What to know before you consider buying a Tesla

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 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.

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 which cables come with the car, some owners getting a type 2 cable, others not. Detail of parts like changes to the autopilot hardware occur and the sales staff rarely seem to know before the public. 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, its a problem if you reply on what they say.

Referral codes also seem a contentious point, sales staff have been known to direct referrals to known associates rather than use the one you provide, although this is less of an issue now the rewards have changed. Inventory lists the sales staff have are different to the public ones, although we try hard to find that hidden inventory. Staff may also talk buyers into an inventory car even though a custom order may have upgraded parts. Tesla don't adopt a model year approach which other manufacturers do, and as a result changes can occur frequently and at any time.

Finally, Tesla really only 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.

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 quite poor.

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, both can come with savings although this is made clear in the advertised price. Tesla won't otherwise negotiate on price.

Company car drivers

Company car owners are also feeling the squeeze. The key points to know for potential company car drivers in the UK are:

Driving

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.

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. Tesla have been making improvements over time but some owners still prefer using Apps like Waze on their mobile. Traffic information for instance cause rerouting but is of variable quality and not the same as that displayed on the map which is from Google. 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. Braking is also very different. Lifting off the gas pedal causes the car to start to regenerate and slow the car down and one foot driving is possible most of the time, but that weight can also mean its a lot of car to stop in a hurry should you need to.

The interior is minimalist which some people love, but 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.

There are also some misconceptions on how high technology 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 superchargers. 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 fantastic compared to other high end stereos.

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Tax

UK VED on cars registered before March 2017 is zero, after that its £310 a year for the first 5 years.

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. Public charging can work out as high as 15p a mile although the proportion of your driving at this rate if you can charge at home is likely to be small.

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