How many miles do you have to drive to afford a Tesla?

Red Tesla Model S vs. Silver Audi A7

How many miles do you have to drive to afford a Tesla?

How many miles do you have to drive to afford a Tesla?

Ok, so driving more will not actually enable you to afford a Tesla Model S, or any model for that matter, but if you can afford to buy a luxury sedan, then considering the Model S as compared to similar cars is a very green thing to do.  One question I have been asked is how many miles would you need to drive the all electric Tesla Model S in order to justify spending the additional money when compared to a different luxury sedan like the Audi A7 quattro.

In Massachusetts, you would need to drive 70,000 miles in a Tesla Model S before you save the $10,000 price differential with the Audi A7 quattro.

Here is the data I used to calculate it.

Fuel Prices as of March 12, 2013 for Massachusetts:

2013 Tesla Model S
85 kWh battery
2013 Audi A7 quattro
Fuel to Drive 25 miles
9.5 kWh
1.2 gallons
Rated Fuel Economy
89 MPGe
(88/90 City/Highway)
21 MPG
(18/28 City/Highway)
265 miles
374 miles
Data from

And here is the math:

Fuel cost per mile = (Fuel per 25 miles × cost of fuel) / 25 miles

Tesla Model S  Fuel cost per mile = (9.5 kWh ×14.04¢ per kWh) / 25 miles = 5.33¢ per mile
Audi A7  Fuel cost per mile = (1.2 gal ×$4.031/gal) / 25 miles = 19.35¢ per mile

Savings per mile = 14.01¢ per mile

Miles to recoup cost difference = Cost difference / Savings per mile

$9,800 / 14.01¢ per mile =69,928 miles 

At the US average of 12, 000 miles driven per year, that is less than 6 years. So, will you consider an electric vehicle as your next car purchase?

Happy Greening!

Over those same 70,000 miles, you would save over 40,000 pounds of CO2 emissions (or about 2/3rds) with the Tesla, but that is a calculation for another time.

emissions estimates are 19.6 lbs CO2 per gallon of gasoline and 0.93 lbs per kWh electricity in MA

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  1. God job
    I would add the maintenance saving.
    Any time I show up at the dealer service they want to charge me for new brakes, pumps, filers, new radiator, premium oil change, etc.

  2. The fly in the ointment here is that you won’t get anywhere near 21 mpg if you have fun with the Audi, whereas the Model S doesn’t cost much more to drive if you floor it at every light.

  3. In fairness, the Model S 85kWh is a bigger car, with vastly more cargo space and, according to a friend of mine who switched from a 2012 A7 Quattro, much better performance.

    Yes, the published 0-60 times are similar, but you are forced to nearly destroy your transmission on the A7 to achieve the best times, while on the Model S you just press the pedal. And while rolling there is no comparison between the A7 and the instant, powerful response of the Model S.

    The whole idea that you are paying a “premium” in this case is kind of ridiculous. The BMW 640i GC is also a comparable car and costs MORE than the Model S. It also suffers in direct performance comparisons with the Model S.

    The entire thesis of your article (that you are paying a premium for an EV and need to make it back with lower energy costs) is basically false. The Model S is something of a bargain before you ever consider the amazing savings in lifetime costs to operate the vehicle.

  4. Cool. I like your choice of the Audi A7 for a comparison: I think that’s a fair comparison. It’s easy to shout that the Tesla EV is sooo expensive if you forget that it also belongs firmly in the luxury car category.

    • Over that 70000 miles the Audi is going to need about 23 oil changes, averaging probably $50-70 each. Plus brakes which the Audi will consume more than the Model S which uses regenerative braking mostly. And then your various filters and belts which need to be replaced. With all this the break even is going to be a bit less than 70000 miles. On the Tesla side you can take advantage of off peak rates to get cheaper electricity. And you have to add in the cost of their $1900 four year service plan which is not optional.

  5. A couple more things to keep in mind. If your price of electricity is lower or the price of gasoline higher, then the savings per mile will be higher, thus reducing the time to break even.

    Also, if you opt for the 60 kWh model, the initial price is less and the energy efficiency is a little higher because the car is lighter with less batteries. Again, leading to a quicker break even point. I choose the 85 kWh because that has a range that is more similar to the A7 and because if I could, that is what I would get.

  6. What kind of math is the author using? When I compute 9800/14.01 the result is 699.50035688

    I ask because I am trying to determine the break even point of a Model S versus my 2006 Mazda 3 which I drive 98% highway miles every day for an estimated 29.5 mpg. Therefore, I am estimating .8-gallon of fuel to travel 25 miles.

    Using the author’s method, my calculations are far different. I have thus far estimated that five (5) years of ownership (weekly fill-ups, oil & filter changes, tires, brakes) cost ~$18,000.

    • Hi Gary,

      I am dividing $9,800/ 14.01 cents, so the result is actually $9,800/$0.1401 = 69,950.

      If you are getting 29.5 MPG for a 2006 Mazada 3, you are doing better than the EPA rating and better than average reported on

      How many miles have you driven the car in those five years?

      Purely based on fuel costs of fuel (Gas vs. Electricity) at $3.636/gal of regular ( which is about 30 cents less than a year ago and $0.0983/kWh ( :
      Tesla fuel cost to drive per mile: $0.0374
      Mazda 3 fuel cost to drive per mile: $0.1233
      Savings per mile for Tesla: $0.0859
      then you can factor in the other things like oil changes, etc (but not tires as both cars have those).

      I hope this helps.

      • Thank you for the response. I had initially followed your calculations by using my numbers and also computed a savings per mile of .08

        If I am calculating this properly, $9800/.08 = 122,500

        What is the $9,800 figure? I could not find a definition of that or how it is reached.

        • The $9,800 is the difference in MSRP between the 2013 Tesla Model S 85 kWh base model and the 2013 Audi A7 at the time I ran the numbers.

          Just this week, Tesla announced new pricing, eliminated the lower capacity battery model, added the Super Charger to all models. The new price is noticeably higher at $94,900.

          Here is a comparison via FuelEconomy dot gov:

          • Ahhhh, that’s what I thought.

            Thank you again for answering my nit-picky questions. Were I to purchase a Tesla, I’d opt for the highest capacity battery possible.

            I believe I’d have to adjust my calculations considering my vehicle is paid for. Although I’ve been critical in the past of electric cars, namely for their lack of range (think Nissan LEAF), the Tesla appears to be a real winner. I have read of advances in technology where hydrogen fuel could be stored in a more safe manner with no danger of volatility in an accident. Either way, I hope to witness the transition from petrol powered vehicles to something “clean”.

  7. John carter says

    I took the plunge and haven’t looked back. I have a p85 Model S and saved nearly 8k since there is no sales tax on EV’s purchased here in NJ.

    One poster mentioned the tesla service, which actually is optional, not mandatory. My last brake job from Audi set me back 1k for rear only. Brake pads ARE included in tesla’s service.

    Also worth considering probable resale value on a car who’s motor doesn’t wear out after 100, 200 or 300k miles?

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