UPDATE Oct 6 2014: It has been a year since I first posted this, so I'm making a few edits. Mostly relating to how long I've had the cars and how many miles are on them; very little else has changed! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- TL;DNR version: When I first met a Roadster owner in 2009, I asked him one question: were there any surprises, or does it do everything they claim? He said it did everything claimed and he was very happy. I placed my order a couple of weeks later. He and I both still have our Roadsters; his and my wife got two of the first Model S in WA. And even though we don't need one, we have a Model X reserved. That's really all you need to know. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OCD version: There are a lot of people reading these forums that are deciding whether or not to buy a Tesla, and I'd like to help them out - I didn't want to buy my first one until I talked to an owner (thanks Eric!), but in some places owners are hard to come by. I'm trying to anticipate questions you might have. If I missed any...ask away. We have 2 Teslas (a Roadster and a Model S), and the Roadster was delivered on Oct 1 2009, so the "5 years, 2 cars" part is correct. Some may say I'm cheating a little with the "80k miles" number as our Roadster has 44k miles and the Model S has 37k miles so we are over 80k total. I am not setting any records here; many Teslas have over 100k miles. I wasn't the first to get either car, and I'm not the only one with two - in fact, some have three (and one guy has seven!). But I still thought it's been long enough and far enough to offer some perspective, and I hope other long-term owners will chime in. RELIABILITY This is often the biggest concern of potential buyers, so I'll discuss it first. Our Teslas have always gotten us where we wanted to go, and when. Neither car has ever stopped running or failed to start. We are very pleased with them as reliable transportation. And no, we have never run out of electricity in an electric car. (I am not sure why people worry about that; it doesn't suddenly drain out on its own. The car has very good instrumentation telling you how much energy is left. More on this in the "Range" section). But they are new cars from a young company, so they aren't perfect; we have had some issues. Until the Roadster hit 5 years old, they were all so minor I would have simply ignored them in other cars - but Tesla is very good about fixing them (more on this in "Service", below). I did finally have a battery issue with my Roadster and had to buy a new sheet (they actually gave me a whole new battery with a significantly higher CAC, a 1-year warranty on it, and essentially did the 1-year service I was due for free). The hand-built Roadster, no question, has more issues than the Model S - but I don't think it has more issues than competing gas cars. Oct 2013: Consumer Reports finally got enough info to rate the Model S. For 2012 (my model), it got "best" for everything except only "good" for "body hardware". 2013 saw a quality drop in some areas; "squeaks" and "body hardware" scored "worst", and climate system was just "average". But it still scored "best" in 11 areas and "good" in 3. Their "new car prediction" is that a new Model S will be 17% more reliable than average. Oct 2014: Consumer Reports did an update, see THIS thread. They call the Model S reliability "Average". Some people reading the forums are amazed at how many cars have problems. Of course, that is true for any car forum - people with problems are far more likely to post (I recently saw a person cancel his BMW i3 order because of "all the problems" he read about on the forums). Tesla has sold over 50k cars so far; if 1% have problems, we could expect to hear up to 500 horror stories. Not everybody is on the forums, but there aren't near that many horror stories here, so I see no reason to doubt Consumer Reports' numbers, which unlike forums include the number of cars WITHOUT problems. It's not just hard to determine failure rates without that, it's impossible. SALES AND DELIVERY You don't really need to use Tesla Sales at all; you can just order the car online. Both of my cars were delivered to my house, though it sounds like now people within 50 miles of a Tesla location pick the car up instead. The product specialists in the stores (who are paid a salary, not commissions) are practically always a delight to speak with. Tesla seems to be doing a great job of hiring people that are really excited about what they are doing. There are two issues though: one is that most of them don't drive Teslas (though they are encouraging employees to buy used Roadsters), and so for many questions about what the car is like, talking to an owner may be more helpful. Another is that Tesla corporate doesn't give the store staff much more information than they give the public. So if you have any questions about future plans, reasons for delays or issues, they often don't know any more than we do. There have been a number of cases where store staff has given out incorrect info (though to be fair, there is incorrect info on the owner forums as well!). My Roadster was delivered before there was a store nearby; it was just delivered by a carrier and I was on my own. No big deal, they are easy to drive and it's plenty easy to get help on the forums. Still, the Model S delivery was great. The delivery specialist, even though he was very new, was great to work with and spent as much time answering my wife's questions as she wanted. He pointed out a piece of plastic hidden under the trunk rim that he said wasn't quite straight (I sure hadn't noticed it!) and said he would notify service that they should fix it. They fixed it without me asking two weeks later when I brought the car in for winter tires. SERVICE Tesla service is great. They are consistently friendly and are very good about getting even very minor things fixed. They have gone through growing pains at times; at those times they prioritize and focus on serious issues - so if your car stops working, they still can and will take care of you immediately (even in the middle of the night on a holiday) and will provide a loaner if things are going to take a while. But if you have a minor issue while they are trying to grow, you may get put off for quite a while. Parts can take a long time. I have never liked taking cars in for service, and in fact in the past I've ignored many minor issues to avoid it. But I enjoy going in for Tesla service - they make it too easy, and they really sound like they want to make your car perfect. (I attribute a lot of this to Tesla Service being a real customer service, rather than a separate profit center). I've only had very minor issues, but have been quickly accommodated with the Model S. Southern California may still have capacity issues, but things seem just fine in my area. I got a loaner Model S (nicer than my own) both times I went in - once was for its one-year service. I did have a serious issue that soured me once, but in a way even it was an exception that proved the rule. For some reason my Roadster didn't charge at Chargepoint stations - it was only my car; other Roadsters were fine and I verified it was not the adapter. Unfortunately, Chargepoints were sometimes the only chargers available where I traveled, so I really needed it to work. The tiny Seattle team was supporting cars in several states at the time and quite busy. I kept asking about bringing the car in, and kept getting put off. I found out later that the issue was the the local service team couldn't diagnose it by themselves, so they needed to coordinate with an engineering team and a Chargepoint team - my customer service rep in California should have been setting that up. She didn't until a few weeks later when I canceled my Model S reservation (if we couldn't get service, my wife would not drive a Tesla). Everything happened very quickly after that. I also got a very nice unsolicited call from a higher-up with an apology - a real one, with no trying to avoid blame, and no mention of the Model S - and an open offer to contact him if I ever had another issue. After some thought, I decided that even though Tesla not looking at my car was a really serious problem, it was a unusual one (incompatibility with third-party equipment released after the car, and requiring inter-company coordination) that came during a bad growth period - unlikely to happen again, and even if it does, I now know an easy way to escalate. Every company makes mistakes; the difference is in how they address it. I like the way Tesla addresses them, so I reinstated my order. I am glad I did. PROMISES Tesla has a pretty good (not perfect!) track record of delivering on their promises...though rarely on time, and not always on budget. Despite much scoffing by industry and media, the Roadster and Model S have the range, features and performance promised - but they were both delivered later than promised and prices rose. Various accessories and features usually seem to get there, just don't rely on the promised date. There are exceptions, like the promised pano shade and lighted sun visors that we aren't going to get. Whenever I talk to somebody at Tesla, I get the distinct feeling they are really trying to deliver on their promises. It is just hard, because they are promising so much more than other automakers. They are doing things that no other automaker has ever tried. And as a startup, they have to focus. Perhaps lighted sun visors are really not the best place for them to spend their time (though of course they should not have promised them if they weren't going to deliver. To me, this is a communication issue - see next section). An example is their CHAdeMO adapter. It is coming; it's in their online store now...but still no date, and the cars have been shipping for well over two years. Incidentally, the price - while higher than anybody wants - is pretty reasonable for all that goes in to it. Same thing with a lot of firmware features - they have been coming, but more slowly than promised. COMMUNICATION This is Tesla's Achilles' heel. There are a lot of things they don't like to tell us, like how they calculate range, or exactly what is included with their extended warranty and service packages. When you do get an answer from an employee...it is often different from an answer that another employee gives. I think in a lot of cases, they don't tell us (I'm including the employees here!) just so they have flexibility to change things later. Which is understandable, but it is still pretty frustrating for owners at times. When they do announce something, it's not always clear. An example is 120kW charging. The car was initially spec'd with 90kW charging; but in Sept 2012 after only shipping 100 cars, they announced that 120kW charging was in beta. In May 2013 they announced they were rolling it out to all customers via upgraded Superchargers. The problem was that EVERYBODY thought they were getting 120kW, but more than 2000 early cars - most delivered after the first announcement, some delivered just barely before the second - were stuck at 90kW. Tesla has never clarified this; owners have figured it out on their own with a lot of research. In retrospect, you see how their messages say what they were doing. But at the time (and all the way until nearly the end of 2012), everybody - including many employees, and early customers that were specifically watching for this - really thought it was a Supercharger upgrade and so every car would be able to use it. That said, there are topics on which they accept and give feedback much better than most automakers. There have been instances of owners emailing a vice president, and getting a response the same day indicating that Tesla will make a change to please owners. While Tesla is frustrating at times, there are also times when they do more than you will get from any other automaker. UTILITY Roadster: um, no. It has very little storage; though for daily around-town driving, it is rare that I need more. Tesla now offers a very reasonably priced receiver hitch, so you can carry a bike rack or a cargo box. Model S: tons. There is so much room - in the passenger area, in the trunk, in the frunk, and it's easy to add a receiver hitch (and supposedly a roof rack is coming...but who knows when). It may not fit a big cube (like a washing machine) inside, but you will be surprised by how well it takes flat-screens, groceries, bicycles, etc. Also remember that there is no exhaust, so if you have a cube that won't fit inside, you can drive with the hatch up. You can sleep in the back. You can throw a high-end bike in the back...and still have room for a week's worth of gear underneath and in the frunk. This thing is great. PERFORMANCE A lot has been said about this; I don't have much to add. Obviously the performance is awesome, but coming from an economy car background (I drove diesels and hybrids very carefully to get good mpg before I went electric) I can't do informative comparisons to other performance cars. But I can confirm that it does not get old. Back in 2009 I was excited about moving to a Roadster (I had always wanted a sports car, but never been able to justify the gas use), but wondered how soon the fun would wear off. I am still waiting to find out, as I still go on drives in the Roadster just for fun - something I hadn't done in gas cars since I was a teenager. Pre-children, I rode sport motorcycles; I missed them as my kids were growing up, but now that I have the Roadster, I don't miss them anymore. I will also point out that as much as I love the quick, silent, smooth acceleration, I find the immediate throttle response (a property common to all electric-drive vehicles) to be a much bigger deal. Every now and then I have to rent a gas car, and I am OK with going slow - but I really can't stand that the accelerator feels broken and mushy. You stomp on the accelerator, and it SLOWS DOWN to shift, then slowly builds speed, then jerks you again - you get a lot more noise than physical response (at least in the direction you want to go). I call it the "noise pedal" on gas cars. Even if somebody invented a carbon-free domestic gas substitute and gave it away free, I would still drive electric. It is just too much fun. This is something hard to appreciate fully in a test drive or two because it is so different, but it is something you will soon come to love. PERFORMANCE CUES Many fans of fast gas cars are concerned about "lack of involvement" in an electric vehicle. It is so quiet, with no shifting. Where is the fun? They fear that they will miss the noise and superior control over the car. (I worried about it before buying). No need to worry. Noise, it turns out, is not really a fun thing by itself - we have simply learned to associate it with power. It may seem strange for your first few drives, but after about three weeks of driving electric your brain will learn new associations. I find noisy cars to be just plain annoying now. (This process could take much longer if you keep a gas car around and go back and forth). As for shifting, the reason we like it and feel "in the flow" when doing it is that it gives us precise control over the car - we can control the power by keeping the car in the engine's power band. However, electric motors are always in the power band - you don't need to shift to get it there. You still have the same control over the power; now it's just under your right foot. In fact, it gets delivered more quickly. Again, you have to unlearn something so it takes a little time; but you will get there and you will come to appreciate that less work for the same result really is better. RIDE AND COMFORT It's hard to imagine the impact of not having an engine or transmission until you try it. Obviously it is smooth and quiet - no noise or jerking as you accelerate. It's easier to converse or enjoy the radio while driving. But what you don't notice (until after you drive one for a few weeks, and then switch back to gas cars) is the constant noise, smell, and vibrations in a gas car. You can feel it in the steering wheel, and under your feet. It's fatiguing - a long day of driving a gasser is tiring, but I love taking long drives in the Model S (the Roadster can still get fatiguing because the suspension is rough - but it takes longer than in a gas sports car). It's not the world's softest luxury car; exact ride quality varies by suspension, tires and wheels - but given the level of performance, they are all extremely good. RANGE I think the most important thing to note is that, for day-to-day use, the Model S has enough range that you don't have to worry about it at all. Seriously, my wife and I don't look at the battery gauge - we know we have more range than we need for the day. We worried more when we had gas cars, because we were never sure how full we were starting the day. For most people, range only matters if you want to try an electric road trip rather than taking a gas car. The rated ranges of the Roadster and Model S are absolutely achievable - they are very easy to reproduce if you are driving in the same conditions (about 65mph on flat ground at 70 degrees for the Model S). Slow down and you can go much farther than the rated range; some have gone over 400 miles. The problem is that many trips are not under those conditions - just as with gas cars, your mileage may vary. I have written in great detail about factors that affect range HERE, but the short version is that worst-typical-case conditions (i.e. a long route from sea level that ends on top of a 10k' mountain, continuous 80mph, 15-degree snow with heater at full blast, heavy rain on the freeway at 33 degrees with the heater and AC on to keep the windscreen clear) can take off up to 1/3 of your range. So my advice - at least until you get used to the car and feel confident how far the car will take you on a particular trip - is to leave a 1/3 buffer. Just plan charging stops no more than 177 miles apart. You won't have to slow down, turn down the heater, or worry about getting there. If conditions aren't worst-case, you may be able to skip a charging stop because you have plenty of range. That is way more fun than having too little. This is really easy if you go along a Supercharger route, as they try to put the Superchargers no more than 150 miles apart. CHARGING HERE is a list of ways you can charge a Model S. I paid $275 to install a 240V, 50A "NEMA 14-50" outlet in my garage (twice, one for each car - though right now my Roadster is on the other side of the garage charging on 110V), and Tesla ships with an adapter for that. Almost all of our charging is done right there, very simple. We plug the car in when we park it; the timer is set to charge in the middle of the night. It is always full by morning. If you still have a gas car that you can take on long trips, that can be the end of the story - you are way ahead of gas cars on convenience, but you can still go anywhere you want. When we go camping, I can take the cord and plug in to a 14-50 there. I have a few other adapters for outlets, but have never had a reason to use them anywhere. I use the J1772 adapter every now and then, but only while parked for a while on a road trip. You don't need to charge just driving around town. The bigger deal for road trips is the Superchargers. I have taken a lot of trips on L2 charging; it's fine for an overnight charge or during the day if you are at a conference or something, but it's not something many people would put up with when they want to continue on their journey. But Superchargers are a completely different deal. Superchargers aren't everywhere yet, but Tesla is being pretty aggressive about putting them in. It is still slower than taking a gas car; but if you're really in a hurry, take a plane or drive a gas car (the only complicating factor is that you won't want to take the gas car). The Supercharges are free (well, "included"), and it's a really nice way to travel. Obviously it depends on your kWh rate and how much you drive (and how much energy you use when you drive), but we are pretty close to the national average for both miles and electricity cost, and we pay about $30/month to drive a Tesla. CONVENIENCE Many people get hung up on the convenience of an electric car. They are afraid they may have to wait for a charge, or the charge may unexpectedly run out while they are driving, or that they won't be able to get somewhere they want to go. My wife and I have both driven electric cars for years (even before the Teslas), and this stuff just doesn't happen. Of course it could if you bought the wrong car - say if you bought a Leaf as your only car, and you have a 120-mile round trip to work with no place to charge. That would suck. But that's like buying a Miata when you have to drive your daughter's basketball team to practice four days a week - the car is fine, but you bought the wrong one for your needs. Driving electric is not any harder than driving a gas car with two seats or a small trunk; it's just a new restriction so you have to think about it a bit first. But once you are in the groove, electric cars are far more convenient - just try talking my wife in to driving a gas car again. If you are a two-car family and have a garage (about 60% of the US population fits this criteria; the percentage is even higher if you look at households buying new cars), there is no reason you can't make one of your cars electric - especially one with as much range as the Model S. If you have a trip beyond the safe range of the electric car, just take the gas car. Some people look at me funny like that's a big deal, even though they are happy to swap their small sedan for their spouse's CUV when they go shop at Costco. When my wife drove a RAV4-EV (she never charged it anywhere but in our garage overnight; there were no charging stations in our state when we bought it), she only had to trade cars with me about 3 times a year to get more range. Meanwhile, I traded with her more often than that because of cargo anxiety - I needed more space than my Roadster had. And she traded with me more often than that because she simply wanted to drive the Roadster some days. We traded because it is really simple to trade and most families with two cars do this anyway when one car is more suited to a particular task. It's rare unless both of you do traveling sales. If you only have one car, a car like the Volt (that has all the great electric drive characteristics, but still has a gas engine to charge the battery when empty) may suit you better. Or perhaps the new BMW i3 with a range extender. But if you don't drive far, or live near Superchargers or CHAdeMO stations, or you tend to fly for long trips, or you have friends or family you can swap cars with, or if you are near a car-sharing service or car rental location...it is still possible to make the Model S work. Yes, it will be less convenient on those days you take trips. But if those days are few, most will see that tradeoff as fair for having a nicer and more convenient car on the hundreds of days a year you are NOT on a trip. COST They are not cheap. But that's not because you're paying an "EV penalty"; it's because they are really nice cars. Comparable gas cars are not cheap either. Comparable gas cars (say, Porsche 911 Cabrio for the Roadster and Audi A8 for the Model S) cost about the same up front after incentives, maybe roughly the same for maintenance (though that's tricky to compare exactly; they might be a little less), but far more for fuel. The fuel really is significant - if you haven't yet, sit down and calculate how much you spend on gas. Teslas don't save enough in fuel that they "pay for themselves", but they offer such a fantastic driving experience that there is no reason to expect that they should - being cheaper to own than inferior gas cars is more than enough. If you really want to save money, look at bikes, the bus, cheaper EVs like the LEAF (which really can pay for itself for people that drive a lot) and used economy cars. If you want the best driving experience, this is the way to go - it will cost you, but a reasonable amount all things considered. It's not worth doing if you might not be able to buy food, health care or pay your mortgage - it is just a car, after all. But if you are sure you can cover the car AND those other things, you will love it. Electricity prices are discussed above. Tires are the biggest expense; go with 19" wheels, drive modestly and maybe pick third-party tires - and it's not too bad. Repairs can be expensive after the warranty runs out; but again, that's true of the competition as well. BATTERY LIFE Tesla claimed the Roadster should have about 70% of its range after 7 years and 100k miles; Plug In America's Roadster battery survey indicates that Roadsters should have about 80% of their range left after 100,000 miles. It is generally thought that Model S batteries will perform even better; Tesla claims they are designed for an 18-year life with 60% of the range left at the end (still enough to get to the next Supercharger). Essentially, the Model S batteries should last the life of the car and not need to be replaced. However, the Model S batteries are easy to replace, and if you are concerned, Tesla says they will (though they don't yet) pre-sell a battery replacement plan - $10k for a new 60kWh battery in 10 years, or $12k for 85kWh. Note that by that time, gas should be priced about double what it is now based on the last decade's performance, so that is far less than you will have saved by not buying gas. Many people are concerned that they can't exactly predict battery costs 10 years from now; but they can't predict gas costs out that far either. Given how things have been going with petroleum and batteries, I'd much rather sign myself up to buy batteries in the future. SAFETY I put car safety in three categories: technology to warn/avoid, dynamics to avoid, and crash structure to protect. Tesla is still adding some of the first group's technologies like lane departure warning systems; it is unclear if existing owners will be able to upgrade at a reasonable cost. But they sure have the other two categories in spades. On the roof crush test, the car broke the machine. On the rollover test, they had to change the procedure because it did not flip the car. There is no engine to push in to the front seat passengers, and no gasoline to leak or explode. It got the highest-ever score on the NHTSA tests. Real-world accidents appear to be protecting the occupants extremely well. Fires have happened less often than expected and should not spread between battery segments. Steering response is excellent; braking starts as soon as you lift your foot from the accelerator, massive acceleration starts as soon as you press down on the pedal. It is hard to say with certainty that it is the "safest" car on the road; but it is at least on the podium. MISCELLANEOUS Made in the USA, uses very cheap domestic fuel, allows me to produce my own clean fuel, no gas station visits, oil changes or emissions inspections, an extremely simple motor and gear that should last hundreds of thousands of miles, easy-to-swap batteries, a very pleasant 17" touchscreen, has a frunk and motorized door handles to surprise passers-by...man, this car has a LOT of good points that are really hard or impossible to find in other cars. REACTIONS If you read online articles about EVs, you may note some very persistent naysayers. You may fear you will run in to them in real life. I have probably talked to twenty thousand people about EVs. Over 99% of reactions are positive. Even the few negative folks generally change their attitude once you point out how well the car works for you in real life, and how much money you are saving on gas. At least they don't persist and harangue like they do online. You can also offer to give them a ride - I have never encountered anybody that was remotely negative after that. Most people are just curious. They are intrigued by the technology, but they fear the "running out of charge" boogeyman that used to be (things are slowly changing) in EVERY mainstream media article on EVs. They are still in the gas mindset, and think they will have to stand around waiting for it to charge when the battery unexpectedly (?) gets low - they don't realize that most EV drivers never wait for a charge. Seeing that there are people that have been driving the cars for years with no problems helps put them at ease. DOWNSIDES Roadster: Some find it difficult to get in and out of - you sit very low. There is no power steering. There is very little storage space, in the cabin or in the trunk. It's very expensive. At this price point, it kind of sucks to have a cloth top that you have to pull out of the trunk and stretch over the cabin yourself. It has a rough ride and is noisy. Visibility out the back isn't the best. Model S: It's an awfully big car, so it can be hard to park and isn't the most efficient (among EVs; it does trounce any gas car). It's awfully expensive. The steering feel is a bit isolated. Visibility out the back isn't the best. It doesn't have as many luxury/tech features as some luxury competitors (though Tesla seems to be working hard to add them, retroactively via software where possible). Both cars do have downsides. But note that none of them have to do with the powertrain; they are fairly standard size vs utility and and speed vs efficiency tradeoffs that all cars have. Also note that they are all things you can easily see BEFORE you buy the car. As Eric told me back in 2009, there are no unpleasant surprises after buying - the car really works like they say. WOULD YOU BUY THE SAME CAR AGAIN? Below are my personal answers for my two cars; but Consumer Reports surveys their customers annually and finally have data on the Model S. It got the highest satisfaction score ever - 99% of owners said that they would buy the car again. Tesla is not perfect - they have communications issues, high prices, and quality niggles. But 99% is a really remarkable score; it tells potential buyers that even despite a few foibles, they are extremely likely to be pleased with their purchase. (The highest-scoring car for the two years before the Model S included was the Chevy Volt. The Nissan LEAF scores really high too; this despite the Nissan Versa that it is loosely based on being the lowest-scoring car in the survey. Driving electric really is a better experience; it's odd that so many assume it will be worse). Roadster: In the same situation, definitely. It was a great decision at the time - there was no other EV available, much less a long-range EV; I really wanted Tesla to live long enough to make the Model S; and I still love the car. But given that we now have a Model S (so we have a better long-range car and can live with shorter range in our second car), if I were shopping for another car now I would consider the Roadster but I would also consider other EVs to save money. I am a pretty frugal guy and the Roadster was an unconventional purchase for me. For people used to buying high-end sports cars, going with a Roadster should be a really easy decision. If you're buying a sports car to have fun, this is the one you want. Model S: Oh yeah. Even though I don't think it's as fun to drive as the Roadster (an extremely high bar!), the extra room, features, refinement and especially the Supercharging put it in to a new class. It's not perfect, but no car is - there is nothing remotely comparable, gas or electric. If our Model S was stolen or wrecked and I got an insurance check to buy another car, I wouldn't even look at anything else (well, at least not until similar but smaller cars like the Model 3 are available). If you can, buy one.