Things to know

This is an owners guide and the ownership experience is likely to be very different to what you are used to, something that you MUST understand before taking the plunge as failing to do so may result in either a euphoric experience or the biggest mistake you may ever make.

Many Tesla owners appear to be on a crusade to change the world and are almost evangelical about their cars. A fair proportion of what they say is fine, but they over step the mark quite often. Ask an "evangelist" about running out of charge and they may reply "have you ever run out of petrol?", to which most will say no. However, there's a "zero mile club" of owners who just made it to a charging point because getting to zero does happen. It's almost a badge of honour, although thankfully few are left stranded.

Sales force

Before we get into the meat of this, it’s worth mentioning the Tesla sales force. Tesla are renowned for doing things differently and true to form, they don't have traditional sales staff. Even if you buy in store, you are effectively sat down at a web browser as if ordering on-line. This has some benefits (no pushy sales guys) but also a downside as their motivation and attention to detail is often a little vague, not helped by Tesla’s own ambiguity. As an example, nobody knew reliably what cables came with the car, some owners getting a type 2 cable, others not. This carries through once you have placed your order too as delivery dates move around and finance agreements and trade-in values seem inconsistently managed. There have also been reports of misleading statements over range and what you can reasonably expect to get from the cars, often through ignorance of the Tesla staff rather than anything else, but all the same, its a problem if you reply on what they say.

Depreciation

This is a very mixed topic and context is everything. Many owners who have had their cars a number of years are looking at relatively low depreciation. This has been fuelled by both increasing prices of the cars and increased demand as the brand becomes more popular. But a common mistake is from owners is to look at the listed prices of used cars and think their car is worth that. Tesla appear to manipulate the used car market as this encourages people to buy new, but the trade in value offered for a car is actually a different story.

The cars are not cheap and even modest % depreciation equates to significant amounts of money. A drop of 20% on a new custom order as you drive away is not to be unexpected.

We are also seeing Tesla selling a lot of inventory stock, these range from delivery mile cars to ex-demonstrators, with savings. Tesla won't negotiate on price, but they do offer these deals, so you need to be looking for them, although in general terms they come along fairly frequently. The best deals are on cars which are no longer current models, something a battery pack change can cause.

Company car drivers

Company car owners are also feeling the squeeze. The BIK amount is rapidly increasing as both the BIK % and the cars price is increasing. Also fuel payments can be difficult as the HMRC rate is 0p per mile, so you can't claim for business mileage on a company car like you can for a petrol or diesel, although you should be able to charge for actual electricity used if your employer allows you to. This is set to improve in a few years when BIK drops to only 2%.

Driving

Owning a Tesla is a different experience. By far the most noticeable thing about the car is how different it is to cars you will have driven before. Some of the technology is similar to that of other cars, like doors unlocking automatically, but it's been taken to another level. You walk up, the door handles present themselves, on some cars the doors even open automatically for you, you get in, you put it in drive, you move away. No ignition, no "on" switch, no handbrake, no noise. And then the driving is just so smooth and responsive. Floor it, and the horizon approaches very quickly.

Quality of engineering

So it's perfect!? Well, not quite. There are issues to be aware of. The sat nav, while looking impressive, is known to make a lot of mistakes. You can't pick the shortest or quickest route for instance and despite impressions, it is a cheap, old navigation engine over laying its route on a Google map, it is not a Google sat nav. There is also the reliability of the technology. At times it crashes like a Microsoft computer in the 1980s with the need to perform a regular reboot. It's also a heavy car, although the weight is low down, so while it corners well for a big car, it's a long way off other cars that can do 60 mph in around 3 seconds and there is a lot of weight to stop. The interior is also relatively low on quality compared to premium cars of this price bracket like Audi and Porsche, although this has been steadily improving. Some like the minimalist design but there is little depth to the design. Sit in the latest Porsche Panamera and it will feel very different.

There are also some misconceptions on how high tech the car is. There are many unique or advanced features in the design; the Autopilot is as good if not better than any, the self presenting doors, the drive train, the availability and speed of super chargers. But there are some noticeable absences; there is no head up display, the adaptive headlights are a long way behind the best from BMW, Audi and Mercedes, there is no surround view when parking, the stereo while having built in spotify does not sound fntastic compared to other high end stereos.

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Tax

Road tax on cars registered before March 2017 is zero, after that its £310 a year.

But fuel costs are otherwise cheap, and circa 5p a mile fuel costs are easily achievable when charging at home. Its more expensive if you use a public charger that requires payment, although many still don't. These can work out as high as 15p a mile although this is no more than petrol.