Tesla Buyer's Guide: Which Tesla Is Right For You?

So, you know you want a Tesla. But, which model is right for you? In this week’s episode, we’ll review the pros/cons, features and differences between the Model S, X and, of course, the Tesla Model 3.

There are some universal principles you should understand before choosing which Tesla model is right for you. First is knowing the difference between the Model X and S. The Tesla Model S is the full-size sedan, while the X is the SUV. Both are both great electric vehicle options. However, besides body style, there are additional key differences between the two.

While the Model X costs more, being that it’s an SUV, it’s a good fit if:

  • You have a big family (over 5)

  • You need tons of storage

  • And, like to command the road from a higher vantage point.

Depending on where you live, the Tesla Model X may present parking challenges, especially for city dwellers.

While the Tesla Model S is smaller than the Model X, it still offers spaciousness. It comes optionally equipped with two rear-facing child seats – allowing for you, friends and your kids to all roll in one car. However, if you do choose to go with rear-facing seats, they aren’t removable. In fact, to safely install the rear-facing seats, Tesla must reinforce the vehicle’s body.

If the rear-facing seat configuration is ideal for your needs, fear not. The Tesla Model X also has several other seat configurations. Some of which are new, so you may not find them in older models. These Model X alternative seating options include 5, 6 or 7 seats.

Beyond seating configuration, you’ll have to consider battery size. Tesla batteries come in different kilowatt-hour (kWh) sizes. A kilowatt-hour is a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for one hour. Battery size is directly related to the range your Tesla can go per charge. A small kWh battery can go shorter distances on a single charge than a larger kWh battery.

The 75 kWh battery is the smallest available; it can go 237 miles on the Model X and 248 miles on the Model S – making both EVs practical for everyday use. The real determining factor on which kWh battery will best your needs will be your amount long distance travel – which will require stopping and charging.

Tesla has a robust supercharger network available for stop and change usage. These superchargers can take a Tesla from 0 to 80% charged in about 30 minutes. Getting to 100% charged requires an additional 30 minutes of charging. This is because the way the Tesla battery absorbs energy, which is similar to pouring water into a glass. When the glass is empty, you can pour water in quickly. The closer the glass gets to full, the more slowly you have to pour.

If you do a fair amount of long distance travel, I’d recommend calculating if a bigger battery could reduce the number of times you’d need to stop and charge. For example, during the holiday season, I drive from San Diego to Phoenix. My Model S 60 gets about 200 miles on a single charge. The trip ranges from just under 400 miles. However, I end up needing to stop about three times – which adds about two hours to the journey. If it were just my wife and me, I wouldn’t care. But with a toddler, it becomes much more challenging. If I had known this before, I would have got a Tesla with a much bigger kWh battery.

Thus, battery size is one of the biggest factors when determining which Tesla is right for you. In fact, many Tesla owners will tell you to get the biggest battery you can afford. And I agree, except for the 100-kWh battery. To me, the additional cost of going from a 75-kWh battery to a 100-kWh battery just isn’t worth it.

While battery size is one of the biggest contributing factors, the cost is likely the key element when choosing your Tesla. Tesla.com has a great affordability calculator to help you with this. Just enter your budget, and the site will show you which configuration options fit within it.

The Model X will always be the more expensive option, but it can still be affordable without all the bells and whistles. The least you’ll pay is in the low $70,000s, whereas more inclusive options could be in the $150,000s. For me, that’s not a reasonable amount to spend on an electric vehicle or any vehicle for that matter, so I went with a lower-end model.

After you’ve determined which Tesla is right for you, you’ll need to figure out your charging setup. Most Tesla owners have a charger setup at their house, which can be expensive to install. For instance, at my house, I had to run the electrical lines almost 90 feet into my garage – which cost about $1,800. However, this is the best option for garage owners, as it will allow you charge your Tesla overnight. If you live in a condo or apartment building, setting up a charging station may be more difficult, depending on building your building and homeowners’ association.

To setup up charging in your garage, you have two primary options. You can install a 240-volt outlet, called an NEMA 14-50a, and use the mobile connector that comes with your Tesla and plug it into the outlet. This is what I have.

The other option is to install a Tesla wall charger, which provides faster charging and looks a bit nicer. This costs extra though, and you’ll need to contact the Tesla Service Center for more info. As I mentioned, all Tesla models come with supercharging abilities, but they also can be upgraded to charge faster, if need be.

Once you’ve determined how you’re going to charge your Tesla at home and which model and battery size best fits your needs, you should be ready to pull the trigger. However, if you are wavering, especially over price, there are other options.

First, you can buy used. Tesla has a pre-owned site with both Model Ss and Xs available. You can choose the color, battery size and specific features like autopilot. This page gets updated regularly. However, used Teslas get picked up quickly. So, if you’re ready to buy, don’t wait once you’ve found “the one.”

Another option and one I couldn’t leave out is the Tesla Model 3. While Model 3 isn’t available yet, there are already over 400,000 pre-orders. While I didn’t want to speculate on the Model 3’s key differentiators, we do know some basics about the Tesla Model 3.

  • It will go at least 215 miles on a single charge

  • It’s fast! It can go from 0-60 in under six seconds

  • It’s a five-seater

  • It’ll be supercharger enabled, have autopilot and is designed to meet the same five- star safety rating as the Model S and X

  • The price will start at $35,000

As I mentioned, there are already 400,000 Tesla Model 3 reservations, so don’t expect to be able to get one anytime soon, if you don’t already have a reservation.If you did want to have a bit of fun in considering when the Model 3 could end up in your drive, I built an estimator. By entering pieces of information about yourself, the Tesla Model 3 estimator predicts when you might get your Model 3. Try it out here: https://teslanomics.co/model-3-delivery-estimator

I’d love to hear which Tesla model you’ve decided on. Please share in the comments below. Also, stay tuned for more in-depth buyers’ guides on each model as well as Tesla features and options updates.

A BIG thank you to Wunder Capital for supporting the show. Wunder Capital helps people like you and me invest as little as $1,000 in solar projects. Check them out at https://teslanomics.co/wunder

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