Tesla Model S

The Journey to Owning the Tesla Model S

Can the Tesla Model S endure 7 years of constant usage? Can it see 200,000 miles of reliable use? Those questions and more have yet to be answered yet people are still lining up to take that $100k leap of faith. This is their story and journey to owning the Tesla Model S.

Research and Test Drive

Tesla Motors does very little marketing, if any at all, and most people learn about the Model S through word of mouth or by seeing it first hand at one of the many Tesla stores scattered across shopping malls of America. I can almost guarantee that once you come into contact with a Tesla, you won’t stop thinking about it. I first heard about the Model S about six months before I started down the path to ownership and once that seed of information was planted into my mind – pure electric, pure speed, grace, and serenity, it grew like wild fire that led to a phase of obsessive research, and finally culminating into a test drive. People approach research in a variety of ways, either through the Tesla forums, Tesla news & resource sites or independent bloggers. For many the finances may pose as  a big hurdle but if you do the math the cost of ownership can actually make sense.

Journey to Owning the Tesla Model S


Journey to Owning the Tesla Model SOnce you’re convinced that you absolutely need to have a Tesla, as many of us do, it’s time to place the online order which starts with a fully refundable $2,500 deposit. The order can be placed directly after your test drive or from the comfort of your own home, and the process is no different than buying a product from any traditional e-commerce store. Configuring your Model S has never been simpler and it’s done directly through the Tesla Motors web site. There’s no price haggling needed and you can reconfigure your car as much as you’d like up until the time your place your credit card deposit. For me, I ordered my Model S in the Massachusetts Tesla store right after my test drive.


A two week count down clock starts shortly after placing your order. During this time you can decide whether you want to proceed with the order or cancel it in exchange for a full refund. You’re also given the option to forego the chance of a refund and confirm the order in order to speed up the delivery process by two weeks. The VIN to your new Model S will be assigned shortly after the order is confirmed.

Sourcing Parts

Journey to Owning the Tesla Model S

This is the longest and most painful part of the waiting process that starts right after confirmation. There’s not much information provided on what’s going on behind the scenes, but your Model S is basically in line to be built. Don’t expect the delivery or sales teams to be very engaged at this stage other than providing some guidance with items that require longer lead times such as financing and obtaining insurance.

In the background, Tesla is coordinating production so that cars of similar configurations are built together. This part of the process takes on average of four weeks in the US but known to be much longer for international orders. Many future owners of the Model S second guess their choices during this wait time and make last minute changes.


After what seems like an eternal wait time, the car finally enters production. National Geographic put together an excellent documentary showing the robotic manufacturing process for the Model S.

Waiting for delivery

The final and somewhat painful stage for owners is after their car has been built and they’re waiting to pick it up or have it delivered. It is very hard to think about the car you had custom designed sitting somewhere waiting for you. For those overseas this wait involves transatlantic shipments, boats etc and a lot more time. For those on the East Coast its waiting for the next batch to leave CA heading eastbound on a car carrier. For us East Coast guys, this transportation process takes about 2 weeks.


Delivery can take place either at the Tesla factory in Fremont, CA or at the local Tesla Delivery Center. A Tesla Service Rep goes through a full walkthrough of the vehicle with the new owner during delivery (walkthrough videos). If you’re fortunate enough to take delivery in California you can also arrange for a factory tour at that time.

Timeline Summary

  1. Research and Test Drive – Time varies greatly, start now!
  2. Order – Often happens on the same day of the test drive or within a couple of days after.
  3. Confirm – By default this is 2 weeks from the date the order is placed, but can be accelerated if one choses to forgo the refundable deposit (quick confirmation) and initiate the next step of the order.
  4. Sourcing parts – This seems to take approximately four weeks.
  5. Production – It typically takes Tesla about two days to build the Model S to your specifications.
  6. Delivery – It takes about two weeks from production complete to delivery in the US.

The total time from order to delivery with quick confirmation is about 6 weeks in the US.

Tesla Motors has a great “what to expect” timeline which describes this journey to owning the Tesla Model S in further detail.


Image Credit: Tesla Motors, National Geographic
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