How rich would you be if you invested in Tesla stock instead of buying Tesla?

How rich would you be if you invested in Tesla stock instead of buying Tesla?

A decade and a half after Tesla debuted the original Roadster, Elon Musk’s company remains the biggest name in electric cars. With a market cap of $681.15 billion, it’s also the world’s 9th largest publicly traded corporation. So is a Tesla car worth its price in company stock?

Not a chance. While vehicles depreciate over time, Tesla shares have moved in the same direction as SpaceX rockets.

“If I had chosen to invest in Tesla stock rather than purchasing a Tesla car, my financial landscape could have taken an intriguing turn,” said Tesla owner Thomas Codevilla, CFA, investor, business attorney and co-founder of SK&S Law Group. “Tesla’s stock has enjoyed significant growth, fueled by its innovation and impact on the automotive industry. By opting for stock, I might have potentially seen my initial investment appreciate over time, influenced by the dynamic nature of the stock market and Tesla’s developments.”

Here’s a look at the price of the first Roadster and how it could have grown for an early investor who opted for company stock over a strange but exciting new kind of vehicle.

The First Tesla Could Buy Nearly Six Figures in Company Stock

The earliest EV adopters bought the original Tesla Roadster when it debuted in 2008 for the handsome sum of $98,950. Founded in 2004 with Elon Musk as its biggest investor, Tesla always planned to eventually mass-produce cheaper EVs that mainstream drivers could afford. But at the dawn of the electric revolution on the eve of the Great Recession, the first Roadster was a novelty toy for the rich.

Tesla’s Original Investors Could Buy a Share for Less Than $20

Tesla was only four years old when the company delivered Elon Musk the very first Roadster in 2008 — but it was still a privately owned company. Tesla wouldn’t go public for two more years, when it celebrated its IPO on June 29, 2010.

Although its initial public offering was $17 per share, it opened for trading at $19 per share. By the end of the trading session, it enjoyed an impressive 40.5% gain when it closed the day at $23.89.

If you had invested $98,950 in Tesla’s IPO instead of spending it on a Roadster, you would have ended the day with $139,025 — more than $40,000 profit in a single trading session.

A Roadster Could Have Bought You More Than 4,000 Shares

According to U.S. News and World Report, only insiders could have pulled off the previous scenario. Retail investors didn’t have access to Tesla’s IPO shares, which means $23.89 is the lowest price average investors could have paid at the dawn of Tesla’s transition to the stock market.

That means a $98,950 Roadster would have been good for about 4,142 shares. With the stock trading at around $215 today, 4,142 Tesla shares are currently worth $890,530. That gives the early investor returns of roughly 900% and $791,580 in profit in 15 years.

Even if that were the whole story, a ninefold increase between then and now would have trounced the overall market’s returns — but that early investor who traded a Roadster for company stock would have far more than 4,142 shares today.

With Splits, 1 Share Becomes 15 — And Tesla Delivers Five-Digit Growth

If you look at a chart of Tesla’s stock price history, you’ll notice that it doesn’t say shares traded for $23.89 in its earliest days as a public company. It shows them trading at less than $1.30. That’s because several splits downwardly revised the value of Tesla company stock.

Companies split their stocks to increase liquidity by boosting the number of shares on the market while lowering the price to make them more attractive to a wider pool of buyers.

Tesla has done this twice:

  • Aug. 31, 2020: Tesla issues a 5-for-1 stock split
  • Aug. 25, 2022: Tesla issues a 3-for-1 stock split

If you owned five shares of Tesla on Aug. 30, 2020, you would have owned 25 the next day, with each worth 20% of its original value. A little less than two years later, 25 would have become 75, each worth one-third of the revised value.

In other words, the two combined splits multiplied the number of shares by 15 while dividing the original cost basis by 15. That means Tesla hasn’t gained just shy of 900% since 2008. It’s gained 16,716%.

It also means the 4,142 shares bought by the investor who forwent the Roadster would have blossomed into 62,130 shares.

Therefore, the original investment of $98,950 would not be worth $890,530 today. It would be worth $13,357,950, which could have bought you 135 Roadsters at 2008 prices. Today, it’s enough for 332 Tesla Model 3s, 280 Model Ys, 170 Model Ss or 151 Model Xs.

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