Can't Afford a Tesla!

Can't Afford a Tesla!

I am a Leaf owner of 2 years now. My household income is well over $200k between my wife and I (And my mortgage is only $1600 with no debt). However I still feel priced out of a Model S. There is nothing more that I would love than to be able to afford a Tesla but they need a model that one can afford. Not just the "wealthy". What about people like me the "well offs". I can spend $30K-$40k on a car no problem... $80k... no thanks.

Captain_Zap | November 20, 2013


Bryan M. | November 20, 2013

Im in the same bought as you not everyone is in the position to be an early adopter. Just have to enjoy the forum until the GEN III arrives.

Bryan M. | November 20, 2013

boat not bought wish there was an edit function

jonlivesay | November 20, 2013

Sorry you are so strapped for money only making well over $200K. Your income level is about were mine is, my house payment is 3 times yours, paid cash for my car. They are working on a model for just the well offs like yourself, be patient it will come. Meanwhile drive the Leaf knowing you are doing what you can to help the movement.

SamO | November 20, 2013

How much are you spending in short and medium distance travelled. If you are happy with a Leaf then long distance trips are not essential. If you drive infrequently, the cost will never pay for itself.

That being said it makes sense to wait for the Model E or buy a used Model S privately in a year. It does look like so far they are holding their value.

carlk | November 20, 2013

With that kind of income and low mortgage I'm sure you could afford the car. On the other hand I can understand that you have different priorities than spending $80K for a new car.

AirForce462 | November 20, 2013

There is more to factor in than just the initial cash outlay and monthly payments. I am not "well off" and my household income is about a three quarters of yours (~170) but I have a very well equipped 85kw model S. During my cost benefit analysis I discovered that while my payments may be a bit higher than my previous vehicles, the fuel savings alone brought the benefits column to a level where I am now paying less a month in installment payments than I was for all three of my old vehicles combined. Your CBA may differ depending upon your commute and circumstances.

No one here will fault you for being cautious, this is a large expenditure on a depreciating asset, I have no regrets on my purchase.

renwo S alset | November 20, 2013

I am not sure I understand completely. What are you driving now? What are you spending on gas and maintenance? What is your total monthly cost to operate your vehicle(s)? Unless you are driving a 10 year old beater and driving less than 12k per year, I am not sure how you can not afford one. Total price is not the only determining factor.

Captain_Zap | November 20, 2013

I assue you are not Mr. Bohnert of the Bohnert Equipment Company Inc that makes equiment for auto repair industry.

That would be an interesting coincidence...

Captain_Zap | November 20, 2013

excuse me... assume.

NomoDinos | November 20, 2013

VIN - I think he said he's driving a Leaf right now, so no gas, little maintenance. In his case, the usual Model S savings arguments don't apply... he would have to get it based on raw sex appeal!

renwo S alset | November 20, 2013

Well sure, if he never takes a trip more than 30 miles one-way at 50 mph with no AC, or loves 'range anxiety". But, I was assuming he must have something that is used for anything beyond the limited range of a 2 year old leaf. Must live in NYC, so why get a car anyway. Also. I have a beautiful basic black 4 which was $60K out-the-door with tax credit, so I am wondering how seriously he looked at the website and did the calculations.

Brit.l.T | November 20, 2013

So wait for gen three? I guess I don't get the point of this post. 200k (depending on where you live) could afford you the car, but like others said, it depends on your priorities.I bought two model S (a 60 and p85) and it's like another mortgage for a large house for me. While, I have to be more accountable for my spending, but I think it's worth it because I want my children to grow up with this as a part of their consciousness. I love that when my two year old plays "race car" he has to stop and "recharge" instead of fuel up.

Gizmotoy | November 20, 2013

"Afford" and "Feel comfortable with" are two completely different things. At that income and expense level, it's pretty likely you can afford it.

Not wanting to spend that much on a car, on the other hand, I completely understand. It's tough. Give it a couple more years for the Gen III release.

JZ13 | November 20, 2013

+1 Gizmotoy

Captain_Zap | November 20, 2013

Good point Gizmotoy. I'm not comfortable with the price of espresso, cigarettes, energy drinks, credit card interest rates, gas, fashion brands and cable TV.

Lump all that together and it just would pay for a Tesla in no time.

Bighorn | November 20, 2013

Have you cut out lattes?

Captain_Zap | November 20, 2013

Yep. I make my lattes at home. That alone paid for the espresso machine in no time.

I even have a cup that fits my cupholder in my car. But, It turned out that I don't use the cupholder for that.

Sudre_ | November 20, 2013

Funny you should say that Captain_Zap. I stopped smoking in 2008. Never did buy the expensive coffee on the way to work and take my lunch to work... those savings alone make the extra monthly Tesla payment over a regular car.

A Leaf that has such a limited range would never cut it for me. I am really curious what range people get in their Leafs when the temp is 24 degrees outside.

Turns out my Tesla doesn't handle 90% of my driving needs. It covers 125%. 100% of my needs then my wife drives it when I get home and covers 25% of her needs. Can't wait to get her a GenIII.

I don't think it's a matter of $200,000 leaving a person too poor to purchase a Model S and more a matter of priorities..... and it's not unreasonable for a luxury car to not be a priority.

WATTAGE | November 20, 2013

First World Problems...

Mathew98 | November 20, 2013

Well, I'm not in the 200k household category, but I can afford to finance an S60 over 6 years at 1.49%. The long term CBA based on gas and maintenance saving justified my purchase.

OTOH, I can't afford my wife either. She spends 4x my S60 payment each month. Do I have a choice? Nope.

I'll have to keep da wife and the mistress (MS).

DallasTXModelS | November 20, 2013


You make well over 4x my income and though my ordered 85kWh 2013 Model S which I take delivery of in less than a month costs $89720 without the Government tax credit of $7500 which I do not get because I, like over 50% of Americans, do not make over $50,000 a year and therefore do not owe $7500 in Federal taxes to have credited.

But since a person who makes less than $50,000 a year cannot afford the gasoline at $3.509-$4.509 a gallon to drive 52 mile round trip a day to make my less than $50,000 middle class salary. I need an Electric car with a range of at least 60 miles per charge. (I have no mortgage and no debt.) I am within 6 years of retirement and am considering this car purchase probably will be the last car I will purchase in my lifetime. I want a 4 door car that can seat 5 when needed and has plenty of trunk space. Since I will probably like to take a few 300 mile trips after retiring a range of near 300 miles er charge would be desired.

I added up the price of gas at only $3.509 a gallon to drive the 20,000 miles per year over the next 6 years until my retirement and added that to the cost of my current ICE 5.5 year old car with 108,000 miles and I get the cost of my new 85kWh Model S.

I find it very interesting that a "well-off" thinks it's not doable to consider a car that is $80,000 and is whining on a public forum for a company to make a $40,000 car and I, which am closer to being a "have not" than a "well-off," can see that I can't afford not to by a Model S.

J.T. | November 20, 2013

@Mathew98 All I ever aspired to was to make enough money to live as well as my wife and kids.

eddiemoy | November 20, 2013

@ mrbohnert

you seem a little short sighted and over looking the overall cost of the vehicle over time. i use to spend $500 a month on gas, after i went with tesla, i spend only $120 on electricity. then i went the extra step to get solar and now i drive for free as i'm saving over $120 a month in electricity.

so here is the math... you can get the entry level tesla for ~$60k after fed tax credit. i save 6k a year on gas alone. after 10 years, my car is free.

this isn't even taking into consideration the maintenance is down to replacing tires and wiper blades. no oil changes and the motor is a commercial motor proven to last over 2mil miles.

now tell me you can't afford the car. pure BS.

tes-s | November 20, 2013

Some people drive a Yugo, some a Maserati.

Nothing wrong with driving a Yugo...or a Leaf.

DallasTXModelS | November 20, 2013


Nothing wrong with driving a LEAF; there is something wrong with a person that can pay cash for a Model S to be saying he can't afford one and that Tesla should be $30k-$40k so he an be more than "well-off"

Kleist | November 20, 2013

+1 DallasTXModelS

I am also not in the OPs income range and would never buy a $100k ICE because of gasoline and maintenace cost. After looking hard at my finances it turned out not that difficult. Only the 85kWh battery was a little challenge, but we cut down our expenses for 6 months and could manage.

I drive for free today, my house + car electrical bill is the same as the house by itself because going from tired to TOU rate which I only get owning an EV. A little adjustment - we do now laundry only on Sa/So morning when the rate is $9 cent was all it took to make the car fuel cost disapear.

S4WRXTTCS | November 20, 2013

I said the same thing to Ferrari, but they haven't gotten back to me.

I wonder why.

robert | November 20, 2013

Well, in this respect Tesla is a better alternative in Sweden.
We pay c. $8-8.50 per gallon here (to hear Americans whining about gas prices always makes me smile broadly), and in Norway that is even worse (better where I come from) - > 9 Dollars/gallon.
With a standard European car with standard consumption and driving 30k miles/year we're talking about 9'500 $/year in gas alone (add oil, exhaust systems, service etc etc). Deduct electricity prices for those that do not generate themselves and assume 300 Wh/mile = 2'000$ makes a net save of 7'500$ (actually more if you add the oil etc). With a financing of 5% interest you can buy a car for 150'000 for that - and what do you know: that's as much as I paid for my Sig P85 - exactly. Hmmmm. Coincidence?

In my case I generate my electricity, didn't have to finance and, if I add the life quality the Tesla gives me, and my good conscience, adding all the new acquanintances I get, while deducting the new lines I have in my face à cause de my constant grin, I could pay twice that and still be in the black. A no-brainer. A life-changer.

RedShift | November 20, 2013

I might not be the right person to comment on the income level, but the 60kwh sans frills is effectively similar to the cost of a loaded 3 series after factoring in the gas savings and minimal repairs. (After tax rebates and such are assumed).

Plenty of my friends make less than the OP and drive M3s and Audi S4s.

thranx | November 21, 2013; good point on "quality of life".

@mrbohnert; how much of your life do you spend in your car?

On the other hand, you didn't mention if you had kids living at home. They cost a lot more than $3.50/gal.

Windsurfer | November 21, 2013

I looked very closely at the Leaf before I purchased my Tesla. If all of your driving is local commuting (the Leaf has a range of 75 to 90 miles) I feel the Leaf actually represents a better value than the Tesla because of its lower purchase price. The Wall St. Journal published an article on the Leaf in July, remarking upon the fact that if you do a Leaf Lease in states that happen to have both a state (in Georgia,for example, $5000) as well as the $7500 Federal tax credit, you can lease a Leaf and practically drive for free for two to three years.

Don't get me wrong: I love my Tesla, but the Leaf you have is also an excellent machine. My advice is to keep your Leaf for another 2 to 3 years, and by then the third generation Tesla should be more affordable.

One thing we should be mindful of in these forums is that, while having very low operating expenses, the Tesla is not an inexpensive car to own. As such, I consider it a "proof of concept" vehicle for early adopters. Just as Steve Jobs did with the iPhone, Elon Musk is trying to create a market that fills a niche that simply did not exist prior to the Tesla: an efficient electric vehicle that people actually want to own. I think he has succeeded.

Jewsh | November 21, 2013


My wife and I are in the same boat. We make a good living and are very fortunate but we mind the pennies.

The car makes sense for us since we're driving so much.

jbunn | November 21, 2013

Just clicking over to 9,000 miles. My average "fuel" is $28 per 1,000 miles. That drops my car expenses by hundreds of dollars BELOW my Ford Explorer payment + gasoline, even though the Explorer was only 60% of the Tesla.

Look at Total Cost of Ownership.

(If you have a Leaf, and it meets your needs, stick with that. I'm talking about us moving out of gas monsters.)

brandtlings | November 21, 2013

An overwhelming characteristic of the rich is that they are frugal... My respect to the OP

bb0tin | November 21, 2013

The flaw in your argument is "There is nothing more that I would love than to be able to afford a Tesla".
I expect there are plenty of other things you are loving to afford above a Tesla.
Like others who are earning far less than you (myself included) have said, you can afford it.
You choose not to.

sk1656 | November 21, 2013

Your only option, my friend, is to wait for the 3rd Gen Tesla platform/car. That would could between 30 to 40k. BTW, you're welcome. :)

Captain_Zap | November 21, 2013

@bb0tin - You nailed it.

PatT | November 21, 2013

@Dallas I would hate to see you lose out on the tax credit just because you don't have a big enough tax liability. You said you are nearing retirement. Perhaps you can convert enough of your IRA's into Roth's to maximize your tax bill.

AmpedUP | November 21, 2013

@mrbohnert: I find myself in a similar predicament, even though my husband and I make more than 300K and have no children. I don't know whether the difficulty of the decision has been because I come from Depression-era parents, or because we went through 7 years of hard times during my business start-up. Regardless, I think one thing you and I have in common is that I have never bought an exotic car, and buying an exotic takes some getting used to. Right now, I'm looking at a 2013 Ford Explorer and a 2004 Chrysler Sebring in the BMW or Mercedes! Still, our household is going to take the plunge and order a 85kw MS next week. For us, it's not so much about having an exotic as it is about supporting an American company and a new way of doing things. News of the insane new hydrogen cars unveiled today in Tokyo only confirms our decision. The hydrogen cars are all about Big Oil selling us hydrogen at service stations in the future rather than allowing us to plug in at home, (preferably using our own solar power). NOW is the moment to stop them.

xradr | November 21, 2013

@ mrbohnert,

One thing to consider --> save monthly.

4 years ago, we put in a reservation for MS. From that time until last year, each month I put some money aside. Much of that money came from stopping or reducing unnecessary purchases (starbucks, lunches, dinners out, reducing travel costs, being more careful with bills/usage, etc).

By the time the car was ready to be built, I had quite a lot of cash put away for this purpose specifically. It wasn't a stretch at all. Indeed, it was a relatively gratifying purchase, because we sort of "earned it", by cutting out a lot of the unnecessary expenses. I liken it to "a penny saved is a penny earned".

If you can save 1K per month by cutting expenses, you will have nearly the entire purchase price of GEN III when it comes out ... or 1/2 purchase price of a decently equipped MS in 2017.

Based on your financial disclosures, you're doing pretty amazingly well (top 10% of US households). Congrats on that! I hope you're able to find the spare coin (now or later) to help you join the tesla club.


RanjitC | November 21, 2013

Where o where did the troll go.

RanjitC | November 21, 2013

Sorry Brian H I used a period at the end of my question.

Kleist | November 21, 2013

Brian will forgive you this time.