Electric vehicles are getting more popular by the day. By some estimates, roughly half of all new car sales by 2035 could be electric vehicles. And, by a wide margin, no other manufacturer has sold more EVs in the U.S. than Tesla.
While that alone might be enough to convince some buyers, there are some particularities about the cars that prospective owners should be aware of.
Here is everything you should know before buying a Tesla.
There are currently four Tesla models available for purchase today: S, 3, X and Y. The former two are sedans while the latter pair are SUVs. All models come in a Performance trim level and a less-expensive Long Range model.
The Model S was introduced in 2012 and has been a market leader since. It had an EPA-estimated range of 375 miles, one of the longest of any electric vehicle. It features all-wheel drive and the ability to reach zero to 60 mph in just 1.99 seconds. Tesla claims it is the quickest four-door sedan ever built.
Inside has seating for five adults and 25 cubic feet of storage. (Remember: without an engine, the front trunk becomes a cargo space). The interior also features a 17-inch center touchscreen that integrates media, navigation, communications, cabin control and vehicle data. Many functions are voice-activated to focus the driver’s attention on the road.
Tesla began producing this car in 2017. The sedan is similar to the Model S, except slightly smaller. It also has a shorter range (a maximum of 358 miles), smaller touchscreen and fewer bells and whistles than the Model S.
The most notable difference for potential consumers will be the price tag. At a starting retail price just above $40,000, it is the most affordable vehicle in Tesla’s lineup. (The S can easily cost more than double). Due in part to its price, the Model 3 has been one of the top-selling electric vehicles in recent years.
The first SUV in Tesla’s lineup has some distinguishing features other than its larger size. Most notable are the rear Falcon Wing doors. These doors are hinged at the roof instead of the side. This allows for much easier entry and exit to the second — and third — row of seats inside the vehicle. It also has a windshield that stretches up and over the two front seats, providing riders a panoramic view of their surroundings.
The SUV has a top range of roughly 330 miles and a 5,000-pound towing capacity. But with a starting price in the six-figures, it is Tesla’s most expensive vehicle.
To give its customers a more reasonably priced SUV option, Tesla unveiled the Model X in 2020. With a starting price below $60,000, it’s roughly half the cost of the Model Y, while still boasting a 330-mile range.
The Model Y comes equipped with 76 cubic feet of storage room. Inside, there is an optional third row of seats, creating room for up to seven passengers. There’s a 15-inch touchscreen and expansive all-glass roof.
All four Tesla models have received five-star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. New vehicles come standard with active safety features. These include automatic emergency braking, collision warning, side collision warning, blind spot monitoring and lane departure avoidance.
Additionally, as with all electric vehicles, Teslas have their batteries located on the floor of the vehicle. This creates a low center of gravity that improves stability and reduces the chance of a rollover.
Some safety concerns have come up regarding Tesla’s Autopilot system. This automated technology uses cameras and radar to create a suite of features to help in driving, such as cruise control and automatic steering. It is classified as a Level 2 automated system, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Vehicles reach this level, also known as partial automation, when they have combined automated functions, such as steering and acceleration.
When used properly, this technology can add an additional layer of safety. However, like all autonomous vehicle technology, Autopilot is not a self-driving system. A driver still must always be behind the wheel, remain engaged and be prepared to take over at any time.
AAA’s Recommendation: Whether you own an electric vehicle or a gas-powered car is up to you – and you should consider lots of factors in making that choice. No matter what type of vehicle you’re choosing, we recommend visiting a dealership, test driving one, and asking as many questions as possible to make an informed decision.