Advice on owning a Tesla

Last updated 15-May-2022

When you own a Tesla, it's in part a lifestyle choice. The way you fuel the car is so different that you cannot just expect to buy a car and follow the same routine you previously had with a petrol car. Even if you charge up overnight, you need to remember to charge, and there will be days when you can't. Long journeys also need planning, and although the longest range is now 400 miles or more, the working range is somewhat lower as we explain below. That means any return journey more than 140 miles from home will need a top up along the way. But don't be put off, just do some homework and you can nearly always manage the situation with very little alteration to your plans.

Range and economy

Tesla, like all motor manufacturers, have to publish consumption figures/range based on a usage pattern determined by a standard called the WLTP and in the US called EPA. These testing standards typically overstate the consumption figures except in perfect conditions, although they are better than they were under the older standard, the NEDC, which is used in some older Tesla's. When it comes to EV's including Tesla's, the efficiency of the car will reduce with speed, and anything over 60mph/100km/h will start to reduce range noticeably. Range will also reduce due to the weather, especially rain and temperatures at or below 10C / 50F. In winter the range can reduce by up to 30%.

It's also worth restating that other than cars with the LFP batteries (Model 3 RWD), it's not advisable to charge to 100% regularly and a 90% upper charge limit is recommended. Planning to arrive at your destination with zero range left is a game of chance so you'd probably want to arrive with say 10% left bringing the working range down to an effective 80% of your potential maximum.

As a combination of the above, the working range for the cars is approximately 80% to allow for top and bottom battery margin of the quoted range, and in winter it may be 80% of that to account for the weather. A car with a 350 mile quoted range, allowing for these factors could have an everyday workable range down as low as 225 miles.

Secondly, some people can only charge up once or twice a week because they either don't have access to home charging, don't use the car every day or their journeys are short. Short journeys across a few days, especially when the weather is cold, will significantly decrease range further as the energy loss is worst over the first few miles with a cold battery. In addition the car has something called "vampire drain", a small daily loss of charge. If you left your car at an airport for 7 days you can expect to lose anything up to 25 miles of range. Combined, the inefficiency of short journeys and vampire drain can result in those charging infrequently to be a low as 140 miles in the smaller battery cars.

Owners who leave sentry mode turned on should also be aware that this uses a significant amounts of energy and vampire drain is even worse and can easily reduce the battery level to 20% when sentry will disengage over 2 weeks.

A number of models can have a tow hook, and all cars except the Model X can have roof bars, and when using these range can be further reduced. A model X 75D towing a caravan could have as low as a 90-mile range. Charging at most chargers would also require the caravan/trailer to be unhitched first too.

We have created a guide to Tesla range which covers the topic in more detail.

Driving Efficiency

The efficiency of the cars, expressed as wh/m (or how much energy you need for every mile), varies on conditions just like any car. The biggest factors on efficiency are speed and weather. With the increase in charging point availability, and the relatively long range, most of the time you don't need to worry about efficient driving, but for when you do, these are our top tips:

Servicing

Service centres are often very busy and getting your car looked at can be a challenge. The staff are really eager to please, but demand on their time outstrips supply and cars going in for work can often sit around for days before being looked at. The number of places that will work on any electric cars is relatively small although growing. This is because electric cars require specific health and safety measures to meet legislative and insurance requirements. Those that do, charge can charge a lot for relatively simple work and the Tesla official bodyshops seem to adopt a replace and not repair policy so even relatively small dents can require new panels. There have also been issues on getting parts so even after your car is looked at, it can take a while before it is fixed.

Service centres are also best avoided around quarter end as they are focused on getting new deliveries on the road. There can also be busy straight after a quarter end fixing all the issues owners have picked up on delivery that should have been addressed before delivery. It's a cause of constant frustration to owners, although Tesla are good at eventually fixing the issues.

There is also much discussed about the service interval. Tesla used to recommend 12 months or 12.5k miles which is by modern standards more often than most, however they have now gone to the other extreme and said the cars need no servicing and only need to visit a service centre when needed while recommending some maintenance activities supported by DIY guides. Neither extreme seems very sensible to us and some service centres are suggesting the car should be looked at every 2 years. We think a 2-year interval seems reasonable and for most that also fits in with a service/check-up just before the 4 year warranty is due to expire, although we would also encourage owners to use independent service companies as they offer better value for money.

Warranty

There is good and bad regarding the Tesla Warranty. The battery and drive units used to come with an 8 year and unlimited mile warranty although Model 3, Model Y and Models S and X from 2020 have a mileage limit on the battery and motors. They do reserve the right to use refurbished parts if you have a problem, which may be of concern, but in general this is fairly generous. The unlimited mileage warranty has no published statement of battery degradation and what is acceptable, so the battery warranty may really only cover for dramatic loss of range rather than a tapering of performance. The warranties with a mileage limit do have a performance guarantee.

Otherwise car warranty is for 4 years (which is good) but limited to 50k miles (which is not). Some owners won't be limited on miles but there are many high mileage cars out there, something to watch especially if buying a used car privately.

Tesla don't make servicing a condition on the warranty

If you buy a used Tesla from Tesla, the new car warranty has 1 year/10k mile warranty added to any remaining new car warranty if there is any left, or just comes with the 1 year/10k miles.

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