Advice for Tesla first time buyer

Advice for Tesla first time buyer

Here's my take. You can't know what is important. The things you've learned aren't relevant like you expect. It is like using your experiences with a Blackberry back in 2007 to decide what you need in an iPhone. Or, rather, deciding on how long a buggy whip is appropriate for that new horseless carriage.

So, first, let's level set.

Car color expectations? Way different than expected. In the south, black on black is normally like getting painful treatments for the sake of beauty -- it looks great, but it hurts. With the Tesla, this is easily handled. If I am parked in the sun while eating at a restaurant, when the check comes, I just open the Tesla app and turn on the climate control. An interior temp of 108 degrees will drop to 78 in a few minutes and the car (and seats) are wonderfully cooled. Black is fine. Go with your heart. And by the way, you will want to maintain the beauty of your car. I like washing it, and don't care what color takes the least effort. Again, pick what you desire!

You will speed. No tickets in 15 years? Well, when it's too easy and too fast and too quiet (meaning not obnoxious and scary to passers by) and you have Ferrari power ready at every green light, you will punch it. With the P85, it's like jumping from an airplane. I am addicted to it. People who ride in the car ask for "another hit" because of the adrenaline. So when you see people on the boards discussing getting a radar detector built in, but you're a mom/dad now and don't drive like you used to, well, ha! You'll see. And, when you can't use the engine sound to judge your speed, you'll look down and realize that you have gone faster than you thought, and its glorious, but it's time to get a reminder if you are at risk of lots of speeding cameras. Particularly in my town, where a boulevard that has a school is signed down from 35 mph to 25 mph, even when school isn't in session.

The paint armor was another improbable option. I love driving, but I haven't waxed a car since I was in high school. My wife just had big eyes watching me buy all of the trappings to wash and buff the car as I do regularly now over the last few weeks. I don't do a ton of highway travel or drive in dusty/debris filled roads, so I don't have the same dents and other problems people here have. But the car instills passion, and that's makes for a relationship, and I want to see and enjoy that beauty several times a day. Paint armor seemed nonsensical before I got this car -- this is a utilitarian object, right? -- but not any more. I haven't done paint armor yet, but factory installed or not, I *get* it.

Range anxiety: this is way different than you think. If you don't drive on longer trips frequently, it is vastly easier to not worry about running out of gas 50 times a year and consolidate that planning for the few longer trips you take. Since the car with the tech package is set to unlock when you walk up, and auto-lock when you walk away, this routine makes it easy to get out of the car and then plug the charger in. It takes about 5 seconds a day to manage this and then you never need to worry about range ever again in your daily life. It's a massive net reduction in anxiety. But, you will drive more than you used to! I promise!

Service anxiety: we don't have a service center in New Orleans, though one is coming in about 6 months. Service works this way -- a ranger passes through town, and connects with the local owners. If you have needs, he/she will take a look and work with you. It's a lot like the Apple genius bar coming to your house. Buy the service package and don't worry, they'll take care of you.

You *will* be an ambassador. People notice the car. I got black, and not bright red, so it is more subtle. They like the look of the car, realize what it is, and then go a bit crazy. They stick their cameras out of the car and take pictures whole driving, and roll down their windows to ask you "Do you really love it?" They even get more extreme, but it is good natured, so I test drive people all the time (even remote acquaintances), and share the passion. It's fun to feel a real movement towards the future. But -- buy Tesla stock and plan on going "long". Put money into the movement, and feel like you are deeply a part of it. Bet on the future, and show it to people. It is astonishing and rewarding. The attention is not about your vanity, even if some how it rewards vanity as a byproduct :)

There are two philosophies I recommend you consider your purchasing your vehicle: buy for value and the wonderfully designed experience, or buy a car that is an absolute dream car in every way and go all in. So, a wonderful entry level purchase is the S60 with maybe the tech package. The premium stereo and many other options aren't killer enough to delay buying the car. You will save a ton on gas, love it, and get a truly amazing "value" experience.

Otherwise, if you can, get the full P85+, with the maximum everything. I was able to drive a spectacular Ferrari for a couple of days and the noise and rumble of galloping stallions moved my soul. That Ferrari would have been $150k used. If I had to pick, I would choose the Tesla in a single heartbeat. In the future, I will upgrade and keep my Tesla at the cutting edge. I want a crazy great stereo, etc. and Tesla is a platform built on the computer model that upgrades all of the time. Jump in now -- there will always be upgrades you will miss. So what. Most of the pleasure is beckoning you right at this moment.

So, how important was that keyboard on your Blackberry after all?

ORWA | June 7, 2013

Probably my favorite post anywhere in the forums. You must be a writer...

irishstoutaz | June 7, 2013

Awesome post!!! We get our MS tomorrow (way excited) and am pretty sure we can relate to everything you say. BTW, I liked the old keyboards on the BB and still have one on my Android. Nothing wrong with nostalgia!

jk2014 | June 7, 2013

Well said, Matt...

portia | June 7, 2013

Nice! | June 8, 2013

matt.wiss: "...feel like you are deeply a part of it..."

At night, I actually have dreams about the Model S and all the possibilities for the future of this revolution.

It's becoming quite distracting from my daily chores.

laurentjd | June 8, 2013

Nice post indeed

Velo1 | June 8, 2013


I have a few friends that absolutely believe Fox Business News reports about TM and the Model S, which I assume you know about from the comments in a separate thread on the subject matter. When I gave each of them a ride, followed by a personal test drive, they both were speechless. After the shock wore off they admitted the company and car are awesome and for real.

Just like @matt.wis presented, you can say an ICE car is comparable to a Blackberry, and the Model S is like an iPhone. TM has defined the future, and we are experiencing it now.

carlk | June 8, 2013

"There are two philosophies I recommend you consider your purchasing your vehicle: buy for value and the wonderfully designed experience, or buy a car that is an absolute dream car in every way and go all in."

Great article and this is the best part. Nothing to be ashamed if you're buying value or if you go all in.

lolachampcar | June 8, 2013

a little more on the range issue.

I bought a Zero electric motorcycle last year. My overriding concern was range. Three weeks into ownership and I realized that it was always full in the morning and I never went further in a day than the bike could go. The result, I literally stopped looking at the gas gauge. Try that with an ICE and see how long it works.

Four weeks into Zero ownership I went down to the Tesla service center, looked at the skateboard and placed an order.

Five months into P85 ownership and I do not look at it's gas gauge either.

jat | June 8, 2013

One other point on range anxiety regarding long trips - it really isn't an issue. Until the Superchargers are built out everywhere, it does take more planning, but just figure out what Wh/mi you need to achieve your destination with whatever range you need when you get there, then watch the trip meter with energy use since the last charge. If you are above that number, slow down. If you are below that number, speed up. Presto, no range anxiety.

ian | June 8, 2013

Great post indeed! Thanks for sharing!

matt.wis | June 8, 2013

Thanks everyone! The material seems to write itself.

I'm lying in the bed at the moment, a little sore from applying Meguiar's wash and Liquid Glass. I realize I've never heard another human say "Meguiar", so I feel like a newbie around some real enthusiasts. The Liquid Glass stuff is old school to say the least, but looks fantastic.

I love the information available here, it really adds to the fun.

jeremys | June 9, 2013


ajamison | June 9, 2013

Damn I should have really invested when it was 35 a share I could have sold it and bought a car already instead of trying to save and plan for one :(

dwnola | June 25, 2013

matt.wis, I gather from your post that you're in New Orleans. I also live in NO and have reserved a Model S & plan to finalize in the next week or so. What's your intel on a service center coming here? It's listed on the Tesla website as "coming soon" and one of their customer service guys told me this usually meant that they had identified a location & perhaps signed a lease. Do you have any more definite information than that?

Colasec | June 25, 2013

Thanks for bumping this post, dwnola!

@matt.wis, that's a great writeup. I especially enjoyed your "two philosophies" advice: this time I needed to "buy for value" and have ordered a black S60 w/ tech and pano, but I can't wait to get my P85+ someday :)

Cilifid07 | June 25, 2013

I test drove a Model S p85 with Grey on Grey exterior. The acceleration is of the scale fast I felt my abdomen sink.
There is nothing like it. I affirm to own a Tesla Model S in the near future.

EJH | June 25, 2013

Nice commentary, but as a two month owner of a new red P85, I think that it is fair to say that the red is stunning, and should not be overlooked as a color choice. We are talking serious fun here!!!!!!!!!


Captain_Zap | June 25, 2013

Red is great!
It helps to be visible in a silent car too.

hademarco | June 25, 2013

Way to go Matt. Excellent post.

olanmills | June 25, 2013

Nice post.

I just wanted to note that the vast majority of Model S owners are first time Tesla buyers. Whether or not they are first time EV owners is another matter, but I would be willing to bet that that is true as well.

NomoDinos | June 25, 2013

Excellent post, Matt! You really should share it with a newspa... er, online magazine (whoops, showing my age). You perfectly framed my current struggle between getting an almost perfect normal 85 now or saving up and waiting a bit for the electric beasT. Definitely going to pick up some of the stock, it's one of the few investments that make you feel like you're contributing to something important and special. Thanks for sharing!

fuellss | June 26, 2013

Also, you may now love red lights...I LOVE red lights now. I can choose/browse songs to play, I even hope for reds....rather than hoping I'll make the green.. stereo is incredible...Oh, its my husbands car, I kept telling him during the build that I didn't want to drive it once it came home, until I drove it....

AmpedRealtor | June 26, 2013

What a great post! You've forced me to contemplate spending even more money for options I hadn't considered before. Damn you! LOL

Brian H | June 27, 2013

Love your line, "I didn't want to drive it, till I drove it ..." Perfect!

J.T. | June 27, 2013

@Brian H

You sure take it easy on the women folk. No correction about "its" and then you used quotes even though you didn't quote exactly. Are you okay?

Brian H | June 27, 2013

Yeah, I did compress the essence. Just like the way it "fits together"!
Just to make you happy, here's my 6-word infallible guide to "it and the apostrophe":

His, hers, its;
He's, she's, it's.

mreichenberger | June 27, 2013

Thank you Matt. You are absolutely right. After a Test Drive, i Could Not sleep for 3 days. This is the Future. I can Not wait to sell my BMW 530, and get a tesla S.

Writing from munich, Germany, with an Strange Spelling auto-correction from my iPad.

p.s. Well i will Keep the porsche Carrera 4 for my son.

TFMethane | June 28, 2013

Great post. Totally feel the sentiment. They are making tens of thousands of these cars, and there are bound to be a few small negatives that get posted on these Forums. There is a publication bias toward the negative - human nature.

Your post reminds everyone of what a truly fantastic vehicle this is, and what a wonderful ownership experience it brings you. We should all keep adding our affirmations and keep this post near the top.

matt.wis | June 29, 2013

Sorry to be out of touch for a bit, work called and I had to answer the phone!

Something that's settled in for me over the last couple weeks is that "maximum Tesla P85++" is still a crazy, crazy value play, even (and especially) if you are comparing against supercars. The Model S is a value play at the entry level, but even more so at the high end. The "passion of a Ferrari at 1/3 the price"? Something like that. People love their cars, and so many have great quirks and character, from every era to now. I grew up and my first car that was truly mine, was a second generation RX-7 with the rotary engine. I drove it forever, and it was a joy. But now I feel like I have something at the apex the world has to offer and at a reasonable cost, for such a thing!

Another computer analogy -- I indulge in close to the top of the line iPhone, Macbook Pro, and iPad. I come from the graphics industry, and computer tech has been my lifeblood. There were years where the kind of improvement of going from a 100MHz computer to a 200MHz meant an astonishing increase in the quality of my life for meeting intense deadlines. The first 9 GB hard drive for my company -- shared by the whole company -- was a change in lifestyle for us all because we needed it to do TV commercials. I remember my first Dell laptop, which was about $4k in the 1990's.

Now, for less than the same $4k I used to pay for a reasonable product, I can have the pinnacle of technology. Today there are real contenders against the iPhone, but the iPhone has pretty much been the most advanced computing technology on the planet. Around 1995, Silicon Graphics would have charged something at least $250k for a refrigerator-sized beast that had less power than the iPhone 3GS. In any case, it's hard to buy something more advanced than the Apple gear today at *any* price. Apple has capped that price, and so has Tesla. You can buy something more specialized (and of course expensive), but the value/optimization of Tesla, like many Apple products, has capped and changed the market. Tesla will deliver astonishing technology at lower price points. I can't even believe I could spend $150k now on a car. What would I buy? Two months ago I would have told you a Bentley or Ferrari. Now, who cares?

As a side note, I drove my wife's car today with the family to shop for bikes. I got out of the car walking away and realized I hadn't locked the doors. Oops. Then I realized I had left the keys in the car. And, uh, I had left the keys in the unlocked car while it was running. It was like I had forgotten to tie down my horse after arriving at my destination. Funny how you get used to this all "just working" now. If the Model S didn't have Park as an option, I'm sure I would have left the car in Drive as well...

Regarding the service center, I hear it'll be six months or so till there's one in New Orleans. Generally, the concept makes sense of putting service centers in many more communities than "dealers", or whatever they need to be called. You can test drive the car many ways (travel to a dealer or test drive somebody else's locally), but having a service center in your town is a comfort that is quite meaningful to many people. I didn't need that reassurance, but I understand it and I'm glad the vibes from Tesla are for an aggressive roll out of service centers. When they actually can execute on that is a different issue (maybe more than 6 months for my home), but Tesla has banked enough credibility on execution (for me at least) that I don't really care if they run late. They'll get to my town as fast as any company in history has done an expansion of this kind, and so I'm patient. If you would like to test drive or just to chat locally, drop me a line... my personal email is my user name plus

Have a great holiday week everyone!

jbunn | June 29, 2013

Great post Matt. After driving my Tesla for a month and a half, I drove my wife's ice. Without regen, I felt like the thing was careening to destruction. Would not slow when I took my foot off the gas. And the noise was shocking, even though I never noticed it before. Finally, I parked it for lunch, got out and walked away with the motor running. After 35 years of driving, I now find the key and ignition confusing. Weird...

It's a whole new paradigm.

Brian H | June 29, 2013

Stores, not dealers.

tobi_ger | June 29, 2013

Stores, not dealers.
Hmm... if the store does not sell nor store anything, is it still a store? Would branch be more appropriate? :)

NomoDinos | June 29, 2013

Well, I did buy the "zero emissions... almost" onesie from the Tesla info-tainment facility, so I suppose it should be considered a clothing store.

HenryT2 | June 29, 2013

Love your post. Didn't read it before because, well, I'd already bought the car...

I'd like to print it out and give to people who ask me about buying one. Is that alright? Well, I'm going to do it anyway. Send me a cease and desist letter if you object. ;-)

HenryT2 | June 29, 2013

I bought on value, the 40. And I LOVE it. And I love that when people ask me how much it cost, I am not embarrassed to tell them. I tested a P85. FAST! A little too fast for me. I find myself mostly holding back even with a my piddling 60kWh battery. Not sure if I'd put the accelerator to the floor more than 2 or 3 times a month for a couple of seconds.

But one thing I noticed about Model S is how easy it is to "punch it" BECAUSE of the lack of noise. If I were to roar away from every traffic light with an ICE, I'd just feel obnoxious. I used to like the roar of a Ferrari engine, but now, it just feels loud and uncouth. Yeah it's powerful, but not how I'd prefer to take off from a stoplight. But even without the noise, I'm a little self conscious about how often I leave other cars behind when taking off so I'm pretty sure the P85 really would have been overkill for me.

But, if you like the adrenaline rush, not only will the P85 give you the adrenaline rush, you'll be able to do it in a more "civilized" manner. And if you're the type who doesn't need to beat his own chest, and just kick #ss NINJA-STYLE, there's no other car that'll do it.

matt.wis | June 30, 2013

@HenryT2 (and others) You are more than welcome share any of my comments. Do you think it'd be helpful to others if I posted the original on the Tesla Motors Club forums, albeit maybe with a different title?

I think the 40 turned out to be an incredible deal. I don't need more than that range 99% of the time, but I was worried about resale value over the range issue for other commuters who might consider the car. With more battery there for an upgrade price, it seems to give a lot of protection on that front. But now it's hard to believe I wouldn't just be trading in for another Tesla in a future refresh, which was another misconception on my part before ownership.

rtb | June 30, 2013

Matt: are you related to the 5th circuit judge? If so, I see where you received your talent for writing.

AmpedRealtor | June 30, 2013

On the last day of my reservation, I contemplated canceling. I visited BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus web sites to price a vehicle in the $100,000 range of my P85. This exercise proved one thing - that no other car at any price is attractive if it runs on gasoline. After living in the mindspace of electric vehicles for two weeks, I realized that the thought of buying anything else is joyless. That is the moment I committed to having this car built.

You tend not to realize how old ICE technology is - along with all of its maintenance issues and costs - until you compare it to something like Model S. Tesla has completely re-conceived the modern sedan into a sustainable, low polluting vehicle with zero emissions and with amazing range and performance compared to its predecessors.

defmonk | June 30, 2013

Great post (and not just because it's largely positive). It's important for real owners to post their real-life experience overviews in the public forum. Otherwise, the views of one-time test drivers and their ilk predominate. I'm also heartened to see a great review get as much action, and bump, as the very active troll vs. troll hunter threads. Bump.

Brian H | June 30, 2013

They carry and sell hats and t-shirts. ;)

tobi_ger | June 30, 2013

Ah, nice! :)

Mathew98 | July 2, 2013

@HenryT2 - You ought to step on the accelerator hard more than twice a month to match your MC red mistress. This way the "Arrest Me" red will earn its keep...

I was at a service center yesterday and there were only two MC Red out of about a dozen of mostly white/black/blue/Sig Red MS. I have to say that while the rest of the color look elegant, I wanted mine to reflect every line and curvature of the beautiful masterpiece.

The brilliant MC red definitely achieved its goal and then some. Now when will the urge to floor it at every intersection subside???

matt.wis | July 2, 2013

@rtb, yes, he was my grandfather's brother, and family patriarch for 20 years after both of my grandfathers passed away. For other folks, there is a writer in our family whose best work was as a judge who wrote decisions to end racial discrimination in the southern US. I could hardly overstate how much of a personal hero he is, and sincerely appreciate the notion of any connection to his talent!

Trolls aside, it's great fun not knowing who is on these boards. I suspect there are many passionate people out there. Hopefully one day I can connect with rtb and many of you.