2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Wrap-Up | Edmunds.com

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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Read the 2013 Tesla Model S's introduction to our long-term fleet.

See all of the long-term 2013 Tesla Model S's updates.

What We Got
When it finally came time to order our 2013 Tesla Model S we had two trim levels to decide between: Base and Performance. The base version started at $59,900 and included 19-inch wheels, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and cloth seats. More importantly, it was powered by the standard 40 kWh battery pack rated at 235 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque and had a range of roughly 100 miles on electricity. This wasn't going to be enough power for our daily driving habits.

Instead, we opted for the Performance trim. With that we got the 85 kWh battery, which boosted output to 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. It also extended the electric range closer to 265 miles. Adjustable air suspension, traction control and Nappa leather were also part of the $93,750 starting price. Optional equipment was plentiful. We added blue metallic paint ($750), a panoramic sunroof ($1,500), Dolby Pro Logic stereo ($950), rear-facing jump seats ($1,500), a rear parcel shelf ($250), twin chargers ($1,500) to utilize the high-power wall connector ($1,200 plus $35 shipping) and the Tech package ($3,750), which bundled xenon headlights, self-dimming side mirrors, a power liftgate, an HD back-up camera, turn-by-turn navigation and automatic keyless entry.

All in all our Model S stickered at $105,005 when we picked it up at Tesla's factory in Fremont, California. Here's how the ownership experience went.


  • "The Model S is comfortable, luxurious and it feels substantial on the road. And it is fast. Like supercar fast.... The Tesla does not like crosswinds. For several miles, keeping the sedan true in the lane was difficult. Nothing severe, but not the kind of dynamic flaw you find in a Mercedes S-Class or a Porsche Panamera." — Scott Oldham

  • 2013 Tesla Model S

  • "This car's ability to dump all that torque from a stop and supply it continuously throughout the quarter-mile is what makes it so unique." — Chris Walton


  • "Our Model S can do many things other EVs can't.... Here it's plugged in to the 240V shore power receptacle at an RV park in a space with full hookups. It's made to do this, which is another sign that Tesla is thinking way outside the box that defines other electric vehicles and their limited capabilities." — Dan Edmunds

  • "A couple of weekends ago my wife and I dashed out of town to watch the Grand Am races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. And we drove up and back in our Tesla Model S, the only pure electric vehicle on the market that can make the 750-mile round trip in anything approaching a normal time scale." — Dan Edmunds


  • "In the Model S, the eight-way-adjustable front seats are pleasantly comfortable. They have a good shape, nice materials and a decent amount of adjustment. But as luxury cars go, they're nothing special." — Ed Hellwig

  • 2013 Tesla Model S

  • "The best thing the rear seats in the Tesla have going for them is space. There's plenty of it. The Model S is a very wide car and it translates into enough room for true three-across seating. In most luxury sedans, the middle is nothing more than a penalty seat." — Ed Hellwig

Cargo Space

  • "I don't understand the Tesla Model S's center console, or rather its lack of one. There's just a carpeted strip on the floor with little walls on the side. It's basically a gutter. Is this appealing?" — James Riswick

  • "The task of transporting a set of wheels for my personal car recently fell to our Tesla Model S. Even with the rear jump seats installed there was plenty of space for four large boxes." — Travis Langness


  • "Yesterday I put my 5-year-old in the Tesla's rear jump seat. It was met with a mixed review. There was a moment of hesitation, for both of us, when I closed the hatch. Then, as I climbed in the driver seat to take her for a ride, she said this. 'Daddy, I don't think it's a good idea to put kids in the trunk.'" — Josh Jacquot

  • "I really like the look of the wood trim in our long-term Tesla. It's got a rough texture with a matte finish, which cuts down on the amount of glare that might sear your retina. In a neat coincidence, I found out a little more about this unique wood trim." — Mark Takahashi

Audio and Technology

  • "I'm fairly obsessed with the iPhone app for our Tesla Model S. Every once in a while I just check in to see how the car is doing. It's like having a baby monitor for your car." — Donna DeRosa

  • 2013 Tesla Model S

  • "Medium- and high-pitch frequencies are crisp and clear, while bass is strong and consistent up and down the volume range. There is no speaker distortion, regardless of genre (making it more impressive), even when you turn the stereo up to the maximum." — Travis Langness


  • "The primary display screen on our Tesla Model S went blank, again. If you are keeping track, this is the third outage in three months of ownership." — Mike Schmidt

  • "Despite the car's breathtaking price tag, the Model S's tire pressure monitor doesn't tell you which tire is low. It just says 'Hey! Go check all the tires!'" — John O'Dell


  • "The Tesla's setup bothers me because in Southern California every time you apply the brakes it affects hundreds, if not thousands, of others behind you. I simply don't want to trigger the brake lights every time I lift off the throttle. Let me be clear: I also don't want to be rear-ended." — Josh Jacquot

  • "'There's a Tesla Supercharger around here somewhere,' I thought to myself.... I found it just behind a Fro-Yo place and the Chipotle Grill.... A Panda Express sits next door... an In-n-Out a quarter-mile away.... You'll have plenty to eat while your Model S quietly recharges in something like 30 or 45 minutes. And there are six available spots." — Dan Edmunds

Maintenance & Repairs

Regular Maintenance:
Routine service is due on the Model S every 12,500 miles or 12 months, according to the owner's manual. Tires should be rotated every 6,000 miles.

Service Campaigns:
We expected some hiccups from the Model S. Not only was the car an all-new display of emerging technology, but it was also Tesla's first shot at building a car from the ground up. Our car amassed quite the repair résumé during the last 17 months.

Some notes about this list: 1) It includes everything beyond normal maintenance; 2) we had an early production car, so several of these issues were fixed as running changes on later production models; 3) many of the repairs were performed during the same visit; 4) only two visits required more than an overnight stay.

Problem Repair Cost
Suspicious noise Replace first drive unit Warranty
Car died roadside Replace second drive unit Warranty
Suspicious noise Replace third drive unit and ride height sensor Warranty
Car died roadside Replace main battery Warranty
Touchscreen froze Replace main display screen Warranty
Optional 21-inch rear tires worn to cords prematurely Replace rear tires and fix alignment Warranty
Car died roadside Replace 12-volt battery and cables Warranty
Steering wheel creak Shim and torque sub-frame bolts Warranty
Odd noise from undercarriage Rerouted logic harnesses per TSB Warranty
Sunroof will not work Replace broken sunroof deflector Warranty
Driver door opens automatically Replace driver door handle mechanism Warranty
Recall issued Battery shield kit installed Warranty
TSB issued Inspect joints for all lower control arm washers Warranty
TSB issued Update firmware to version 5.8.4 Warranty
TSB issued Update firmware to version 5.11 Warranty
TSB issued Replace front bumper carrier bolts Warranty
TSB issued Install rear upper camber bolts Warranty
TSB issued Replace side motor mount Warranty
TSB issued Replace front floor mats, install rear floor mats Warranty
Left radiator shutter faulty Replace center louvers Warranty
Lug nuts beginning to swell Replace all 20 lug nuts Warranty
Cracked vanity mirror hinge Replace cracked vanity mirror hinge Goodwill
Humming noise at start-up Install AC compressor NVH cover Goodwill
Vanity mirror hinge cracked Replace missing charge cord trim piece Goodwill
Touchscreen froze Manual reset (required 9 times during test) None
Windows lowered automatically Unresolved, happened twice None
TPMS confused Unresolved, happened once None
Condensation in taillight Unresolved prior to sale None

Fuel Economy and Resale Value

Observed Fuel Economy:
EPA estimates for electricity consumption in the Model S were 38 kWh/100 miles, with a range of 265 miles on a full charge. Our best observed range was 230.4 miles and the best projected range was 264.2 miles. The best average energy for a single charge was 238 watt-hours per mile (23.8 kWh/100 miles) and the worst 344 watt-hours per mile (34.0 kWh/100 miles). The energy usage calculations do not include charge losses, which are 25-35 percent based on our experience with the high-powered wall connector (HPWC).

2013 Tesla Model S

Resale and Depreciation:
We purchased our Model S for $103,770 (excluding the charger, which we kept). After 17 months we accumulated 30,251 miles and it was time to sell. At this time, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator could not value the vehicle, as there weren't enough cars on the used market. So we tried our luck with CarMax, who offered $79,000. Research led us to believe the fair market value was higher, so we advertised publicly. Soon thereafter we found a buyer and sold for $83,000, which reflected a 20-percent depreciation.

Summing Up

Pros: Thrilling performance, spacious and comfortable cabin, unmatched electric range, easy-to-use driver interface, plenty of cargo space, free national supercharger network, no routine maintenance costs, strong resale value.

Cons: Extensive list of repairs necessary, interior amenities don't match other luxury sedans in its price range, latest active safety systems not available, needs at least a Level 2 charger to make it useful as a daily driver.

Bottom Line: The Model S is a fast, comfortable and technologically brilliant luxury sedan, but numerous problems with its touchscreen, tires and drivetrain make it hard to recommend.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: None (over 17 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: $1,907 for 5 new tires, mounted and balanced
Warranty Repairs: See previous list, "Warranty"
Non-Warranty Repairs: See previous list, "Goodwill"
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 7
Days Out of Service: 9
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 1
Best Observed Range: 230.4 miles
Best Projected Range: 264.2 mpg
Best Average Energy: 23.8 kWh/100 miles
Worst Average Energy: 34.4 kWh/100 miles
Distance Powered by Superchargers: 11,693 miles
Distance Powered by other chargers: 18,558 miles
True Market Value at service end: Not available
What it Sold for: $83,000
Depreciation: $20,770 (20% of paid price)
Final Odometer Reading: 30,251 miles

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.


  • rdollie rdollie Posts:

    Wow, highly unfortunate for you AND Tesla that you drove such an early production unit. I know you show depreciation of about 1% per month of ownership but I think at the actual number is much higher since the car was new when you sold - you replaced everything but the paint!

  • davechapin davechapin Posts:

    Wow. What a spectacularly unreliable vehicle.

  • keefwivanef keefwivanef Posts:

    Shoulda bought a Trabby! 1989 Trabant 601 S 0.6 from Germany Year of manufacture 1989 First year of ownership 2000 Most recent year of ownership 2000 Engine and transmission 0.6 Manual Performance marks 8 / 10 Reliability marks 9 / 10 Comfort marks 6 / 10 Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 9 / 10 Overall marks (average of all marks) 8.0 / 10 Distance when acquired 10000 kilometres Most recent distance 11000 kilometres Summary: A real character car Faults: Exhaust blown - easily welded. Rear fog light had to be fitted for the British MOT. "Problem" with the windscreen washer pump handle from the inside - leaking - still to be rectified. General Comments: Consider we are really lucky to have one. Superb condition, think we may get another one and keep this one under wraps. Really good fun. Brought it back from Bavaria just a few weeks ago, the man at Customs wanted it!! Don't knock them until you have actually got one - they are really brilliant. We are looking for a Tramp if anyone can help. Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know Review Date: 22nd November, 2000 23rd Mar 2003, 10:20 The Trabant is an amazing car! On a recent trip to Berlin there were still a significant number of them going around, and that's West Berlin as well as East! People may be buying new cars such as Volkswagen, but most of them actually keep their Trabi knowing it'll be a collectors item in years to come! Long live the Trabant!

  • al20 al20 Posts:

    1) You can't have luxury interior amenities and good resale value. This is either / or 2) Latest active safety systems drive down resale value too. Also when it comes to safety, don't forget to mention Tesla is one of the safest cars on the road 3) What doesn't need at least a Level 2 charger needs gasoline. And lots of it!!! Finally I bet your comments such as fast, thrilling performance, technologically brilliant were not made based on routine daily commute with car resale value in mind. You've probably exposed your car to some pretty unusually rough conditions. You say extensive list of repairs and I hear 9 days out of service over 17 months, excellent warranty, no questions asked. Bottom line (in the order that matters to me): 1) Fast, technologically brilliant car with thrilling performance 2) One of the safest on the road 3) Good resale value 4) No drop of gasoline, no regular maintenance needed 5) Excellent warranty. Repairs done quickly, no questions asked Please kindly provide more details about what you did to your car. I am looking for a family sedan, that is also safe. Not exactly a race car.

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    It will be interesting to see if the Model X is more reliable. It seems Model S owners are happy being beta testers, but if Tesla wants to sell a "mainstream" 35K car (model 3), they will need to step up their game.

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    It's funny to see all of the negative comments from people that say "why would people buy a Tesla knowing they are beta testers?" Yet I'm sure all of those people own iPhones or iPads, Windows computers, Android phones, or DVRs from their television providers. All of these devices are released well before their software is stable. The providers then update them remotely until they have worked out all of the bugs. If we've accepted this for mainstream electronics then why is there such an issue when a car maker does the same thing?

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    > @drcomputer said: > If we've accepted this for mainstream electronics then why is there such an issue when a car maker does the same thing? Look, if you're able to treat a car a such, fantastic; but you are in a very small minority of people who can do so. Almost everybody who owns a car **DEPENDS** upon it to get to work, take their kids to school, and quietly work in the background to make their lives carry on. Also, remember that mainstream electronics become obsolete quite quickly, so long-term reliability isn't the most important thing in the world. An iPad is also a lot cheaper than a hundred thousand dollar Telsa, or heck, even a twenty thousand dollar compact car, plus people don't depend on them like they do an automobile (their primary form of transportation). If I had an iPad and it broke, I'm probably not going to lose my job. If I can't get to work, or get there late, because my car is regularly breaking down, my boss isn't going to be happy. By the way, those who do heavily depend on electronics, be it a corporation, agency, or individual; actually have very little tolerance of unreliability. We really, really, really don't like downtime... You mentioned providers updating things remotely. That's actually something that I do like about the Tesla's infotainment system, even though the screen was also unreliable. It is great that features could be added, removed, or changed through a wifi connection. To bad you can't repair drive units through the internet, huh?

  • omarsultan omarsultan Posts:

    Its kinda crazy to have such a wildly different experience--I just hit the 1 year mark with my Model S and 30,000 miles later, my car, which is my daily driver, has been nothing like yours. Its been bulletproof. I think one of the things this might point to is Tesla's willingness and ability to make running changes to hardware and software. My build is probably 7 or so months later than your car, so things learned along the way are immediately applied in production. O

  • kcai kcai Posts:

    Typical American car issues.Endless problems and never get fixed at the end.

  • geekydon geekydon Posts:

    Looks to me like Edmund's car was a bit of a lemon--all manufacturers have them. I've had my Model S for 15 trouble-free months. I only have about 13K miles on the car but with no problems. According to Consumer Reports approximately 99% of owners would buy the car again which indicates either stupid owners or the fact that Edmund's car was an anomaly.

  • redxsage redxsage Posts:

    Thanks again, for your thorough and informative long term review of the Tesla Model S!

  • justin70 justin70 Posts:

    Your car or experience is an anomaly. In the last Tesla earning report, their total yearly warranty cost was about 9.3 million on approximately 30K cars. That makes the warranty cost per car only about 500 dollars -- which is quite different from your experience.

  • 500rwhp 500rwhp Posts:

    Justin, if they have accrued for the warranty cost in a previous period (and this is often done at the time of sale), the cost of quality reported for the quarter is the presumed cost of warranty of the cars sold during that quarter. If you don't understand accrual accounting, please keep your accounting analysis to yourself.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    This car is in a race against the CL65 AMG in the unreliability sweepstakes, but as the CL65 hasn't had a massive engine failure requiring a replacement, the Model S is currently losing (winning?). Heck, the Model S is probably the most unreliable car that Edmunds has ever had. > @al20 said: > Please kindly provide more details about what you did to your car. I am looking for a family sedan, that is also safe. Not exactly a race car. Dude, have you not like... looked through any of their long term test entries for the Tesla? @drcomputer: As several commenters have noted, a car is not an electronic device. You are piloting a 2-ton vehicle at rapid speeds so it needs to be safe and reliable, especially in this day and age. You also depend on it to get to places. If this was any of Edmund's other long term testers it would be crucified, but the Tesla gets a free pass thanks to the fanatics.

  • zoomzoomn zoomzoomn Posts:

    I have to laugh at the comments for the folks defending this car. This service record is deplorable, first year, or not! A major purchase like this is not anything like an i-phone, etc!!! What a stupid comparison. Obviously They have a long way to go on their endeavors. At least you can rest easy knowing that your tax dollars are paying to get them there.

  • zeph zeph Posts:

    I think the reliability issue could largely be attributed to teething problems. It is their first car, and at least reliability seems to be on par with -say- Jaguar ;-) I don't understand people pissing on this car for that. Here is a new company trying to build something different from the ground up, and I think they have done a remarkable job all things considered. Owner Satisfaction is highest ever according to Consumer Reports, so it can't be all bad. I'll be on the lookout for Model3.

  • stever stever Posts:

    [As the Oldest Teslas Turn Two, Nagging Questions About Reliability](http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-31/tesla-model-s-turns-2-faces-reliability-question-from-edmunds-dot-com "As the Oldest Teslas Turn Two, Nagging Questions About Reliability") (businessweek.com)

  • jbaimer jbaimer Posts:

    Wow am i relieved, i started to feel the way Tesla service would react to issues, that i had the only white unicorn of a car with a 'spectacular' number of issues. I too had a 2013 model S only to have it go into service 11 times in 8 months over 17 various issues ranging from minor to less minor like replacement of sunroof and drivers seat. It was maddening to me a car billed to be built with fewer parts needing less service was so elusive for me. Well it gets better - this was eventually replaced by a 2014 model only to experience 3 issues in just under a month. I came to realization while a fantastic looking car, that drives super fast it is an expensive beta who isnt ready for prime time reliability needs of every day drivers. Even the high end drivers dont want to spend more days in loaners than months that they have owned their car. Too much technology in a generation one vehicle to expect anything but problems right now.

  • temoore temoore Posts:

    It might have been helpful to include a photo of your Model S doing smoking tire burnouts, for perspective. My Tesla service advisor tells me that your car has among the highest cumulative energy consumptions in their entire fleet of cars, and he strongly implies that this is prima facie evidence of routine abuse throughout your 30k miles. He characterized it as "showing off for guest journalists, etc.". But that doesn't seem to square with the consumption numbers you reported here, which were quite low and better than EPA estimates. Can you help reconcile these claims?

  • temoore temoore Posts:

    You skipped my post yesterday, but I'll try again: Today we learned that the drive train noises were usually caused by a missing shim and/or cable tie down. But you reported a roadside breakdown in connection with a drive train issue. Was it the drive train or the battery or what that caused your breakdown?

  • tridoc2 tridoc2 Posts:

    As an early adopter, I took possession of my non performance 85 MS in December of 2012. After 20 months, 24K miles, and 1 annual service later, I have had absolutely no problems to report or reason to have the car serviced other than having to replace the key fob. I have had multiple LA to SF and LA to Palm Springs trips including dealing with awful, congested LA freeways on a daily basis. So far this has been the most hassle free car I have driven in my 50 years of driving?...

  • You know, I read another article that has Elon Musk giving another take on the problems with the Model S that you guys had. And then reading the comments by owners on this website, leads me to believe, you guy may have been smoking the tires to trash the engine. If you push any piece of equipment to the limit, it will fail. How much were you guys pushing this car? In today's day and age with computers hooked up everywhere, and the computers hooked up to other computers via the internet, it is kind of hard to hide what really took place.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    Yeah, a car shared among twenty journalists isn't going to have an easy life. In fact, you could call it accelerated durability testing. That's the whole darned point, I believe, of Edmunds acquiring cars and reporting on them here. You would think this would go without saying, but the Edmunds gang has tested **PLENTY** of cars this way. There's even a list of them on the right of the page! Many of them have almost nothing come up during that time, even though some of them were raced at the track plenty of times, while some have had trouble. That's the way it works people. But no, the Model S must have been exclusively abused. It can't just be an unreliable example of the car. Sure, the sunroof failed, but Edmunds did a burnout, that must be why! In fact, magic journalistic burnout vibrations are to blame for everything, even the failure of the MMI screen and a door that opens by itself. That just makes complete sense. So your personal Model S has been trouble free so far, how does that mean that EVERY Model S has been the same. That's a fallacy, last I checked. Why don't we use objective data, which shows Tesla as average to below average in reliability. No, not every car was as bad as this one, but there's still obviously issues that need to be worked out.

  • maksim maksim Posts:

    Wow, what a lemon. For the guys on the ats coast, or outside Comifornia, where does the car go to get fixed?

  • na_hosoi na_hosoi Posts:

    I've owned my $32k Honda Accord for over 2 years and the only thing I've had to change on it was a tail light bulb and the brakes. I've put about 52k miles on it and it's my only car and primary means of transportation. And my feet are made of lead! Both of them!! Even so, with a/c running my range is 450 - 475 city miles. This car appears unreliable to me. I wouldn't buy one for over 100k.

  • phowarth phowarth Posts:

    I received my Tesla Model S P85 the same month as Edmunds - February 2013. I have over 20,000 like Edmunds. My Model S has been trouble free so far. The only things that has broken has been the vanity mirror cover on the passenger side and that was replaced. I have had no problems with drive unit or screen or battery or door handles or cables.

  • dm3 dm3 Posts:

    Article incorrectly states the 40kwh battery has a range of 100 miles. The expected range, even conservatively was closer to 140 miles. Tesla had stated 160 miles.

  • zyklus zyklus Posts:

    30,000 miles on a test car, which means it was probably driven hard-as-hell, and 7 unscheduled trips to the dealer for repairs, all of which accumulated to a grand total of $0 in repairs. Sure, they had some pretty major issues (drive unit replaced 3 times, touchscreen repeatedly not working, doors & windows automatically opening, etc), but they had one of the first Model S', and it seems like Tesla was extremely helpful with their service. There are numerous, valid, complaints about how the Tesla doesn't live up to other luxury cars in many areas. It's true, it doesn't. It's not as mature -- it doesn't have lane sensors, or cruise control sensors, or chilled seats, or is lacking weird things like a good center console / cup holders. But for all the things it lacks, it's far ahead of most luxury cars in other areas. Fuel prices, performance, in-car technology, space, etc. And for what it's worth I've heard a dozen different times on various threads that "My just sits in the garage now". I think that's the highest praise you could give a car like this, that is brand new technology. So as far as "not recommending the car" due to its issues, I think it's absurd. Other than the very odd repeated drive unit failures, I don't think any of them were that critical. I somewhat expect Teslas to have a few issues, and if you're not willing to deal with them (via extremely helpful and friendly Tesla staff) then you probably shouldn't be buying them just yet. Wait for everything to mature a few more years. But then maybe you should just keep waiting a few more years after that, as whatever comes later is bound to be better, right? Maybe you should just never buy anything ever again.

  • @quadricycle I doubt Edmunds did anything in bad faith, and I don't think that's a good tack to take here. However, I do suspect that the extremely high degree of interest in the car caused a lot more usage than a typical car under test, and especially a lot more high speed demonstrations. Of course the car should be able to handle this, but it might be at least a partial explanation for some of the problems. In short, a direct comparison between the Tesla and competition may seem damning but actually be statistically insignificant. I notice that in a medium where disgruntled owners' access to expressive outlets is extremely high, there are still very few people complaining about the car. Most people love theirs, and I think that should count for something.

  • man_711 man_711 Posts:

    Overated pieces of junk.

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