How to Tesla
March 25, 2021 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I’m helping my elderly Mom buy a Tesla model S with full autopilot. I’m trying to navigate the how to process in particular the question of should I buy used given that Tesla doesn’t do CPO and famously doesn’t really inspect the used cars they resell. Similarly, trying to figure out what to budget for buying and installing a charger (can I buy a used charger)? Also, I have read online that there may be legislation that could result in Teslas being eligible for a new tax credit - any insights on that? Any recommendations on approach would be great, I have been buying 3 year old Priuses all of my adult life so this is a big change.
posted by arnicae to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First, be aware that "Full Self Driving" is still in beta test.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:13 PM on March 25 [11 favorites]

The premise of your question is wrong. Tesla inspects their used cars and extends their warranty beyond the original car warranty.

There may be legislation extending a new tax credit, but assume that prices will go up when that happens. Consider that EV prices have been more or less correlated with the tax credits applied. I wouldn't use that as a reason to buy or not buy a car.
posted by saeculorum at 4:16 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]

I would think hard about a Tesla with “autopilot” or “full self driving” for an elderly driver. That technology still requires close attention to the car and a new set of reflexes to intervene when the system needs help from the driver. An increasing number of serious accidents seems related to drivers placing too much faith in these system.
posted by spitbull at 6:07 PM on March 25 [15 favorites]

I know it's not part of your question, but in addition to what spitball said, the S has RIDICULOUS acceleration (even when it's not in "ludicrous mode"). I drove one belonging to a friend, and wow — unless there's some way to adjust the acceleration to be more like a normal car, it could be very dangerous for someone who doesn't have fine motor control. It also requires the touchscreen for pretty much everything. Definitely two things I wouldn't want my elderly mother to deal with. Granted, we don't know your mother, and she may be "elderly" in age only, but it's something to consider.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:05 PM on March 25 [7 favorites]

There's not really much complexity to buying a Tesla. No negotiating, just decide what you want and point and click. As saeculorum says, the CPO cars are re-warrantied, and if you're after the FSD gubbins, you'll know you need a relatively recent one. Even if you don't really mind about the Autopilot, you should still get a recent one. My dad has a 2013 S85, and it's an absolute beast, but the seats are crap and some electrical parts are getting a bit slower to find. A newer one will also have Chill Mode to blunt the acceleration if your mother wants or needs that.

For charging equipment, the Tesla wall-mounted charger is a reasonable price for what it is, but it's only useful if you'll never want to charge a different EV on it, since it's not standard. I got a Clipper Creek J1772 charger instead to have the flexibility, but that means using the adapter (which comes standard with the car). The car also comes with a small portable charger that works perfectly well, so you don't have to buy a wall-mounted one. Either way it is definitely worth getting a 240V 40A circuit to hang whichever charger off. While you can charge a large battery EV from 110V if you're not driving very much, it is excruciatingly slow (2-3mph vs 30-40mph).

Uh, and in case the context of your question is that you're looking for a car that will drive your mother around, full self driving is currently a cool tech demo not a taxi driver. It is not ready for primetime. Autopilot's pretty good on the highways though.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:38 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]

My 80 year old father bought a new Model 3 in 2019 and he is thrilled. Granted, he has never seen a tech toy that he didn't love and he had been drooling over Teslas for years. He and my mom use the autopilot only on road trips and I'm pretty sure they would agree with the comments that autopilot is not a substitution for alert driving or good reflexes. However, the excellent backup camera and proximity sensors have been helpful for them.

My mom (78) is a bit more reticent about driving; she loves road trips but not being behind the wheel. She drives the Tesla on local errands, says it feels safe and likes the large display. It took her a few months to build up to that level of comfort.

They did not pay for a wall mounted charging station. Instead, Dad installed a NEMA 6-50A outlet in the garage and uses a Tesla adapter.
posted by heidiola at 8:40 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi - just to clarify, I mentioned my Mom was elderly to explain she’s not good at technology/buying a car hence why I’m helping. She is a mountaineer and has great reflexes, she’s getting autopilot for stop and go traffic on freeways (which she finds annoying). I mentioned full Autopilot because I’ve heard that that impacts used car purchases.
posted by arnicae at 5:10 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]

Yeah, that's a great autopilot use case, sorry if I patronised your mother. I'd note that even without autopilot, EV regen braking (especially in one-pedal mode) makes stop and go traffic much less irritating. I'd also mention that for mountain climbing adrenaline junkies, the latest P100D has the new 1000bhp Plaid drivetrain :)
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:57 AM on March 26

Just met an Uber driver with a 2015 Tesla Model S and he said he absolutely hates it. Problem after mechanical problem. My driver compared the development approach to "closed beta" when apparently the Tesla line is "open everything."

This probably won't show up in the online reviews, which he said he perused extensively: I think there's probably a Tesla toxoplasmosis effect similar to that for newer model Airstreams.

Caveat emptor.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:58 PM on March 27

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