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.
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 MS, a large executive hatch, the MX, a large SUV, the Model 3, the entry level compact saloon and the MY, the compact SUV. For 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, 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, is still the most affordable new Tesla. 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 M3 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 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.
The Performance model is the best enthusiastic driver's car across the entire range especially with the introduction of the track pack 2. 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 MY is slightly larger than the M3 while still narrower than the MS and MX. It's extra height and hatch give it more practicality and it's said to be available in 7 seat configuration from 2021 although this is stop not available to configure. 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 M3.
Lead times for the MY in the US are currently relatively low. We expect lead times to be longer when it is introduced to new markets although this may also be linked to new factory capacity in Germany which once up to speed should mean there is good availability. We suspect it will be late 2021 before the car is available outside the US and possibly Canada.
The MS is the car that started it all in terms of volume production. It was face-lifted in 2016 and has had incremental changes each year, the most noticeable being uprated suspension making it extremely capable, changes to the motors enabling '1 foot driving', and greater efficiency. While many M3 owners dismiss it due to it's apparent age, the technology is as good if not better than the M3 with the exception of the battery design resulting in a slightly slower maximum supercharger speed.
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 owners needs. It has a couple of potential downsides like the inability to tow, but these only matter to a small number of potential owners.
While we rate the Model S and have had one ourselves for 5 years, we now feel the design for the price is starting to show it's age more than ever, and Tesla are likely to facelift the car in late 2021 as part of the "Plaid" Model S. They have increasing competition in the premium end of the market and we suspect a new performance platform with the roadster will be shared with the MS lifting it's capabilities way beyond where they are today, especially in terms of handling. It's therefore hard to recommend a new MS at the current prices and Tesla periodically reduce the prices or offer discounts on individual cars to help sell them. We would certainly say avoid a custom order and paying full price at the moment. Our inventory guides show the discounts available on new inventory cars.
This is the beast. The MX is the largest, and while more recent than the MS 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.
It has some kudos and while much of the car is similar to the MS facelift, it seems to be ageing slightly better, but like the MS we suspect it will be updated fairly soon. There is also competition from cars such as the Jaguar i-pace and offerings from Audi and others which are available for less.
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 of FSD. This is one of the most debated topics amongst owners.
There are some feature benefits to buying 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.
The battery choice is now largely a question of range. The shortest range is the M3 SR+ and we'd advise buying the Long Range if possible as we believe a comfortable 200 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 out Guide to saving money when buying a Tesla talks about the best timne 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. We're currently seeing quite low depreciation on the M3 and MY however a significant announcement or launch of a new model, either by Tesla or a competitor could change things over night.
Our brief thoughts on the cars to buy and why: