Owning a Tesla

When you own a Tesla, it's in part a lifestyle choice. The way you fuel the car is so different that you can not just expect to buy a car and follow the same routine you previously have. 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 given the longest range is about 260 miles, that means any return journey more than 130 miles from home, and realistically anything over 100 miles will need a top up. 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 the EU, called NEDC. This, like all cars, typically overstates the consumption figures. If you're prepared to drive at 45mph you may get the claimed consumption, but when cold, poor weather, at higher speeds and due to many other factors, you won't. The NEDC range is the Rated range, Tesla also (almost) helpfully also provide a Typical range, this is more useful although is still optimistic for many people.

It's also worth restating that other than a few specific cars, it's not advisable to charge to 100% regularly. A 90% charge upper limit is recommended. And of course, planning to arrive at your destination with zero range left is a game of Russian Roulette so you'd probably want to arrive with say 10% left bringing the working range down to an effective 80% of your potential maximum. Its easy to see a car with an NEDC/Rated range of 300, have a typical range of 230 and a working range of 185 miles, and then a little lower if the weather is bad or its cold. It's fair to say, few people drive that far in a day but it is only a round trip somewhere 100 miles away, even so, don't be put off.

Secondly, some only charge up once or twice every week because they either 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. 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, te inefficiency of short journeys and vampire drain can result in those charging infrequently to be a low as 140 miles from an MS 75D. These losses can be reduced by turning off "always connected" and not checking on the cars status from on holiday twice a day, but if you're leaving your car at an airport, especially if you have valet parking, make sure it has a decent charge of at least 35 miles for every week you are away.

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 could flatten a battery in 2 weeks unless the car is full when left.

The Model X can have a tow hook, and the model S 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 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:


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. And if you need body shop work, have good insurance. There are few that will work on the cars because of both aluminium panels and the electrical skills required, and those that do, charge an absolute fortune for relatively simple work. There have also been issues on getting parts so even after your car is looked at, it can take a 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. Its 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 not gone to the other extreme and said the cars need no servicing and only need to visit a service centre when needed. Neither extreme seems very sensible and the service centres themselves are suggesting the car should be looked at every 2 years. Tesla also formally list a set of individual service items such as filters being replaced, brake fluid checked and in countries which use salt on the roads in the cold, getting the car annually checked. 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.


There is good and bad regarding the Tesla Warranty. The battery and drive units come with an 8 year and unlimited mile warranty. 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 only chink in this is there is 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 Model 3 warranty here is also mileage limited.

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, and one explanation is that for Tesla to mandate servicing for warranty purposes, they would need to comply with legislation (known as the Block exemption) where anybody can service the car, which would require Tesla to release technical details etc to third parties. Why some access is allowed, its thought they would prefer to not encourage servicing away from Tesla service centres

Tesla have gone further recently and said the cars don't need servicing and talk of condition based servicing. In practice the service centres are advising informally on a check up every 2 years which is more appropriate and closer to industry norms.

If you buy a used Tesla from Tesla, the new car warranty to cancelled and a new 4 year/50k mile warranty is started, so on the face of it this is a good deal even on high mileage cars. Buying nearly new cars though you need to be careful as the used car warranty is not quite as generous as the new car warranty even if it lasts for the same duration. In general, Tesla do seem to be fairly good at warranty claims, but as the number of cars outside formal warranty grows, they have become more restrictive, items like the main screen developed a yellow border on many cars and Tesla are saying this is not a warranty item and they are hoping a software fix will improve the matter. Time will tell.

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