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 cannot 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 240 miles, that means any return journey more than 120 miles from home, and realistically anything over 100 miles will need a top up.


Owning a Tesla is a different experience. By far the most noticeable thing about the car is how different it is to cars you will have driven before. Some of the technology is similar to that of other cars, like doors unlocking automatically, but it's been taken to another level. You walk up, the door handles present themselves, you get in, you put it in drive, you move away. No ignition, no "on" switch, no handbrake, no noise. And then the driving is just so smooth and responsive. Floor it, and the horizon approaches very quickly.

So it's perfect!? Well, no. See Issues for more detailed comments. The sat nav, while looking impressive, is known to make a lot of mistakes and there are few options. You can't pick shortest or quickest route for instance. Then there's the reliability of the tech. It crashes like a Microsoft computer in the 1980s with the need to perform a regular reboot. It's also a heavy car, although the weight is low down, so while cornering good for a big car, it's a long way off other cars that can do 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. The interior is also low on quality compared to premium cars of this price bracket. Some like the minimalist design but there is little depth to the design. Sit in a Porsche Panamera and it will feel very different, although some would feel its cluttered.

Service centres are also 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, something that has improved but can still catch the garage out.

What else do I need to know? Autopilot?

I'll leave this on a relative high. It works reasonably well for most of the time and only doesn't when the driver is an idiot. Poor road markings are the worst cause of failure but you do need to pay attention. It's not fully autonomous, even when its working on a motorway, you must pay attention and accidents WILL happen if you decide to play Pokeman Go or watch a film instead of driving.

Tesla provide over the air software updates on a regular basis. While that sounds great, it's a mixture of good and bad. A bit like changing your mobile phone software or an application you use at work. A lot of the updates are making tweaks and the more significant the update the more likely it will also break something that was working before. Late 2016/early 2017 saw major issues with releasing the charger cable which often meant owners were having to revert to using the emergency release cables inside the boot. Other issues have included the heating not working for a while and even trivial issues like failing to store radio stations or resetting the hifi EQ. Not necessarily end of the world, but annoying none then less.

You'll also find a lot of talk about upcoming releases, but these are invariably late, and by that I mean 3, 4 or 5 months late, and when they arrive tend to not contain all the features expected. Owners have been waiting for a new browser for 6 months, AP2 features as simple as automatic windscreen wipers are now 4 months overdue. It's a shame as the car would be great but if you're the type that is only happy when expectations are exceeded, you may be disappointed on this aspect.

Maximising range

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 optomistic 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 limoit 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 pf at least 35 miles for every week you are away.

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.

But in general driving the way to improve range is simply to drive smoothly, keep the speed down, and relax. We had a 90D and covered 30k miles in less than a year without any real anxiety so it's very workable, but you have to plan ahead, it's best to always have a second option for charging in case the first option has a problem, typically that just means sufficient range to get to another charger if the first choice is broken.


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.

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.

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 may well need to become more restrictive, something they have done with airport parking which used to be free at certain airports.


This is one of the topics that causes a lot of debate whenever it appears on the owners' forums. The Tesla recommendation is servicing every 12 months or 12,500 miles, whichever comes sooner. Tesla go on to say that not servicing the car has NO effect on warranty, but WILL affect their buy back promise with some finance packages.

Many owners think there is nothing to go wrong with the car so no servicing is really required, and happily run the car way beyond the recommended service interval only taking it in for warranty work.

But here's the rub, servicing is pretty expensive, so they must be doing something and Tesla detail the serving schedule on line so you can see for yourself. But much of the servicing is basic inspection of tyres, wipers etc. so I understand why some owners think no servicing is needed. Why Tesla both call the cars in for service about twice as often as most manufacturers who normally adopt a 2 year, 18k miles/condition based interval, and then charge a lot when it's in compared to service packs available on other cars, is a mystery.

One thought for the 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

There's no easy advice to be given, if the servicing is required for finance/resale reasons, it must be done, otherwise, maybe you can get away with it being serviced less often that requested, but we believe it's still important to get periodic checks.

Its also worth checking out the Essential accessories for those bits and bobs you might need when charging.