Tesla has helped to transform the electric car from eco-curiosity into a sought-after piece of tech — but choosing between the company's offerings can be tricky.
The company's line-up is pretty straightforward, but from there, the special features and other options can be overwhelming at first glance. But Inverse has the answer to your most pressing questions, including which ones will offer full self-driving, which is the cheapest Tesla, and which offers the most battery range.
Check out Musk Reads+ to find out more about Tesla's lineup, what's coming next, and what the experts think.
Here's what you need to know.
Tesla lineup: what are the choices?
At the moment, Tesla's lineup include: The Model S premium sedan, the Model 3 entry-level sedan, the Model X premium SUV, and the Model Y entry-level SUV.
All of them come with a suite of cameras and sensors for semi-autonomous Autopilot driving, with the ability to one day upgrade to full self-driving.
All of the vehicles also support Tesla's smartphone app. This enables you to view your car's charging progress, lock or unlock from a distance, summon your vehicle from the garage or parking space, and even heat it or cool it so it's ready and comfortable to drive.
The app can also help you find your car, offering location settings, and even the ability to honk the horn and flash the lights. These hyper-connected cars offer a wealth of smart features, and software updates mean they're only getting smarter.
At the time of writing, none of them offer free use of Tesla's network of high-powered supercharging stations. They also all support the full 250-kilowatt charging speeds available at Tesla's newest charging points, which will get you back on the road faster than ever.
How much does a Tesla cost?
Prices are correct at the time of writing, but CEO Elon Musk has been known to suddenly change prices seemingly at a whim. Note that on Tesla's website, buyers will see a lower price than the ones listed below. That's because the company's U.S. site factors in savings on gas and government incentives.
Here's the lay of the land (for now):
Tesla Model S – Technically the oldest model in the lineup, the Model S first hit roads in 2012, the company's second car after the 2008 Roadster. It's a sedan with 28 cubic feet of storage.
It has a vertically-oriented 17-inch touchscreen in its premium interior. The interior looks somewhat dated now with the launch of the more minimalist Model 3 and Model Y, but a much-rumored design refresh has yet to materialize.
It's bigger, bolder, and more premium in parts – you won't get auto-presenting door handles on the 3 or Y. There's also less visible upgrades, like a HEPA air filtration system that maintains high air quality inside the cabin.
Your choices for the Model S are:
- Long Range Plus at $69,420. This car has a longer range of 402 miles per charge, and indeed the furthest range that Tesla currently offers. It has a top speed of 155 mph and 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 3.7 seconds.
- Performance at $91,990. This car has more power, with a top speed of 163 mph and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 2.3 seconds. The downside is less range, at 387 miles per charge.
- Plaid at $139,990. This car is the best of the three, with over 520 miles of range, a top speed of 200 mph, and acceleration to 60 mph in less than two seconds. That's thanks to its Plaid powertrain and tri-motor arrangement. It's also the most expensive, and it's not out until late 2021.
Tesla Model 3 – This is Tesla's big foray into cheaper electric cars, launched in 2017. It's a sedan like the Model S, but it's smaller and lacks certain features.
Instead of an instrument cluster, for example, drivers are expected to use the central 15-inch horizontally-oriented touchscreen for information like speed.
Tesla claims it has 15 cubic feet of cargo space, but Motor-Trend reports that it was able to fit 24 one-cubic-feet boxes into the back of the Model 3 with the rear seats folded down, while it could fit 29 boxes into the Model Y under the same configuration. The Model 3 is small, but these figures can be misleading about the real difference.
Your choices via the Tesla website for the Model 3 are:
- Standard Range Plus at $37,990. This car offers the lowest price with 263 miles of range, a 140 mph top speed, and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 5.3 seconds. You also only get a partial premium interior: that means no LED fog lamps, interior floor mats, rear heated seats, a less premium audio system, and only 30 days of satellite maps and other connectivity instead of one year.
- Long Range at $46,990. This car offers more range with 353 miles, powered by an all-wheel-drive configuration. It has a top speed of 145 mph, 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 4.2 seconds, and that full premium interior missing from the cheaper model.
- Performance at $54,990. This car offers better performance with a top speed of 162 mph and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 3.1 seconds. This model includes upgrades like 20-inch wheels, performance brakes, a carbon fiber spoiler, a Track Mode, aluminum alloy pedals, and more. It also has a range of 315 miles.
Tesla Model X – The all-electric sports utility vehicle first arrived in 2015. Its most iconic feature is the rear falcon-wing doors that raise up to let passengers in and out – incredibly cool, but apparently also a feature that causes Tesla headaches on the repairs side.
It's the premium sibling to the Model Y, and the SUV version of the Model S. That means an S-styled interior, with added storage space and SUV design. It has room for seven people, 88 cubic feet of storage, and the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Your choices are:
- Long Range Plus at $79,990. As the name implies, this packs longer range, driving for 371 miles between charges. It has a top speed of 155 mph and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 4.4 seconds.
- Performance at $99,990. This one offers better performance, with a top speed of 163 mph and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 2.6 seconds. It also has a range of just 341 miles.
Tesla Model Y – Is it an SUV version of the Model 3, or an entry-level version of the Model X? Either way, this car offers an attractive price while packing more space than the Model 3. The first cars shipped in March 2020.
Your choices are:
- Long Range at $49,990. This one packs longer range with 326 miles per charge. It has a top speed of 135 mph and a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 4.8 seconds.
- Performance at $59,990. This one offers better performance with a 155 mph top speed and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 3.5 seconds. It also offers nice extras like 21-inch wheels, performance brakes, lowered suspension and aluminum alloy pedals. It has a lower range of just 303 miles per charge, however.
What about the rest? – Tesla has a packed lineup of future vehicles on the way. It could be worth waiting.
- The first one is the Cybertruck, tentatively scheduled to start hitting roads in late 2021. This is set to start at $39,900 for a single-motor rear-wheel-drive car, moving up to $69,900 for the tri-motor all-wheel-drive model. The high-end model packs over 500 miles of range, towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds, and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of under 2.9 seconds.
- Another is the Roadster. This comes with a purchase price of $200,000. It has a range of 620 miles, 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 1.9 seconds, and a top speed of over 250 mph. This is expected to launch sometime after the Cybertruck.
- Tesla is also expected to launch a mystery $25,000 car within the next three to four years.
Tesla lineup: which options should I choose for the best electric car?
Tesla has scaled back its add-on options over the years. You essentially have four things to decide. To be clear, all of them come down to personal choice. You don't need any of them to get a good Tesla, and even the option that changes the car's functionality the most (full self-driving) is available as an after-purchase option further down the line.
Here's what you'll need to choose:
Interior – It's a bold choice and ultimately cosmetic, but the white interior offers an impressive upgrade. YouTuber Bjørn Nyland shared a video after 93,000 miles that shows how his white Model X seats have held up, and the results are surprising:
Cool like a spaceship, or a distracting cleaning hassle? It's up to you.
Other options to consider, in the case of the Model X, is whether to stick with the five-seat interior or upgrade to six or even seven seats. Which will you choose?
Full self-driving – This controversial upgrade currently costs $10,000. The option was originally a pre-order for future functionality, but these days upgrading to full self-driving does bring a suite of exclusive features. All Tesla vehicles come with basic Autopilot that steers, accelerates and brakes within the car's lane.
The current features are:
- Navigate on Autopilot. This changes lanes and exits at the correct place depending on the GPS-inputted destination.
- Auto Lane Change. This, as the name implies, changes lanes automatically when driving on a highway.
- Summon. This feature sends your car out and drives to anywhere inside a parking lot.
- Traffic Light Control and Stop Sign Control for stopping at controlled intersections.
In the future, the company plans to release point-to-point fully autonomous driving. Users will also have the ability to share their autonomous car with family and friends, or join their Tesla onto a "robo-taxi" ride-hailing network. It sounds impressive and futuristic, but it does mean buying something in the hope that it will meet future expectations, and Musk's company is known for delaying big projects.
Wheel options – This comes down to personal preference, but arguably you may find you're better off sticking with the stock wheels. Teslarati found that, while the aero wheels aren't shiny like metal ones are, the cover is removable. Removing the cover reduces the range by around four percent due to the aerodynamic nature of the cover.
Color options – This is a matter of personal preference, of course. My preference would be red, but right now that's the most expensive color... Is it worth paying more for a color swap? Only you can decide.
Update 11/12 11 a.m. Eastern time: The article has been updated to clarify that Tesla's prices include savings factored in.