California will (almost) buy you an electric car

Tesla pricing has been all over the map for the last few months, as the automaker has begun cutting MSRPs after a long period of price hikes. If you’re willing to buy a car already in its inventory, Tesla offers discounts on several models, including the Model 3. One intrepid Twitter (ahem, “X”) user posted a fascinating account of buying a discounted Model 3 that dropped in price to less than $14,000 after local,  California and Federal incentives were applied.

Zohar posted their pricing on the social media site, claiming that they were able to buy a Model 3 for $13,620 after incentives and discounts. The story sounds dubious, but a little digging revealed that it is actually plausible, though discounts vary depending on where in California the buyer lives. Zohar’s ride came with a $4,120 discount, a $7,500 clean vehicle rebate, a $4,000 incentive from a local community energy program, a $4,000 Monterey Bay Air District incentive, and a $7,500 federal tax credit.

A quick search on California’s DriveClean site reveals that the discounts – at least most– are real. We found a $37,830 Model 3 RWD for sale on Tesla’s site. Using a San Francisco zip code, the CA website offered us a $4,500 California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, a $5,500 income-dependent additional rebate, and a $7,500 federal tax credit. While the federal tax credit isn’t an instant discount, it still applies. That brings our price for a Model 3 to $20,330 – not as cheap as Zohar’s car, but a reasonable price nonetheless. Interestingly, we could buy a Chevy Bolt for around $9,000 using these same discount programs.

California’s a unique state in that it generally leads the nation in electric vehicle adoption and use. It also offers more aggressive incentives than most other states, so this type of price maneuvering might not be as possible somewhere else. Almost anyone can take advantage of the federal tax credit, even if they live in an EV-unfriendly state.

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