Is Tesla a Good First Car? No, this is why


Buying s first car is a major milestone. There’s so much choice available and with the increased popularity of Electric Vehicles, let’s look at Tesla as an option.

Tesla is not a good first car. The cost is high. The focus on driving is compromised due to the Infotainment Screen and the charging options are limited if you don’t own your home.

All options must be taken into account when buying your first car. If you are considering a Tesla there are more details to look into over a standard manual or automatic gas-powered car. Read on to find out what you should be looking for.

Are Tesla’s Difficult to Drive?

Tesla’s are not difficult to drive, they are very much on a par with an automatic car but if you have never driven one before you will have extra items to learn before you continue.

If a Tesla is your first owned car, chances are you learned how to drive in a gas-powered car, be it manual (Stick) or automatic. If you learned to drive in an automatic then moving to a Tesla as your first car will be relatively easy. A Tesla has the PRND on the steering wheel as a stalk as opposed to in the center console. But everything else is on the Infotainment touchscreen.

This center screen for a first-time car for me is a negative. Yes, of course, it’s amazing. It does everything. Replacing all the buttons and knobs but when you’re new to driving your focus needs to be 100% on the driving. Having to adjust heating or side mirrors through the touch screen while driving is the same as being on your phone.

It takes eyes away from the road, even if it’s for a moment.

I know touch screens are the future and most gas-powered cars now also have them but in a Tesla the screen does everything and for a first car (which to me translates to a relatively new driver) this is a huge negative.

Charging Your Tesla

Tesla mobile charger

This is another reason to stop and think if a Tesla is a good choice for a first car. No one likes the thoughts of having to go fill up at the gas station, trying to find the best price at the pumps, but charging your Tesla might have you tearing your hair out.

There are three ways or options to charge your car:

  • At home
  • Destination Charging Stations
  • Tesla Supercharger

At home:

This is the most popular of all charging options throughout the USA. But there are several things to consider in charging your Tesla at home.

  • Homeowner
  • Rental
  • Apartment

Homeowner

If you are a homeowner you can charge your car with a standard 110-volt socket or you can opt for the Tesla Wall Connector. This is designed to charge your Tesla quicker than a standard socket but the installation can be as much as $2000 (08/21). This depends on who installs it and how much work is required to fit the connector.

If you are planning on staying in this house for a long time, the outlay is worth it, as most Utility providers give a discounted rate for the Electric Vehicle charging units. The wall connector will also charge your car in about 3-4 hours compared to a standard 110v taking 8 hrs. for an 80% charge.

Rental

If you are renting you can also plug your car into the standard socket. But as I say this charging is much slower and can take overnight to sufficiently charge your car. An 8hr standard charge will give you enough power to travel up to 60 – 70 miles the following day.

You could organize to have the Tesla Wall Connector installed in your rental but you’ll have to have the owner’s permission and if you move location you can’t bring it with you, you’ll have to begin the process again.

Apartment

If you are a homeowner living in an apartment you will have to check if there is access to a charger? You may find that you come home and there are no available chargers at your complex. This then becomes an evening ordeal trying to secure a spot or having to go out again to charge your card at a destination charging station or supercharger.

Destination Charging Stations

The alternative to at-home charging is to go to a Destination Charger. These are located in public spaces, usually at malls or on the street. There are approximately 40,000 charging stations nationwide, of which about 3000 are superchargers. These can only be used by Tesla cars.

Even though there are 40000 stations they are not evenly dispersed throughout the 50 states.

California has the most amount of Electric Vehicles and no surprise that they have the highest number of chargers/ 1000 Electric Vehicles.

If you have a destination charger nearby your home then this can be a solution if you don’t have access to charging at your home. They charge your car up to 10 miles in an hour. Not ideal but certainly will get you to where you need to go. They are ideal if you are out for dinner or have some errands to run. Plug your car in and have it go to work while you are busy.

But the reality is they aren’t any more efficient than having a Wall Connector at home.

If you are taking a road trip, with no time restraints it’s a good way to be able to see some sights in a town or city, while charging your car.

Superchargers

Tesla charging

These are specific Tesla chargers. Located throughout the country, they will charge your car up to 80% capacity in 30 minutes. About 10 times faster than any other charger. The cost is approximately .25c/kWh. But again they are not evenly dispersed through the 50 states. California has above and beyond the average for electric vehicles. 

The downside of this is that the more electric vehicles (specifically Tesla) in a location, the busier the Superchargers tend to be. You could arrive at a Supercharger and there could easily be 10 cars in front of you in the line. Realistically this could equate to an hour of your time, just waiting your turn. Who has that kind of spare time, right?

Cost of Tesla

As a first car, Tesla is a costly choice. The Model 3 is the smallest option and costs approximately $50k (08/21), This is without any upgrades like a color option or wheel change.

This is a very pricey first car, even if it happens to be parents that are making the purchase. So what would make you pay this amount? The savings on the maintenance is high, no annual oil change or service is required. The running costs of utility or supercharger costs are about half the cost of gasoline, so again another plus. The climate effect with zero emissions may be the main reason you are choosing a Tesla.

However, we have to take into consideration the initial outlay will work out more expensive than the purchase of a standard gas-powered car even with the addition of the gas.

The resale value of a Tesla is again really good. They hold their value really well. All Tesla’s are connected to HQ via GPA and so just like your phone gets an update, so too does your Tesla. You will receive a notification through your App to proceed with your upgrade.

This means that your 3-year-old Tesla has the same capabilities as a new model.

Tesla’s depreciate at about 10-15% per year compared to a gas-powered car at 35-40%/ year.

These all seem like positives, and they are but as I say $50k for a first car is maybe a stretch too far for most.

Model2021 Cost2018 Cost
Tesla 3$47143$35984
Tesla S$96063$57724
Tesla X$107495$69431
Tesla Y$57906$37257
Source: Caredge.com

Cost to Insure a Tesla

A Tesla is a luxury car and insurance on one is not cheap. Insurance is always dependent on age, driver history, and location.

Tesla offers their own insurance which is said to be 20-30% cheaper than the national average, however, it is only available in California and Texas currently. There is some talk about Illinois and Washington being added to the list but this is in the future and has not been confirmed.

Tesla also offers discounts if you own more than one Tesla in your household, and they also cover the insurance on your wall charger and key replacement.

Looking at insurance on a Tesla if you live outside of these states the cost is high. The national average for a Tesla 3 is $1905 for a 40-year-old with good driving history, and this increases to $2115 for a 30-year-old. This is 40% higher than the national average for a sedan. This being said, Tesla is a luxury car, with a starting price of $40,000 without any extras. They are made of aluminum and parts are expensive to replace if you are in a collision. The repair of a Tesla is not something that every repair shop is willing to take on and so less competition allows for inflated repair costs.

The cheapest insurance available on a Tesla is with USAA, at around $1100 however, this is only available to the military, veterans, and families.

Progressive came out top for Tesla insurance with an average of around $1800 for a Model 3. The table below looks at each model with the national average for a 30-year-old and a 40-year-old.

Tesla Model40 Year Old Good Driver30 Year Old Good Driver
Model 3$1905$2115
Model Y$2375$2637
Model S$2488$2762
Model X$2794$3102
Source: Caredge.com

Where Do You Live?

Flat Tesla in field

As a final point to make about the Tesla as a first car I would like to discuss your location. Tesla doesn’t like the cold. It’s understandable that the two most popular states are California and Florida. But if you look at Montana or North Dakota their numbers of electric vehicles are non-existent, less than 500 for the whole state. 

This is no accident. The range for an electric vehicle can be reduced by as much as three times when the temperature is below zero. Range anxiety is phenomenal. You think you have 50 miles of range when you start your drive home but each mile traveled can drop 3-4 miles on screen. The stress of this on a daily basis would be just too much. They also don’t charge as quickly in the cold, even with a Supercharger. (If you can find one in North Dakota)

In conclusion, a Tesla is a great car and electric vehicles are possibly the future of motoring but for a first car option, I think it is not a good choice. The ability to drive safely, the cost, and range anxiety are all too much for a first-time driver’s experience to deal with.

But before buying a used Tesla or any vehicle, always run a VIN check for Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuild, Title washing, and Vin cloning. There are plenty in the business, it only costs a few dollars but could save you thousands. I’ve used VinAudit (links to VinAudit.com) several times and found them reliable and fast.

You may find the following links useful also:

Should my first car be a truck?

Is a Mustang good first car?

Classic car for first car?

Is driving hard?

Will a Tesla save me money?

Should I buy a Tesla or Lexus?

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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