2017 Tesla Model 3: Ordering Process and Timeline
by Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor
What is it like to order a Tesla? How does it feel to be on the cutting edge of electric car technology? The short answer is that it's a day of excitement, followed by a wait of many months as news and rumors trickle out.
As the designated car buyer for Edmunds' long-term cars, I went through the process of ordering our 2017 Tesla Model 3 and kept a diary of events, much as I did for the Model X. Here's what has happened so far.
March 31, 2016: Reservations open early this morning for the Model 3. No one knows what the car looks like, yet the Tesla faithful are willing to hand over their hard-earned cash, sight unseen. Our own Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds is one of them. He camps out at a Tesla store in Orange County, California, to place a $1,000 deposit. More on that here. Delivery preference will be given to current Tesla owners. Speaking of which, we become "current Tesla owners" this very afternoon when we take delivery of our new Model X. The doors look pretty cool; let's see how they hold up over time.
Later that evening, the Model 3 is revealed to the world.
April 1, 2016: We receive a confirmation email from Tesla as proof that we're in the queue. It reads:
"Model 3 production is scheduled to begin in late 2017. North American deliveries will be first, followed by Europe, Asia and Pacific countries, then countries with right-hand-drive configurations. Those who own Model S or Model X cars will be offered priority production slots as a special thanks for supporting the Tesla mission."
We took delivery of our Model X on the same day that we reserved the Model 3, so we're not certain yet if we'll receive priority in the queue.
July 8, 2017: The first production Model 3 rolls off the assembly line. It goes to Tesla founder Elon Musk as a birthday present. Musk says that the first 30 Model 3 customers will receive their cars at an event on July 28. He estimates that production will grow to 100 cars in August, more than 1,500 by September, and then 20,000 by December.
July 28, 2017: As promised, Elon Musk hosts an event in Fremont, California, to deliver the first 30 Model 3 cars. I watch the livestream from home as Musk nervously gives a speech to an enthralled audience. The first vehicles go to employees, who will serve as beta testers for this new model. Dan attends the event and rides shotgun in a prototype model.
Despite the reservation process, Musk says the company will build the more expensive 310- mile, long-range-battery model first. This adds $9,000 to the base MSRP of $35,000 and also mandates the $5,000 Premium package. The package adds premium interior materials, upgraded audio, a glass roof, and USB ports for every passenger. We now have a tough choice: Get the top trim sooner or wait months for the base model. We start mulling that over.
July 30, 2017: Screenshots of the configurator start to emerge. In addition to the long-range battery and premium package, the options are as follows: Any color but black costs $1,000. If you don't like the base 18-inch Aero wheels, it will cost an additional $1,500 for the 19-inch Sport wheels. Want that fancy Autopilot that Tesla often brags about? It'll set you back $5,000. Despite the name, Autopilot can't yet deliver "full self-driving capability," but Tesla's working on it. And it's charging $3,000 to future-proof your Model 3, giving you the update at some undetermined date. All in, a fully loaded Model 3 will set you back $59,500 — a far cry from the "affordable" $35,000 EV we were promised.
The Tesla website now gives an estimate of when we can expect to take delivery. The first production models are supposed to arrive from October to December 2017, while the standard-battery models are expected from January to March 2018.
November 1, 2017: Reports say Model 3 production is far behind schedule. Musk calls it "production hell."
We get an email from Tesla later in the day:
"Thank you again for your Model 3 reservation. We're making significant progress clearing early production bottlenecks, but as we continue to work through them, your estimated delivery timing will now be slightly later than we originally expected."
The new estimated delivery for the long-range models is November 2017 to January 2018, while the standard battery model estimate changes to a nebulous "early 2018."
December 7, 2017: We get the email from Tesla saying our Model 3 is ready to order. There's a link to the configurator. We take some time to ponder the color and options.
December 12, 2017: After careful deliberation, we decide on a color and options. For a while, we considered getting an absolute base model, but we ultimately decide on a long-range model with a few options. We've always been early Tesla adopters and feel that we can better serve shoppers by jumping in first and reporting issues, making it easier for our readers to make educated buying decisions.
We deviate from our usual pattern on the wheels. We usually choose the larger option, but this time we stick with the base 18-inch wheels, saving $1,500 and (hopefully) gaining better ride quality.
As for the color, we like the look of Midnight Silver Metallic. Next we add Enhanced Autopilot but pass on the "full self-driving capability." There's no guarantee that it will be released during our window of ownership. We can always add it in later, though it will take an extra $1,000 to do so.
All in, our Model 3 costs $56,000. This includes the $1,000 destination charge.
Once you choose your options, there's an option to apply for financing. We're paying cash so we move on to the next step. Tesla asks you to put down $2,500 to place the order. This payment is in addition to the $1,000 we already put down in 2016. We charge it to the company card, and the order becomes official.
December 20, 2017: I get a call from Brandon, our Model 3 delivery specialist. He verifies our registration information and lets me know he's there to any questions that may come up. This is a pretty cool touch that you don't often see when you order a car. Brandon says he'll notify us when he has a better idea of when the car will be available.
Tesla estimates that the car will be delivered roughly four weeks from when we placed the order, putting it right on target with its revised delivery timeframe.
Barring some other production delay, we expect to pick up our 2017 Tesla Model 3 in mid- to late January 2018. Stay tuned.
Edmunds is in the process of purchasing this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
Ronald Montoya, senior consumer advice editor @ 0 miles