 laptop 7 years ago, and now you can pull that warranty to have your battery cells replaced with new ones.

Robert.Boston | November 17, 2011

Hmm, VolkerP, I'm not sure that's as good a comparison; do you really think that the chassis/PEM/components of the Model S are going to be laughably obsolete in 7 years? I sure hope not!

Brian H | November 17, 2011

Yep, you'll be driving a quaint antique by then!

VolkerP | November 21, 2011


The comparison laptop-car limps in an important aspect: Your basic requirements of what your car should be able to do in 7 years won't change very much. Perhaps different commuting distance (job/move) or more kids to haul. Basically, the car won't lose its ability to do what a car is supposed to do in 7 years, so it keeps its value!

Your requirements for your laptop in 7 years could be to run the software available in 7 years and that might pose a big problem, making the hardware obsolete. Buying new batteries is wasted money.

If, however, you chose to stick to the same OS and same programs, a replacement battery for your laptop is a good idea and makes it a useful device for another period of time.

BYT | November 21, 2011

Software companies update software to make money, if the hardware was reliable and the software did all that you wanted then nobody would upgrade. If you have a solid state drive with very high reliability and no other moving parts then the OS you have in your Model S should be fine for years to come. The processor in your iPhone is faster then what the first mission to the moon lander had in it, but that computer still got the lander to the moon. Your just trying to drive to work or your corner store so you should be good... :)

EdG | November 21, 2011

No, that computer did not get the lander to the moon. It was too slow to handle the interrupt rate (all the sensors were banging on it), and Armstrong had to land manually.

Brian H | November 21, 2011

Yeah, space is a nasty environment for modern electronics. The old joke about glitches from cosmic rays is no joke beyond the magnetosphere! Not to mention inside the Van Allen belt. Hardened and shielded and quadruply redundant is necessary, still.

EdG | November 21, 2011

That may be true. But it has nothing to do with why the lander had to be landed manually. The processor was old even then, and selected because all the faults were well known. It was just too slow for the job. Given how little this has to do with Tesla Motors, I'll leave it at that. The only reason I commented in the first place is that processor speed was a point of discussion.

Volker.Berlin | November 22, 2011

Some thoughts on the original topic:

"Will Electric Cars Lose Value Quickly? Some Say Yes, We Disagree"

Brian H | November 22, 2011

Interesting that greencarreports makes no mention whatever of Tesla. The latest article there I could find is from March:

A decent write-up, but somewhat dated, now!

Brian H | November 22, 2011

As for the Karma, CARB was not impressed:

The level of emissions Fisker received is not high enough to qualify the Karma to receive permission to drive in High Occupancy Vehicle, or HOV, lanes when only the driver is present, Swanton said, a privilege allotted to some lower emissions vehicles under a forthcoming program.

“The engine is a [General Motors] unit,” said Roger Ormisher, spokesman for Fisker. “It’s an older engine. It’s not the cleanest on the market. We knew that when we went into this.

“We expect most of our customers will rarely use the gasoline engine. It’s an insurance policy,” he said, adding, “The most important thing is that this is an electric car with extended range.”


Brian H | November 22, 2011
jbunn | November 22, 2011

In Washington state after our car gets to a certain age, we have to have them emission checked every few years. These days with newer cars they just read engine management data from the on board computer and your out with no time on the dyno.

My ICE with 200K passed with flying colors, but I was thinking, wow. I might never have to come here again.

I would NEVER buy an extended range electric/ICE hybrid. Consider the electronics requried for electric drive. Then all the same old crap you need for ICE. You end up with a very complicated car with more points of failure, more weight, less electric range, etc... It's the worst of both worlds. It still smells, and you have to plug it in. And you still end up at the emissions test lane every so often.

I take no joy in bad karma news. But I just don't get the Fisker. Just don't understand it.

Volker.Berlin | November 23, 2011

Interesting that greencarreports makes no mention whatever of Tesla. The latest article there I could find is from March (Brian H)

Not sure how you searched the site (there is a search box and you could type in "Tesla" there). There have been a total of 14 (fourteen) stories in October and November 2011 that had Tesla (most of them the Model S) as their primary subject:

Robert.Boston | November 23, 2011

@jbunn: I've been having the same thought -- MA has mandatory annual inspection for all cars, and I can only imagine the consternation of the inspector when he tries to figure out where the tailpipe is!

jbunn | November 23, 2011


I laughed so hard at that image. I was planning on playing the same game with the motor for people that want to see it. Not in the front? Oh, probably in the back. Go look in the back. Not there eiether? I have no idea!

Also looking forward to the first person that says "but it's just batteries, right? How much performance could it have?"

Geeze, fall is a long time away....

Mycroft | November 23, 2011

Yep, ages away. :( That's ok, at my age, anything that slows down time is a good thing. :)

" I was planning on playing the same game with the motor for people that want to see it. Not in the front? Oh, probably in the back. Go look in the back. Not there eiether? I have no idea!"

I'm going to tell them that it runs on magic! Either that, or one of those garage door springs wound extremely tightly.

Brian H | November 23, 2011

Yes, lots of more or less dedicated articles! I was just following content and links for the "general" EV articles, LA Auto Show link, etc. The focus was exclusively on the "majors", even down to Mitsubishi level. It's almost as though they're treating TM as a separate category.


Volker.Berlin | November 24, 2011

Brian H, you didn't find Tesla in the LA Auto Show section simply because they do not exhibit there.

Brian H | November 24, 2011

Well, I read or re-read all 60 (5 pages of links) of those Greencarreports since March, including some of the photo galleries and watching videos. In some cases Tesla is mentioned only incidentally, of course. One included the longest (commentary-free) video of a high-speed race course run (>10 min) I've seen, the Finnish E-RA at the Nordschleife:!

Click on the Electric Cars link under Topics ( ) and you'll still see everything but Tesla, tho'.

teslausajackdalec | December 11, 2011

I think you are overlooking some costs of the Model S. I own a Roadster and have to change rear tires every 5K miles and the fronts every 10K miles, and that is with normal driving. Will the Model S require special expensive tires that wear out quickly? Since tires are made of oil products, that doesn't seem to be talked about much at Tesla. I didn't find out until I had 5K miles on the car and the rears were gone. It's about $600 to replace them. At 10K, I expect I will have to replace the fronts as well. That is something you should be told about before you buy the car.

Also, the air conditioning and heater in the Roadster is marginal and sucks down the miles more than the 5% to 10% that Tesla is touting. Will it be the same for the Model S? The cooling first goes to the battery and then if there is anything left it goes to the interior of the car. If cooling and heating two people in the Roadster is marginal, I can't imagine what it would be like to try to provide acceptable air conditioning for seven people and not lose a great deal of mileage in the process.

Don't get me wrong. I love my Tesla Roadster. I just think that the car company should provide real numbers to customers instead to selling them pie in the sky.

I ordered a Model S and then cancelled my order for the above reasons. I want to see how Tesla deals with these shortcomings, before I put more money down. I was also told I would get about 230 miles to a charge. In standard charge mode, it is closer to 170 miles.

Mycroft | December 11, 2011

Good points Jack1. Only time will tell.

Volker.Berlin | December 12, 2011

Jack1, thanks for sharing!

Any idea why your Roadster wears down the tires so quickly, "with normal driving" as you state? It is not immediately obvious to me why the tires on the Model S shouldn't last just as long as on any other sedan. The only explanation that comes to my mind is that Tesla may use special low rolling resistance tires with a rubber that wears down faster...? Really just a wild guess.

Tesla admits that the a/c in the Roadster is "marginal", as you put it. They promise that the a/c in the Model S will be much better (if not "the best available in any sedan on the market...", you know ;-). I believe that, but how much it actually affects range remains to be seen. We are all eagerly waiting for some real-world experiences/numbers.

The standard charge mode vs. range charge mode issue is known and personally, I consider it a non-issue. It is certainly something that may catch the unsuspecting first-time EV-buyer by surprise, but as soon as you learn about some fundamental properties of the battery, it is understandable. You need to know at charge time if you are going to max out your range. IMO that's not too much to ask, assuming that the standard charge mode range covers all your everyday driving needs with a comfortable margin. If not, then an EV may not be the right choice for you just yet.

EdG | December 12, 2011

When the tires wear out, do they wear out evenly? Are they worn on the outside edges more than the center? The right edge of the right tire more than its left edge?

I'm wondering if it's too much power to the tires every start, something different about the [equivalent of a] differential, or the regen?

Do all Roadster owners find the same result?

Thanks for that real information. Most of our conversation is just guessing.

Peter Spirgel | December 12, 2011

Tesla told me that the rear tires wear out faster because of the regenerative braking. This increases the friction between the tire and the road - thus more wear.

EdG | December 12, 2011

All braking is due to friction between the tire and the road. It's a matter of static vs. dynamic friction.

If it's static friction, the tires are holding the road and there is (comparatively) little wear.

If it's dynamic friction, it's the same as skidding along, though maybe not as noticable.

Just because disk brakes have dynamic friction doesn't mean the tires holding the road is not important. Instead of the disk brakes, regen has the motor acting as a generator to pull back on the the wheels. Theoretically, there's no reason why tire wear is hampered by this. Realistically, maybe there is, I don't know.

Volker.Berlin | December 12, 2011

Theoretically, there's no reason why tire wear is hampered by this. (EdG)

EdG, you may be overlooking that regenerative braking is applied to the rear wheels and the rear wheels only, whereas disk braking is applied to all four wheels.

In "normal" cars with a center of gravity much higher than that of the Model S, actually most of the braking energy is applied to the front wheels, which during braking carry much more weight and therefore offer better traction than the rear wheels (the opposite of accelerating, and the same logic as one of the arguments why RWD is the most frequent choice for performance cars). Due to the extremely low center of gravity in the Model S, traction and thus braking energy (in an emergency brake scenario) may be more evenly distributed across all four wheels, than in a comparable ICE sedan.

In any case, using your definition of static vs. dynamic friction, when braking is applied to the rear wheels only, dynamic friction will set in much earlier than when braking is applied to all four wheels. Since the motor is the generator for regenerative braking, four-wheel-regen is practically the same as four wheel drive. Both will probably be offered with the Model X, but the Roadster as well as the Model S cannot apply regenerative braking to the front wheels.

Supporting regenerative braking at the rear wheels with the corresponding amount of disk braking at the front wheels would certainly reduce or eliminate this kind of additional tire wear, but at the same time energy would be wasted on the front axle that could not be recovered by regen.

Which raises the question, if the gains of heavy regen may be offset by dramatically increased tire wear. We probably need quite a bit of data, and a lot of assumptions regarding energy cost and tire cost, to come to a conclusion here.

ckessel | December 12, 2011

I'd guess Roadster tires wear faster simply because they use very sticky tires made for grip rather than longevity.

EdG | December 12, 2011

@V.B: I don't think so. If regen does not make the rear tires skid, then that's not an excuse for increased tire wear.

Your argument of 2 vs. 4 wheels would be valid if we were talking about how quickly the car slows. We're not.

If you lift your foot off the accelerator, regen kicks in. With that, there should be no dragging of the rubber on the road. If there is none, then why the excuse (c.f. Peter Spirgel, above) that regen is the cause of the wear? If, in the process of engineering regen, there is no way to avoid an initial 'chirp' of the tires, well, then that's what we get.

As to my definition of static vs. dynamic, look to elementary mechanics (physics, not car repair). A block on an inclined plane which is not sliding has static friction holding it in place. If it is sliding, it's called dynamic friction, and there's a difference coefficient of friction.

Using that as an example, when the tire is rolling, the 'point' of contact of the tire to the road is not moving (ideally, the center of the wheel is moving at the speed of the car, the bottom is not moving, and the top is moving twice the speed of the car - enough ex-physics profs here to concur or argue the point!).

When the tire is sliding along, it is moving relative to the road. I don't like the idea that my car might be rubbing out its tires excessively during normal driving.

The height of the center of gravity has nothing to do with my argument. I'm just talking about the magnitude of the force of the wheels on the car causing it to slow.

ggr | December 12, 2011

@EdG, the wear on the tires is somewhat proportional to the force going through them, whether they are slipping (dynamic friction) or not (static friction). The thing is, the rubber material flexes somewhat to get grip; if it doesn't, you get worse grip. Some of it rubs off.

Tires that do nothing but roll wear very well. Some trucks have "lazy" axles, that bear weight but don't transmit power or have brakes. The only notable wear on those tires comes from cornering, and they sometimes last hundreds of thousands of miles. (Usually they die because of underinflation or hitting something sharp.)

So on the Roadster, the rear tires really do wear a lot more than the front, because all power and most (day-to-day) braking goes only through the rear. And I don't think people accelerate slowly in roadsters unless there's something blocking the way... it just feels wrong!

EdG | December 12, 2011

As to the "total cost of ownership" note that (using Jack1's Roadster numbers) the $600 every 5K miles and (if the same cost for the front tires) and additional $600 every 10K miles makes for $1800 in tires every 10K miles.

Using the numbers from the Roadster report: "Instead of spending $45 to fill my STi with 93 octane for 220 miles of range, I spend about $10 in electricity (at a relatively high 15 cents per kWh" ( ), for every 10K miles there's $450 in electricity.

So the costs reported for 10K Roadster miles are $1800 for tires while using only $450 for power. The tire costs bury the power costs.

ggr | December 12, 2011

Don't you buy tires for your STi? I certainly did... I had to replace all four about every 12-15 thousand kilometers (in Australia). That's about the same as the tire cost in the roadster.

But you're right that the tires cost more than the go-juice, but that's more because you're not paying nearly as much for go-juice.

EdG | December 12, 2011

But I don't own an STi. And, while I never seem to get the advertised miles for my tires, I do get far more than 10K per set. When talking about cost to go from here to there, the tires are the cost, not the go-juice, and unless the Model S is far different than the Roadster in this regard, this (for me) increased cost can't be ignored.

David70 | December 12, 2011


On your earlier point about kinetic friction. You're right, and slipping is something we want to avoid except during absolute emergency panic stops. I find it difficult to believe that for more normal slowing and stopping we couldn't learn to gently engage more gradual and gentle regenerative braking. All it takes is a little planned slowing and not following too closely.

For those that don't already know, you also tend to loose control by reduced lateral friction component force when sliding. That's the cause for "fishtailing" during too hard acceleration (if you don't have traction control) or sliding sideways during panic stops. For that matter sliding to the side when stopping in icy conditions.

EdG | December 12, 2011

All we are told is that under "normal" driving conditions, the Roadster burns through rubber. We don't know why, and we don't know if we should expect the Model S to do the same.

Brian H | December 12, 2011

It's not necessary to lose(note sp.) control to flex and stress and heat the rubber. Forward or lateral. Remember the change in performance and inflation approach etc. when bias ply gave way to radial? Radial flexes all the time, by design.

Jason S | December 12, 2011

I think the answer was already provided by ggr -- the relatively fast wear of the performance tires on the Roadster is because of the tires themselves. STi wear = Roadster wear, therefore it must be due to performance tires as opposed to any exceptional difference in friction loads.

I don't use performance tires for my current cars, so I get better wear from my tires. However, when I did run soft rubber (aka performance) then I'd wear them faster. It is just a cost of having that performance.

Volker.Berlin | December 13, 2011

Jason S, that makes some sense. Thanks! For the Model S, that would open up the opportunity to choose "normal" (as opposed to "performance") tires and thus considerably save on replacement tires. Count me in! :-)

ckessel | December 13, 2011

There's definitely a lifespan difference between Z rated and V rated tires. I've used both on my RX8 and the Z rated tires went quick.