• 2013 Tesla Model S now available for lease
  • Rates start around $1,051 per month
  • Tesla quotes lower rates based on savings

Electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla recently announced a new lease program that's focused on ownership costs. The brand says shoppers can lease the new Model S sedan for around $500 per month. But getting to that number is complicated.

In normal lease terms, the Model S will start around $1,051 per month for 36 months. That figure applies to the base-level Model S with a 60 kWh battery. The mid-level 85 kWh model will start around $1,199. And the sporty, top-line Model S Performance, which also uses an 85 kWh battery, starts at $1,421 per month. So why is Tesla touting a $500-per-month lease rate?

The reason is that the automaker is counting areas in which the Model S saves you money -- and time. For example, Tesla figures the Model S saves the average driver $267 per month in fuel costs compared to a BMW 5-Series. And since the Model S can use carpool lanes across the country, drivers can subtract even more money for time saved commuting. Tesla's calculation also factors in other time savings, such as no longer having to visit gas stations.

While Tesla's calculations are unorthodox, the message is loud and clear: Although the Model S may seem expensive, pricing is competitive in practice. Even if most shoppers don't buy the automaker's argument about time savings, the Model S's fuel savings alone put it in contention with many gasoline rivals.

Beyond saving gas, there's another benefit to leasing a Model S. Tesla says none of the leases require any money down. That's major news for luxury car leases, as they tend to require big down payments. Tesla says it can offer the leases with nothing down because banks can take the electric vehicle tax credit from the Model S instead of a down payment. The only catch is that shoppers interested in a Model S have to stick to under 12,000 miles per year.

The Model S is a fully electric luxury sedan with seating available for seven. Base-level 60 kWh models offer 302 horsepower, while the top-level Performance boasts 420 hp. The 60 kWh Model S offers a 230-mile range, while the 85 kWh models can reach 300 miles between charges.

What it means to you: If you're considering a 2013 Tesla Model S, leasing may be for you -- especially if fuel is a major cost.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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