How Reliable Are Teslas Really? (We Checked)

Teslas are one of the priciest EVs on the market, so it’s important to explore their reliability. You don’t want to end up stranded because of problems with the motor or the battery.

By learning more about the various Tesla models and the problems they have had, you can determine their reliability on your own.

How reliable is a Tesla?

Teslas rely on tech and computer-controlled functions to work properly and there are many reports of technical problems across the Tesla models. The Model 3 sedan is considered the most reliable. It is identified as “average reliability” by Consumer Reports.

Let’s dig deeper.

Are Teslas as Reliable as Other Electric Cars?

Consumer Reports publishes an annual reliability study that compares all of the car manufacturers based on their overall reliability.

Tesla is one of the most sought-after EVs with a waitlist of nearly a year.

That being said, the reliability rating is relatively low in a study by Consumer Reports. It depends heavily on the model and the maintenance that is performed.

Out of 28 brands, Tesla ranked 27th. The only brand to receive a lower score for reliability was Lincoln.

The report is created based on surveys that Consumer Reports sends out to explore issues that vehicle owners have. From there, it uses the data to make predictions on reliability.

Each vehicle is given a score. The Model S, X, and Y were given below-average reliability scores.

Vehicle manufacturers that were at the top of the Consumer Reports study included:

  • Lexus,
  • Mazda,
  • and Toyota.

Electric vehicles varied dramatically in the study. The “compact hybrid” category was determined to be the most reliable group.

There were three EVs that scored above average, including:

  • the Kia Niro EV,
  • the Ford Mustang Mach-E,
  • and the Nissan Leaf.

Overall, electric SUVs were in the worst-performing category.

This means that the Tesla Model X along with the Audi E-Tron was found at the bottom of the segment.

Most of the issues didn’t focus on the battery or the motor. Instead, it involved in-car electronics that didn’t operate as intended.

Obviously, those issues aren’t standing in the way of people buying the Tesla models. Nearly two million EVs are on the road across the U.S. and Tesla is the leading manufacturer by a significant margin.

How Reliable is the Self-Driving Auto-Pilot System?

Tesla has a feature that comes standard on every Tesla. It is the Autopilot and full self-driving capability.

By the sound of the system, it sounds like you don’t even need to be in the driver’s seat. After all, that’s what an auto-pilot system offers, right?

Tesla describes the system as an “advanced driver assistance system” designed for convenience and safety. It reduces the amount of work that you have to do as a driver.

We have a dedicated article on how safe the self-driving autopilot is on Teslas – compared to human drivers.

In order to provide the various features, it uses 8 external cameras as well as vision processing.

And prior to the models where Tesla’s autopilot was available, there are packages that are available that can be added on – including Autopilot, Enhanced AutoPilot, and Full Self-Driving Capability.

The site does say that the enabled features don’t make the Tesla autonomous – but that it will become more capable over time.

That being said, the reliability of the auto-pilot system isn’t there. In fact, there’s a class action lawsuit that has been filed to say that Elon Musk was deceptive and misleading about the advanced driver system.

The Teslas being sold with the advanced system were promoted as being autonomous.

Yet, people find that they still have to be behind the wheel and take part in many aspects of driving.

People have spent thousands of dollars on a feature that isn’t even available yet.

Musk once promised that a person could make a cross-country trip using full autonomy by 2018. Those with a Tesla may be able to reduce their focus but there are also phantom braking incidents and more that have made the system far less reliable than what was initially promoted.

What Tesla Model is the Most Reliable?

The 2022 Model 3 sedan is considered the most reliable. It is identified as “average reliability” by Consumer Reports.

The Model S is also considered dependable – and Consumer Reports even said it was the “greatest car its testers have ever driven in terms of overall performance.” That is when it’s not in a service station.

The Model S has been on the market since 2012, so the brand has had a chance to work out some of the major kinks.

The EV is capable of achieving quite a bit, and it has received awards from environmental and automotive publications.

Tesla experienced more success with its sedans than it did with the Roadster, which is why it decided to focus solely on the sedans as of 2012.

There are a lot of differences between the sedans. While the S has been on the market the longest, the 3 has received a number of updates to focus on overall performance and interior luxury.

Both of the sedans are more reliable than the SUV counterparts offered by Tesla.

The S and the 3 are both great and offer quite a bit to the driver. The Model 3 is the cheapest of all of the Teslas while the S is dominant because of the dual and tri-motor versions that are available.

The Model S also got a refresh for 2021, which is why many consider it to be more dependable than previous model years.

In the end, you have to look at the model year as opposed to just the model to determine if a particular Tesla is reliable or not. And, ultimately, many luxury car owners don’t care if it is reliable simply because it is unique and offers a lot of performance for an EV.

Do the Tesla Batteries Last as Long as Other Batteries?

The Tesla battery is considered far superior to the batteries for many other EVs on the market.

When looking at a battery for an EV, there are three components to consider:

  • EPA range
  • Vehicle weight
  • Battery kWh

Many of the Teslas weigh less than other EVs.

Additionally, they have a higher EPA range and a larger battery size. It ensures that they don’t weigh the vehicle down and can deliver a longer range per charge.

The Tesla Model S LR (long range) has an EPA range of 402 in comparison to the Hyundai Ioniq’s range of 170 or the Chevy Bolt’s range of 25.

It has been estimated that even the least efficient Tesla is still capable of being 20% more efficient than its competitors. Tesla is able to get more range per pound of vehicle weight from the battery packs.

Tesla batteries last longer – but only if you’re practicing smart charging. You’ll see that you’ll get less battery degradation in a Tesla battery pack than in others.

Simply don’t let your battery get down to 0% on a regular basis. Oh, and don’t take advantage of the superchargers too often.

What Tesla Model Has Had the Most Problems?

There have been a number of quality issues associated with the Tesla brand for years.

Some believe the company focuses on accelerating production to get more vehicles on the lots as opposed to spending time on quality control.

Issues include:

  • Problems with electronics
  • Shotty bodywork
  • Ill-fitting trim

Tesla has come a long way since it first debuted the Roadster – a two-seater that is no longer on the market. Then, it launched the Model S, which has been the stable of the brand.

The Model X, a gullwing seven-seater, and a Model 3 hit the market soon after.

Edmunds conducted a test with the Model S and said that it had to replace the electric motor three times in the span of 18 months.

JD Power has also said that the average Tesla vehicle averages 176 mechanical faults per 100 – and that’s high compared to the industry average of 121. In the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study, Tesla was ranked 30 out of 33 in 2021.

The Model S is usually the Tesla model identified as being the least reliable. You can read here about the known issues with Tesla model S.

In Consumer Reports ratings regarding reliability, only the 2013 and 2017 model years of the Model S were able to obtain a four out of five rating. Most years, the Model S is lucky to get a three out of five. And in some instances, it has only gotten one out of five.

Tesla Recalls

In addition to Teslas that give owners problems, there have been also quite a few recalls. The only good thing about recalls is that Tesla has identified an issue and is looking to make them right.

Any recall repairs are done at no cost to the owner.

According to Tesla’s own support site, there have been quite a few recalls that include:

  • Accessory adaptors
  • Seat belts
  • Steering assist motor bolts
  • Trunk lid harnesses

While these won’t affect the overall operation of the car, it does cause an inconvenience for owners.

Read more here about known issues with the Tesla Model 3.

How Expensive are Teslas to maintain?

Teslas aren’t as widely available as other brands, so it’s not quite that easy to determine how much it costs to maintain. It depends heavily on where you are – and if there is a Tesla maintenance center near you.

There are some costs you will avoid – such as oil changes (Teslas don’t need oil changes).

RepairPal estimates that the average Tesla owner spends about $832 a year on maintenance.

This is compared to $652 for the average car to be maintained in the U.S.

What you pay to maintain your Tesla depends on what’s wrong with it – such as damage to the battery versus fixing an electronic component.

Electric cars, in general, require less maintenance due to the fact that EVs have lesser parts.

There is good news – there’s an extended warranty that you can purchase. This can help you to save money if you’re a Tesla owner.

You’ll spend more to maintain a Tesla than virtually any other vehicle on the market. Why? Parts are both rare and difficult to source.

While that’s changing, it’s a slow process.

There aren’t many (if any) third-party suppliers for many replacement Tesla parts. The simple reason for that is that Tesla hasn’t been on the market long enough. That and the demand isn’t there quite yet for any third party to start mass-producing certain parts.

For example, the average cost to replace a windshield on a standard car is about $250. Yet, a Model X windshield costs approximately $1500 to replace.

Tesla is a luxury car brand.

As such, repairs will cost more for the parts and for the service.

Final Thoughts

Tesla has its issues, but the vehicles remain popular.

Perhaps it is because the Consumer Reports study focuses on all issues. Most of the issues experienced by Tesla owners don’t include motors or batteries. This means that the vehicle is still drivable if there’s an issue.

Although Tesla isn’t considered “reliable,” it is still loved.

In fact, in terms of owner satisfaction, Tesla is ranked #1 by Consumer Reports.

Business Insider explained the phenomenon by pointing to the fact that luxury car owners are more forgiving.

They prefer creativity and brand loyalty over reliability.

Sources

What Every Buyer Should Know About Tesla Reliability

Tesla Makes Some of the least Reliable Cars…

Tesla Repair Costs Are More Than 27%…

Tesla’s Staggering Battery Advantage

Tesla is being sued over Autopilot and Elon Musk’s Full Self-Driving predictions

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