Before you buy a Tesla of any description we thought we'd cover a few basics on owning an EV and the way Tesla do things. The ownership experience of a Tesla 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 can overstep the mark. Ask an "EVangelist" about running out of charge and they may reply "have you ever run out of petrol?", which up to a point is a fair question but the reality of finding a charge point v finding a petrol station and the speed to fill are both quite different. There's also a "zero mile club" of owners who just made it to a charging point because getting to zero does happen, you don't get that with petrol owners. But range anxiety should equally not be a concern with a little bit of planning.
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 folk) but also a downside as their motivation and attention to detail is often a little vague, not helped by Tesla’s own ambiguity. Details of changes to the cars occur and the sales staff rarely seem to know before the public, or even what some of them mean. This can carry through once you have placed your order as delivery dates can 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.
Referral codes are often fought over but in practice only model 3 owners car as the majority of Model S and Model X owners would have free unlimited supercharging, especially if they are the owner from new. Referral codes must be used before ordering as they are almost impossible to add retrospectively. Custom orders are rarely that with Tesla simply matching up inventory with outstanding orders as cars arrive. The inventory lists the sales staff seem to be little different to the public ones, although we try hard to find that hidden inventory. We know of several occasions where buyers have retrospectively found cars on our lists and asked Tesla to match the car to their order to speed up the process, its much easier to just buy an inventory car.
Finally, Tesla primarily operate a new car operation, and while they do have a limited number of used cars for sale, these are not generally available to see or drive before purchase.
This is a very mixed topic and context is everything. Many owners who have had their cars a number of years experienced low depreciation although this has changed over the last few years. We provide a market history plot for each model and you can form your own opinion, and a glance at a MS P100D from 2016 or 2017 shows how steep the depreciation can be losing £70k over 4 years. See our short piece on Tesla UK depreciation and the findings are fairly accurate across all markets.
We are also seeing Tesla selling a lot of inventory stock, these range from delivery mile cars to ex-demonstrators, both sometimes with discounts. Tesla won't otherwise negotiate on price.
Owning a Tesla is a different experience. By far the most noticeable thing about the car is how the driving experience is different 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.
That said the cars are heavy and while quick off the mark they can suffer at higher speeds and around corners for otherwise "fast" cars. The Model 3 is much more nimble and the performance car is being compared to midsize sports cars like the BMW M4.
So it's perfect!? Well, not quite. There are issues to be aware of. The sat nav, while looking impressive, can be temperamental and there is no option to switch to Waze or an other 3rd part sat navs as apple carplay and android auto are not available. There is also the reliability of the technology. At times the screens can just crash or become sluggish and require a 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, the M3 addressing some of these issues. Braking is also very different. Lifting off the gas pedal causes the car to start and charge the battery and one foot driving is now possible on cars from mid 2019. But that weight can also mean its a lot of car to stop in a hurry should you need to and when the battery is cold the amount of regenerative braking can be zero which puts a strain on the brake system.
The interior is minimalist which some people love, but it is also relatively low on quality compared to premium cars of this price bracket like Audi and Porsche. One persons minimalist design is another persons lack of detail and no doubt any prospective buyer will have at in the car to form their own opinion.
There are also some misconceptions on how high technology the car is. There are many unique or advanced features in the design; Autopilot, the self presenting doors, the drive-train, the availability and speed of superchargers but each of these things are being addressed by the competition. There are however 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 fantastic compared to other high end stereos. Autopilot is also struggling to deliver on its enhanced promises and full self driving still seems a long way off.
UK car drivers are now in a very favourable market for pure EC cars. The key points being:
UK VED is now also zero for all pure electric cars. The ULEV grant though has been removed for cars retailing at over £50 before options, so only the two entry level Model 3 cars quality.
But fuel costs are otherwise cheap, and 3-5p 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 charge, especially destination chargers. Public charging can however work out as high as 25p a mile although the proportion of your driving at this rate if you can charge at home is likely to be small.
Tax incentives in other countries vary and change all the time, but with an increasing shift to environmentally friendly initiatives, most countries have benefits of one type or another although some countries are starting to reduce their subsidies. The US has cut back on some of the federal tax savings, Holland has also changed its benefits at the end of 2019. You should check the local situation at the time of purchase.