How To Buy Your First Tesla

by Gill D on September 02, 2020

If you’re considering buying your first Tesla, this article will guide you through the Tesla sales process, considerations for choosing a Tesla model, and what to expect from owning an electric vehicle. When it comes to Tesla, the car acquisition experience is quite different from the traditional way cars have been purchased in the past.

What doesn’t happen is this: You don’t go to your local dealership to pick out a car, you don’t get harassed by a salesperson to choose a particular model, and you don’t spend hours in a back and forth price negotiation process. So, how different is the Tesla buying experience?

STORES NOT DEALERSHIPS

Tesla does not have dealerships. Tesla has Stores. The primary reason behind this is to cut out the middleman who usually includes a markup on the car price so that the Tesla price tag is kept lower for customers. Tesla sells its cars online only. The function of these Tesla Stores is to assist any potential owner on the process of how to go about ordering a Tesla vehicle online. In some cases, a Store may hold an inventory of new vehicles for immediate purchase and some may allow curious shoppers to take a test drive.

However, Tesla’s goal is to eliminate the age-old requirement to test drive first by creating a great returns policy. New Tesla owners can return the vehicle after 1000 miles or 7 days (whichever comes first). If you don’t want to fork out the cash upfront before getting a feel for the electric car, you can try alternatives such as renting a Tesla for a few days through a car rental agency or find a friend who owns a Tesla and test drive theirs.

CHOOSING A TESLA MODEL

Tesla offers four vehicle models with different configurations that will affect the price. However, these cars can be ordered now and delivered within 3 – 5 weeks. Choosing which model and configuration to go for entirely depends on whether you have a big or small family if it is just for you, or what purpose the vehicle will serve. If you’re driving your kid’s hockey team around, you’ll need more seats, if you want to plan for long road trips, you’ll need a car with a longer range, or if your budget is restricted, then look at the entry-level model. The detailed specifications of each vehicle are listed on the Tesla website.

To give you an idea of the cost range, each basic 5-seater model is listed below without customization to the exterior and interior color, tires, and seat configuration.

  • Model 3 Standard Range Plus = $37,990
  • Model 3 Long Range = $46,990
  • Model 3 Performance = $54,990
  • Model S Long Range Plus = $74,990
  • Model S Performance = $94,990
  • Model X Long Range Plus = $79,990
  • Model X Performance = $99,990; Model X Six Seater add $6,500; Model X Seven Seater add $3,500
  • Model Y Long Range $49,990
  • Model Y Performance $59,990

The Cybertruck, Roadster, and Semi are not due to be released within the year, but they can be reserved with a deposit online.

POTENTIAL COST SAVINGS

It becomes obvious that Tesla’s electric vehicles cost a bit more than the average car, but there are a lot of long-term savings to factor in when it comes to saving on gas, tax incentives for electric vehicles, and lower maintenance costs. As a start, the US federal government offers a tax credit for electric vehicles based on whether more than 200,000 units of that car model have been sold. Find out the most updated information for tax credits here. You can also check Tesla’s web page for state government and local and utility incentives.

With the possible incentives available, you can also calculate gas savings for the life of the electric vehicle compared to a fuel-powered car. Tesla has estimated a potential saving between $4,300 - $5,500 over six years, depending on the model you choose. This estimation can fluctuate due to changing gas prices, and the different average distances driven by people. Additionally, the Department of Energy regularly provides updates on price comparisons between a gallon of gas versus an eGallon.

INVESTING IN A CHARGER FOR HOME

It makes sense to invest in an electric vehicle charger for your home. This ensures that your car is “filled up” every day with a maximum charge. Furthermore, using a standard charging outlet only gives you up to 4 miles range per hour of charge compared to a home charge unit that gives you about 44 miles of range per hour of charge. This doesn’t mean you need to invest Tesla’s Powerwall unit (if you can’t afford it), because Tesla is compatible with other charging adaptors.

While Tesla does sell its own high power wall connector, you're not limited to a charger from Tesla. As long as you have the appropriate adaptor, you can buy a charger from other companies as well. To err on the side of caution, home charging units are typically installed by a qualified electrician, which incur a cost that you need to factor in. So, unless you have a Tesla charging facility near to your house, buying a home charger is definitely worth it.

CONSIDER YOUR DRIVING DISTANCES

If you plan on driving long distances, don’t let the charging factor put you off. This is a concern a lot of people have and the last thing any driver wants is to run empty in the middle of nowhere. The entry-level Model 3 has a 322-mile range while the higher end models like the Model S give you over 420 miles. Moreover, Tesla is installing more and more charging units across the country giving greater accessibility to electric vehicle owners.

Tesla has conveniently provided a page on its website where you can choose your Tesla model and map out your route from the start location to your destination. It will help you plan the most feasible way with the nearest charge unit along your route. Plugshare and OpenChargeMap also provide information on chargers available across the United States.

HOW TO MAINTAIN A TESLA CAR

An electric vehicle has many advantages when it comes to maintaining and servicing your car. You won’t need regular oil top-ups or oil changes, and there are several other engine issues you need never worry about again. Tesla cars do however require some basic maintenance on your car, such as checking and replacing the following:

  • Replace the cabin air filter every 2 years.
  • Replace the high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) every 3 years for Model S and X.
  • Rotate the tires, and do the balancing and wheel alignment after every 10,000-12,000 miles.
  • Test the brake fluid every 2 years.
  • Service the air conditioning unit every 2 years for the Model S, or 4 years for the Model X, or every 6 years for the Model 3.

COLD CLIMATE MANAGEMENT

Whether you drive a gas-powered car or an electric one, the climate does have an effect either way. Luckily, Tesla has provided a useful page on how best to operate your electric vehicle when winter approaches. It includes tips for cold weather, snow, and ice, as well as what to do if you need winter tires. Electric vehicle batteries have an optimal operating temperature around 70°F so just as one would normally warm up a fuel-based car, the same goes for an EV to avoid degrading the battery’s efficiency. Tesla recommends using the precondition option (available from the app) before driving the car in cold weather, which prevents loss of range.

KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH THE TESLA APP

The Tesla mobile app is part of the Tesla experience that helps you manage your car with useful and practical tools. The app is feature-rich with relevant data giving you all the information you need about your car. Some of the features include:

  • Keyless driving unlocks and drives the car without a key.
  • Schedule a service appointment for your car and stay updated through the app or SMS updates.
  • Check the current range and receive notifications of your car’s charge status.
  • Remotely vent your roof and turn on the climate control system.
  • Access GPS location services.
  • Enable Valet Mode to restrict access to the car by hiding all personal data from your touchscreen, limiting maximum speed and performance, and locking the front trunk and glove compartment.
  • View, purchase or apply available upgrades for your car to enhance its overall performance and capabilities.

TAKING THE LEAP

This is a big step. You’ve now decided that Tesla is for you and you want to go ahead and make your exciting purchase. It is as simple as placing an order online. You don’t have to visit an office, waste time with a salesperson, or haggle about the price. All you need to do is go to the Tesla website, select the model you want to buy, go through the steps to apply custom configurations if applicable, and then place your order.

The price you see on the page is the price you will pay. No ifs or buts.

If you want to investigate buying a used Tesla, speak to your local Tesla Store to find out if they have any stock available or check Tesla’s used inventory listings online. Narrow your search by entering your postcode and selecting the model you’re after. The process is almost identical as if you’re buying a new car. But remember that there is no returns policy for used Teslas.

You can also look at getting a preowned Tesla through a private sale or through car dealerships who have bought trade-in Teslas. But remember that buying a car through other channels does come with risks, so proceed with caution. Saving a few dollars now could cost you more in the long run.

Once you have placed your online order, you will need to submit documentation such as your driver’s license and car insurance details, which can be uploaded online. The only time you need to contact Tesla is if you need assistance with the process, otherwise the entire purchase is literally contactless.

FINANCING OPTIONS

If you have the cash, then you can pay for your Tesla in one go or make the full payment on the day of delivery. There are other options offered by Tesla such as leasing or through a loan. You can choose to do this directly through Tesla on their financing page where you can calculate the cost of taking a lease or use Tesla’s in-house financing for a loan. Your financial situation will depend on whether or not you can qualify for these options.

It is possible to apply for a loan through other financial institutions if you find lower rates than those offered through Tesla’s loan plan. It may take some time to get your loan approved along with sending all the right documentation before you can get the cash in the bank. If you are unsure about your monthly payments or how much you can afford, use Tesla's handy calculator on the finance page to guide you.

TAKING DELIVERY

When making your online purchase with Tesla, you can choose to pick the electric vehicle up at your nearest Tesla Store or you can have it delivered to a specified location. When collecting your car, Tesla will schedule an appointment so when you arrive, your car will ready and waiting. The Tesla delivery specialist will take you through a tour of your awesome new car. It’s also a great time to ask any questions you may have.

Before you can drive off into the sunset, you will need to hand over full payment, sign a few official documents, get the app installed, and off you go. it’s a quick and simple process that won’t take longer than 10 minutes. If you have organized to do a trade-in, this the time when you hand over your old car to get the new one!

Buying a new Tesla is a great experience from start to finish, without the hassles of dealing with typical car salesmen. Buying a Tesla and driving one will introduce you to a new world that you never knew existed. It’s refreshing and a modern way of doing business. 

Congratulations on becoming a Tesla owner.

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