Tesla Finally Puts the (Model) 3 in $35,000

img340604159 1527001942673 jpg 2018 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

At long last, Tesla is offering the Model 3 for $35,000 — an entry-level price originally touted in 2016 but thus far unavailable as Tesla peddled optioned-up variants that often ran into the $50,000s. No longer: The California automaker announced Thursday that shoppers can purchase a $35,000 version of its popular all-electric sedan. 

But it’s unlikely you’ll get it at Tesla’s factory-owned retail stores.

Related: 2018 Tesla Model X Review: A Polished Electric Car Meets an Eccentric SUV

Citing cost savings necessary “to achieve these prices while remaining financially sustainable,” Tesla will shutter most of its factory-owned stores in “the next few months,” though a few will remain open in high-traffic areas. Instead, the automaker will move toward online-only sales, with a seven-day return policy and full refund if you don’t like the car.

Tesla currently delivers cars to shoppers’ homes and at designated delivery centers. Asked how the move will impact its delivery system, a spokesperson for the automaker declined to comment. But Tesla vowed Thursday to invest further in its service network, with representatives able to visit owners anywhere in the country that the automaker operates.

Online sales and other efficiencies enabled the automaker to lower all vehicle prices some 6 percent on average, Tesla said, enabling the $35,000 Model 3 to come “earlier than we expected” — though Tesla posted in August 2018 that the base battery would come in six to nine months, a timetable that fits with right about now.

The base Model 3 has 220 miles of battery range, rear-wheel drive, manual seats and cloth upholstery. It also hits 60 mph in a Tesla-estimated 5.6 seconds, on par with a BMW 330i; those are the humblest figures among six rear- or all-wheel-drive Model 3 variants as of this writing. For another $2,000, the Model 3’s Standard Range Plus variant adds 20 miles of range, heated seats with power adjustments, upgraded upholstery and a better stereo with smartphone docking. Higher variants max out at 325 miles of range — up from the prior 310 miles thanks to just-announced over-the-air updates — as well as 60 mph in a blistering 3.2 seconds and a price that approaches $70,000.

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Of course, those prices exclude eligible tax incentives. State and local incentives depend on where you live, but federal credits are winding down in 2019 because Tesla hit the cap on credit-eligible sales. Now through June 30, the Model 3 is eligible for a federal tax credit of $3,750; the credit drops to $1,875 from July 1 through Dec. 31 and vanishes entirely thereafter. The credit applies to the day you take ownership of the car, not the day you ordered it. In six major markets we checked (Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York), Tesla’s website said today that wait times for the base Model 3 are two to four weeks. That means those who act soon should get the $3,750 federal credit, assuming sufficient tax liability.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

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