The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Tesla Model 3

July 4th, 2018

Tesla Prep

If you find this guide helpful, I would really appreciate it if you use my referral link (mykel48491) when ordering your Tesla. Using a referral code will grant you 1,000 free Supercharging miles. (Thanks Brent, Tim, Alan, Enedy, David, Ningzhi, Jose Alfonso, Marc, Charles, Puspa, Jordan, Stefani, Cory and Iyya!)

I couldn't find a good resource for the soup-to-nuts process of buying a Model 3, so I made one. This is a comprehensive guide on preparing for, taking delivery of, and owning a Tesla Model 3.

Start

Congratulations! You've configured a Model 3. Now comes the hardest part: waiting.

You'll receive an email from Tesla saying something to the effect of "We'll be in touch!" Do not get financing quotes at this time. Quotes expire after 30 days, at which time you will need to rerun the credit check, which may lower your score.

Depending on your financing choice during configuration, you'll see an "Edit Design" button on your account page all the way up until your car starts being built (this can be in as little as 7 days before taking delivery). If you elected to use the "Cash" option for financing, your "Edit Design" button will disappear immediately, but it is still accessible by visiting https://www.tesla.com/teslaaccount/edit-design/RNXXXXXXX. Use this link to (relatively) officially check the status of your order up to 7 days before your delivery date.

First contact

You will eventually be contacted by a Tesla Delivery Advisor/Scheduler who will confirm your delivery date. Make sure your Tesla account reflects this date.

You'll want to get your home charging solution worked out at this point. There are many options depending on your needs:

Level Voltage Rate of Charge
Level 1 120V 2-5 miles per hour of charging (regular outlet)
Level 2 240V 9-52 miles per hour of charging (Tesla Wall Connector)
Level 3 480V 200-1000 miles per hour of charging (Supercharging)

If you drive fewer than 70 miles per day, a regular wall outlet should be just fine. If you're driving more than that, and a Tesla Wall Connector will give you peace of mind. Many states offer a tax rebate for the parts and labor of most charging solution installs.

Tesla has a list of recommended installers. Tesla partners with reputable local contractors to install the Wall Connector product in your home, but these contractors typically charge higher than average rates. Any experienced electrician should be able to do the work at a much lower price; it's a relatively simple job. You can also check YouTube to do a DIY installation.

30 days before your delivery date

Now is the time to get financing quotes from credit unions, banks, etc. Whatever quotes you get, if your credit history is excellent, use Lightstream to get an unsecured cash loan. They will beat any approved rate you send them.

Ensure you have the routing/account number of the account(s) you will be transferring funds from on delivery day (especially important on weekends when banks are closed).

You may also want to order your accessories now, as they are often sold out. Yes, it'll feel weird to have all weather floor mats with no car, but it'll be worth it in the end. Not sure what to get? See the "Must-Have Accessories" section in the appendix.

10 days before your delivery date

Your "Edit Design" button and/or back-door link should stop working and you should finalize your financeer at this time. If the link still works, your delivery date is probably going to be delayed.

7 days before your delivery date

Check your Tesla account for an assigned Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and Motor Vehicle Purchase Agreement (MVPA). If they are not showing up, the back-door method is to try buying a Tesla Wall Connector. When you're checking out, if it says "No VIN assigned," you truly do not have a VIN. Your delivery date is probably going to be delayed.

If you have a VIN assigned, call your insurance to schedule the coverage date for your delivery day.

Anytime before delivery day, you should:

  1. Watch the Model 3 walkthrough videos on the support section of Tesla.com. These are great at getting you started with the basics and will speed up your handover process.
  2. Review the information supplied on the Tesla Support pages, these pages go over details on financing, trade-ins, vehicle registration, insurance, warranty, etc.
  3. Attend a Tesla owner orientation event. You will meet other owners and learn lots of handy tips about general ownership, driving and living with the car.
  4. Download and read a copy of the owners manual. It will come in handy on your phone/computer for when you need it.
  5. Grab a good tire inflator.
  6. Join the official Tesla forum, the unofficial Tesla Motors Club forum, and r/teslamotors subreddit.

Delivery day

Before heading to the Delivery Center:

If you haven't had any contact with a Delivery Advisor/Scheduler since "First Contact," before you drive to pick your car up, call the Tesla delivery location's direct number, and verify that your car is indeed ready to go. There have been reports of people driving hours to pick up their Tesla only to be told their car isn't even in production yet!

  1. Have the Tesla app installed on your smartphone prior to arrival for delivery.
  2. Bring your driver’s license.
  3. If your car will be registered to more than one person, each person on the registration needs to be at the delivery appointment to sign final documents.
  4. Bring written or digital proof of your down payment having been made and the final payment details or financing details. If you are financing your car, make sure your loan has been funded before you arrive to take delivery and that you have some kind of proof you can provide to Tesla should they ask about it.
  5. Bring a printed insurance card or other proof of insurance that shows your Model 3 is insured.
  6. Since the delivery area where you will inspect your Model 3 may be dark, bring a flashlight.
  7. Bring a USB drive (32gb minimum recommended) to set up Sentry mode and the dash cam.

Arrival at the Delivery Center:

After checking in with a Tesla employee, you'll likely be waiting around for a while. It's rare for a Tesla delivery center to not be busy. Expect to wait for 2 hours or more before you're taken to see your car.

NOTE: Do not sign final documents, or wire funds, until a full vehicle inspection is completed.

VEHICLE INSPECTION CHECKLIST

Feel free to print this out and bring it, along with a pen

SECTION A - Verify pre-delivery vehicle records

  • [ ] 1. Check for the correct full name and address on your paperwork.
  • [ ] 2. Confirm the car's VIN matches your paperwork.
  • [ ] 3. Check the car's display screen for any information that does not match the car (found by tapping the Tesla "T").
  • [ ] 4. Verify that the car's Moroney record matches your configuration.

SECTION B - Exterior inspection

  • [ ] 1. Verify that the car's body color, interior, and wheels match what you configured.
  • [ ] 2. Inspect body exterior paint for defects. NOTE: This should really be the only item which should cause you to reject a delivery; most other issues can be easily addressed in a separate service visit.
  • [ ] 3. Inspect vehicle underside (front and rear) for signs of scraping, or damage.
  • [ ] 4. Check for any obvious body panel misalignment, or large gaps.
  • [ ] 5. Inspect wheel rims for damage.
  • [ ] 6. Inspect all glass for signs of distortion, scratches, or cracks.
  • [ ] 7. Check for proper windshield and windshield trim installation.
  • [ ] 8. Inspect all edges of the roof glass panel and rear window.
  • [ ] 9. Test all doors to ensure they open and close without unreasonable effort or sound. Check paint in areas such as door hinges, that are not visible when doors are closed. NOTE: Some deliveries have reported incomplete body painting in hidden areas.
  • [ ] 10. Test opening and closing of trunk and frunk. Check paint in areas that are not visible when frunk and trunk are closed. NOTE: Some deliveries have reported incomplete body painting in hidden areas.
  • [ ] 11. Check for the towing eye under the frunk mat.
  • [ ] 12. Ensure door windows auto-close completely when doors are closed.
  • [ ] 13. Check for front license plate bracket (if applicable in your state).
  • [ ] 14. Check all front and rear exterior lights for signs of internal condensation.
  • [ ] 15. With all doors open, inspect the weather seals around door gaps and windows. NOTE: Some deliveries have reported seals being "overlapped" incorrectly. This is easily fixed by hand in a few seconds, but worth noting.

SECTION C - Interior inspection

  • [ ] 1. Check for any error messages on the display screen.
  • [ ] 2. Touch the "Tesla T" at the top of the screen to bring up the "About Your Tesla" window. Tap the unicorn drawing to access the Sketch Pad. Leave the Sketch Pad up for a minute to make sure there are no phantom touches happening on the display.
  • [ ] 3. Gently test the driver and passenger door emergency release.
  • [ ] 4. Check all 4 windows to ensure they open and close properly.
  • [ ] 5. Inspect interior seat upholstery, door surfaces, dash, headliner & carpets (including passenger compartment, frunk, and trunk).
  • [ ] 6. Check left and right clothing hook operation.
  • [ ] 7. Check all seat belts for proper operation.
  • [ ] 8. Check the rear seats for proper fold-down operation.
  • [ ] 9. Test the sound system to ensure all speakers are working (move fade/balance to all four points to verify)
  • [ ] 10. Test the steering wheel position controls to ensure proper operation.
  • [ ] 11. Press the center of the steering wheel to make sure the car's horn works.
  • [ ] 12. Test the windshield wipers.
  • [ ] 13. Test the rear view camera.
  • [ ] 14. Check side mirrors for proper operation of folding and position adjustment.
  • [ ] 15. Check sunvisor operation and mirror condition.
  • [ ] 16. Check the rear view mirror for any warping or distortion.

SECTION D - Lighting inspection

  • [ ] 1. Vanity mirror lights.
  • [ ] 2. Front overhead driver & passenger lights.
  • [ ] 3. Rear overhead left & right side lights.
  • [ ] 4. Ambient lights
  • [ ] 5. Driver & passenger foot wells
  • [ ] 6. Driver & passenger door pockets
  • [ ] 7. Rear left & right door pockets.
  • [ ] 8. Driver & passenger door puddle lights.
  • [ ] 9. Console middle compartment light.
  • [ ] 10. Console rear compartment light.
  • [ ] 11. All door latch button lights.
  • [ ] 12. All door window button lights.
  • [ ] 13. Steering wheel control lights.
  • [ ] 14. Glovebox light (check glovebox opening and closing).
  • [ ] 15. Frunk light.
  • [ ] 16. Trunk lights (2).
  • [ ] 17. Fog lights.
  • [ ] 19. Headlights (low & high-beam).
  • [ ] 20. Front park lights.
  • [ ] 21. Front turn signal lights.
  • [ ] 22. Left & right side turn signal lights.
  • [ ] 23. Rear running lights.
  • [ ] 24. Brake lights.
  • [ ] 25. Rear turn signal lights.
  • [ ] 26. Sunvisor driver and passenger lights.

SECTION E - Inspect charging ability

  • [ ] 1. Check charge port door for proper operation.
  • [ ] 2. Check charge port indicator light.
  • [ ] 3. Ensure vehicle will accept a charge.
  • [ ] 4. Check mobile charging kit. Test it to ensure it works.
    • J1772 adapter.
    • NEMA 5-15 120v adapter.
    • Mobile Connector with cable.

SECTION F - Verify region-specific equipment

  • [ ] 1. Maryland deliveries should include Tesla's official inflation kit.

SECTION G - Inspect pairing connectivity

  • [ ] 1. Test both key cards to ensure they work with your car. Keep one key card on your person in case the phone app does not operate properly.
  • [ ] 2. Pair your smartphone to your car over Bluetooth.

Post-inspection:

Verify post-delivery vehicle records

  1. Ask your delivery specialist to make sure that your car is marked as DELIVERED in Tesla's network. NOTE: Some owners have reported cars being delivered, but the phone key is disabled the following day. This is due to the car not being marked as "Delivered" in the network.

  2. Make sure you have copies of all paperwork necessary for good documentation of your purchase, including a copy of your signed purchase agreement (MVPA). If your delivery specialist suggests that you can get your documents electronically on your Tesla account, ask for paper copies you can take with you anyway. Having physical copies with you ensures you will get them.

Note: Pointing these out before you leave is important but if you only notice something days later, don't worry. Tesla is has a reputation of rectifying these issues either immediately or on your next visit to the service center. If you have a car you're not happy taking away that day, you have every right to decline the handover until the problems are fixed.

Before driving away, ask a Tesla rep:

  1. How to charge / work a supercharger / open the charge flap.
  2. Make sure correct closing technique for frunk is demonstrated.
  3. Autopilot usage.
  4. How to find superchargers / other chargers.
  5. How to open / move between apps on the display.
  6. Pair your phone and connect / reconnect Bluetooth.
  7. How to use Satellite Radio, Podcasts, and Spotify.
  8. Steering wheel buttons / how to change what each do.
  9. How to do a full reset of the main screen.
  10. How to adjust seating, save profiles, have mirrors drop / not drop when reversing.
  11. Review all settings pages.
  12. Use of the Android or iPhone apps.
  13. Where to find roadside assistance info from the main screen.
  14. Your local service center support number.

After your first drive

  1. Keep driving!
  2. Download Plugshare to find chargers.
  3. Go and try a supercharger (also a good destination for your first drive)
  4. Consider having the paint protected with ceramic paint protection, which will help prevent scratches, stone chips, etc.
  5. Consider alloy wheel insurance or protection.
  6. Learn how to properly wash your car.
  7. Be aware the Model 3 does not come with a spare tire.
  8. When your registration arrives, check that it's the correct model listed (AWD/SR+/etc.), as it could affect selling your car in the future, insurance coverage, etc.
  9. Respond to the surveys that Tesla periodically sends. This the best way that you can directly impact improvements to the car and company.

Appendix

Must-Have Accessories

After a year and a half of Model 3 ownership, here are the accessories I have found to be real upgrades that I haven't taken for granted:

  1. All-weather floor mats OEM (my recommendation), aftermarket. I keep these in my car year-round. It has helped preserve the new car smell, and is easy to keep clean.
  2. Wireless charging pad OEM, aftermarket. I have the aftermarket one installed in mine. No issues.
  3. A fast-write USB stick for Sentry and dashcam footage. I recommend one with a built-in lightning port to easily review footage on your iPhone.
  4. A vinyl wrap for the center console. The factory console is piano black, which is impossible not to scratch. Vinyl wraps are easy to install and (arguably) look better than stock.