Well, after some rescheduling, actually a lot of rescheduling, the day finally came for delivery of our Tesla Model 3 SR+.
Ironically, my wife was running an errand that took her near the Tesla dealer when she spotted a car carrier with Tesla’s on it that was behind her in traffic.
She pulled into a parking lot to take a picture of it and coincidently our while Model 3 was actually on the truck. It is one of the two on the bottom.
We were able to confirm this when we went to pickup our car.
Lessons Learned About Tesla New Car Delivery
The Tesla car buying experience is unlike anything you’ve probably ever done before.
We actually purchased the car during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in December of 2020. So given the feedback from people we knew that had a Tesla and all the YouTube videos we watched, we placed our order without ever going to the dealership.
The ordering process was extremely easy. You can read about that here.
Getting ready for actually meeting the new car and taking it home was a challenge given the pandemic.
But we were prepared with this delivery checklist in hand.
If I have to fault Tesla for anything, it would have to be communications. I’m not the only one that has made this same observation.
Soon after the purchase order was placed, I received a text message from the dealership, and while I could send questions and messages back to them by text, the response times were often slow. Sometimes requests would happen but without confirmation, for example, like changing our delivery time.
The Tesla dealership in Raleigh, North Carolina, is not a big facility, and it has a small parking lot for cars and visitors.
With a small location and brisk demand for the desirable vehicles, it was hectic on arrival. Some rows were impassable due to cars being parked, filling every available inch.
The best thing you can do is to arrive prepared for delivery. Bring any required documentation with you and make sure you have completed all the online forms before you arrive.
We did have to go into the dealership and meet for a couple of minutes with a representative behind a plexiglass barrier. A few documents were signed and notarized and our car was waiting for us outside the front door.
There was no vehicle orientation, but I had studied aggressively on how to drive the car, at least basically. The Tesla customer portal has some orientation videos, but YouTube is a wealth of information.
Others had complained about delivery issues surrounding quality control, like panel gaps. There were no squawks that needed attention in our car.
The most stressful part of the delivery was driving the car off the lot for the first time.
If you’ve never driven a Tesla, it is a different experience. The vehicle begins to move silently, the braking is different than what you are used to, and the last thing you want to do is have an accident with 100 feet on the car.
You will need to drive the car for at least 20 miles or so before the cameras on the car allow you to use any automated driving functions, so don’t get too excited to launch Full Self Driving (FSD) off the lot.
I found myself overwhelmed by all the new tech in the car. Don’t feel like you need to set or adjust everything before you leave the dealer lot. Just driving the vehicle without all the bells and whistles is a relatively easy experience for drivers with a few years in their logbook.
My goal was to get the car out of the cramped dealership lot without hitting anything, including the new buyers scrambling all over the place looking over their new cars. It was a zoo. A Tesla zoo.
Next, I wanted to drive the car directly to an area that would have some long and uncrowded stretches of road so the cameras could calibrate and I would not have to worry about traffic. That turned out to be an excellent strategy.
Once you arrive home and park the vehicle, you can start going through all the setup menus and options. The first prompt I had to deal with from the car after pulling into the garage and connecting to WiFi was to update the car software. New features were added.
Some Tesla owners complain about the new user interface layout, but as a new owner, it is all I know. Nobody likes change, so I can understand their stress over screen items moving around.
Some Initial Lessons Learned
Closing the Charging Port Door – Much information is available to educate you on opening the charging port, but closing it is not regularly covered. Pressing on the port feels like the wrong thing to do. And it is. Pushing on the door can actually break it. Instead, after you remove the charging cable, wait about ten seconds, and the charging port door will close by itself.
Noises – Parked in the garage, the car will sometimes make low hums, a small whine, or sound like a pump is turning on and off. That is all normal. If you walk away and don’t access the Tesla app on your phone, the car will eventually sleep.
Turning Car Off – It is initially confusing to figure out how to turn the car off because you don’t. Instead, when you park, you just get out of the car and walk away. When you are about five feet away from the car, it will lock itself. You can configure the car to flash the lights or make a little beep to let you know when it locks.
In General, the Learning Curve is Steep – Getting in and driving the car is not that difficult but getting used to where are the controls are located and how things work is not necessarily a smooth or easy process.
The initial driving experience is not unlike what you are used to in your internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. It’s the same as the steering wheel turns the tires, the accelerator pedal makes it go faster, and the brake pedal stops the car.
But even those tasks have a completely different sensation. When you take your foot off the accelerator, the car enters regenerative braking, and the motor starts feeding power back into the battery. This also slows the car without pressing on the brake. You’ll find yourself taking your foot off the accelerator far too early.
Starting to Use the Advanced Features Can be Overwhelming – When you first start to use autopilot or FSD, they don’t have similar features. Keeping the differences straight needed some practical experience. I would strongly suggest using these features first on practice drives in areas that are not full of traffic. Tesla has a page that helps to explain the differences in automated driving functions.
- Autopilot – This will control your speed, maintain a set distance between you and the car ahead, stop at red lights, and provide warnings around you. It will not keep you in your lane.
- Navigate on Autopilot – When you activate this feature on your trip it will provide you with additional controls. Tesla describes it by saying “Navigate on Autopilot suggests lane changes to optimize your route, and makes adjustments so you don’t get stuck behind slow cars or trucks. When active, Navigate on Autopilot will also automatically steer your vehicle toward highway interchanges and exits based on your destination.”
- Full Self Driving – This will keep you in your lane, allow the car to change lanes, and works best on highways or long straight roads. But keep in mind, the coming capabilities of the full FSD package are not available in the cars yet. Tesla says the coming release will provide drives with these capabilities. “All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go. If you don’t say anything, the car will look at your calendar and take you there as the assumed destination or just home if nothing is on the calendar. Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, and handle densely packed freeways with cars moving at high speed. When you arrive at your destination, simply step out at the entrance and your car will enter park seek mode, automatically search for a spot and park itself. A tap on your phone summons it back to you.” – Source
Give Yourself Some Time to Master the Car
Every time I go out and practice driving the car, I master more of the capabilities and functions. It reminds me so much of learning to fly. As a student pilot you feel like an incompetent idiot that is always stressed and maybe a bit afraid. But as you practice, you become skilled.
The same is true for learning to drive the Tesla. Don’t beat yourself up. Practice, and you’ll be confident you made a smart choice by getting the car.