How my Tesla Model 3 saves me $200 a month in fuel costs

by The Darwinian Doctor

Today I discuss how my Tesla fuel costs are $200 a month lower than if I had a gas powered vehicle.

This post may contain affiliate links.

I’ve had my Tesla Model 3 since August 2018, so roughly 15 months.  Over this time period, I’ve driven it almost 31,000 miles. The vast majority of this driving has been from my commute, which is 80-100 miles round trip (depending on my route).  In this post, I go over how avoiding the gas pump and oil changes is saving me over $200 a month in fuel costs.

Why the heck do I have a Model 3?

I’ve previously discussed my rationale for buying an expensive car like the Model 3.  Much of the purchase was prompted by my heinous commute from Los Angeles to the hospital where I work.  An electric car allows me to legally drive in the carpool lane, cutting 10% off my commute. Tesla’s Autopilot technology also makes my drive much less stressful, and frees my mind to ponder things like this blog and my burgeoning real estate empire.

Another important reason behind my purchase, though, was the fact that Tesla fuel costs are much lower than gas powered cars.

Gas is expensive!

This is especially relevant this year, as recently I’ve noticed gas prices shooting up in Southern California. 

California gas = $$$

The average gas price in Los Angeles during 2018 was $3.51, according to the LA Almanac.  In 2019, it’s only gotten worse.  Middle East turmoil and refinery repairs in SoCal have pushed gas prices to between $4-5/gallon.

This all prompted me to finally calculate how much I’m saving in fuel and oil change costs by driving an electric vehicle.

The CX-5

For these calculations, my comparison vehicle is the 2016 Mazda CX-5, which gets 26 miles/gallon combined driving, which is a mix of highway and city driving.  This was the car that I sold for the Model 3.  

Below, take a look at my calculations and summaries.

Gas Savings

Tesla Model 3Mazda CX-5
Miles driven30,87630,876 (hypothetical)
Efficiency250 kWh/mile26 miles / gallon
Energy/Fuel consumed7734 kWh1,188 gallons
Cost per kWh/Gallon$0.17458$3.51
Fueling cost$1,350$4,170
Driving statistics

Note: I’m using $3.51/gallon for the calculations. If I used the current average gas prices in SoCal, the savings would be higher.

Oil change savings

Mazda CX-5
Miles driven30,876
Synthetic oil changesevery 7500 miles
Average cost$70
Number of oil changes4
Oil change cost avoided$280
Monthly savings
Total fuel cost savings over 15 months$2,820
Oil change savings over 15 months$280
Tesla fuel cost savings per month$207

Home Charger

To efficiently charge my vehicle at home, I did need to install a charging station in my driveway. While this did cost some money upfront to install, it efficiently recharges my car back to full each night in just a few hours.

The charger itself cost $500, but a local rebate program fully covered the cost of this. So my only cost was the fee from my electrician.

Tesla Wall Charger
Home charging costs
Electrician installation$1,580
Tesla charger costFree with rebate
Months to break even7.65

Explanation: since I’m saving $207 a month in fuel and oil change savings, the charger installation paid for itself in 7.65 months.

Payment Comparison (monthly)
Tesla Model 3$932
Mazda CX-5$584
Difference$348 more
Adjusted with fuel/oil change cost savings$141 more


In summary, after accounting for the savings from avoiding gas and oil changes, my monthly Tesla fuel costs are $207 less than with my previous car. Taking this into account, the Tesla is costing me only $141 a month more than my Mazda CX-5.  Carpool lane access saves me about 4 hours of driving a month, and Autopilot frees my mind to ponder this blog and things like self-actualization and investment goals.  

Overall, I’d consider this money well spent!


Wait… what?  The title of the post is misleading, you say?  I’m still paying more each month for the Tesla than my other car?  OK, alright, fine, you’re technically correct.

While I’m at it, I should mention that I drive a lot more than your average commuter.  This amplifies the savings that I’m experiencing.  

I still have some unease at owning a Tesla while being a finance blogger.  Even for a moFIRE blogger, it seems a bit weird. I’m working through it still. Thanks for listening.


Interested in becoming part of the Tesla family? Please consider using my referral link so we both get goodies!

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4 years ago

Preaching to the choir TDD.

I am amazed that you drive even more than I do (I’m at about 90 miles round trip because I drop off my daughter on the way to work).

I have already hit 96k miles (Dec my car will be 4 years old). I know I am saving a lot in fuel costs as my prior car got about 25 mpg and required premium (04 Mercedes c320).

My electricity rate is fixed at 9c/kwh. I must drive way more aggressively than you because I average 326 kw/mile. I have probably 3k miles that were completely free by now because of the supercharger but I tend to home charge the majority of time.

4 years ago

You presented it well, Tesla’s are more expensive than gasoline cars if you count all the costs but it’s worth it to you and it isn’t hugely expensive. But you lost me when you revealed you took out a loan to buy it. I have always bought my cars with cash. I just figured if I could not pay cash I couldn’t afford the car. Maybe you had the cash and are taking advantage of a zero interest loan? I did do that once, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.

4 years ago

I figured you were arbitraging the loan like that, the math is solid for that of course. I just buy cars so cheap, my current daily driver cost me $7,000, it doesn’t matter. My daughter in law drives a model S, she and my son are both docs. She let me drive it, it accelerates so fast it scared me!

Dan Collins
3 years ago

I also own a mazda cx-5 and have long been planning to buy a tesla model 3. I hope we’ll get the same result and won’t be disappointed with my new car(soon). Thanks for sharing this!

2 years ago

I really appreciate this article and all your articles. Just getting exposed to it. I also live in Southern California and have long commutes (40-80 miles one way). Been chugging along in my toyota but have been tempted to get the Tesla and about to pull the trigger on M3 performance or Model Y. Would love to hear your feedback on a few things:

  1. How’s the car insurance factored into the cost? I hear that insurances for M3 are not cheap.
  2. Do you have FSD? Worth it?
  3. Model 3 performance or Model Y? I know you have kids and we are also thinking about kids.


1 year ago

Savings from not having to fill up at the pump have been a huge perk of owning my Tesla Model 3. I’ve travelled over 31,000 miles in the past 15 months, and the longest trips have been commuting 80-100 miles round trip. It’s been great not having to worry about topping off the tank – I can just hop in and drive wherever I need to go.

5 months ago

Thanks For Sharing Such beautiful information with us

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