How to buy a Tesla online

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla Model Y official

Buying a Tesla has always been a little bit different than buying a car from other automakers. Instead of recruiting franchised dealerships, which is the status quo in America, the company decided to sell its cars through its own stores, a strategy similar to the one adopted by big tech companies like Apple. The process became even more unique when the California-based company announced it would shift to a fully digital sales model. As of early 2019, Tesla sells its cars online exclusively, meaning motorists can order a Model 3 or a Model Y from the comfort of their couch.

It’s an innovative, forward-thinking approach to retail that’s unique in the automotive industry. Here is how the process works.

Find the model and version that suits you

To start, visit the company’s official website and select the model you’re interested in. Tesla currently sells four cars: The Model S, the Model X, the Model 3, and the Model Y. Each one is offered in several configurations. For example, the rear-wheel drive Model 3 lineup includes standard-range, standard-range plus, and long-range variants. Buyers who need all-wheel drive can select the long-range or performance version.

Tesla clearly states the price of each car on its website, but it warns potential buyers that the figure it provides includes potential incentives and gas savings. Its site lists the entry-level Model 3 at $26,950, because the company deducts the $3,750 federal incentive many buyers are eligible to receive, as well as a $4,300 gas saving, which represents six years’ worth of gasoline. The actual price of the car is $35,000.

Clicking on each version tells you precisely how much you’ll pay for it depending on whether you’re buying it in cash or financing it. You can estimate your monthly payment, which will vary based on the amount you put down, the length of the loan, and the annual percentage rate (APR). Tesla also lets buyers get a more precise estimate of how much money they’ll save after going electric by punching in how many miles they drive annually and how much they normally pay for fuel.

By entering their zip code, buyers can find out approximately how long they’ll need to wait before taking delivery. The more expensive variants of the Model 3 ship faster than the cheaper versions. If you’re in California, you can get the range-topping performance model within two weeks, but you’ll need to wait between six and eight weeks if you’re interested in the entry-level model priced at $35,000.

Configure your car online

Tesla Model Y official

You’re ready to configure your car when you know which one you want, how much you’re going to pay for it, and how long you’ll wait before taking delivery. Configuring a Tesla is simple, because the company’s list of options is relatively short. The standard Model 3 comes standard with black paint and 18-inch alloy wheels. Tesla charges extra for silver, blue, white, or red, and it gives buyers the option of adding 19-inch alloy wheels. The online configurator lists each option’s price. The 19-inch alloys cost $1,500, for example, while the red paint adds $2,500 to the price.

There are no interior options to choose from if you’re building an entry-level Model 3. More expensive variants can receive a two-tone, black-and-white interior at an extra cost. Every 3 can be upgraded with Autopilot, a $3,000 option, and full self-driving capability, a $5,000 option that requires Autopilot. Tesla warns that even the full self-driving option doesn’t turn any of its cars into autonomous vehicles. The company is working on driverless technology, and buyers who tick the box will receive it when it’s ready via an over-the-air software update.

Place your order

Once you’ve built your dream Model 3, Tesla asks for a refundable $2,500 deposit before it processes the order. You’ll need to create a Tesla Account by entering personal information like your name, your phone number, and your credit card details. Tesla notes that buyers can modify their order after they send the deposit. The company assigns buyers a delivery adviser after it receives an order, and that person becomes the customer’s point of contact for the remainder of the transaction. All of the documents — including loan-related paperwork, if needed — are uploaded online, so there’s no need to visit a store.

The delivery adviser notifies the customer as soon as the car is ready. Where buyers take delivery of the car depends on where they live, but the company told Digital Trends that it goes to great lengths to make each transaction as painless as possible. While home delivery is available, buyers who live relatively close to a Tesla store can choose to have their new car shipped there.

What about a test drive?

Tesla Model Y rear

Some Tesla stores keep a small inventory of cars for buyers who want to drive away in a new Tesla immediately. Customers can visit these locations to test drive the model of their choice before ordering it online, but the company pointed out that 82 percent of Model 3 owners purchased their vehicle without driving it first. Those who nonetheless want to try before they buy can contact their nearest store to arrange a test drive.

Tesla knows buying a car without taking it for a spin is risky, so motorists who order online and skip the test drive step can return their car within seven days or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first. Those who drive before buying can return the car by the end of the first calendar day after they take delivery. Either way, the return is final; you can’t ask for the car back if you change your mind, and you can’t swap it for a different car. If you return a Model 3 because you realize you need the bigger Model S, you’ll need to start the ordering process from scratch.

Cars

Tesla will have ‘autonomous robotaxis’ in 2020, Elon Musk says

Tesla will deploy self-driving cars in a "robotaxi" service in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said at the automaker's Autonomy Investor Day. Musk has promised autonomous Tesla electric cars before, but will he finally deliver this time?
Gaming

Tips and tricks for beginners entering the postapocalypse in Days Gone

Days Gone has finally arrived on PS4 after multiple days. After more than 35 hours spent in the post-apocalyptic vision of the Pacific Northwest, we've learned a lot. Here are ten tips and tricks to help you get started.
Cars

Electric car buying guide: What you need to know before you buy

EVs are better than they've ever been, but buying your first battery-powered car can be an intimidating experience. Digital Trends has compiled a comprehensive guide that walks you through the process of buying an EV.
Cars

Bored with stock? The best tuner cars are begging to be modified

Modification has been around almost as long as the automobile itself. Here are 25 of the best tuner cars you can find, ranging from American muscle standouts to Japanese drift cars.
Cars

Tesla Model S and Model X charge faster and go farther with the same battery

An all-new drivetrain for the Tesla Model S and X enables the EVs to travel farther per charge than the previous design. Tesla Model S Long Range sedans have a 370-mile range and Model X Long Range SUVs can travel 325 miles per EPA cycle.
Cars

2019 Ford F-150 RTR gets a light dose of off-road, style upgrades

Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s RTR Vehicles is turning its attention to the 2019 Ford F-150 pickup truck. RTR gave Ford's bestseller new suspension components and tires, as well as more extroverted exterior styling.
Cars

Electric truck maker Rivian scores $500 million investment from Ford

Alongside Amazon, Rivian can now count Ford as one of its backers. The Blue Oval will invest $500 million in Rivian, and will use the company's "skateboard" chassis as the basis for a future electric vehicle.
Cars

The best diagnostic adapters monitor your car so you don't have to

Sometimes called dongles, the best car adapters will tell you what's wrong under the hood while help you keep tabs on your family and routine maintenance.
Emerging Tech

Japanese taxis will use facial recognition to target you with ads as you ride

A Japanese startup is trying to reinvent in-taxi advertising by using facial recognition technology to identify the key characteristics of riders and then presenting them with appropriate ads.
Cars

Nvidia agrees with Tesla’s take on self-driving cars, but corrects specifics

Nvidia vice president Rob Csongor agreed with broad statements by Elon Musk at Tesla's April 22 Autonomy Investor Day. Csongor then took exception to what he termed were inaccuracies about Nvidia's self-driving car chip.
Cars

Stop backing into your neighbor's car with the best backup cameras

The right backup camera will allow you to better avoid vehicles and other obstacles without taking your eyes off the road, rendering "sorry, I hit your car!" notes a thing of the past. Here are our current favorites.
Mobile

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.
Business

Tesla posts $702M Q1 loss as deliveries fall sharply; Musk promises turnaround

Tesla lost $702 million during the first quarter of 2019 as deliveries fell sharply, and demand for the Model X and the Model S flattened. The company predicts it will again lose money in the second quarter.
Cars

Ambitious but not rubbish: The best Top Gear episodes

Since its relaunch in 2002, Top Gear has become required viewing for any serious gearhead. The great moments from this show may seem too numerous to count, but we've managed to pick some of the highlights from the first 26 seasons.