Hybrids & Electrics

What Is the Cheapest Tesla?

Tesla is all the rage. It seems not a day goes by when there isn’t a news story about the brand’s innovative cars, soaring stock prices, or colorful CEO Elon Musk. The public praise and attention are well-deserved — the consensus is that Tesla EVs are excellent (if expensive). So if you’re thinking of buying one on a budget, here’s how much you can expect to pay for the cheapest Tesla.

The Tesla Model 3

A midsize luxury sedan, the latest Tesla Model 3 starts at $38,960. And for that affordable price, you’ll get one of the best EVs on the market. It comes with an all-glass roof and sits on 18-inch wheels. The base model gets up to 263 miles per charge, and its electric powertrain can propel it from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. It harnesses an impressive 283 hp and 307 lb-ft of torque. The Model 3 also handles exceptionally thanks to its battery planted in the floor, providing a low center of gravity. And it’s rated between 113 and 141 MPGe. Like all Tesla models, the Model 3 comes in two variants besides the base model. The Performance and Long Range versions, as their names suggest, offer enhanced performance and range, respectively.

The Model 3’s cabin is austere save for a touchscreen in the dashboard that controls everything. Drivers have access to built-in navigation and Bluetooth but not Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, AM radio, or Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The front row is spacious, but the rear is best reserved for smaller people. Those seats, though, can be folded and provide more cargo room for a total of 15 cubic feet.

The Model 3 is quite safe, with a well-designed driver-assist system. Standard features include automatic lane change, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. The Model 3 has also earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety‘s highest Top Safety Pick+ designation and a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Other 2021 Tesla models

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Tesla’s offerings don’t stop with the Model 3. There are also new Model S, Model X, and Model Y versions.

The Model S is a full-size luxury sedan with an MSRP of $69,420 that MotorTrend named the Ultimate Car of the Year in 2019. It accelerates to 60 mph in just 2.28 seconds, and the Long Range Plus version can achieve 402 miles of range per charge. The Model S produces 417 hp and 485 lb-ft of torque, and the Performance version can hit 163 mph. Both versions pack plenty of cool features. They include an auto start that engages as soon as you sit in the driver’s seat. Also, expect a gigantic 17-inch touchscreen and voluminous cargo space. It’s little wonder the Model S has earned high praise.

The Model X is Tesla’s luxury SUV. It outpaces competitors in acceleration, speed, range, and performance. With a nearly $80,000 base price, it’s a powerhouse providing 371 miles per charge and producing 417 hp. It seats five and offers 26.6 cubic feet of cargo space (or 58.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down). It also boasts a 17-inch touchscreen. But like the Model 3 and S (and Y), there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. 

That’s a relatively minor flaw given these EVs’ high performance. The Model Y is no exception. It’s the brand’s entrant into the compact SUV segment and starts at $41,990. The Long Range Model Y can take you 316 miles on one charge and produce 384 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. On the other hand, the Performance version gets 291 miles on its 21-inch wheels and produces 456 hp and 497 lb-ft of torque. Interior features are similar to those in other Tesla vehicles, but the touchscreen size drops to 15 inches in the Model Y.

Other EVs to consider 

But if you’re looking for an electric car, the Tesla Model 3 is one of your best options. You’ll also find the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt EUV and EV in this price range. However, the Model 3’s performance chops, range, and features make it a competitive option. 

The Chevy Bolt gets kudos for its range. But offering only 259 miles on a charge, it can’t outperform the Model 3. And the Bolt accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds — fast, but not faster than the Model 3. The Bolt’s infotainment center comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, but its 10-inch touchscreen is smaller than the Model 3’s. However, the Bolt beats the Model 3 in total cargo space — but at 16.9 cubic feet, not by much. 

The Nissan Leaf offers substantially more cargo space than either option at 23.6 cubic feet. But with only 226 miles per charge and 214 hp and 250 lb-ft on only its top-level trims, it badly lags behind the base Model 3. Though the Leaf was one of the first EVs on the market, it has fallen in popularity thanks to competition in the decade since its introduction, including the Model 3. In fact, the cheapest Tesla is at or near the top of the pack when it comes to four-door cars.