This head-to-head series will review the Tesla Model 3 vs BMW and Honda Accord. Historically, the BMW 3 Series and Accord were kings of the luxury and non-luxury sedan market. Then, everything changed in 2016. Tesla announced to the world it would produce a 200+ mile range electric car for $35,000.
But which one is the better buy? Is it the Silicon Valley high-tech electric vehicle (EV)? Is it the classic German performance vehicle? Or is it the affordable Japanese built-to-last car?
The review will consist of three categories: specifications, pricing, and cost of ownership. There are many other categories to review a vehicle, however, these were chosen for the most objective review. Let’s begin.
Model 3 vs BMW and Accord
For the sake of simplicity and equal comparison, the analysis will review the following trims: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+), BMW 330i, and Honda Accord EX-L 2.0T Sport.
|Spec||Tesla Model 3 SR+||BMW 330i||Honda Accord EX-L|
|Cargo Capacity (Seats Up) (Ft3):||15||17||17|
While the Model 3 is by far superior in efficiency (more than 4x more efficient than the closest competitor), the 330i has the edge on acceleration and range. As predictable, the Accord, despite the Sport trim, pales against the luxury performance vehicles.
It is vital to note that while both BMW and Honda vehicles come with adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and automatic collision avoidance, the Tesla Model 3 with the Autopilot system is significantly more advanced. With Autopilot, not only does the car have the basic autonomous features, but it also has the capability to drive itself at highway speeds. In addition, the Autopilot system updates regularly with software updates. More can be found about this on the Tesla Autopilot website.
The Model 3 starts at $39,990, the 330i at $40,750, and the Accord at $31,360.
However, all-electric vehicles are eligible for federal, state, local municipality, air district, and electric utility company incentives. Through a myriad of tax credits, rebates, sales tax exemptions, and other non-monetary incentives electric cars are cheaper than what they are sold for at the dealer.
Depending on your location, these incentives range from a few hundred dollars to over $13,000. Again, for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the buyer lives in California since that is where most electric cars are sold per year in the U.S.
In California, all new BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles or “all-electric) are eligible for a $2,000 Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. Additionally, electric utility companies like PG&E or SoCal Edison offer rebates of $800 and $1000, respectively. The Model 3 used to be eligible for the $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit, however, there is a cap on manufacturers who sell 200,000 EVs. To date, only Tesla and GM have reached the limit.
Therefore, including $3,000 of EV rebates, the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus costs $36,900.
|Tesla Model 3 SR+||$39,990/$36,900 (after incentives)|
|Honda Accord EX-L||$31,360|
While the Model 3 is eligible for electric car tax credits and rebates, it still cannot reduce the cost enough to the affordable Honda Accord. The Accord, which starts at $31,360, is still $5,000 cheaper than the Model 3 after incentives. Additionally, the Accord is much, much cheaper than the 330i.
Of course, this category is a bit skewed since the Accord is a non-luxury vehicle while the Model 3 and 330i are. Despite this categorical difference, it is interesting to see the price gap between the three products given somewhat comparable specs.
Cost of Ownership:
The cost of ownership projections for each vehicle will use third-party sources such as Edmunds and Plugstar. Since California was used for the incentives section in the previous category, the same will be done for gas and electricity costs. As of March 2020, gas costs $3.25/gal per AAA, and electricity costs $0.19/kWh per ChooseEnergy. For annual mileage, 15,000 miles will be used. Lastly, for simplicity, the purchase method will be cash.
After five years of ownership, the Honda Accord is the cheapest vehicle. Despite the high efficiency and lower cost of maintenance of the Model 3, the Accord is still the cheaper option. As noted with other vehicle comparisons like the Prius vs Prius Prime or the Honda Clarity PHEV vs Accord, electric cars are much more efficient than their gas counterparts. In addition, since electric cars have much, much fewer parts, they require less maintenance–no oil changes, timing belts, spark plugs, transmission oil, etc.
Of course, with the highest starting price and ok gas mileage, the BMW 330i finishes at the most expensive.
Looking at the numbers, the Model 3 costs $45,351, the 330i costs $58,918 and the Accord costs $43,531. Just under $2,000 separates the Model 3 from the Accord after five years of costs.
The Model 3 vs BMW and Accord vehicle comparison is complete. It may not be a surprise to many, but the Accord is still the more affordable option despite the Model 3’s high efficiency and low cost of maintenance. There are a few other Model 3 vs Accord/Camry articles out there, however, they resulted in the Model 3 as the cheaper option. I decided to run my tests with much more conservative numbers to avoid any sort of truth-stretching that can be found with some Tesla-biased sites.
Of course, this review could be altered with different vehicle trims. The base Accord Hybrid starts at less than $26,000 and has an MPG of 47. That vehicle would, of course, result in a much, much cheaper cost of ownership. However, the performance specifications of the Accord Hybrid just lagged too far behind for it to be considered a comparable vehicle.
If you are interested in the Tesla Model 3 or any other EV, check out my complete list of available and future electric cars here. The list provides key vehicle information such as price, range, segment, comparable gas car, and more. Plus, it is available as a PDF by signing up for the email list. Subscribers also receive the monthly newsletter to stay up to date with the latest articles.
Hi there! I’m the founder and project manager at Charged Future: the EV charging consultancy. Charged Future helps businesses achieve their EV charging goals. Specifically, I serve as the project manager for your EV charging project, which can save you both time and money! Additionally, I can search and apply to all eligible rebate applications, which can typically cover a large portion of the project cost.