Would You Buy the Most Affordable Tesla?

When Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, unveiled the Tesla Model 3 way back in 2016, the world took notice. Although most Tesla fans celebrated the launch, some wished there was an even lower-priced version of the car. That said, Model 3 was set to change the world with the first mass-produced Tesla that wouldn't leave a hole in your wallet. At $35,000, it quickly became the coveted electric car that had accumulated an impressive number of pre-orders. 

After some much-publicized production hell, deliveries began. It took a bit longer but the originally stated $35,000 Tesla Model 3 was eventually made available for purchase with 220 miles of range, a 130 mph top speed, and a 0-60 of 5.6 seconds. It offered only basic features such as manual cloth seats and a lower end audio system.

Alongside the Standard Range variant, Tesla also released a Standard Range Plus for $37,000. For just $2,000 more, you received a faster car with more range: 240 miles per charge, a top speed of 140 mph, and a 0-60 of just 5.3 seconds. Things quickly changed when the company increased the price to $39,500 and added premium features such as Autopilot, powered and heated front seats, and a premium audio system. The debate between the two quickly grew.

However, Tesla seemingly made the decision easier on everyone. The company quickly raised prices once more and got rid of the Standard Range variant on their online configurator (although it remained available via special request). Tesla began delivering software-limited cars. The only difference between a Standard Range Plus and Standard Range was its performance, range numbers, and the exclusion of Autopilot.

So for $4,500 in savings you lost out on 20 miles of range, a bit of performance, and Autopilot. Rest assured, Autopilot was still available as a $3,000 option. Only, the vehicle was nowhere to be found on the company's website, and still isn’t. It was removed from the online configurator with no virtual way of ordering. Tesla then went ahead and increased prices once more leaving the Model 3 Standard Range Plus currently at $39,990.

But you could and still can order the cheapest Tesla model, it’s just a tad bit complicated. Since it’s removed from their website, the most affordable Tesla is only accessible over the phone or in person. Tesla has kept quiet about the base model since its removal from the site but still honors the originally promised $35,000 price tag over the phone or in-store via special request.

Is the most affordable Tesla worth it? Some would argue against it. Autopilot is one of Tesla’s largest selling points. It adds a massive convenience factor and simply makes your life easier. Purchasing the Autopilot option on the Standard Range Model 3 quickly decreases the price gap to just under $2,000. You’ll have to make that decision yourself but for $2,000 I think the software unlocked features such as heated seats, a better audio system, and 10% more range is worth it.

The lowest-priced model offered by Tesla is technically not the cheapest out there. If you’re shooting for even bigger savings, you might want to take a look in the direction of a used Tesla Model S. For under $30,000 you can get yourself into the award-winning car of 2012/13. Sure, the increased maintenance bills of a used luxury car are a factor but one you might want to consider. After all, for the same price as a new Standard Range Model 3, this used 2013 Tesla Model S offers less range, an outdated interface, and no full self-driving capability. It also has ~50,000 miles of wear and tear.

If you’re looking for a used Model 3, a super-cheap option on the market is this red 2018 Model 3 Long Range with just ~10,000 miles for only $32,000. Sounds like a good deal? Well, it has a rebuilt title. Used Model 3’s are hard to come by these days and “good” deals are never as good as they seem. The Tesla Model 3 currently leads the industry in value retention, losing just 5.5% in value after a year. Some dealerships go as far as to sell these cars for more than they cost brand new.

Two years since the initial release and the Model 3 is still said by many to be the best deal in the automotive world. At any trim level, the Model 3 tends to outperform any competitor today.

For $48,990, the Long Range Model 3 offers 322 miles of range, a 145 mpg top speed, and a 0-60 of just 4.4 seconds. If performance is your thing, the Performance Model 3 will blow away supercars at the drag strip for just $56,990. It offers a 0-60 of 3.2 seconds with a top speed of 162 mph while moderately cutting down range to 299 miles. The company now even offers a track package for $5,500. We’ve come a long way since the initial unveiling in 2016.


An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever-expanding EV landscape.