Last updated 20-Mar-2022
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 guide to buying a used Tesla which may be preferable if that is what you are planning to do.
It's important to know that Tesla rarely build to order. They build batches of cars and match customer orders to what they have built. As a result, you can be waiting for a particular specification car for some time while other buyers can order and take delivery fairly quickly. Tesla also appear to match production to orders manually, and as cars are listed for public sale almost as soon as they arrive in country, it is even possible that new buyers get inventory before custom orders as they order an inventory car before it has been matched to an existing order. Consequently, we would advocate buying an inventory car over custom order, just check the options and how long the car has been available to ensure you are buying the latest stock and spec. We provide all these details in our extensive inventory listings, including some Tesla stock not yet on their main listings page. Access to the listings are available from the top of this page, and for most countries we also offer a free email notification service for when new cars appear.
Tesla currently have 4 models available to order, the Model S, a large executive hatch, the Model X, a large SUV, the Model 3, the entry level compact saloon and the Model Y, the compact SUV. The availability of each varies between countries with MS and MX only being delivered in the US, Canada and Mexico. For a detailed side by side comparison of features check differences between the S3XY models. Which is right for you will of course depend on your requirements and budget, and we provide detailed buyers guides for each model, but we set out the main factors below.
This is the much anticipated low cost Tesla and while not quite as cheap as originally planned, it is still the most affordable new Tesla in RWD form. Delivery lead times are now often less than 6 weeks with pre built inventory becoming increasingly available. We are somewhat surprised that used cars are often as expensive as new orders and we believe the perception of long wait times is causing this, however unless you have a very specific requirement this is rarely the case.
The Model 3 is the smallest although still a 5 seater, it is a saloon/sedan and while the boot/trunk is fairly large, it misses out on the practicality of the hatch found in the MS and MY. It is also the first Tesla to be made with the CCS power connector for Europe as standard, this is backward compatible with the Type 2 AC charging sockets, plus the CCS rapid chargers. It is also the first Tesla to supercharge at up to 250kw (Long Range and Performance Models) although the facelift Model S and Model X and the Model Y are now also capable of these speeds.
The Performance model is the best enthusiastic driver's car across the entire range especially with the introduction of the track pack 2. While the Plaid Model S can accelerate more quickly, it is the balance of handling and acceleration that make it more suitable for the enthusiast. With the launch of the Model Y, many buyers looking for a more practical car are switching to that in the markets where it is available as the increase in price is relatively small.
The early cars showed a few indications of cost cutting although some of these areas such as heat pumps have now been corrected on the 2021 model.
The Model Y is larger than the Model 3 while still narrower than the Model S and Model X. It's extra height and hatch give it more practicality and it is available in 7 seat configuration in some countries, although this is pretty tight for the 3rd row passengers and unlike the Model X does not have additional HVAC for these passengers. For owners not interested in the M3 Performance we suspect this will be the value for money model and hold its value better. It is also the first Tesla to have a heat pump which should improve efficiency and various reviews which have dismantled the car have commented on how much more mature it is as a design compared to the Model 3.
Lead times for the Model Y are currently relatively low with production in the US, China and from March 2022, Berlin.
The Model S is the car that started it all in terms of volume production. It was first face-lifted in 2016 and has had incremental changes each year since, however in 2021 it had a second major update which has changed the interior considerably and uplifts in performance in range and performance.
The car is large, seats 5 easily, the previous 7 seat option has now been dropped, has good storage and unless you need the space of the Model X satisfies most owner’s 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. The Model X 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. It's the least efficient of the 4 cars as you would expect from the size which makes the smallest battery size a stretch for some, especially in winter.
Like the Model S, in 2021 it has gone through a major update and is only available in the US.
Because Tesla rarely build to order they have reduced the number of models and options considerably. The choices today largely boil down to interior and exterior colour and choice of wheels, other options are typically software enabled.
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 the 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 since 2017. The material choice is has varied with leather, fake leather, 'vegan' and cloth seats all been available 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 MS rear is good and 3 can sit comfortably in the back. 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. The M3 is the smallest and as you'd expect, rear seats have less room than in the larger cars.
The only real technology choice is whether to buy Full Self Driving or FSD although some countries still offer the half-way house, EAP. This is one of the most debated topics amongst owners as the capabilities of FSD are still fairly limited compared to the promises.
There are some feature benefits to buying EAP/FSD which vary from country to country. These include Navigate on Autopilot, automated lane changing and parking assist. There are features being added such as traffic lights, and city driving, all of which will add capability to the car with FSD. What we are very doubtful over is whether these will ever reach a level of maturity so the car will be legally allowed to take responsibility for driving, or whether these will only ever be a driver assistance aids. As such, FSD feels a very expensive option for what it offers the buyer.
FSD is effectively a few expensive features today and buying into the future potential. EAP, if available, if buying the extra features today for a lower price. With the advent of a monthly subscription to FSD, EAP feels the more sensible option, buy the core features you will use, and as and when you need the FSD features, simple subscribe for the month.
In the US, Tesla have started offering FSD as a subscription model rather than outright purchase and we feel this is a more appropriate model.
The battery choice is now largely a question of range. The shortest range is the M3 SR+ (renamed in 2022 to be just the Rear wheel driver or RWD model) and we'd advise buying the Long Range if possible as we believe a 250 mile range in winter will be the minimum future drivers will look for and residual values may fall most as a result. As mentioned above, performance models are a consideration, but otherwise the Long Range cars are in our opinion the smart choice.
It is often said that Tesla do not discount. We would clarify this and say Tesla do not negotiate the price on a given car, but they do discount from time to time and our Guide to saving money when buying a Tesla talks about the best time of year to buy and how to find the best prices.
Depreciation is also a common question as the cost to buy the car is often less important than the cost to own the car including depreciation. Depreciation has been historically quite varied with long periods of time where a car seems to hold its value and then an event may cause a significant drop in price. You can find details on Tesla Depreciation for most models and countries here. Of course, past depreciation is no guarantee of what the future holds.
Our brief thoughts on the cars to buy and why:
When you buy a Tesla you will do so online. At the time of ordering, each model, wheel, colour combination has an expected date. Tesla however seem to use these expected dates as a means to manipulate demand, paradoxically they may extend the date to drive short term demand by giving the impression that there is a long lead time, and then offer earlier delivery to anyone who has placed an order. If you find yourself in this situation, Tesla will allow you to put a not before date on your order, so long as that is not beyond the expected date.