Model S Reliability

Model S Reliability

With two days to go to finalize my order I’m finding myself experiencing a case of “tesla anxiety”. After spending several hours each day last week reading the forums and Tesla blogs I started getting worried about the seemingly large number of owners experiencing all sorts of mechanical failures. At this point I’m in need of some reassurance (and hopefully this is just the place to get it ). The main reason for my anxiety is simple -- my primary justification for purchasing a MS is the fact that this car should be significantly more reliable and cheaper to own then a traditional ICE car. I drive roughly 25,000 miles per year and for me to justify the purchase of this car the plan is to keep it for 8-10 years. With that said:
1. Do we know specifically how common it is for a MS to need a replacement drive unit similar to the experience of the long term test car (and a number of folks from the Mechanical Issues thread here)? I realize this is not a problem while most of us are under warranty but my guess is that a “replacement” drive unit out of warranty is going to set the owner back anywhere between 5K and 10K for parts and labor (if anyone here has specific pricing on this I would love to know what it is). Given the number of failures we’re seeing in relatively new cars I can’t help but wonder what this means for those of us who plan to keep this car long term past the warranty of the car. By contrast, motor failures are extremely rare for ICE cars nowadays and even when things go wrong it’s very rare to see the whole motor replaced.
2. There seems to be a large number of cars experiencing a problem with the 12v battery not charging. While this does not seem like a huge deal on the surface, it does not look like this has been fully addressed by Tesla yet and experiencing this problem leaves the MS owner essentially stranded by the side of the road in need of a tow.
3. It seems that there is some defect causing the rear wheel alignment to eventually creep way out of spec. I have a friend who bought a P85 in the spring of 2013 and by the time he hit 8K miles his rear tires were down to the threads. His experience was pretty much identical to that of the long term test car. Tesla did re-align his car for free but they refused to pay for the replacement tires.
4. There seems to be a large number of misc. failures around the door handles and power window mechanisms.

In the end my main question is whether these are problems that a large number of owners encounter? I realize that we’re all much more likely to find people posting of things going wrong so I’d love to hear from folks who have a relatively trouble free ownership experience.

Petitefogger | November 24, 2013

I'll leave the detailed hand-holding to others, but remember that:
1. Consumer Reports, not in anyone's pocket, gave the Model S a 99% rating.
2. Of a statistically-significant sample of Model S owners, 99% would buy again. | November 24, 2013

Very reliable. Not perfect (nothing is).
Great maintenance & service...My post in this other thread sums the whole experience....

Big T | November 24, 2013

Assembling a car requires thousands of parts sourced from many vendors. Most of those will function per spec for the life of the car and beyond. There will always be parts that fail early. Often it's a bad run of specific parts that goes undetected. Fortunately, the Model S has fewer parts than ICE cars. Every new car I've owned has had warranty and recall work performed. Some of those cars cost much more than a fully loaded Model S. You're reading about those cars that had problems. People tend not to post when they don't have problems.

It is natural to have anxiety when making a large purchase. Click confirm and have a glass of your favorite wine. Your anxiety will soon turn to excitement and anticipation.

scourge | November 24, 2013

Big T -- best suggestion yet!

cb9 | November 24, 2013

I got a message this morning that the update failed because the 12v battery needed servicing. I called Tesla and they looked at remote diagnostics and said all was fine, no impact to my driving plans needed, but they called my local service center who called me to offer times for me to come in for the proactive fix. Some might say I have had a problem, but I am thinking how awesome the service is and how impressively this company has stepped up. I remember when IBM introduced remote diagnostics for mainframes back in 1990 and I still think it is fantastic that my car can do "ET phone home."

So +1 to Big T, relax and look forward to the experience.
And you aren't the only one who second-guessed if you wanted to be an early adopter, but there are a lot of us here who are smiling and wondering how long it will take for you to post that you've got that Tesla grin.

Low CG | November 24, 2013

This is a great example of the problem of these forums: the misperceptions they generate. Some of the problems are highlighted by the few owners with significant problems. Some are minor issues highlighted by people who can find something wrong with apple pie. And some are hype driven by forces working for Tesla’s failure. And if were thinking about buying a Tesla, I’d go here, read through the posts, and would probable buy a different car. And I’d make the BIGGEST car-buying mistake I’ve ever made. I’ve had my Model S for a year. It is, BY FAR, the best most reliable car I’ve ever owned (I’ve been driving 35 years and have owned Jags, BMWs, Cadillacs, Hondas, etc). Only maintenance I’ve had is to have tires rotated. I’ve ordered my wife a Model X. If I were Tesla, I’d change these forums. They’re not helping them sell cars (which are, indeed, amazing).

jjs | November 24, 2013


It has been my experience that the Model S will have more first year problems than a car from a more established manufacturer.

However, once the initial issues are worked through, you should see far fewer. The reason is simply fewer parts. Also, Tesla is the BEST, in my experience of 50 years owning cars, at service.

If you can't afford some risk. This is not the car for you. Sorry. However just about all risk can be successfully mitigated by purchasing the extended warranty/service plans. This puts all the risk back on Tesla (al beit the inconvenience is still yours).

For me the largest concern would be the battery pack and the cost associated with that. However Tesla now warranties it, thus assuming the risk. (They both they and I believe to be minimal.)

I have 20,000 miles on my P85. I would not trade it for any vehicle that I am aware of. Too safe, too fun, too cool.

Best of luck with your decision. I hope you don't miss out on the future!

SMinnihan | November 24, 2013

stan - those have been my exact issues too. my other sticking point is conceptual and high level, which is i can't help but to think a 4,600 pound car with 1,500 pounds of battery strapped to the bottom of it (in addition to going through many sets of tires in its lifetime) seems destined to become old technology in the not too distant future.

i'm not a first adopter type and while i'm dying to trade in my gas guzzling 1999 toyota land cruiser (it still run like a dream, zero issues in 14 years and 150K miles of ownership), it seems like the technology is developing so fast around other zero/low emission technologies and lower weight car materials, it seems more prudent to wait if you can.

that said, if you need to pull the trigger today on a $100K luxury EV, there are no other options on market.

AmpedRealtor | November 24, 2013

I'll be honest, I've had some issues... but every single item was quickly addressed by Tesla. When an owner tells you "Tesla will make it right", trust me when I say they speak the honest truth. As a first year production vehicle, there will be some bumps in the road. But the service is top notch and concerns get communicated up the management chain very quickly.

ziggy | November 24, 2013

I had some minor issues. But I had minor issues with my Dodge truck too. Difference is that Dodge charged me 600 bucks that was clearly something that was their fault and my Tesla was fixed quickly, free and with a good attitude.

TeslaOR | November 24, 2013

Its the first complete car Tesla made and uses a bunch of new technology. I expected a couple of glitches and have had a couple, but the Tesla SC came through. The SC is only 10 miles away for me so its easy to stop by. If I lived a lot further away it would have been more of a hassle.

HGP16 | November 24, 2013

@lcohen +1

Stan, what's mostly missing from the forums is any count of owners with no problems. So out of 20,000+ drivers, you are reading a very small handful of stories where the problems always get resolved. I've had an S60 for 7 months; had to have the 12V battery changed out and the internet antenna tweaked. Best of luck.

uselesslogin | November 24, 2013

I checked Consumer Reports and based on their survey it came back with average reliability rating. The general trend I see is that the Japanese cars are more reliable, the German cars are about equally reliable as a Tesla, and the other American cars are mostly less reliable. I'm looking at ratings for Luxury cars.

lolachampcar | November 24, 2013


First, if it has not already been said, you may want to change your handle to prevent unwanted spam :)

WRT MS, as many have commented, the forums are good places to air problems and seek feedback from others that may be experiencing those same or similar issues. By the very nature of this, the forum can likely make one feel like Tesla has never produced a car that worked. This is normal and the nature of a "problem" forum (or at least one were help with problems can be found).

My first MS came in Feb. while the second and third deliveries were July and early September. The Feb delivery was in the middle to end of the whole 12V issue. There were tons of posters dealing with failing 12V batteries and Tesla was quick to act on a proactive basis. My Feb. delivery did not have a 12V (or any other for that matter) issue thus it was likely addressed before delivery.

The second and third deliveries went similarly well WRT quality. We did have one small problem with my wife's car which, because of this forum and TMC, I was aware of and knew it was not a big deal. Specifically, one of the hard lines coming off the AC compressor can be too close to the steering wheel shaft. This can cause a metallic rattle when the AC compressor is in a high load condition. I knew what the problem was from others that had come before me, knew it was not a big deal and thus was not concerned living with the problem until a Ranger could come out and fix it. In short, my cars have all been great.

The above said, I did have some converts take back to back delivery at the end of Q3. There cars suffered quality problems which I attribute to an end of quarter push to make numbers. One of the cars had three issues (window clunk, blue fluid leaking and the spinning GPS) which were addressed with the same Ranger visit that fixed my wife's AC compressor issue and a firmware update. The second car has been a nightmare which has yet to fully play out.

I think the best summary would be that Tesla produces a very good car but they are not perfect. Nick Howe has done a fantastic detailed QC sheet for taking delivery. I have suggest to all my test drivers since the two deliveries above that they make the final payment when they collect the car and only after a complete inspection. If you have an issue, simply ask Tesla to address it before you take delivery. I suspect if you take these precautions that you will likely end up one of the many like me that have taken delivery of fantastic cars. That just seems to be the way Murphy's Law works :)

Tesla-David | November 24, 2013

Only one small issue since I got my car delivered on 1/2/13. Miss-aligned driver and front passenger doors, which were fixed promptly by SC. Car has operated flawlessly for over 10 months and is an absolute joy to drive.

David15 | November 24, 2013

Go ahead and pull the trigger Stan. You're not going to regret it. I'm a roadster owner for 4.5 years (40,000 miles) and Model S owner for 9 months and 10,000 miles. There's always a bit of competition about who gets to drive when the family goes somewhere together. I've had a few fun cars before, but nothing like this. The Model S gets better everyday and I'm still grinning.

jcaspar1 | November 24, 2013

Get one. While I have only had my Model S for 3 weeks, it has been absolutely flawless so far with zero issues, even minor ones. Better than every european car I have owned...

Brian H | November 24, 2013

Not so. The rebuttals and counter-examples have more effect, in the end. They are more numerous, and what can compare to "I never bother to drive my (Porsche, Benz, Masarati) any more" ?

the reason CR gave the low rating is that the long-distance solution wasn't then proven. Since then, the SC network is showing that it's real. So that 1% deduction no longer applies. :)

carlk | November 24, 2013

People who do not have problems rarely come to the forum to report it. Only people have problems do. That's just human nature. The best guidance is probably the CR survey. Also Tesla's recent SEC financial filing states the estimated future warranty repair cost to the company is ~$400/car/year. That's about 1~2 hours of service a year. It does not look like Tesla sees any major reliability issues so far.

AoneOne | November 24, 2013

I haven't experienced any of the four issues mentioned in the original post, but my Model S has had a number of minor and major problems. I think that Tesla and the Model S are still experiencing teething pains: mostly around QC in manufacturing and parts suppliers, but also at the service centers. These are to be expected with a new car model with many new features and components, but do lead to complaints in these forums.

Once these issues are addressed, I fully expect my car to be more reliable and require less maintenance than any of my other cars.

My advice to prospective owners: The sooner you buy one, the sooner you'll enjoy it.

Mark K | November 24, 2013

To the OP's question:

I have two Model S's.

I've owned a large number of Mercedes cars previously over many years. While generally very good, none of those have been as reliable as what I've experienced in the same 10k miles as on these Teslas.

This is a new model, new prouction line, new service infrastructure, new company and new technology.

To have this good of an overall experience in that context is nothing short of astounding.

As with all cars, defects do occur, but you can avoid hassle even in those unusual cases, by simply deferring delivery until any issues are sorted and it meets spec.

My guess is that you will entirely lose enthusiasm for other cars once you've been driving this one for a week.

scourge | November 24, 2013

I appreciate everyone's feedback. A white S85 is now on order ;) I will say that after reading the comments to this post -- I've NEVER seen an owner community more impressed with a product. This is either one amazing ownership experience or a case of mass insanity :)

tes-s | November 24, 2013

3.5 months, 9000 miles, no reliability issues. Took an 850 mile trip last week using supercharger - no problem. | November 24, 2013


SCCRENDO | November 24, 2013

16700 miles, 7 months. Went through through my first service, where they replaced the mats and wipers. Had about 5 or 6 minor issues that were easily fixed. It seems different batches of cars have had similar minor issues. I look at these as teething problems easily fixed. Don't miss going to the gas station, servicing my car every 5000 miles. Just get into my charged car in the morning and start driving. All I have to worry about is getting my services every 12,500 miles and my tires rotated in between.

SCCRENDO | November 24, 2013

By the way my minor problems were a TPMS warning light, they replaced the sensor
Back power windows. Placed clips and replaced one motor
Faulty charging cable. Replaced it
Possible faulty master charger replaced it
Pano roof noise. Fixed it.
2 flat tires. Damn nails on the road.
Mats folded over. Replaced them at 1st service.

carlk | November 24, 2013

White right? Congrats!

gill_sans | November 24, 2013

+1 @Pettifogger

The Model S is a fantastic, mind-blowing car.

There have been multiple "no problems" threads. I'll just point out the top three that I found on

Brian H | November 24, 2013

Both. One causes the other.

riceuguy | November 24, 2013

Just a few minor issues for me, and those are vastly outweighed by things like this: I needed a charge at the Dallas service center for about 3 hours, and they were swamped prepping new cars but noted I should bring my car into my service center soon for some service bulletins. The service center manager knew that I was going to be there for a while and without even asking, had them perform all of the service bulletins done while it was charging. When it was at the charge level I had asked for, they told me what they had done, and I marveled that all I needed to do was get my tires rotated. They said if I had another 30 minutes they could do that, and I said I could just get it done for free at Discount Tire near my house (don't judge!). The service center manager said that was just silly and that they would do it for free. After that, the service manager personally washed my car by hand. Mind you I just came in for a charge since I was in from out of town.

My previous Infiniti dealership kept trying to sell me a brake job for $600 (claiming my pads were "dangerously low") until I said my lease was up in 5 months...then they said they were just fine. Compare and contrast.

For the few problems I have had, they have been addressed as well as they can be (some things don't have solutions yet, but they are just minor things that I forget are there for months at a time. I pull up to cars I used to lust after, and their drivers jealously eye my car now. I love it. I don't know how I could ever drive something different!

Yvesn7 | November 24, 2013

About a year ago my wife and I purchased 2 brand new cars of similar price - a Tesla S85 and a Mercedes GL350 BlueTech.

A year later the Tesla has been everything advertised and more - reliable, economical to operate, a joy to drive, no major issue, and outstanding service.

In comparison the Mercedes broke down twice within its first 1,500 miles and ended up going back to the shop. They never could fix it (some known but apparently unresolvable software bug in the BlueTech injection system). Customer service was an absolute nightmare to deal with. We were left in limbo for 4 months and had to talk to an attorney in order to get our money back under the lemon law.

This is obviously a single experience and not meant to be a generalization. But I'm just sayin'.

Brian H | November 25, 2013

German engineering. Impervious, immortal, unkillable, unfindable bugs! Impressive.

eAdopter | November 25, 2013

In my opinion, reliability/service satisfaction is almost directly related to distance from a Service Center. My car has had several issues, large and small. It's my understanding that many other owners have had a similar experience. My Model S has been into the shop every month since delivery, sometimes for many days. Normally this would have angered me (and it did at first). However, both Service Centers in my area responded quickly to the issues and the overall experience was fine.
To the OP, I suggest purchasing a Model S only if a Service Center is near your home or office. Spending hours to drop-off and pick-up a car can become frustrating, at least to me. It's probably less of an issue for those who purchase Ranger service, but still an inconvenience I'd rather avoid.

For reference, my second car is a 2012 Honda. In 19 months it's been in the shop once for a $40 oil change that was completed in 30 minutes. In comparison, coordinating my Model S repairs has consumed about 10 hours of my time since delivery in June.

AmpedRealtor | November 25, 2013

I agree with eAdopter. I would not have purchased the car without the availability of a local service center.

christurbeville | November 25, 2013

+1 @eAdopter while my issues (pano, throttle yaw, drive hum) have been slightly above average they are no worse than any other high-end car I've bought (mostly BMWs). That said having the DFW SC a couple miles away has been a life saver. I would caution anyone looking for the pure economic savings of a MS to be warned it's a luxury/performance car and "21 rims and tires will never be economical. The huge torque of the car will eat tires and cost more than other ICE cars BUT in an apples to apples, luxury to luxury comparison the MS IS economical. That being said the fun and joy of driving it and owning it are priceless:)

reversalzz | March 4, 2014

We've owned many cars. The Tesla S is the most reliable vehicle we've ever owned. Amazing car, in all respects.

Steve P5664 | July 10, 2014

Oh , I have had some issues...but I STILL LOVE MY TESLA!!!

-LR window off track, fixed at my place of work
-RR door handle was pitted, replaced at my place of work
-steering clicking, added shims at SC
-currently at SC getting a new drive unit, it was noisy than it had been prior, SC sent noise recording to engineering, they determined it was above the threshold and will replace it the same day.

However, Tesla SC has been very quick to fix the issue, provide a loner and pick up the car. I barely mis a beat while they solve whatevr I ask them too. I have 30 K on my 60KW and my only trade-in would be for the X, if and when...