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.
Do not miss our extensive listings of all the cars for sale including Tesla New and ex demo inventory, used cars and cars for sale at independent retailers, including Tesla stock not yet on their main listings page, price histories and a comprehensive breakdown of the option codes - all available here.
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 available to order in the UK.
This is the much anticipated low cost Tesla and is now launched in Europe including the UK. Delivery lead times are often less than 6 weeks with pre built inventory becoming increasingly available.
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 with rates reported as high as 250kw for short period on the Long Range and above models.
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 are the only 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 S have gone, so there's now little in the way of options to select when buying new after you've picked the colour. We'd advise against coloured wheel options as you can buy the standard wheels and get them repainted for much less money.
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. When buying however there is really just a choice of one of the interior packs, a combination of material colour, trim and headlining.
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.
IN Europe, DAB and Spotify are both poorly implemented. DAB radio has issues with tuning in and not displaying text which is a frustration at times. Reception can also be patchy. Spotify can often hang. We're Europe based and similar problems may exist with the US equivalents. It is a feature of the frequent software updates that things get worse and then better and then worse again which is frustrating at times.
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 or allow AP to be bundled into the car price. AP now offers adaptive cruise and lane keeping, but you need to go to FSD for the summon, lane change under AP and navigate on autopilot. Our view is AP is worth it, especially at the new price when not included. FSD is still a very expensive option and splitting the EAP feature set, moving some of the useful elements into FSD is quite a cynical move to increase FSD orders when in reality there is very little to show for it at this time. Many Tesla owners call this the unicorn option with good reason.
The cars have had a number if iterations of technology and for the latest cars, HW3 autopilot hardware, the permanent magnet drive motors and adaptive suspension on MS and MX should all be looked for when buying new and be wary of buying new inventory cars with previous versions, unless there is a decent discount.
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, 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.
There are Performance options on all the cars, with the MS and MX having an additional ludicrous option. We feel that buying a performance car without ludicrous is pointless. The performance of the cars without will be not significantly different to the Long Range equivalents, and our analysis of the 2018 depreciation in the UK also suggests the MX P100D suffered the large depreciation. While this is somewhat improved by the price reductions in early 2019 we still question the value of the MX P100D either with or without ludicrous.
We'd also be slightly wary about the M3 Performance. This doesn't have a ludicrous option, and is currently slower to accelerate than both the MX and MS P100D cars with ludicrous. We suspect that at some point Tesla will boost the performance of the M3 performance making the current model depreciate significantly.
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 and a raft of new cars coming out from Polestar (Volvo), Mercedes, Porsche etc. 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 has picked up in late 2018/2019 thankfully but be mindful of inventory thats being sitting around.
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 Standard Range, 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.
The other consideration of the battery choice is that its starting to impact other capabilities. The Short range+ model 3 is believed to have a significantly low maximum charge rate than the Long Range car. Smaller batteries have always supercharged more slowly, but with the advent of the version 3 supercharger, the difference between the two is thought to be much larger.
It is clearly a personal choice, and the recent price changes have stirred things up, but we'd suggest a Long Range/100D MX, a Performance/P100D MS with Ludicrous, or the Long Range M3 are the choice cars representing largest practical capacity, the highest performance, and the best economy, range and value. As mentioned a few times above, be wary of new inventory that has older versions of AP Hardware, suspension and motors, primarily on the MS and MX cars.