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Is Tesla reliable?

We look at how reliable Tesla is, and how this compares to their rivals...

  • Is Tesla reliable?
  • Tesla reliability: has Tesla had to recall any vehicles?
  • Why is Tesla unreliable?
  • How reliable is the Tesla Model 3?
  • Is the Tesla Model S reliable?
  • How reliable is the Tesla Model X?

Tesla hasn’t been around that long as a manufacturer, with its first car, the Roadster, hitting the roads in 2008.

Since then, three further models have been released, the Model S, the Model X and the incredibly popular Model 3. Several more models are due to hit the market in the coming years, including a rebooted Roadster, a mid-sized SUV, and a truck.

The Tesla Model 3 was made available in the UK in 2019 and since then has made the best-seller list for both electric vehicles and all vehicles several times. It’s an affordable electric vehicle that has become one that is selling well across the country. But how reliable is Tesla? Does the brand produce vehicles that you’re going to buy and drive happily for years without any issues, or will you struggle with dependability?

Tesla is known for its technological advancements, the speed of the vehicles and the fact that the cars it makes are pretty cool to look at, but through our research, we have found that one thing which has been plaguing the company since its inception is reliability

So, how reliable is Tesla?

Want to find out more about electric vehicles? Read our article all about their history and how they are becoming the future.

Is Tesla reliable?

According to the latest report from consumer website Which? Tesla is not the most reliable manufacturer of vehicles. In fact, in its 2020 report, though the vehicles produced inspire a great amount of passion in their drivers, the vehicles themselves are felt to be ‘some of the biggest fault-magnets you can buy’.

There have been many reports of Tesla’s unreliability over the years since the first Model S rolled off the production line, however with considerably more Teslas on the roads in the UK now, thanks to the popularity of the affordable Model 3, reports of dependability and breakdowns have become more common.

The most common issues that were reported by drivers included problems with the exterior and interior trim, 5% also reported that they had problems with the paintwork, exterior door handles and locks. None of which is good when you consider these vehicles are new.

Impressively though, the actual number of breakdowns was average across new cars, so the issues that drivers experienced didn’t stop the vehicles from going, with only 3.9% reporting that they had been unable to get their Teslas to start.

When it comes to older models (in this case limited to the Model S), the story is very different. Over 50% of owners found that they had to take a trip to the garage with their Tesla. Surprisingly, according to Which? this made Tesla the first brand where more owners were forced to get something fixed than not, at least where those who participated in the report were concerned. Adding insult to injury, many owners found themselves without their vehicles for five days or more before the issues were repaired.

The core issues experienced by the owners of older Teslas were with the exterior doors and locks, suspension, batteries, charging and steering. There was also a recall after issues were found with the airbag. So, all in all not great. And it’s for these reasons that Which? didn’t feel it could award Tesla, as a manufacturer, more than one star for older models.

Tesla reliability – has Tesla had to recall any vehicles?

In 2016, 2,700 Model X vehicles were recalled in the United States due to a faulty locking hinge in the seats in the third-row.

In 2017, Tesla recalled 53,000 of their Model S and Model X cars to fix a parking brake issue. It was reported that the parking brakes may contain a ‘small gear that could have been manufactured improperly by our third-party supplier’. Tesla said that it would only take 45 minutes to replace the brakes.

Between 2017 and 2019, Tesla was forced to issue recalls for the Model S in relation to problems with the Takata airbag. Anyone affected by this recall was informed by Tesla themselves, and the brand reassured customers that it would be fixing all the problems.

The good thing is that when it comes to faults, Tesla has proved to be incredibly responsive, ensuring that necessary recalls are carried out and repairs made. Also, due to the nature of electric vehicles as a whole being far less complex than their internal combustion engine counterparts, they are much more straight forward to fix.

Why is Tesla unreliable?

One reason why Tesla might be so unreliable is due to the amount of new technology seen in its cars. And this is actually pretty common, many premium brands these days put so much modern technology in their cars that there is more to go wrong. This technology can be hard to repair and expensive to replace. This, in turn, reduces dependability.

Tesla is definitely up there in terms of advancement. In the words of one owner, “it’s an engineering marvel”, which means that there are bound to be glitches. Also, because of the nature of Tesla, a brand that relies greatly on social media and the press, these glitches and recalls are highly publicised, even if they aren’t incredibly common.

Tesla isn’t alone in recalling models, a lot of manufacturers have done it. However, Tesla is so well-known and the CEO, Elon Musk, is so active on the internet that the announcements about progress being made in future developments that when something does go wrong it’s incredibly public. This, in itself, doesn’t make the brand more unreliable, but access to so much data can lead people to think that it is.

Another reason why Tesla might be unreliable is that Elon Musk limited the testing of the beta models and instead used computer modelling to reduce the amount of time it spent prototyping. This isn’t that unusual, but this isn’t as common in the traditional and more dependable, automakers.

So what does Tesla have to say?

The Model 3 has been designed and built with mass-production in mind, and with that being the case, the gull-wing doors from the Model X are gone – as they were so problematic during the initial production phase for the SUV it means that the falcon doors are gone. The Model 3 is supposed to be affordable and more approachable, a family car that people aren’t only going to be choosing because it’s a Tesla.

Tesla said: “In the rare cases when a customer does have an issue, we take it very seriously, working closely with each owner to proactively address any problems with their vehicle…the anecdotal issues that sometimes make headlines aren’t based on data and aren’t dissimilar to issues experienced by all manufacturers, but there’s a greater level of interest in what we do”.

They aren’t wrong.

How reliable is the Tesla Model 3?

The Tesla Model 3 is new to the UK market in comparison with the Model S and Model X. It has been designed to be a family-friendly vehicle that people buy, not because of the badge, but because it’s practical and roadworthy.

As the newest vehicle in the Tesla lineup – until the Model Y and the Cybertruck are released – by the time it reached UK shores, 2 years after it was first made available in the US, many tests had been carried out to ensure that the lessons learned from previous releases were all visible in this new family saloon.

Want to find out more about the reliability and safety of the Tesla Model 3? Download our guide.

Is the Tesla Model S reliable?

Loved by owners and top of the charts when it comes to customer satisfaction, but unfortunately, none of that is down to reliability.

The Tesla Model S is prone to many faults including ones with the door handles and locks that have affected models across the Tesla line. There are also issues with the suspension, non-engine electrics such as connectivity, lights and the windscreen washers and cosmetic problems with the interior and exterior of the vehicle.

According to the latest (2020) consumer report from Which?, the Tesla Model S is rock bottom when it comes to reliability and earns just one star out of five for both new and older models.

If you love the look of the Tesla Model S and are considering going electric when you get your next vehicle, then adding a maintenance plan to your lease agreement would be the ideal way to ensure you don’t get hit with a repair bill should something go wrong with your new car.

Find out more about leasing an electric vehicle by speaking with one of our experienced vehicle specialists.

How reliable is the Tesla Model X?

The Tesla Model X had a lot of issues before it was even available for purchase, with the mechanisms for the stylish gull-wing doors proving difficult to obtain and problems with the suspension. However, those seem to have been ironed out.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that the Model X is out of the woods as far as reliability is concerned.

When it was reviewed as part of the 2020 Consumer Report by Which?, the Tesla Model X was found to have some problems that weren’t discovered during development. Over 50% of owners reported that in the year running up to the report, they had suffered some kind of fault, ranging from non-engine electrical issues to more serious problems with the battery. In fact, 5% of owners reported that they’d experienced a breakdown.

The Model X hasn’t been on the market long enough for us to see how it performs once it reaches the three-year mark. However, right now, the Which? Consumer Report only awards newer models one star out of five.

All of that being said, the car is great to look at, has an impressive range, and Tesla seems responsive when it comes to rectifying serious issues.

If you love the gull-wing doors, want a spacious interior and have fallen in love with the style of the Model X, then adding a maintenance package to your lease agreement is one way to ensure that even if you do experience some teething problems you will be well-covered when it comes to the repair costs.

Tesla reliability: Conclusion

Overall, Tesla is still a very young company when compared to manufacturers like Citroen and Ford and still has a long way to go until it has the same kind of production facilities and testing systems in place that other companies have. That said, Tesla is exclusive in that it only produces electric cars and currently has a small number of models in its range. Tesla has also had several years to iron out many of the issues that drivers mention they are experiencing.

All manufacturers experience issues with new models that lead to recalls and poor performance in consumer reports. The biggest difference with Tesla is that a large amount of its press and coverage as a new company has happened in the public eye.

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Rachel Richardson
Latest posts by Rachel Richardson (see all)

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