When I told a friend that I had preordered a Tesla Cybertruck, she wanted to know why. I told her, but the whole thought process is worth writing down, so here's all the details.
Why a Cybertruck
Tesla makes great cars. They are the safest cars ever built and also seem to be the most fun to drive. They take into consideration how people use them more than most car manufacturers, and they are the first cars to ever be upgradeable over-the-air. The autopilot and oncoming self-driving features are compelling. And they require almost no maintenance. But as amazing as they are, the Cybertruck will be even better.
One simple change, building them using stainless steel instead of regular steel and aluminum, will add a lot of value. The fact that they won't need paint is going to make a bigger difference than most people understand.
The utility of a form that is like a pickup truck makes it have more capabilities than the other Tesla models. It will be excellent for off-road adventuring. One option that I'm really hoping they make available is the solar panel accessory. Elon Musk has stated that it should have it, and it would be able to recharge the battery enough to add 15 miles worth of range per day. Since my typical usage is less than that, I would rarely, if ever, need to plug it in to a charger.
How can I afford it?
I'm not rich. I'd have to sell everything I own and I wouldn't even have half the cost, and my current income isn't going to make up for that. So how can I afford it?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that the $100 preorder fee is refundable. If when the time comes I simply cannot afford it, I can always ask for my $100 back.
But if, as I suspect, this vehicle is a big hit, people might be willing to pay for your place in line. That means I might be able to sell my preorder spot for more than $100. That in itself might make it a good investment.
But I also plan to try to earn more and save up more money before mine is produced. The factory that they will be manufactured in hasn't even been started to be built - heck, they haven't even decided which state the factory will be in. So it will be at least a year before the first production Cybertruck is built. And from what I've seen, there are over 620,000 orders ahead of mine. It will take some time for the factory to ramp up production, so my best guess is that it will be about three years before they get to building mine. That should give me enough time to save and invest enough for at least a very good down payment of over 20% and possibly over 50%.
Making it pay for itself
The self-driving features of the Tesla vehicles seems to be continually improving. As I write this, they are able to read stop signs and traffic lights, and speed limit sign reading is imminent. Recognition of traffic cones and pedestrians is fairly robust, and highway travel is a done deal. Driving with autopilot is currently around ten times safer than driving a "normal" car.
By the time my Cybertruck is being made, I expect that self-driving will be a fait accompli. The Tesla driving network, an Uber or Lyft like service, should have been in place for at least a year with drivers, and possibly autonomously. Banks will have already been loaning money to people for buying Teslas to use as robo-taxis, so if I need to get a loan then the process should at least be familiar to some bankers. A loan with the vehicle as colatteral should be a no-brainer.
So if I haven't been able to raise the money needed to pay for it by then, I should be able to find some way of paying for it. I might need to rent it out as a robo-taxi, but that's a small price to pay. A self-driving Tesla rented out on their network has the potential for earning $10k or more per year just during times when your vehicle would normally be sitting in a parking lot doing nothing.
What if self-driving fails?
Even if Tesla never figures out how to get to full level-5 autonomy, the Cybertruck will still be a great deal. It will provide the functionality of a regular pickup truck for less cost, with far less maintenance and lower running costs. And while I expect that level-5 autonomy will be working by the time my truck is ready, if it isn't then it should at least be evident how far off it will be, so I can make changes to my plans accordingly.
And if my plans fall through altogether, the $100 I put down is refundable. There's no downside, other than some minor potential opportunity costs associated with the $100 being tied up for a few years. But if the opportunity cost associated with $100 being tied up for a couple years is critical, then you've got far bigger problems.
Is this a deal for you?
You might want to consider doing something like this for yourself. A $100 investment could turn into a nice secondary source of income if level-5 autonomy comes and the Tesla network works like expected. A motivated entrepreneur could preorder several to multiply that. Potentially, each vehicle could earn more than the loan payment, with you just sitting there taking in the profits.
And the waiting time is actually helpful. By the time my truck is ready we will have seen if self-driving commes to fruition, if the Tesla Network functions, and the expected initial bugs will have been worked out of the product. Plenty of time to change plans.
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