Thinking of Buying a Tesla? Here’s What You Should Know

Tesla cars are the most popular electric vehicles on the road, but is one right for you?
tesla car

Electric vehicles are getting more popular by the day. BY some estimates, roughly half of all new cars sales by 2035 could be electric vehicles. And, by a wide margin, no other manufacturer has sold more EVs than Tesla.

While that alone might be enough to convince some buyers, there are some particularities about the cars that prospective owners should be aware of.

Here is everything you should know before buying a Tesla.

Tesla Models

There are currently four Tesla models available for purchase today: S, 3, X and Y. The former two are sedans while the latter pair are SUVs. All models come in a Performance trim level and a less-expensive Long Range model.

Tesla Model S

The Model S was introduced in 2012 and has been a market leader ever since. As of 2019, it has an EPA range of 375 miles, one of the longest of any electric vehicle. It features all-wheel drive and the ability to reach 0-60 mph in just 3.1 seconds. Tesla claims it is the quickest four-door sedan ever built.

Inside has seating for five adults and 28 cubic feet of storage. (Remember: without an engine, the front trunk becomes a cargo space). The interior also features a 17-inch center touchscreen that integrates media, navigation, communications, cabin control and vehicle data. Many functions are voice-activated to focus the driver’s attention on the road.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla began producing this car in 2017. The sedan is similar to the Model S, except slightly smaller. It also has a shorter range (a maximum of 334 miles), smaller touchscreen and less of the Model S’s bells and whistles.

The most notable difference for potential consumers however, will be the price tag. At a starting retail price below $40,000, it is Tesla’s most affordable vehicle in its lineup. (The S can easily cost more than double). Due in part to its price, the Model 3 has been one of the top-selling electric vehicles in recent years.

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Tesla Model X

The first SUV in Tesla’s lineup has some distinguishing features other than its larger size. Most notable are the rear Falcon Wing doors. These doors are hinged at the roof instead of the side. This allows for much easier entry and exit to the second — and third — row of seats inside the vehicle. It also has a windshield that stretches up and over the two front seats, providing riders a panoramic view of their surroundings.

The SUV has a top range of 330-mile range and 5,000-pound towing capacity. But with a starting price in the six-figures, it is Tesla’s most expensive vehicle.

Tesla Model Y

To give its customers a more reasonably priced SUV option, Tesla unveiled the Model X in 2020. With a starting price of $69,990, it’s roughly half the cost of the Model Y, while still boasting an impressive 318-mile range.

The Model Y comes equipped with 76 cubic feet of storage room and an optional third row of seats, creating room for up to seven passengers. Inside, there’s a 15-inch touchscreen and expansive all-glass roof.

tesla charging station

Charging a Tesla

A Tesla vehicle can be charged anywhere there is an outlet. The cars come standard with a mobile connector (with adapters available for purchase) in order to use any electrical sources available.

Owners can use the mobile connector at home. However, this method is rather slow. Using a traditional household outlet, only two or three miles of range will be added per hour. Tesla recommends installing a wall connector for at-home use. These devices can deliver up to 44 miles of range per hour. An electrician or Tesla installation service is needed to install the wall connector. If traveling, drivers can charge the car’s battery at one of hundreds of private locations, such as hotels and restaurants, that have Tesla charging stations available.

The final charging option is unique to Tesla: Supercharging. Designed and built by Tesla, Superchargers are substantially more powerful than any other charging method. They are capable of replenishing half of a battery’s charge in roughly 30 minutes. There are more than 35,000 stations around the world, strategically placed along well-traveled routes.

Regardless of your charging method, the Tesla App allows you to monitor your charging status and receive charging-complete notifications.

Safety

All three Tesla models have received five-star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. New vehicles come standard with active safety features. These include automatic emergency braking, collision warning, side collision warning, blind spot monitoring and lane departure avoidance.

Additionally, as with all electric vehicles, Teslas have their batteries located on the floor of the vehicle. This creates a low center of gravity that improves stability and reduces the chance of a rollover.

Autopilot

Some safety concerns have come up regarding Tesla’s Autopilot system. This automated technology uses cameras and radar to create a suite of features to help in driving, such as cruise control and automatic steering. It is classified as a Level 2 automated system, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Vehicles reach this level, also known as partial automation, when they have combined automated functions, such as steering and acceleration.

When used properly, this technology can add an additional layer of safety. However, like all autonomous vehicle technology, Autopilot is not a self-driving system. A driver still must always be behind the wheel, remain engaged and be prepared to take over at any time.

Convinced on buying a Tesla? Make sure to finance your new car purchase with AAA.

For all things cars, including driver resources, vehicle buying, maintenance and repair and roadside assistance, visit AAA.com/Automotive

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18 Thoughts on “Thinking of Buying a Tesla? Here’s What You Should Know

  1. Robert T. – Let me help you out here. As long time Tesla owner, I can assure you there is no problem taking your Tesla car through a car wash. There is also no truth whatsoever that you must put a “special coating” (known as a ceramic coating) on your Tesla. That is simply a protective coating that an owner can put on ANY make or model car. Perhaps you just heard from a Tesla owner and assumed that was the case for all Teslas. You can put one on your Cajun Red 2020 Chevrolet Malibu Premier as well 🙂

    For anyone else considering a Tesla, I drive the Model 3 and have driven it all over the USA and charge mostly from the comfort of my garage for daily driving and the vast Supercharger network when I want to drive for thousands of miles. It’s truly one of those things you have to drive for yourself to believe and it will have you hooked for life!

  2. Andrew, I think you left one very important thing out of your article concerning Teslas unless you’re not aware of it yourself. You cannot go through a car wash with a Tesla and you also have to have a special coating put on your car that you have to pay for. A friend of mine in Arizona recently bought a Tesla and it wasn’t until afterwards that he was told he couldn’t go through a car wash and that he had to go to some other town in Arizona to have the special coating applied to his car because of all the electronics. To me that would be a big drawback for a Tesla owner in Northern states during the winter when we can’t wash our cars outside and have to depend on a car wash to get the salt and grime off. Besides, I don’t even think they’re nice looking. I think my Cajun Red 2020 Chevrolet Malibu Premier looks better than any Tesla that I’ve ever seen! Just my opinion.

    1. If you ask any detailer, they will tell you the same thing for your non-Tesla vehicle – don’t take through a car wash with brushes. They will cause swirls in the best paint. Even if they advertise “frequently inspected micro fiber”, Do you really want to risk going in two cars after a truck that just went mudding? One thing to consider though is that the Tesla paint is noted for being “soft” and “thin”, so it is advisable to get protective clear wrap on the front, hood, mirrors, and behind the rear wheels to protect the paint. This is known as PPF. It isn’t a bad idea on any car as my 2001 Impala had paint chips on the hood too. There is no truth that the electronics in the car are a reason for special coating though. Most vehicles above around 35K or so have cameras around the vehicle to support the 360 view and lane keep assist. They can go through car washes as well.

    1. Hi Barbara, Federal tax credits are still in place for EVs in general but not for Tesla because it has already sold 200,000 vehicles, which is the cap for each car manufacturer. Here is a list of federal credits available by car. State tax credits exist for EVs (Tesla included) but vary by state. (Learn more here).

  3. There are so many features that set the Tesla apart from all other car manufactures that it’s hard to list them in one article but one that should be mentioned is the over the air updates. Tesla does not wait for the next model year to have all the improvements. If they can make your car better (and add new features) they do it for free, over the air while you are home. It feels like getting a new car every month or so and many of the features make the car even safer.

  4. This is my concern about all electric cars, I see very few charging stations in Westchester County, NY, and I doubt the ones that exist will charge any car quickly. So far I shall stick with my Toyota Prius.

    1. Check Tesla’s Supercharger map. There are many supercharging stations in Westchester County. I do most of my charging overnight at home. It’s like filling your car up every day.

    2. I also live in Westchester and have had a Tesla for a year — love it. If you have a garage or driveway with a plug handy, most of your charging is done at home. I actually do most of my charging at work (level 2 charger and it doesn’t cost me anything). There are 3-4 Tesla Superchargers in the county as well; and many more public level 2 chargers.

    3. If you have a house in Westchester, you will probably never supercharge in Westchester. As someone mentioned, you have to remember that you start every day with the equivalent on a full tank of gas. 95% of the time you never even think about charging. I live on Long Island and drive 100 miles a day round trip. I’ve had the Model 3 for almost 5 months and the only time I’ve needed to supercharge is trips down to Delaware for my son’s college. The car can actually make it the entire trip without needing another charge but I usually need to stretch on the Jersey Turnpike so I plug in for 20 minutes and I come back to a fully charged car.

  5. I visited a Tesla showroom and saw their three models. I found the vehicles to be extremely low to the ground. Although the salesman demonstrated a feature the raises the car a bit, I thought it was still very low. What is the average height from the for regular cars? How do the Tesla’s compare?

  6. This was great information that I did not know, and the prices were very informative. I would be interested except for the cost. I need to hit lotto to score a Tesla. Thank you very much

    1. Had you invested just $20,000 in Tesla stock at the time you wrote this comment , today you would have more than enough to buy a Tesla 3! That’s what I did 😉

  7. The information provided for charging isn’t completely accurate. You don’t require a Tesla Wall Charger for level 2 charging at home. An electrician can install a NEMA 14-50 outlet and you can use the included Tesla Mobile charger to get up to 30 miles per hour of charge at home.

    1. Hi Michael, you are correct. We were referring to common household outlets. We’ve updated the story to make that clear. Thanks for reading!

      1. Just to clarify further, you don’t need a Tesla wall unit to charge faster at home — just a standard 220 plug that you’d use for a dryer.

        Another aspect of charging people should consider is whether you can charge at work — many employers have or are adding charging stations as a perk. I do most of my charging at work. Whether charging at work or home, most EV owners do most of their charging at night or while at work — not at Superchargers or other public level 2 chargers.

        I’ve had a Tesla Model 3 since last April and we love it. Our other vehicle, a mid sized SUV, is seldom used these days.

  8. As a Tesla owner and AAA member, I read this article with interest. However, I would like to know what AAA offers electric car owners. It seems that many of the roadside assistance benefits are pretty useless for an electric car and I understand that AAA no longer offers emergency recharging.

    Would you care to comment on what plans AAA has to support electric car owners?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Michael, here is a response from our Car Doctor John Paul:
      AAA will provide all services to EV owners with the exception of charging. We will tow you car to a charging station or home, change a flat tire, perform a lockout. Then there is the full complement of other AAA services road service for bicycles, discount tickets, car rentals, travel etc. We have not given up on the idea of quick charging EVs, I’m part of a engineering group that is looking into practical quick charging. Our previous testing was using a 240 volt generator mounted to a truck and we learned quite a bit but found this wasn’t the ideal solution. Recently in our club area over a 2 year time frame we towed 660 EVs and compared to 2.2 million other road service events. Towing would indicate that the electric vehicle ran out of power or had some other mechanical issue. Additionally we list EV charging stations and are currently looking into a discount program with I believe EVGO.

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