Skip to main content

How to buy a Tesla online

Tesla has sold cars online since its inception. Early on in the company’s history, adopting a digital sales model was a way to avoid setting up a network of third-party dealers. Fast forward to 2020, and it’s turned into an excellent way to put new cars in the hands of customers while limiting in-person contact. Here’s how it works.

Find the model and version that suits you

Novitec Tesla Model X
Image used with permission by copyright holder

To start, visit the company’s official website and select the model you’re interested in. Tesla currently sells six cars: The Model S, the Model X, the Model 3, the Model Y, the Roadster, and the Cybertruck. Only the first four are in production, but each one is offered in several configurations. For example, the rear-wheel-drive Model 3 is available in one configuration called Standard Range Plus, while 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 $31,690, because the company deducts gasoline that owners will not have to pay for. The actual price of the car is $37,990.

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. Shipping delays depend on location. As of October 2020, the Model 3 takes between six to nine weeks to ship if you’re in California. Motorists who can’t wait that long can buy a car from Tesla’s inventory.

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. With that said, the lineup changes on a regular basis, so what we’re listing below might not be what you see on Tesla’s site.

The entry-level Model 3 comes standard with white paint and 18-inch alloy wheels, for example. Tesla charges $1,000 for black, silver, or blue paint, $2,000 for red, and $1,500 for 19-inch alloy wheels. Moving on to the interior, the only option is a $1,000 two-tone black and white upholstery (shown above) available on upmarket variants. Autopilot is included, and full self-driving capability is a $10,000 option that doesn’t make the Model 3 autonomous — not yet. The company is working on driverless technology, and buyers who tick the box will receive it when it’s ready (and legally permissible) via an over-the-air software update.

Every Tesla comes with one of the industry’s most advanced infotainment systems. Version 10.0, released in September 2019, added Netflix and Spotify integration, an array of video games you can play while parked, and a cool but contentious feature named Smart Summon. The bad news is you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to unlock the car’s best features, though every new Tesla comes with a 30-day free trial.

Place your order

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Once you’ve built your dream Model 3, Tesla asks for a one-time, nonrefundable $100 order fee 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. Some have had their car delivered to their office.

What about a test drive?

Tesla Model Y rear
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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% 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.

We suggest taking one for a spin before you sign the dotted line. Tesla used to let buyers return their car within seven days or 1,000 miles, no questions asked, but it got rid of this option in October 2020.

What about cars not in production yet?

Tesla Roadster Tesla

Nearly half of the Tesla range isn’t in production yet. The Roadster (shown above) and the vintage Lotus-inspired Cybertruck won’t make their debut until 2021 at the earliest; only Elon Musk has driven the pickup so far, both on the streets of Los Angeles and in the classic Nintendo 64 game Golden Eye. The company gives buyers the option of reserving one of its upcoming cars to secure an early spot in line, and avoid long waiting times.

The reservation process starts on the company’s website. Log on, and click on the name of the model you want to get your hands on. Anyone can reserve a Cybertruck by selecting one of the three variants and sending the company a refundable $100 deposit. You’ll be asked to complete your order as production nears. The Roadster, which is shaping up to be Tesla’s flagship model, is more expensive. The firm asks for a $50,000 deposit to reserve the regular variant, or a $250,000 deposit for the limited-edition Founders Series version that’s expected to ship sooner.

Editors' Recommendations

Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
Tesla faces new rival as a tech giant launches its first EV
Xiaomi's first electric car, the SU7.



Read more
Here’s how Ford will give EV customers Tesla Supercharger access
Ford EVs at a Tesla Supercharger station.

Ford announced last year that it would adopt the Tesla North American Charging Standard (NACS) for EV fast charging, granting Ford drivers access to the Tesla Supercharger network. Now, the automaker is providing a little more detail on exactly how that will work.

In the original May 2023 announcement, Ford said owners of existing EVs — which use the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) instead of NACS — would be able to charge at Supercharger stations via an adapter. Today, the automaker announced that the adapter developed by Tesla is now available to order. EV owners can order one free adapter per vehicle through Ford's website between now and June 30. The adapter will otherwise retail for $230. Ford plans to begin building new vehicles with NACS connectors in the near future.

Read more
How to add Bluetooth to an older car
Car Bluetooth

In-car technology is advancing more quickly than anyone imagined, and it's also easier to upgrade an older car with Bluetooth and other cutting-edge features than it's ever been. Numerous aftermarket companies allow motorists to benefit from useful connectivity and safety features without having to buy a new car. In fact, Bluetooth has become a cheap, easy upgrade on any vehicle regardless of its age or value.

Bluetooth can be used to make phone calls (it channels the conversation through your car's speakers) or to stream music directly from your smartphone, though some of the more basic systems are limited to calls. Either way, it's a feature that significantly reduces distractions and allows the driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times. That's why most states have laws that require hands-free calling while driving.

Read more