Savings trick: Drive a Tesla almost for free with e-car funding

• Environmental bonus supports the purchase of e-cars with up to 9,000 euros

• Skilful use of the environmental bonus can make Tesla driving (almost) free

• Authorities are still reluctant to take countermeasures

In order to counteract climate change, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced worldwide. An important step here is the move away from the combustion engine and the expansion of electric drives in the transport sector. To ensure that this change progresses more quickly, the federal government is promoting the purchase of electric cars with an environmental bonus. With this premium, buyers should be able to purchase e-cars relatively cheaply, but using them almost free of charge is not in the inventor’s interest. However, some motorists have now discovered a way of being able to drive popular electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3 almost free of charge for six months by making clever use of the environmental bonus. In order to understand the trick, however, the environmental bonus must first be examined more closely.

The environmental bonus

As part of the environmental bonus, buyers of electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids receive a subsidy when purchasing the respective cars. The money is paid proportionately by both the state and the manufacturers. By the end of 2022, the federal government will give an additional 6,000 euros as a subsidy for the purchase of an electric vehicle with a net list price of the basic model of up to 40,000 euros. The manufacturer has contributed 3,000 euros. In total, buyers of e-cars with a maximum net list price of 40,000 euros will receive a total of 9,000 euros as an environmental bonus. Electric vehicles that cost between 40,000 and 65,000 euros are funded with a total of 7,500 euros. For plug-in hybrids, the payments are slightly smaller. Here the federal government and the manufacturer add 6,750 euros to a net list price of the basic model of up to 40,000 euros. Even more expensive cars with a maximum price of 65,000 euros are subsidized with 5,625 euros.

An important prerequisite for receiving the environmental bonus is a prescribed minimum holding period, which the buyer must comply with. According to the ADAC, the electrically powered vehicle must be registered in the Federal Republic of Germany for at least six months in the applicant’s name. A shorter holding period must be reported immediately.

Use the promotion skillfully

In order to be able to use a Tesla almost free of charge, for example, the environmental bonus has to be used cleverly. According to the list of eligible electric vehicles from the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), the net list price of the Model 3 in the base model is less than 40,000 euros, so buyers can look forward to the full 9,000 euros when purchasing it. After the car has been driven by the owner for six months and the minimum holding period has expired, drivers can return the Tesla Model 3 to certain car dealers (almost) at the purchase price, so that they can either buy the vehicle at a small discount or completely free of charge for six months could drive. But why are some car dealers taking the Tesla back at this price? This is due to the fortunate fact that used Tesla vehicles are very popular in Scandinavia and are sold at significantly higher prices than in Germany.

According to AUTO BILD, used Model 3s with 6,000 kilometers driven are to be sold in Denmark, for example, for the equivalent of 57,750 euros. In Germany, on the other hand, a brand new model only costs 54,670 euros minus the subsidy. You can make a profit of around 3,000 euros with such a trade. This is also confirmed by Sascha Schmitz, one of the largest Tesla buyers in Germany, to AUTO BILD. Schmitz recently bought a used Model 3 from a couple for 48,000 euros. The car is six months old, has driven 9,000 kilometers and was originally bought for a new price minus the premium of 49,000 euros. “So we drove a car for 1,000 euros for half a year that accelerates like a Porsche,” the former owners said happily to AUTO BILD. Schmitz used to be a “normal used car dealer”, but has now switched completely to the e-car trade due to the lucrative business. He’s not alone in that. Many buyers should exchange information about their successes in forums. According to, there are even dealers who use posters to guarantee their customers that they can buy back the electric cars they bought six months earlier from the same dealer without loss. The business should also not only work with Teslas, but also with vehicles from VW, among other things.

Authorities see no reason to intervene

Apparently, the business people have no real pangs of conscience with their practices. “The short minimum holding period not only means that customers can drive a car almost free of charge. It also supports the car trade, which has suffered a lot from Corona,” Schmitz told AUTO BILD. For the time being, however, he ignores the fact that his business model works primarily through subsidies paid for by taxpayers’ money and that he benefits exclusively from it. The reason why motorists can drive Tesla cars almost free of charge and why dealers are then still able to sell these used vehicles for a profit is because the German taxpayers pay for it. The extent to which the environmental bonus used will contribute to making German roads more climate-friendly is questionable. “As a taxpayer, I would also agree if the minimum holding period were extended to twelve months,” Schmitz told AUTO BILD.

However, the authorities see no need to take countermeasures in the current processes. When asked by AUTO BILD, BAFA said that the Federal Office had not yet received any information on a massive sale of vehicles purchased and registered in Germany or subsidized with the environmental bonus. “The Federal Ministry of Economics continuously monitors whether the funding guideline for the environmental bonus needs to be adjusted due to current developments. It will therefore carefully examine an extension of the existing minimum holding period,” writes AUTO BILD. However, whether a change will actually take place remains to be seen. Until then, the used car dealer business should continue to thrive.

Nicolas Flohr / Editor

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