Entry level cost vs a similar priced BMW or Audi

Entry level cost vs a similar priced BMW or Audi

This goes out to you owners that have had time to appreciate the positive AND negative aspects of owning the S model.
Apparently the vast majority of Tesla buyers have the financial means to plunk down somewhere in the ballpark of $100k for a car.. I am not in that position and had my eye on the original "Entry Level" configuration with the 40kw pack.. that's really about my "justifiable" upper limit on a vehicle investment. Now with the 40kw pack being kiboshed the entry level expense is beyond what I currently can justify if I use my practical brain.. if I use my "I'm a geek and a toy lover and a tech lover" brain, well sure I could afford the Tesla still, but it's a battle of my two "brains" considering what really makes sense. The base price increase really broke my heart since, even though I haven't driven a model S yet, I did check one out thoroughly in Scottsdale at the showroom (that's not yet a dealership) Anyway.. the point of this post.. I'm faced with comparing the $73k configuration that I would now pick at a minimum in the 60kwh model with how much BMW or Audi (my favorite "other" cars) I could buy for that coin.. and it's a tough choice, for me at least.. I currently have a 335i coupe and an Audi Q7.. but want something bigger, yet still a performer, to replace the 335.. I can configure a 550i with most of the desirable bells and whistles for the price of my current entry level Testla choice.. I can also configure a really decked out A7.. both are seriously delicious vehicles with a hell of a lot more cabin tech than the Tesla, a LOT more "fine driving machine" history than the Tesla and no question in my mind that they will still be around in 5-10 years as companies (no start-up auto company anxiety).

so the question to you is.. Is the E-Car euphoria (the "it" that you all talk about in "they get it" when referring to people understanding why you drive a Tesla) combined with the model S cabin tech/features/etc really so satisfying, so incredibly awesome that you don't miss the extra features you could have in a comparably priced BMW, Audi or even (gack) Mercedes brand gas guzzler? Is it worth the trade-off to be plugged-in?

One thought that crossed my mind is that most of you are affluent enough that if you drop $90-$120k on a car it's not that big of a deal if it turns out to be a bad investment down the road (in the event Tesla Motors fails in a couple years and you're stuck with a car you can't get repaired or buy parts for OR sell.. I mean that is a consideration in my mind when I buy a car)

On the flip side, I've thought is it truly just so f*#king cool to drive this car that all other risk is a complete don't care..

How did you determine/justify you wanted this car over a 550i, A7, other, and are you still so glad you did?
Was it mostly a penchant for plug-in driving that overrode the risks and the interest in the other car's "bang for the buck"?

Trust me I understand why there isn't more cabin tech and creature comforts in the Tesla for the price point.. it's a seriously expensive technology.. you are paying mostly for that battery/drive train substructure.. and I do "get it".. I drove an EV1 for a week back when it was the cutting edge tech.. I experienced range anxiety along with the awesomeness factor of driving a plug-in car.. anyway really interested in hearing other people stories and responses.
Thanks in advance.

nickjhowe | 07/04/2013

Per other threads, many people who've gone for the 85 or P85 are spending two or three times as much on the S as they have on any other car, and many people (like you) are not able to 'drop $100k' at a whim - they are really pushing themselves.

To your question - I'm lucky enough that I was able to consider other cars like the Panamera in the up-to-$150k price range, and before I took delivery of the S I was really disappointed that I was going to give up almost all the 'toys' that BMWs and Mercs have - HUD, adaptive cruise, PDC, etc. etc. etc.

Three months in to my Model S ownership, I don't regret it for a minute. I still prefer the look of the Panamera to the S, but the S is AMAZING.

davecolene0606 | 07/04/2013

I sold my Prius to get my Sig 85. If you ever told me I would spend that kinda $$ on transport I'd have looked at you like you were as insane as the thought of all that $$. Having said that and having 9k + miles on my S85 I can without question say that getting into ANY other vehicle (ICE)is like climbing into a Model T after driving a BMW5 series. All of the bells and whistles matter not. Never never even thinking about going to the gas station or 3000miles oil changes along with the dealer "upsell" you need new filters and an injector cleaning crap also clinches it for me. I have NO buyers remorse and I the grin only ingrains itself deeper each time I drive, which, by the way I even do for... wait for it.... PLEASURE!?
We just ordered an S60 for the wife as she is really disappointed every time she has to drive our Highlander Hybrid which to her and me had that "stable quiet big vehicle ride", not even close to the S.
Go for it! we are into her 60 pretty well equipped for round about 73k and in the cheap money out there and its a no brainer.

Best of luck, hope we see drivn your new S soon.


mcptwo | 07/04/2013

We took delivery of our Model S, 85Kw, Air, Pano, Tech on Feb 5th. We still have our BMW 535ix, which sits quietly and un-driven in our garage. We kept it for security, but I will be sold very soon, even though it was one of the best ICE cars made.
There is not an other car made that I would trade for the quiet, smooth, elegant driving experience of the Model S. This is not the Performance model, but quietly outperforms virtually all other cars.
I literally look to where I want to be on the road and there we are.

If you take into account the tax rebates, and fuel saved over about the next 6-8 years, along with the cost of maintaining a premium ICE car like a BMW, you may find it is less expensive. I have had to replace some very expensive BMW computer parts etc.

Along with the fresh air, although the exhaust fumes from other ICE cars are becoming more noticeable.

But getting back to cost, try subtracting about $10K in tax rebates, and $20K approx. for gasoline, $3-6K Service & Parts, No Smog,etc.

And do you like the privilege of driving in the carpool lane any time you like?

I also had to stretch the $ for my Model S.

My only additional thought is consider the 85Kw battery pack if you expect to drive on extended trips...

eelton | 07/04/2013

Per mcptwo: "But getting back to cost, try subtracting about $10K in tax rebates, and $20K approx. for gasoline, $3-6K Service & Parts, No Smog,etc."

I would be a bit more conservative in the calculations. The service costs of the Tesla are higher than I had thought a year ago (mandatory maintenance plan at $600 per year, or $475 per year if prepaid for 4 years). Compare that to BMW, which is free for 4 years.

As for gasoline costs, it depends on how much you drive. Also, energy costs for the Tesla are somewhat higher than I had calculated before purchase, based on energy consumption and MPGe figures, as "vampire losses" are the equivalent of running two 75-watt light bulbs 24/7/365...and even more in a colder climate.

And, it may cost $30 per month for the data plan, although that's up in the air. For Audi, it's $15 per month, prepaid for 2.5 years.

Brian H | 07/04/2013

According to Elon, the vampire losses will go away by this summer, when sleep returns.

An interesting fudge factor: the S is so therapeutic to drive that owners put many more miles on it than they would on an ICE. That drives total costs up, average costs down.

gary.greene | 07/04/2013

Hey, I am a retired public school educator (25 yrs. at the university as a professor and 10 yrs. as a school teacher). My previous car was a Prius (still have it and am planning to sell it to my son). The Model S was WAY MORE EXPENSIVE than any car I have every bought and I went through all of the thoughts you've been struggling with. Those other cars you mention are definitely great looking cars and with all the bells and whistles all of us had to think about letting go of when we considered buying the Model S (there were countless numbers of posts about the subject on the forum). Bottom line is if those things really matter to you-buy an Audi A7 or BMW 535. I've had my 60k Model S for a little more than a month and can tell you, there is nothing like it!! Can't imagine ever wanting to drive an ICE car again. Many of us spent way more than we every imagined for this car but if you can make it work-you definitely will not regret the decision. Drink the cool aid, experience the grin, and join us!

mikhaila | 07/04/2013

$100K? BMW 5 series well equipped is $65-67K + tax. In WA that yields about $74K. 85KWh Model S loaded is $90K minus $7500 federal tax credit (counts like $5K perhaps) and no sales tax in WA and no $300 per month on gas. Over three years+ cost is the same as BMW 535.

mikhaila | 07/04/2013

Speaking of $600 tesla service, "BMW free service" means oil change every 15K miles or so while before introduction of free maintenance BMW used to tell it was necessary to change oil every 5K miles. So if you care about your car then factor in oil changes between free visits to dealership. If you drive overage 12K miles a year, count $200 for oil changes our of pocket.

unclegeek | 07/04/2013

@mikhaila... according to the design studio the 85kwh fully loaded is $92k AFTER $7500 tax credit if I understand the footnote on the tax credit(in AZ we don't get the higher credits that CA does) depending on your definition of "loaded". My reference to the $100k Tesla was rounding up the apparent statistics that most S orders are for 85kwh and/or 85 performance models.. so certainly pushing upwards of $100k if not occasionally more, not a comparison with a 5 series.. my 550i comparisons were against an "entry level" S series cost today (just to clarify some points.) Having bought a new BMW a few years back.. the 4 years of "free" service covers more than oil.. anyway.. great to hear everyone's stories.. hope to see some more responses.. you DO have me re-pitching the case to my wife again. :) fortunately she's an Engineer too and appreciates 'most' of my arguments.

DouglasR | 07/04/2013

@unclegeek - You said you haven't driven the Model S yet. I don't see how you can reasonably weigh these factors without doing so.

jed-99aggie | 07/04/2013


I jumped over from an Audi S4 wagon (V8) to the Model S over 4 months ago. This was after a 3.5 year wait and much consternation. Owning and driving the Tesla is a PARADIGM shift (not to sound cliche).

There is not a single element about the Audi that I miss. The acceleration, ride, user interface, usefulness/utility, safety, space, ease of commuting (1 foot driving), style, no gas stops, full tank every morning, no hot garage/footwell (via the firewall), ongoing/future upgrades.

This is all before considering the financial impact and geopolicitcal/environmental/philosophical (what am I leaving to my children) "intangibles".

If the BMW/Audi tech options (parking assist, lane departure, etc.) are must have there is little logic to dissuade you. However like others have mentioned, you should try a test drive before finalizing your decision. It is a surreal experience.

Good luck

cb9 | 07/04/2013

In 2004, I bought a 2003 CPO 530 loaded for about 47k, including Md 6% tax. Fortunately, a colleague suggested I buy extended maintenance plan because it paid for itself when time came for the first major scheduled maintenance occurred, I think around 40k. Even with extended maintenance plan, the inconvenience of dealing with the dealer (for one problem, it was in the shop once a month for a year straight) was beyond annoying. I looked at A7, but couldn't see paying 75k for a car I wasn't in love with, nor was I psyched for another high-maintenance car. As mikhaila said, I paid for extra oil changes as well, and still the BMW was less reliable than my 85 Ford Tbird or my '96 Buick Regal. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to find out about this company and this car. I got my MS (p85 loaded) on the 19th and my only regret was not finding out about it sooner - even though it is more than twice the cost of my last car. I plan to keep the car for 10+ years, so it makes sense to get something I love.

campsalvage | 07/04/2013

I too pushed my financial boundaries to get a model s. You can check out my site and click on ditchng gas my tesla has pages of info about m decision and should help you. I am so glad i pushed the financial envelope. Unlike many, while i love the performace iam really honing my efficiency skills. I covred my last 30 miles yesterday around 20 Whr per mile. Overall i am at 301, but thats dropping fast as my skill iproves and we shed winter here in nj.

noel.smyth | 07/04/2013

My last car was a 2003 honda accord that I paid 17k for. I never ever would have thought I would pay this much for a car but I did and I actually went all in with the 85. I have 5k miles on it now and honestly have no regrets. the car is really that good. I was totally focused on going all electric and it was between the leaf and this - no comparison right, once you get beyond the price! The other thing is I learned more about Tesla and its mission and that totally sold me and I am not a shareholder as well. you only get to live once, make a difference, help change things to a more sustainable world for the next generation. yea thats why i did it.

cablue | 07/04/2013

We have our black MS 60 and just placed an order for our second MS, but 85 this time. We were not planning on getting two. But we were in the market to replace the BMW X5 diesel, and we were looking at the Audi A5/A7 or the new 4 series BMW coming out this summer. But, comparing those to the Tesla, ultimately, we just knew we BOTH wanted to be driving the Tesla each day. Who was going to drive the BMW or Audi? Neither wanted to. That basically sealed the deal. It was going to be another Tesla. And, we had not spent this much on any cars prior. It really is that good. But, I've had BMWs for a number of years now - 530, 550, X5. I do not feel the Tesla lacks in any way as far as extras. We have the tech pkg and upgraded stereo, etc... And, the cars do not cost $100,000. I still can't believe I'm getting one now! We placed the order last night!

unclegeek | 07/04/2013

@DouglasR.. you're absolutely correct.. hence my inquiry here of other's experiences and justification.. I'm kinda shooting blind at this point without being able to experience the car. I have been "in the queue" for a test drive for around a year but they aren't doing test drives in the Phoenix area yet.. the Scottsdale showroom is still trying to get their dealership licensing.. I have been in touch with Sybille Rizzolli (Market Development)about my interest and wanting a test drive and she says there will be a "test drive event" here in town sometime this year.. of course my other option is to plan a trip to CA.
Certainly if a proud and outgoing/friendly S owner living here in the valley wants to take me for a spin sometime I would be tickled silly.. for that matter I would die for the ability to bounce a few questions off of a local owner to help me with anxiety about the heat here and its affect on the car.

mikhaila | 07/04/2013

@unclegeek: here is my spec

Model S Base Price (Excludes $7,500 Federal Tax Credit) $69,900
Metallic: $750
Pano: $1,500
19" wheels
Leather: $1,500
85KWh: $10,000
Tech: $3,750
Sound: $950
Active Air: $1,500
Paint armor: $950
Supercharging: Included
Personal Delivery $990
Final Inspection, Prep. and Coordination $180

So $92K. Minus tax credit (say, effective 5K), $87K.

My 2010 535xi was $73K with tax. Today from

535xi sedan
BASE MSRP $55,700
Black Sapphire Metallic $550
Black Dakota Leather $0
Dark wood trim $0
Cold Weather Package $950
Driver Assistance Package $1,900
Luxury Seating Package$2,400
Premium Package$1,500
Technology Package$2,800
Dynamic Damper Control$1,000
Destination & Handling:$895

Total MSRP as Built $67,695

Paint guard: extra $900 or so
with WA tax: $74500.

So roughly $12K difference. My gas is $65/week (one fill per week premium) = $3400/year just for regular driving, not counting longer trips. $200/year extra oil changes x 4 years = $800. Tesla 4 years service: $1900 so add $110 to tesla. So 4 years of gas ($12K) covers the difference for me.

Consider also that 60KWh is 10K less which makes is less expensive than 535. Also take into account that Model S has space of 7 series. 740i with equivalent options is $77K.

cablue | 07/04/2013

I would like to add something about the space, as mentioned above. We're getting rid of our X5. The Tesla has so much space in back, it easily replaces the convenience of stopping somewhere to buy something big and having the space to load it in right then, like the X5. With the seats down, it's huge inside! And the well in back is very convenient for placing groceries inside without them spilling all over in the back.

unclegeek | 08/04/2013

@all-you-all... thanks everyone for taking the time to post.. my wife just came in and said "let's talk about 'your thing' tonight" and pointed to the monitor where I was reading the forum.. meaning a discussion on the model S purchase will ensue, not a reference to my man parts.. ;) so your endorsements and justifications have (re)inspired me to lobby for this addition to the household once again, and it seems to be working. Wish Me Luck!

@Jeff Savage.. thanks for pointing me to your site.. was a good read that kept me up past my bedtime.. :)

I'll keep scouring the forum.. I sure wish it had a search engine integrated.. (as opposed to lucking out with Google)

Vawlkus | 08/04/2013

Tesla didn't have a search engine, so an intrepid forumite made one for them. :)

The test drive will explain far more eloquently than any words why a Model S is the better choice.

Sudre_ | 08/04/2013

unclegeek, if you get the car don't let your wife drive it. She may argue against it now but when it arrives if she drives it she will take it away from you.


rochec | 08/04/2013

Good luck unclegeek, I'm dealing with my wife's hesitations as well. It definitely makes it hard to be so ecstatic about it and her so annoyed by the cost...but hopefully she'll come around once she sees it and understands why it is so incredible!

jed-99aggie | 08/04/2013


Given some your comparison brands you might find the attached Q1 volume data of interest. It does not compare the direct models, but does provide some empirical reference for your decision.

unclegeek | 08/04/2013

@Vawlkus.. thanks for the link to the search engine!! you just made my research a lot easier!

@jed-99aggie.. very interesting sales specs..

thanks to everyone for being kind to a newby..

djm12 | 08/04/2013

I test drove the BMWZ4 and the Model S. Although I prefer a smaller, sportier vehicle, I much preferred the Model S - which had better excel, comfort, etc. Between these two equivalently priced cars, the Model S was so much better.

jk2014 | 08/04/2013

Jed --

Does this mean Model S is the #1 lux sedan in America right now?

That would be a huge marketing point. Should replace the $500/ month bit with this on the website...

Captain_Zap | 08/04/2013

@unclegeek & rochec

Bonnie, a moderator at Tesla Motors Club forums, has mentioned that she has called hesitant spouses on the phone as a friendly service for potential future Tesla owners.

unclegeek | 09/04/2013

Good news! The wife conversation went very well last night. This morning she was saying things like "we WILL get a blue one, right?" and "will you be able to plug in at work?" and "when can we test drive this car so I can fall in live with it too?".

I had her read this thread after the discussion so all your comments helped! :-)

elguapo | 09/04/2013

Great news @unclegeek!

Amped | 09/04/2013

oh Unclegeek, wait until you guys test drive!
Will solidify the "gearhead" brain

kk | 11/04/2013

I hate to be a downer but I have serious concerns about replacement parts and repairs. The company is still so behind at providing good service for us early adopters! I took delivery last summer - waiting over two years - and I've had numerous parts issues, 3G issues, arguments with the service center, etc.

As much as I have loved my MS85 Signature - I may just go back to driving a luxury ICE vehicle. I will definitely miss the drive and power - which is totally amazing - but it is just not reliable enough and my faith in Tesla and their franchised repair centers is really low.

Andre-nl | 12/04/2013

'franchised repair centers'? That's new for me, I thought they were fully owned by Tesla.

Mel. | 12/04/2013

Kk, what is your vin number and what state are you in...?

bigez1 | 12/04/2013


Don't expect an answer from kk.

Mel. | 13/04/2013

bigez1., looks like NickNikeTown got me. Thanks

jat | 13/04/2013

I spent more than double what I have ever spent on a car before, but I don't regret it a bit. I still don't see what the point of comparing with other cars just based on price is -- do you compare an big SUV and a Boxster just because they cost about the same?

If you are worried about Tesla going bust or the car not being worth anything, use the Tesla financing and get Elon's personal guarantee to buy the car back at 43% of the purchase price in 3 years.

jhw1009 | 15/04/2013

@unclegeek, I like to buy and keep the car for many years so I did extensive search for my right sport sedan over 2 years span. I test drove the BMW 3 and 5 series, Mercedes C and E-class, Audi A6, Lexus ES, GS and hybrid, Acura TL, you name it. Until I test drove the Model S and she met my requirements of a sport sedan. I now own S60 for 2 months and every morning I couldn't wait to drive her. She is quiet, well performed and very fun to drive. I also compared my electric bill last month against the same month last year. I have the KW almost twice as much but due to my time-of-use meter, I pay only 80cents more. My savings on fuel is estimated to be $2700/year or $27K in 10 years (assuming the $/G is at today's cost for 10 years) which I plan to keep my MS that long. My $73K configuration becomes $46K with fuel savings, not a bad deal. | 15/04/2013

I'm sure you know about preaching to the choir. Nearly all of the people here are so in love with the idea and the fact of Tesla , that they would still love it even if it had three wheels and no doors. That being said, I am spending more than twice as much as I have ever spent for a car. Or than I would ever spend for any other car. Its not that I couldn't afford it, I am just to damn cheap. As for not yet getting a test drive, I would suggest a trip to the Park Meadows store in Denver. It is my impression that if you are really interested, they will get you behind the wheel pronto. Caution, bring a credit card with a $5000 limit, because there is a 90% chance you will be leaving with a reservation and an estimated delivery date. And a Tesla Smile.

unclegeek | 15/04/2013

We're getting pretty jazzed and wish we could test drive the car. I'm going into the (non-sales) showroom in Scottsdale tomorrow for some more eye candy time and q&a (as much as the reps can talk about not having their dealership license yet).
This Saturday is a local club event ("100 electric miles" event) and I plan to go to last stop in order to socialize with owners and, who knows, maybe get a ride if someone there is feeling generous.

I am now waffling between battery sizes.. the extra $8k (I would still pay for supercharger on a 60) seems to only yield an additional 57 miles range EPA.. but it also cuts a half second off the 0-60.
ahhh decisions decisions.

jat | 15/04/2013

@unclegeek - if you can afford it, I would say go for the biggest battery. There are a lot of things that deplete the battery faster than you would like, such as running AC, driving fast on the interstate, etc.

unclegeek | 29/04/2013

Test drive complete! (as I posted on the "Get Amped Scottsdale" thread).. we had a great experience.. I can't say enough about the crew in Scottsdale.. Jason, if you read these forums.. I thank you so much!! The P85 was everything you all have described and more.. My wife is even sold.. even with the somewhat disappointing back seat in the car. Really? no cup holders? We are both tall people and the pano is a must for rear seat headroom, but even with that our heads hit the roof behind the pano section. She also felt they could throw in some "oh shit" handles.. especially knowing how I drive. Other than that.. everything else was a dream ride. It takes about 5 minutes to adjust to having regen slow you down like a set of automatic brakes.. but it's a nice feeling seeing the current flow back into the battery pack on the dash display. I would still leave regen at normal. My wife even told me over dinner and a beer at the Yard House right next to the drive event, "we should get the 85 kwh battery since I want to take weekend trips to CA and Vegas.." YES! So seems like my tune has changed just a tad since I posted this thread, eh? :-)
We're talking about placing an order in July to time the financials right, deliver in September.. gee my Birthday is in September.. Happy Birthday ME!
Thanks everyone..

joshuaeven | 29/04/2013

Just read through your thread and I am satisfied it will have a happy ending! To put my $0.02 in, I am also spending WAY above my previous comfort level for a car. But a few years ago I would never thought I would have spent $400 for a phone, either. For me with the Model S, it wasn't about relative cost or absolute cost-savings. It was about wanting to buy into a new business model, a new technology. I think the car is amazing and I made it work financially and logistically. Have you seen the documentaries 'Who Killed the Electric Car' and 'Revenge of the Electric Car'? My wife and watched those and were EV converts. I had already reserved a Model S by then, but the day after we watched those we went out and got a Nissan Leaf to tide us over! Sold my beloved 370z, and when I pick up my 2013 red MS 85 IN TWO DAYS!!!!!!! we'll sell our old-faithful Scion xB and be completely ICE-free.

Getting an EV was important to me, it fit our lifestyle with no compromises, the MS is a gorgeous car, and a thrilling machine to drive. For me there were no 'cons' other than the cost... and it will be worth it! Life's too short to not enjoy it!

Brian H | 29/04/2013

Seems like red Teslas are bustin' out all over. The color is a real hit, a hot seller! Next, gold, orange, sky blue?

unclegeek | 29/04/2013

@joshuaeven, yes have seen the movies.. I actually got to demo the EV1 for a week back in the day, when Saturn was leasing them . That's when I was hooked.

on your new red baby! :-)

unclegeek | 29/04/2013

That should say, "congrats on your new red baby!"