Tesla made a big deal about its Model 3's base price of $35,000. The price makes it attractive to a whole new range of buyers who couldn't afford its more expensive Model S or Model X. While it's certainly true that a Model 3 will be cheapest way to get into a brand-new Tesla, let's be clear that there will be practically zero Model 3s at its base starting price of $35,000. Here's why.
Choosing any color other than black raises the Model 3's price by a grand. If you want an upgraded interior package, that will cost you additional $5,000. To be fair, a package that includes upgraded 12-way power heated seats, open-pore wood trim, a higher-end audio system, and a center console with docking for two smartphones is very attractive at that $5K price point. It's such a good deal, in fact, that we'd be surprised if most Model 3s weren't so equipped, which raises the non-black electric vehicle to $41,000. Another of Tesla's well-publicized features is Autopilot. All Model 3s get some assisted driving features, such as emergency braking and collision avoidance. But if you want a Model 3 that will stay in its own lane at the speed of traffic, exit freeways autonomously, and self-park itself, that'll be another $5,000. Granted, not everyone is going to want those features, but if they do, that'll raise the cost of our hypothetical Model 3 to $46,000.
Bear in mind that we're talking about the standard Model 3 that boasts a range of 220 miles and does 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. The long-range Tesla Model 3 with a range of 310 miles and a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds (it also charges faster and can go 10 mph faster flat-out) starts at $44,000. It's these long-range Model 3s that are currently being built. The standard model with its $35,000 sticker has a planned production start date of November, 2017. All the same options we discussed – upgraded interior and autonomous hardware – are available on the long-range Model 3 just as they are on the standard version. Piling all those same options on the long-range Model 3 brings us to $58,000. Every single car sold in America has an advertised base price that quickly rises with options. But the fact remains that very few people will actually buy a $35,000 Tesla Model 3.