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New Tesla Model 3 vs used Tesla Model S: costs

The Tesla Model S was the car that proved electric cars could be fast and luxurious, but is a used example a better buy than a new Model 3 for the same money?...

Tesla Model 3 energy consumption readout

Buying and owning

Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

A low-mileage, 2019 Tesla Model S 75D will set you back around £59,000 – roughly £1000 less than you’d pay for a brand new Model 3 Performance. However, the latter is predicted to hold on its value better, helping to cut costs in the long term.

Yes, you could go for an older Model S with more miles on the clock for less money (Tesla started building them back in 2012), but then you’d lose the added security of having some warranty left. When new, both models come with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty; the battery has eight years of cover with no mileage limit.

Tesla doesn’t do trim levels as such and has never offered a long options list. Aside from exterior and interior colours, our contenders are similarly equipped. Autopilot, Tesla’s adaptive cruise control and steering assistance package for motorway use, is standard on the Model 3. These features were optional on the Model S at the time, as part of an Enhanced Autopilot pack that also allowed the car to park itself, change lanes autonomously on the motorway and be summoned via a smartphone at very low speeds.

Tesla Model S Autopilot display

It’s worth looking for a Model S that has this pack fitted. To get all of these functions on the Model 3, you’ll need to pay £5800 to add Full Self-Driving Capability. When legislation allows, this will also enable the car to recognise stop signs and red traffic lights and bring you to a standstill accordingly, as well as navigating its way around cities autonomously.

For a fee, you can retrospectively add Full Self-Driving Capability on the Model S, too, provided the car already has Enhanced Autopilot and Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0 computer hardware, which was available on cars built from late 2016 onwards.

Buying a Model 3 or Model S gives you access to the company’s proprietary Supercharger network. This has more than 650 charging points at around 70 destinations in the UK and allows you to charge the battery of either car (from 10-80%) in as little as 30 minutes. If you’re driving a Model 3, you’ll have to pay each time, but the price is reasonable. Some earlier and later versions of the Model S were sold with free lifetime Supercharger access, although this was discontinued for a time; ask to check the Tesla account details linked to the car if you aren’t sure.

Osprey charging station with Tesla Model 3 21-plate

The Model 3 is also compatible with public CCS charging points, giving you more opportunities to recharge. You can buy an adapter for CCS charging in a Model S (£425 including installation), but only for models built after 1 May 2019. A full charge at home using a 7kW charger takes roughly 12 hours, which ever car you choose

The Model 3 is an incredibly safe car – one of the safest around, in fact, receiving a glowing report from the experts at Euro NCAP. The Model S did, too, but that was way back in 2014 when the testing criteria was far less stringent.

As for reliability, here the Model 3 has a clear advantage. It earned a 93.3% score in our 2021 Reliability Survey, whereas the Model S managed only 85.7% the last time it featured (in 2020).

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