This is an owners guide and the ownership experience is likely to be very different to what you are used to, something that you MUST understand before taking the plunge as failing to do so may result in either a euphoric experience or the biggest mistake you may ever make.
Many Tesla owners appear to be on a crusade to change the world and are almost evangelical about their cars. A fair proportion of what they say is fine, but they over step the mark quite often. Ask an "evangelist" about running out of charge and they may reply "have you ever run out of petrol?", to which most will say no. However, there's a "zero mile club" of owners who just made it to a charging point because getting to zero does happen, and a lot more frequently than owners with petrol cars. It's almost a badge of honour, although thankfully few are left stranded.
Before we get into the meat of this, it’s worth mentioning the Tesla sales force. Tesla are renowned for doing things differently and true to form, they don't have traditional sales staff. Even if you buy in store, you are effectively sat down at a web browser as if ordering on-line. This has some benefits (no pushy sales guys) but also a downside as their motivation and attention to detail is often a little vague, not helped by Tesla’s own ambiguity. As an example, nobody knew reliably what cables came with the car, some owners getting a type 2 cable, others not. This carries through once you have placed your order too as delivery dates move around and finance agreements and trade-in values seem inconsistently managed. There have also been reports of misleading statements over range and what you can reasonably expect to get from the cars, often through ignorance of the Tesla staff rather than anything else, but all the same, its a problem if you reply on what they say.
It was thought these cars held their value well, but unsurprisingly they don't really in most circumstances. Trade in values are typically 10k below the equivalent used car price which is fairly typical for car manufacturers, but Tesla are unwilling to buy to buy Teslas without the owner trading up to a new car. The cheapest cars are holding value well against their purchase price, and are often touted in the charts as one of the slowest depreciating cars. This is in part due to the large number of price increases over the last year, and secondly the relatively few 2 and 3 year old cars out there. However, the cost to change an old Tesla for a newer Tesla of a similar spec is not cheap although many seem willing to do so. Spec changes are frequent and the older designs are less well-loved which effects the more expensive cars. A P90D lost out when the P90DL was launched, and that car is now suffering against the P100D. A similar thing happened with Autopilot, AP1 cars automatically dropped by about 10k against otherwise similar cars with AP2 even though AP2 even before AP2 was even working. We are also seeing signs recently of the 75D cars now ambiguous statements of performance upgrades and different motors have been mentioned, and the mystical AP Hardware 2.5 causing inventory cars with the old hardware less desirable.
We are also seeing Tesla selling a lot of inventory stock, these range from delivery mile cars to ex-demonstrators, with considerable savings, the best of which are on cars which are no longer current models, something a battery pack change can cause. Tesla are also bundling more options into the price and dropping some prices. Over the summer of 2017 we've seen 15-20% drop in average prices for each model, with some new but discontinued models like the 90D with 20-30k off the list price. We recommend our price checker to have a good look at the market.
Company car owners are also feeling the squeeze. The BIK amount is rapidly increasing as both the BIK % and the cars price is increasing. Also fuel payments can be difficult as the HMRC AMR is technically 0p per mile as electricity is not a fuel, so you can't claim for business mileage on a company car like you can for a petrol or diesel, although you should be able to charge for actual electricity used if your employer allows you to. Road tax is also now applicable on new orders.
But fuel costs are otherwise cheap, and circa 5p a mile fuel costs are easily achievable.
Tesla also don't discount on new prices although they do offer, from time to time, a discount code for existing owners to give out. The deal is usually a £750 discount and for my referral code, CLICK HERE. They are starting to offer quite substantial discounts on pre-registered cars, all of which can be found on our car price tool, although be slightly wary of the "discounts to new" figures. These are often cited against the price structure at the time the car was built and spec changes and price tweaks have caused most of the change, ie a custom order may not be much different in practice.
Much is heralded over the fact that Tesla can download software to the car and update or add features. It's certainly clever but it often comes with downsides. Features change over time, sometimes for the better but also sometimes for the worse. It is rare that a software release doesn't introduce a bug in the car somewhere.
Examples over the last year include charge flaps failing to operate reliably, heating stopping to work correctly, calibration of sensors constantly failing, autopilot becoming very temperamental, and a host of others issues with varying degrees of annoyance.
Autopilot is the technology that can drive the car with significantly reduced driver input, and eventually, "self-driving". This currently includes features such as traffic aware cruise control, or active cruise control as other manufacturers may term it, where the car locks onto the car in front to set its speed. It also includes lane keeping where the car steers itself between the lines, and an increasing number of features such as lane changing just by indicating.
The picture shows all the sensors the current Autopilot 2 cars have, although not all are currently being used.
Autopilot version 1 (AP) was delivered in late 2015 and has steadily improved over time. Each iteration tends to make it better, but also introduces new gremlins that take time to be removed. As an example, it's added increased safety nags to ensure you're holding the wheel, the ability to change lanes and it prevents you from undertaking unless you over ride it - which are all good. It's also introduced for a time a tendency to put the brakes on as it approached a low bridge which can be heart stopping when you are driving at 70 mph along the motorway with a car behind you.
Auto pilot 2 hardware is said to enable features up to full self-driving. To use the features, you have to buy Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) and optionally the Full self-driving (FSD) feature.
Full self-driving features are currently zero. If you buy this option you are buying into the future, although it’s unclear exactly what you'll get, or when.
EAP has also been struggling to catch up with the original AP system, both in terms of feature set and performance of the features. It's now very close although automatic windscreen wipers have only just been added and don't work well in the dark.
There has been some speculation about whether the AP2 hardware was really up the the fabled Full Self Driving capability as promised, and this speculation has increased as Tesla have now upgraded the hardware in the background. Time will tell what they do about owners of HW2 cars is the FSD capabilities aren't possible.
If you took delivery of an early AP2 hardware car in late 2016, you may have waited 6 months to get anywhere near parity to the cars with AP1. Given many people trade their car every 2-3 years, that’s potentially 1/5 of the owners time with the car. Some owners are also disappointed that they test drove an AP1 car, ordered, and received an AP2 car that was missing the features they had experienced without being told.
So why? Essentially Tesla have started again. They have broken up with the leaders in this technology (Mobileye) and are working with a new company to create a competitive system. This has set them back and the timing has not been good leaving drivers with less in the short term. Elon has promised that EAP should be well ahead of AP1 but sadly it is still at best parity. It's arguable of you moved from an EAP car to an AP1 car you'd think you were driving the more advanced system with different vehicle types being recognised, being able to see the car 2 in front and being able to see cars in other lanes.
The reason for Tesla parting with Mobileye is speculation, but the fatal accident, Tesla pushing the envelope harder and Mobileye under pressure from other vehicle manufacturers may all have contributed.
Almost certainly. The system uses more cameras, although only 2 of the 8 are in use with version 8.1, has more processing power and is more under the control of Tesla, although given their track record of not delivering bug free software, that may be an issue. Lots of things are promised like automatic lane changing, stopping at red lights etc. which AP doesn't do but it’s unclear how long you'll wait. The software is also attempting to do machine learning, a complex process of gathering data to make the systems improve themselves.
Well... it seems that the safety police are winning the overall battle with Tesla at the moment. AP1 cars are being speed restricted to around the speed limit except on motorways where its a little higher and AP2 cars have only just caught up. The nags to ensure you are holding the steering wheel has also increased to try and ensure drivers are paying attention. In time it will be good, but like many things with Tesla, owners are not really aware of what they are getting and some are disappointed that they've spent nearly £5000 on software that isn't fully implemented yet.
I can't really believe Tesla are selling this to people. They say the hardware is included in the cars by default, however there is a very long road to go before the software features start to come to fruition. Some manufacturers are wary about a middle ground between more auto pilot features and full autonomy - there is a legal and behavioural point when the transition occurs and nobody wants to be left in the position where a driver thought the car was in charge until it truly can be. Our opinion is that some of the features that could be in EAP/AP2 will be called Full self-driving to justify its existence. Features such as stopping at traffic lights or automatically changing the speed limit to that of the road. These are components that will be required for full self-driving, but the full experience of your car picking you up and driving you back from the pun is many years away.