How the Tesla Model 3, with a $40,000 base price, stacks up against the $100,000-plus Tesla Model S

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderThe Model 3.
  • Tesla sells two sedans, the Model S and the Model 3.
  • The Model S is a more luxurious midsize four-door that can almost stretch to full-size duty.
  • The Model 3 is a compact four-door that takes a more minimalist approach than the Model S.
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Since 2017, Tesla has officially been selling two sedans, the Model S and the Model 3. Both are fully electric, but with the arrival of the base, $US40,000 Model 3, there’s now a wide price difference between the cheapest Tesla four-door and the most expensive Model S, which can cost over $US100,000, depending on the configuration.

What, you might wonder, do you get for your money with each car?

Glad you asked. I’ve provided a simple breakdown. The bottom line is that you currently have more options with the Model 3, but the Model S is more premium and serves up better performance – if you pay extra for it. Otherwise, although the cars are in different segments, they have a lot in common.

Read on to learn more:

The Model S is Tesla’s oldest vehicle now in production. The mid-size sedan arrived in 2012 and has been updated and reconfigured numerous times, but the average price is around $US100,000.

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Currently, Tesla sells three versions of the Model S, each with a “dual motor” all-wheel-drive configuration.

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The Long Range is $US85,000, with a 335-miles range and a 0-60mph time of 4.1 seconds.

The Performance is $US99,000, with a 315-mile range and a 0-60 time of 3 seconds.

The Standard Range was $US79,000 to start, with a 270-mile range and a 0-60mph time of 4.2 seconds, but Tesla has dropped it from the lineup.

(These prices are all before tax credits and fuel savings.)

Adding Ludicrous Mode to the Performance trim for $US20,000 takes the 0-60 mph time down to 2.4 seconds. That’s supercar fast.

Model S owners used to be able to use the company’s network of almost 1,500 Supercharger locations to recharge for free. Now, new Model S owners have to pay; the rate is $US0.28 per kilowatt hour. The Model S can also recharge at slower Level 2 partner sites, at home using a Level 2 system, or with a regular wall outlet to “trickle” charge or top off.

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Tesla explained to me that Model S owners can use the company’s referral program to obtain 1,000 miles of free Supercharging for each new customer referred via a unique code.

The Model S interior comes in basic black standard, regardless of trim. A few different interior options are on offer, for an extra $US1,500. Exterior colours that aren’t black also add $US1,000, on up to “red multi-coat,” which is $US2,500.


The Model S has a traditional, albeit digital, instrument cluster for the driver. The steering wheel is heated, and the front seats are heated and cooled in Performance trim. (The Long Range trim has only heated seats.)

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The Model S is equipped with a large, 17-inch portrait central touchscreen that controls climate and infotainment, as well as many vehicle settings. The screen is angled slightly toward the driver.

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The Model S key fob is a sleek little guy that resembles the car. You can also use the Tesla app to control some features, monitor charging, and check on the Model S’s vital signs.

AP/Carlos Osorio

You have almost 63 cubic feet of total cargo capacity with the Model S, if you drop the rear seats to expand the hatch and make use of the front trunk, or “frunk.” The Model S can beat some SUVs for hauling capability.

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The Model S has ample space in the back seat for three kids, and two adults would be relatively comfortable.

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The Model S can be had with Autopilot, Tesla’s semi-self-driving system. The basic driver-assist system is $US3,000 on order, $US4,000 post-delivery. Adding full self-driving is $US5,000 on order, $US7,000 post-delivery.

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Older versions of the Model S have different styling and aren’t able to handle the same technological improvements that are routine for newer examples.

REUTERS/Noah Berger

The Model 3 is Tesla’s newest vehicle. The compact sedan launched in mid-2017. Initially, only “premium,” long-range versions were made, but a pricey Performance trim followed, and most recently a $US40,000 base car arrived.

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Tesla currently sells two versions of the Model 3: single-motor rear-wheel-drive and dual-motor all-wheel drive. There are the equivalent of five trim levels.

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  • The RWD Standard range is $US35,000, with 220 miles of range and a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds.
  • The RWD Standard Range Plus with partial premium interior is $US37,500, with 240 miles of range and a o-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds.
  • The RWD Long Range premium interior is $US44,500, with 325 miles of range and 0-60 mph time of 5 seconds.
  • The AWD Long Range premium interior is $US48,500, with 310 miles of range and a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds.
  • And the AWD Performance premium interior is $US59,500, with 310 miles of range and a 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds.

(These prices are all before tax credits and fuel savings.)

There is no Ludicrous Mode for the Model 3 Performance.

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The Model 3 is subject to the same charging protocols and costs as the Model S, although the Model 3 uses a different battery architecture.

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The Model 3’s interior is far more minimalist than the Model S’s. Exterior paint pricing is the same as the Model S.

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The central landscape touchscreen controls infotainment, most vehicle functions, and displays your speedometer.

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The Model 3 does away with the key fob. Instead, there’s a credit-card-sized valet/backup key …

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… But the car’s real key is the smartphone app.

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It is possible to obtain an aftermarket fob, Tesla explained. It costs $US150.

The Model 3 offers much less cargo space than the Model S — just 15 cubic feet between the trunk and frunk. But that’s still plenty for everything but full-family road trips over long weekends.

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With the Model 3, you get smaller back seats, but you also get a show-stopping panoramic glass roof that runs from the windshield to the rear hatch.

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The Model 3 can also be had with Autopilot, Tesla’s semi-self-driving system. The basic driver-assist system is standard equipment. Adding full self-driving is $US7,000 on order.


Both the Model S and Model 3 have “Navigate on Autopilot” available with the full self-driving package. Tesla says it enables “automatic driving from highway on-ramp to off-ramp including interchanges and overtaking slower cars.”

The new Tesla Model Y compact crossover offers a bit more versatility than the Model 3 and could tempt buyers who aren’t interested in four-doors but want to go electric.

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