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Tesla buying guide

Your guide to buying a Tesla electric car in 2024.

Our Tesla buying guide will help you pick from the world's best-known electric car maker's range.

A guide to buying a Tesla

Quick Tesla model comparison

Name Product Number of seats ANCAP rating Price (from) Finder Score Review
Tesla Model 3
5 seats
5 stars
$83,400
83.5%
Tesla Model S
5 seats
5 stars
$111,400
88.5%
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Choosing your Tesla model

Electric cars are largely comparable to conventional fossil fuel cars, so normal vehicle purchasing considerations apply:

  • Price. Is this Tesla model affordable for you? Does it fit in with your monthly budget?
  • Size. How big is it internally (for practicality and comfort) and externally (for ease of driving and parking)?
  • Features. What in-car features can you live without and what specs are must-haves?
  • Styling. Do you like the look of the vehicle? Can you get it in your preferred colour?
  • Safety. How safe is the vehicle? What safety assists does it have to help drivers?
  • Reviews. What's the Tesla like on public roads? How did car reviewers sum up their experience driving one? Does it have any common flaws?

Finder survey: Would Australians of different ages consider a green car loan to buy an EV?

ResponseFemaleMale
No64.48%54.89%
Yes35.52%45.11%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1113 Australians, December 2023

Range

Unlike Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles, with battery electric cars you can't just quickly pull into a petrol station, brim the tank and leave within a few minutes. Electric cars take a little time to recharge. Range, the distance you can travel on a single charge of the battery, becomes extremely important. It's equivalent to the size of a fuel tank on ICE cars, the bigger the tank, the further you can travel.

You might be surprised by just how far Tesla electric vehicles can travel right now. The Tesla Model S Long Range can, according to the company, drive 663 kilometres on one charge (using the NEDC testing standard).

The Tesla model range

Model S Sedan

First introduced in Australia in September 2014, the Model S has many passenger comforts without compromising on speed. The Long Range Model S can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, making it one of the fastest accelerating vehicles in production. The performance Plaid version will zip to 100km/h in a dizzying 2.1 seconds. Automatic features of the Model S Sedan include lane changing and Autopark. A sleek aerodynamic design coupled with futuristic tech makes for an impressive vehicle.

Model X SUV

The Tesla Model X is one of the safest and fastest SUVs ever made. Some Model X variants accelerate from 0 to 100 in 3.9 seconds, while having seating for up to 7 people. It also delivers an uncompromising blend of safety, utility and performance. With the addition of Tesla's cutting-edge Autopilot features, the Model X will leave other SUV drivers envious.

Drive-away pricing for the Model X starts from $182,784.

Model 3 Sedan

The Tesla Model 3 is currently the cheapest available Tesla. The Model 3 is a sedan and is smaller than the Model S. It has a reported range of 508Km (NEDC) and a top speed of 225km/h. Acceleration (0-100km/h) ranges from 5.6 seconds (Standard Range Plus) to 3.3 seconds on the Model 3 Performance (with the first foot rollout subtracted).

Like other Teslas, the Model 3 can update software over-the-air using Wi-Fi.

As of June 2021, the Tesla Model 3 has a starting drive-away price of $67,798 for NSW postcode 2000, rising to $100,511 for the Performance Model 3.

Model Y crossover

Tesla's Model Y is an upcoming compact crossover, with the ability to seat 7 (when an optional third-row seat pack is fitted). The Model Y is reportedly expected to launch between Q4 of 2021 and Q1 of 2022. The Model Y is based on the Model 3's underlying architecture.

It seems there will be 2 Model Y variants on sale:

  • Performance. Blasts from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds (excluding rollout), with a range of 480km WLTP. Top speed is listed as 241 km/h. This Model Y has 21-inch rims and weighs 2,003kg.
  • Model Y Long Range AWD. Weighs the same as the Performance model but has an extended range of up to 505km (WLTP). Acceleration is 5.1 seconds for this model. The top speed is listed as 217 km/h.

We'll confirm the pricing for the Model Y when it's announced.

Cybertruck ute

The revolutionary and disruptive Cybertruck is Tesla's ute. There's been some speculation on whether it will even be made available in Australia. Musk has flip-flopped on whether Australia will get the big ute, with the last comment from him coming via a Twitter response. Musk tweeted, in reply to an Aussie Tesla owner petitioning for the Cybertruck, saying "If it passes Australian regulations, then sure."

The Cybertruck isn't confirmed for Australia then, but it is listed on the Tesla Australian website (though specs are for US models).

Specs are insane for the Cybertruck. It has up to 16-inch ground clearance, air suspension, and a bonkers towing capacity with a payload of up to 1,587kg.

We'll confirm Tesla Cybertruck pricing if and when it is confirmed for Australia.

Customising your new Tesla

You can customise your Tesla with the following options:

Choose your variant:
Model SModel XModel 3Model YCybertruck
Model S Long Range, dual-motor AWD 664km (NEDC) rangeModel X Long Range, dual-motor AWD 580km (NEDC) rangeModel 3 Standard Range Plus, RWD 508km range (NEDC)TBATBA
Model S Plaid tri-motor AWD 628km (NEDC) rangeModel X Plaid, tri-motor AWD 547km (NEDC) rangeModel 3 Long Range, dual-motor AWD (657km NEDC range)
Model 3 Performance, dual-motor AWD (628km NEDC range)
Choose your advanced features:
FeatureAvailable with Model S?Available with Model X?Available on the Model 3?Recommended?
Wheel upgrade – change the look of your Tesla21-inch Arachnid wheels - $5,00022-inch Turbine wheels - $6,40019-inch Sport wheels ($2,200)Wheel upgrades make the Tesla model look more modern, but they aren't cheap.
Interior – change the colour of the interiorBlack and white - $2,900

Cream - $2,900

Black and White - $2,900

Cream - $2,900

Black and White interior - $1,500Again, it's not necessary, but some Tesla buyers will appreciate the ability to customise the vehicle to their personal preference.
Full Self-Driving Capability – unlocks things like automatic lane change, summoning, self-driving computer, plus traffic light and stop sign recognition (among others)$10,100$10,100$10,100This is the most pricey option for the Tesla and it currently requires the driver to supervise the vehicle, so it's not a true self-driving vehicle.
Paint – change the colour of your TeslaAll paints are $2,200, apart from Red Multi-Coat ($3,700)All paints are $2,200, apart from Red Multi-Coat ($3,700)$1,500 for all optional colours, apart from Red Multi-Coat ($2,900)Colour makes no difference to the function of your vehicle, but buyers appreciate the ability to tweak the exterior look.
SeatingNo5 seats - no cost

6 seats - $9,400

7 seats - $5,100

NoLarge families especially appreciate the extra seats on a Tesla Model X.

What Tesla drivers wish they knew before buying

Tesla does do the whole car thing in its own particular style, and that's not just to do with how its cars look subtly different from most other on-road vehicles.

As such, it takes time to adjust to driving a Tesla. Finder's Alex Kidman is a tech nut, but not a gearhead, and he recently bought a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range.

Here's his observations after a month's ownership of a 2022 model, coming from a mixed ICE and EV household (a 2018 Mazda 3 and 2016 import Nissan Leaf, respectively) if you're considering making the jump into the Tesla world:

  • Consider the wall charger – but get more than one quote for installation! Tesla Australia has to date been providing a "granny" charger (it's actually a cable with the charger bit in the car itself, pedantically speaking) with plugs for standard 10V and slightly faster 15V plug points with the car. Although it appears more recently that at least in the US, it's dropping that cable as an included extra. It's not clear right now if you will or won't get it with a new Tesla in Australia going forwards, but in any case charging this way from a nearly flat battery is very slow indeed.
    That's maybe not a problem if you have a short daily drive and can top up overnight, but otherwise a dedicated wall charger is needed. There's numerous models available, including Tesla's own 3rd Gen Wall Connector which can be flipped to also feed other EVs if you wish. The key factor here is to plan ahead and get a few quotes on installation costs. These can vary widely for the exact same job, as well as if you want to go for standard single-phase or even quicker three phase charging.
  • Get ready to teach your family and friends your Tesla's quirks: The Model 3 is a fine car, but it can be perplexing to new passengers, and that starts right at the door handles. This is a routine you'll need to go through with every new passenger, so be ready for it. It's not so different that they'll feel like they're in a spaceship, but certainly one where you'll be explaining door handles, air vents and the like most times.
  • Superchargers are great – but often busy: Tesla's array of fast superchargers can make a massive difference to those long road trips, allowing you to top up in minutes and continue on your way, but you do have to allow for more time than you'd think in some cases.
    Very popular spots, such as the Goulburn supercharger outside Sydney on the way to Melbourne can be busy a lot of the time, so you might have a wait for someone else's 10 minute charge before you can be on your way.
    I've also seen instances of chargers not responding to other people's cars – I'm grateful it wasn't my own, but I could understand the frustration of the poor Model 3 driver next to me who had to wait until I was done despite having an "available" charging bay.
  • Walking away from an expensive unlocked car is unnerving: You do get card "keys" with a Tesla, but the whole experience is built around smartphone connectivity, with your phone being the key that unlocks your car.
    When it's time to walk away to the shops or work, you don't lock it in the traditional way, instead relying on proximity for it to lock itself down. It works, but it's a big wrench if you're a traditional car driver not to worry that someone will simply drive away in it the moment you're out of sight. Again, you're also going to have to teach all your relatives that this is true.
  • Tesla's speech recognition is terrible: Tesla doesn't use Apple's Carplay or Google's Android Auto for its user interface (though some other makes do), but it does include a voice assistant, invoked by pushing in the right hand scroll wheel on the steering wheel.
    If you're used to the likes of Siri, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, be ready to temper your expectations. The Tesla voice assistant is relatively dumb, and it's astonishingly poor at reading accents too. That might be an American bias on the programmer's part, but for a man with a softer Australian accent, I've found it failing to recognise even simple commands a lot of the time.
  • Do you really need premium connectivity or FSD? Tesla gives new owners a month's worth of its premium connectivity package, after which it'll hit you for $10/month for the privilege. I don't think it's worth it for most drivers. What it grants you is traffic data which is no better or worse than what Google will give you for free, along with satellite maps alongside standard ones – and again you can view those for nothing on a smartphone already.
    You also get "data free" access to YouTube, Twitch, Spotify and Netflix (excluding subscription costs), which could be fun when you are waiting at an EV charger. However, you've got to balance that against how long you're typically waiting. For most journeys that's likely to be 10-15 minutes at most at a supercharger, longer at slower public or destination chargers.
    Unless you travel a lot, you're not likely to use as much data as that $10 could buy you in mobile phone plan data on your existing phone plan. Pairing your phone as a hotspot to your Tesla is ridiculously easy, and you can keep your phone powered up in the car's wireless charging dock (or plugged via USB-C if you don't have Qi charging) just as simply.
    As for the $10,100 Full Self Driving capability, I can't quite see the value there yet in Australia either. Elon Musk has made bold (and in some cases quite outrageous) statements about how quickly Tesla will launch autonomous driving features… but we're still waiting for them to become fully available, especially in Australia. Right now, that $10,100 premium buys you lane changing on highways, automatic parking and car summoning in carparks and traffic light and stop sign detection.
    It's cool tech, but your insurance company might take a dim view if something does go wrong with it, leaving you at fault. Moreover, while the Model 3 can (for example) view road signs and intelligently adjust what it thinks the current speed limit warnings should be. Only, at least in my experience not always, especially for road work signs.
    Would I trust my Tesla to always intelligently route me through road works without incurring speeding fines? No, I would not, and on that basis I'd invest my $10,100 somewhere else and wait for Tesla to make the technology properly work before buying.
  • Tesla's pricing calculator includes floaty "petrol savings" costs: Tesla's price estimator for its cars include an estimate on how much you'll save on petrol by using an EV. It's pretty well understood how an EV can be more "fuel efficient" than a petrol car, so the broad saving figures probably aren't entirely false, especially when you consider how pricey petrol is right now.
    The catch here is that you won't see that saving when you pay for your Tesla. The same may be true for whatever state EV initiatives apply in your case, because for most states there are either capped numbers or a capped state rebate value, and if you don't apply in time you might not get those.
  • Supercharger navigation is both conservative and a touch odd: I've been testing in-car GPS ever since it debuted, and so I'm used to GPS sometimes giving quirky directions. There's nothing terribly wrong with the in-car navigation on the Model 3, and the large tablet display is way better for quick glances while driving than a poky in-dash variant.
    However, it does have its own quirks, especially around how and when it navigates to superchargers. It always takes a super-conservative view of energy usage, and it's worth getting to know the more realistic range of your Tesla for sure. It will typically try to get you to a destination with at least 20% battery remaining if you're using superchargers. That's encouraging if you're nervous, but it can also lead to it suggesting longer stops – or extra ones you probably don't need.
    These can get downright weird. My model 3 has suggested that on a route back into Sydney – I live in Sydney's north – that I divert first to Broadway near the CBD for six minutes of charging, then to Macquarie Centre (far closer to home) for a further 3 minutes of charging before heading to my actual home. There's no way I'm not either going to charge more before I leave, or hit just one of those destinations for an extra 3 minutes rather than hit both!
  • Insurance costs can be good (or bad): You probably already knew that, but it's absolutely true for every Tesla model. On the plus side, many insurers are fully aware of the Sentry mode in Teslas that give it a little more security. You may find insurance costs lower than on comparatively priced cars.
    The flip side there is that if you opt for the more performance-centric models, you'll see a quick and steep rise in your insurance premiums, simply because repairing those in the event of an incident is going to be that much more expensive. As always, shop around and compare car insurance providers for your Tesla.
    One upside I didn't expect is that Tesla provides 4 years or 80,000km of free roadside assistance with new Tesla vehicles as part of the standard warranty. As such, you can save a few bucks by not including that option in your car insurance policy for at least a few years of Tesla ownership.
  • Tyres might cost you more (and there's no supplied spare): Debates rage about the relative weight of EVs and the effect that has on their tyre grip and overall durability. If you want to have that fight there's numerous sources online that will try to pitch it one way or another.
    A factor that's far less controversial is that Teslas – even the entry level Model 3 like mine – have immediate torque and acceleration on tap in a way that you just don't see in a petrol vehicle.
    That's great for nipping away quickly at the lights, but the cost of those speedy bursts is more wear and tear on the tyres. As always your driving style and road quality plays its part here too. It's going to be important to regularly inspect your tyres, especially for the performance models if you love zipping up to top (legal) speeds.
    If you are concerned about tyre wear and tear, roadside assist would be a bit of a must, as while all Teslas sit in higher price brackets for now – and at least until the near-mythical Model 2 emerges, if it ever does – what you don't get in the boot is any kind of spare tyre.

    How to charge your Tesla in Australia

    Tesla cars use an onboard charger to convert alternating current from wall outlets into direct current used for the battery. The emptier the battery, the faster it charges. When it gets close to being full, the car computer tapers off the current to gradually top it up without zapping the cells.You can charge your car from wall outlets, as well as from Tesla Supercharger stations located around Australia – which are special banks of multiple chargers working in parallel to rapidly recharge your vehicle. Simply pull up, plug in and charge up.
    • Half an hour of charge from a standard outlet will get you about 17km. Charge overnight to fill up your car at home.
    • It varies depending on the Tesla Model and charger you're using, but half an hour of charging at a Tesla Supercharger station will get you about 270km. This is generally more than enough to get you to the next Supercharger.

    Superchargers are not exactly sparse in Australia, but they are typically more prevalent in built-up areas. More are also being brought online all the time. You can find your nearest Supercharger station online. This information is also linked to your car's computer, meaning you can easily find your nearest Supercharger with your Tesla's inbuilt touch screen display.

    While Superchargers are the best option for fast charging, they're far from your only option to keep your Tesla running while you're away from home. Any type 2 charger should be able to top up your Tesla without fuss, although they won't all be listed from your car's in-display navigation. Grab apps such as Plugshare and A Better Route Planner to plan out trips outside the Supercharger network. Bear in mind that some charging stations will charge a different charging fee to Tesla, and most require their own apps to be installed on your phone in order to activate charging stations.

    How much do the Model S and the Model X cost?

    The cost of a Tesla car depends largely on your chosen model, as well as any optional extras you order. Here's how much you should expect to pay for the Model S, Model X and Model 3. The prices are drive-away costs for NSW postcode 2000.

    Tesla Model S
    VariantDrive-away from (NSW 2000)
    Model S Long Range$155,233
    Model S Plaid$216,658
    Tesla Model X
    VariantDrive-away from (NSW 2000)
    Model X Long Range$182,784
    Model X Plaid$216,609
    Tesla Model 3
    VariantDrive-away from (NSW 2000)
    Model 3 Standard Range Plus$67,798
    Model 3 Long Range$84,131
    Model 3 Performance$100,511
    Tesla Model Y

    Pricing will be announced closer to launch.

    Tesla Cybertruck

    This is yet to be officially confirmed from an Australian launch and reports are suggesting it's been delayed till 2023 due to the global semiconductor shortage.

    How much will I save on fuel buying a Tesla?

    The median average electric price per kWh is 26.5 cents according to the ACCC. The Tesla Model S Long Range has a 90kWh battery. That means, to recharge your Tesla Model S Long Range, it will cost $23.85. Obviously, this is just a rough figure, the actual price you'll pay depends on your energy tariff and how you drive.

    The Tesla Model S Long Range has a WLTP range of 652km, meaning per kilometre, the Model S costs $0.036.

    By comparison, a BMW M5 Competition, which has similar performance specs, has a 68-litre fuel tank. The average price in New South Wales for 98 RON petrol in October 2021 is $1.763, meaning the cost per fill-up is $119.88. That works out to about $0.186 per kilometre in petrol.

    Tesla Model S Long RangeBMW M5 Competition
    Cost of electricity/fuel (full-charge/tank)$23.85$119.88
    Maximum distance652 kms641.5 kms
    Cost after 16,000 kms$585.28$3,194
    Difference$2,608.72

    That means, each year, you'll save $2,608.72 in fuel with a Tesla Model S Long Range. You'd save less comparing it to a diesel or petrol standard BMW 5 series (a non-performance model).

    How long till I recoup my outlay for a Tesla?

    The BMW M5 Competition has a manufacturer's recommended drive-away price (MRDP) of $263,704. The Tesla Model S on the other hand has a drive-away price of $170,968.

    So, you're already saving $92,736 compared to the M5. That brings the effective cost of the Tesla down to $78,232 (if you were going to buy an M5 that is). Then, saving $2,608.72 per year, you'd cover the cost of the Tesla in about 30 years.

    Obviously, it goes without saying that if you were considering buying another vehicle rather than the BMW M5, these figures won't be accurate. Use them as a very general guide and do your own research before buying.

    The servicing should be cheaper for the Tesla, as it has fewer moving parts compared to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. Rather than scheduled servicing, you can pay for each service item as they come up, depending on the condition of the vehicle. If you drive less, then you might pay less in servicing.

    The battery is guaranteed for 8 years, or 240,000km, whichever happens first. The vehicle has a 4 year/80,000 km warranty.

    Tesla versus BMW: The full picture

    Tesla Model S Long RangeBMW M5 Competition
    Annual cost for fuel$585.28*$3,194*
    Release date20202020
    DrivetrainElectric - AWDPetrol - AWD
    Electricity/petrol consumption167 Wh/Km*10.6L/100km*
    Range652 kms~641.5#
    PriceFrom: $170,968From: $263,704
    WarrantyBattery and drive unit: 8 years; car: 4 years/80,000km3 years: unlimited km
    Top speed250 km/h305 km/h
    0 - 100 km/h3.2 seconds3.0 seconds

    *Travelling 16,000kms. Green Vehicle Guide: 2021.

    #66% of the time spent in urban environments and the rest on higher speed roads.

    Did you know?

    Regenerative braking uses the electric motor to slow down the Tesla, rather than the brakes. Doing so lets the motor act like a generator and recover some of the normally wasted energy.

    Suggested Tesla Model S maintenance

    The Tesla Model S owners manual suggests the following:

    • Each year (or 20,000kms): Clean and lubricate brake calipers (in cold areas).
    • Every 2 years: Test and replace the brake fluid.
    • Every 3 years: Install a new cabin air filter, HEPA filter and air conditioning desiccant bag.
    • Every 4 years: Replace the battery coolant.
    • Every 10,000 kms: Rotate tyres.

    An ABS survey found that in 2010 the average household spent $51 per week on their vehicle in fuel, additives and lubricants, an increase of $12 since 2004. Fuel is only going to get more expensive in the future so electric and hybrid cars are becoming an increasingly viable option as the long-term trend of rising fuel prices continues.

    How you can finance a Tesla

    Even though Teslas are unusual in that they are electric vehicles, with distinct features unique to the brand, they are still cars.

    Lenders and car finance groups recognise the growing popularity of these unique vehicles and may be more likely to approve Tesla loans than less-practical, but similarly priced and performing equivalents.

    This means you may be able to enjoy more favourable rates and better terms when financing a Tesla than other vehicles. Because they are demonstrably safer (going by ANCAP scores) than many other cars, some insurers also recognise the advantages of those safety assists with lower car insurance premiums. A few car insurers have offered discounts since 2014 for vehicles with active safety features.

    This means that while Teslas are inherently costly, premium vehicles, you can recoup some of the extra outlay thanks to electric costs versus fuel.

    Take a look at luxury car loans, as this is the category that a Tesla is likely to fall into.

    Other vehicles to consider

    Still not sure if you want to buy a Tesla? Learn about other electric vehicles by reading our electric car reviews.

    Images

    Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com
    JPstock / Shutterstock.com
    Jag_cz / Shutterstock.com

Elizabeth Barry's headshot
Lead Editor

Elizabeth Barry was the lead editor for Finder. She has over 10 years' experience writing about a range of topics with a focus on personal finance. You’ll find her writing and commentary in a range of publications and media including Seven News, the ABC, MSN, the Irish Times and Singapore Business Review. See full bio

Elizabeth's expertise
Elizabeth has written 247 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Banking
  • Personal finance
  • Investing

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