Last updated 06-Jan-2023
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 website 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 of a similr car, only differing by colour or wheel choice. We would advocate always looking at inventory first to see if the car you want is already available, especially if you can be flexible on spec. Using our inventory listings will also reveal more information about the car than Tesla would ordinarily show you. The reason we suggest this is because Tesla will match you to the inventory carf anyway, and occassionally the new inventory have offers on, or the spec isn;t what you want. At the end of 2022 for instance there was a mix of cars with and without parking sensors in inventory, by using the inventory you could be sure you were ordering a car with parking sensors.
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 Model S and Model X initially only being delivered in the US, Canada and Mexico however is now available in Europe albeit still limited to left hand drive versions. 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 have been as low as 6 weeks with pre built inventory becoming increasingly available.
The Model 3 is the smallest model 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 entry level car has also had a number of feature enhancements, and a new Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive is in many respects a better equiped car than the Long Range model was at launch.
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. Unlike the Model X, the Model Y does not have additional HVAC for 3rd row 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.
Model Y is the car Tesla make most of with production in the China, US (Fremont and Austin) and Germany (Berlin).
The primary concerns over the Model Y are however the suspension. For many, especially those that drive over uneven or rutted roads, the suspension can be too firm and not compliant enough. Others find it acceptable. While there appears some evidence that Tesla has tweaked the suspension, we think the changes over time is pretty marginal.
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 includes uplifts in performance but not range.
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.
The down side is that some aspects of the car have been carried over from the previous generation. Its exterior is very similar, the battery cells are the same (although packaged differently), and the suspension is the same raven suspension which came out in the old model. There doesn;t appear to have been any fundemental changes to the chassis and structure of the car which dates back nearly 10 years.
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, folding seats, high driving position all make it the most practical car, although certain models are only available in 6 seat configuration which does limit the praticality a little. For 5 occupants, the interior space is very similar to the Model Y, however the space for luggage in this configuration is much bigger. It's also 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 2022 it went through a major update.
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 it's 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.
The paint colours have not changed much over the years, although Tesla appear to be bringng out a couple of new colours for MY cars built in Berlin. These do comne at a hefty price supplement.
The interior has changed on all models since their repscitve launches. The build quality has also improved although the material choice is now all vegan.
The choice for the cabin really boils down to seat colour as the rest of the trim is dictated by this. While the white seats may not look practical, they do lift the cabin colour and are relatively easy to clean.
The only real technology choice is whether to buy Full Self Driving or FSD, or in some countries 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, even if you are on the FSD City streets beta programme in NA.
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 if you happen to be in that region. In other countries we would strongly advise against buying FSD, and would suggest people think carefully about buying EAP if that is an option.
The battery choice is now largely a question of range. The shortest range is the M3 Rear Wheel Drive (formerly SR+). Given the increases in range of this model coupled with its willingness to charge to 100%, and the car not really missing out on any features, this is a good starting point. It's only real downside is the performance is relatively poor compared to the AWD models, but still acceptable. The Model Y has an equivalent choice.
The Model S and Model X have the same battery, the only real choice is the Plaid model or simply the long range model. We would suggest the Plaid model is probably the way to go with the Model S, and the Long Range with the Model X.
Towing package has been standard on the Model X for some time. The Model Y has a dealer fit option and so does not need to be specified at order time.
The Model S previously did not allow towing and this has changed with the 2021+ model. Check locally about ordering as it is not approved in every country. The Model 3 previously only haad towing as a factory option although Tesla removed this from the website. We understand that the Model 3 has a similar arrangement to the Model Y where it can be dealer fit after delivery, but we recommend checking with Tesla first. The lack of publicity on this makes us think Tesla are reluctant to promote towing on the Model 3 now, even if its technically possible.
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.
When you're waiting, the first sign that you have a car is to see whether you have a VIN assigned. This is not initially obvious on your MyTesla account, but once you've logged in to MyTesla, visit https://www.tesla.com/teslaaccount/oxp-bff-api/user-orders where you'll see some easy to read computer data which will include your VIN if one has been allocated, together with the spec sheet for your car which can be decoded in our Tesla option decoder. If you see "Missing token", it means you've not logged into MyTesla first.
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