For most people buying a car is a simple matter of swapping old for new and getting used to some new features and ergonomics. With the Tesla Model S there are a few extra preparations needed beyond the basics of figuring out how to pay for it.
The largest preparation, and the one with the most lead time, is preparing for how you will charge the car. While there are a good number of public chargers, Superchargers and the like out there, the odds are that you need a charger where you live. For people living in cities or in condos this can be a challenge and often entails working with the parking garage owners, the condo associations and other groups. This can take a very long time so if you fall in that camp i’d recommend you start researching the charging options even before you place your order just so you know what you’re in for. While it is possible to charge off a standard plug, the charge times are terrible. You’re going to want something along the lines of a NEMA 14-50 which isn’t in most garages or parking lots.
If you’re fortunate enough to own your own house/destiny then you need to start by contacting your local electrician. If you don’t have one or simply want a referral you can email Tesla’s special charging installation team for a recommendation. In the US they’ll steer you towards that NEMA 14-50 and provide some installation guidelines and recommended outlet locations:
If you have no existing infrastructure in your garage then going with their recommendations is a good idea. Just beware that the locations near the garage doors (in between them or to the side) are potentially exposed to some weather. Perhaps in sunny California they don’t have that issue but those areas in my garage in Massachusetts get hit with rain, sleet, snow etc. If you have existing infrastructure then you’ll have to work with it and figure out a strategy. For me, I had an existing 50A panel with the wrong outlet in my 3 car garage at about the position of the font right fender of the Tesla in the 3 car garage picture above. While I could have had the electrician extend the outlet and move it that would have added cost and mess to the garage. The result is that i’ll be backing my Tesla into my garage daily. Fortunately there’s a huge rear view camera :)
In terms of cost, a NEMA 14-50 outlet install in the US seems to cost people between $1,000 and $1,500. This can vary greatly and thanks to my existing infrastructure for me it came in at $675. Also beware that (depending on your install) permits may be needed which can add time and cost. I started the process as soon as I confirmed my order and it was done long before delivery. I’ve heard stories of people that didn’t get the charging part taken care of before delivery and then they suffered through slow 110V charging for weeks and had a bad initial EV experience. Don’t be that person — get your charging sorted out as soon as possible.
Other than paying for, insuring and charging the car the rest is pretty small stuff.
I’m not trading in my existing car, so this will be an additional car for me. My 3rd bay in my garage in near that outlet I had installed has been used for storage of mowers, bikes, and other things. So preparation for me included cleaning out that garage, getting the bike up and out of the way, etc.
The other concern I had was the fit as the Model S is both wide and long and is as wide as my Acura MDX SUV and longer than it too. Since my Acura was a close approximation I practiced backing into the garage to make sure of the fit after the clean out. I’ll be glad to have that bigger rear view camera but otherwise the fit looked like it would work out.
Another thing thats very different with the Model S versus other cars is that it has no CD or DVD player. You can use bluetooth streaming audio, internet radio, or a USB stick. While I often use bluetooth streaming to listen to Audible on my long commute, I like a large music library always in the car and not tied to my phone to listen to with passengers, and so they can pick their own music from my library. With the Model S the only option there is the USB stick. The USB ports are in an interesting place out in the open under the front armrests. Most USB sticks are long and stick out and would be prone to getting bumped and breakage. I wanted something less likely to break and with great capacity so I opted for a SanDisk Cruzer Fit CZ33 64GB for about $35 that can hold about 8 DVD’s worth of music. Considering I used a single MP3 DVD before in my Acura this will take care of me for a long time. Once that arrived I loaded up my music and pocketed it for delivery day.
Another preparation item was around the floor mats. Perhaps in California the standard carpet mats work for people but here in Massachusetts there’s a lot of salt, sand, mud, etc. Plus I live on a farm. So I always get all weather mats for my cars. Tesla is odd in that they really have no inventory at their stores (just T-shirts etc) and even the delivery centers have very little in the way of accessories. The local delivery center did have some all weather mats for the interior but not for the trunk and frunk. I had them put aside the mats they had and then ordered the rest from their online store.
Beware if you order them online as they come all rolled up and will not lay flat in your car immediately. So part of my preparation was laying them out in the basement with the obligatory assortment of Unix manuals and the like weighing them down. As with many things Tesla, they weren’t cheap. A total set of all weather mats will set you back $510, but I think they’re a good investment. The all weather mats in my Acura SUV have lasted 190K miles and 7 years and have taken a lot of abuse.
The final item I deliberated over but did nothing about was the fob which is what you use to lock, unlock the car, etc. Its not a key and doesn’t have a keyring. While its very cool and shaped like the car, the fact that you can’t easily attach keys to it has people baffled.
There is a tiny slit in the fob that you could put a small band through, the kind that come with tiny USB devices but these aren’t ideal for also attaching keys.
Another option is what they call a “fob pocket” which is a little pouch with a keychain attached into which you slide the fob. These have the added advantage of also protecting the fob from scratches when jangling around in your pocket with other items.
The problem for me with them is that none of them are made by Tesla and thus do not have any official branding and most of them are cheap looking. The cheapest ones are made for USB sticks and don’t have any Tesla identification. I think its ironic that Tesla gives you two nice looking official keychains when you buy the Model S but that you can’t use them with the fob for the car.
I didn’t like any of the options and decided to wait to get the fob and deal with it from there. My plan is to just use the fob as it is and keep all my other house/work keys in my glovebox or something (perhaps on that official Tesla keychain!) and just have the inconvenience of not having them in my pocket. It’s the little things sometimes. I think designers sometimes don’t take into consideration how people live and work and you get these cool but odd product features.
To tally things up, my pre-delivery costs were $675 + $35 + $510 = $1,220.
There were also all the non-financial delivery preparations like watching the Tesla walkthrough videos, reading the owners manual and other guides (you get access to these once you place your order via the MyTesla portal, and of course trolling the Tesla Forums.
Those were my delivery preparations up to a week before delivery. Did you do something different? I’d love to hear.
This article first appeared on Teslarati.