This guide talks you through the choices when buying a new Tesla. Like this whole site, it tries to give an unbiased view rather than just repeat what Tesla’s own web site publishes. We also have a short guide buying a used Tesla which may be preferable if that is what you are planning to do. Also do not miss our extensive listings of all the cars for sale including Teslas New and ex demo inventory.
Buying new no longer comes with unlimited free supercharging. There are however benefits for company car drivers in coming years. The BIK will be dropping to 2% from 2020 although it is pretty steep until then.
Tesla currently have 3 models although only 2 are currently available to order in the UK.
This is the much anticipated entry level model with prices starting as low as $35k plus taxes in the US. Its now launched in Europe and it is widely expected to be available in the UK from the summer of 2019.
The car is the smallest, really only a 4 seater, and a saloon/sedan and while the boot/trunk is fairly large, it misses out on the practicality of a hatch. It is also the first Tesla to be made with the CCS power connector, this is backward compatible with the Type 2 AC charging sockets, plus the CCS rapid chargers. Its also likely to be the fastest charging Tesla as the supercharger infrastructure improves and moves to V3.
This is the car that started it all in terms of volume. It was face-lifted in 2016 but otherwise its the same basic design that has been available for 6 years, but that's not to say it hasn't been continually updated in small incremental ways over the years.
The car is large, seats 5 easily, has good storage and unless you need the space of the Model X satisfies most needs. It has a couple of potential downsides like the inability to tow, but these only matter to a small number of potential owners.
This is the beast. It is the largest, and while more recent than the Model S much of the underpinnings are identical.
5, 6 or 7 seat configuration, folder seats, high driving position. Its the least efficient of the 3 as you would expect from the size which makes the smallest battery size a stretch for some, especially in winter.
The exterior looks have remained pretty much unchanged since 2016 when the MS was face-lifted and the MX launched. The Model 3 adopts many of the brand design features and its fairly clear they all come from the same family.
Colour and wheels tend to the main options now and its certainly an area where the look of a car can change considerably depending on the chosen options. Dark large wheels can make it look menacing, smaller silver wheels can almost make the cars look like a toy. The previous options of sunroof on the Model 3 have gone, so there's now little in the way of options to select when buying new.
While the basic interior has changed little, cars since mid 2017 come with a version of seats which are a little like the next generation seats but with a few tweaks. The material choice is pretty varied too, there have been various leather, fake leather, 'vegan' and cloth seats over the years.
The various cabin components have all been tweaked over time to give a better finish, there is now a centre console (introduced during 2016) and rear cup holders, and while it's no premium German car some like its more minimalist styling. The rear is great and 3 can sit comfortably in the back of an MS. The MX has a range of rear seating options but some report the individual seats on the 6 seat option to be a little tight, as is the 3rd row, but still its still a large car. The M3 is the smallest and as you'd expect, rear seats have less room than in the larger cars.
The fabled high tech cars are actually a mixture of actually quite old technology and fantastic innovation.
DAB and Spotify are both poorly implemented with everything from tuning in to not displaying DAB text is a frustration at times. Spotify can often hang and its a feature of the frequent software updates that things get worse and then better and then worse again.
Autopilot boils down to 3 choices for new owners; Not to buy it (although it can be enabled later), Autopilot (AP) or Full Self Driving (FSD). In 2019 they changed the feature fix between AP and FSD in part because nothing was really available on FSD and in part to lower the entry price. AP now offers adaptive cruise and lane keeping, but you need to go to FSD for the advanced summon and navigate on autopilot. Our view is AP is worth it, especially at the new price, but FSD is still a very expensive option with very little to show for it at this time. Many Tesla owners call this the unicorn option with good reason.
The good stuff includes over the air software updates which as mentioned above can be variable, but it does benefit the car in terms of feature improvements over time.
Its also worth pointing out what the car doesn't have. It currently doesn't have surround car view, head up display, suspension where you can change the comfort level, only the ride height, Apple Car play or android auto, you can hopefully see that in some respects the technology is variable depending on the features you want. Even some safety features are missing like flashing rear brake lights in the event of an emergency stop, although Tesla is planning to release this in the future.
I guess people are buying in part for the name and the charging infrastructure although the competition are already getting close. The i3 has 150-mile range, soon to be increasing to 200 miles. The Leaf is has been a steady seller with each version improving on the last. The Hyundai Kona is getting pretty impressive reviews and has sold out for 12 months. And lets not forget the Jaguar i-pace. Choice and range are both increasing, although none have the advantage of the SuperCharger network. Another concern for Tesla is the build quality has taken a noticeable downturn in 2017 coupled with both lots of software delays and glitches and increasingly demanding owners as its slowly moving away from being an early adopter, this picked up in 2018 thankfully.
The battery choice is now largely a question of range. The 75 is, as the name suggests, approx 3/4 of the capacity of the 100. Recent updates means cars built from July 2017 with the 75 battery are noticeably quicker than before then, and now close to the performance of the 100. Buyer beware if buying used as to which version you get although most can now be uncorked, even those built before July 2017 (assuming you have a facelift car). Tesla are in the process of changing this to Long Range, Performance etc, the thing to watch out for is the quoted mileage will be to a standard, either EPA or WLTP, and in both cases, the real world range is likely to be between 10% and 40% lower depending on driving style and time of year.
It is clearly personal choice, and the recent price changes have stirred things up, but we'd suggest a 100D MX, a 75D MS or a P100D MS are the choice cars representing largest practical capacity (and the MX doesn't really lend itself to the sportier nature of the P cars), economy or performance. The M3 will change this again once available.