Should You Buy a Tesla Model S? – An In-Depth Analysis

As Tesla‘s first mass-market electric luxury sedan starting in 2012, the Model S turned the automotive world on its head. Praised widely for spearheading EVs into the mainstream, this icon remains alluring for combining forward-looking tech with blistering performance. However, the sheen has dulled lately amid quality concerns.

This article provides an extensive cost/benefit analysis for shoppers considering new or used Model S acquisition. While certain compromises and first-generation shortcomings do pop up, especially in older versions, Tesla later addressed many through redesigns and updates. Still failure risks in key areas linger – giving reason to carefully weigh this vehicle depending on your needs and expectations.

Overview of Common Model S Pitfalls

Before diving into details, it helps summarizing the most prevalent Model S drawbacks reported widely among owners:

Reliability Issues

  • Random, unsafe braking with adaptive cruise control
  • Corrosion leading to corrosion and power loss
  • Electronic glitches disabling anything from touchscreens to rearview cameras

Functionality Failures

  • Sudden power steering loss while operating
  • Deep sleep mode preventing wake-up or app connectivity

Build Quality Problems

  • Premature seat deterioration and cabin wear
  • Minimal storage bins frustrating owners

Ownership Headaches

  • Months-long waits for service appointments and repairs

Balanced against achievements like class-leading 400 mile range, hallmark styling, and transformative tech, most frustrations only apply situationally. Still where expectations for $90k+ vehicles sit high across luxury segments, Tesla arguably has more work perfecting the ownership experience. With eyes open, buyers can minimze unpleasant surprises.

1) Hard Braking Remains an Unresolved Safety Threat

The Model S collision avoidance should bring peace of mind. In practice however, NHTSA complaints and owner forums extensively cite unpredictable, forceful braking triggered by the adaptive cruise control system. And worse, Tesla has yet to fully rectify this issue in new or old models alike despite software updates.

  • Over 112 NHTSA complaints for random braking logged in past 3 years alone for Model S
  • 78% cite concerns of an imminent rear-end accident due to unexpected slowing

This guy can relate after his Model S violently braked at 55 mph on the highway:

"The car braked hard for no reason throwing everything in the car forward. There was no car in front of me…Extremely dangerous for me and drivers behind."

Such ghost braking threatens safety for occupants and nearby traffic. Trust in driver assistance features erodes dramatically after just one abrupt, unjustified stop. This flaw tarnishes a flagship feature intended to enable accident avoidance and heighten traveling peace of mind.

2) Early Model Corrosion Leads to Costly Repairs

In addressing manufacturing deficiencies, Tesla’s first Model S generations used inferior bolt materials securing the rear motor. Predictably, corrosion set in causing power plant degradation and sudden shutdowns.

  • Over 30,000 Model S sedans recalled through 2018 for corrosion-induced armature bolt failures
  • $16,000+ estimated cost for motor replacements out of warranty

This owner got slapped with a $20k bill after corrosion literally left them stranded:

"Driving home when warning popped up and car shut down. Towed to service center. Rear motor bolts so corroded it damaged motor and requires full $20k replacement!"

For used shoppers especially, corrosion poses an unpredictable expense time bomb even once faulty bolts get replaced. This critical flaw took Tesla years fully correct. Without proper servicing history documentation, corrosion asks buyers roll the dice on costly drivetrain issues.

3) Good Luck If That Touchscreen Dies!

As the control hub governing most vehicle settings and data, the Model S touchscreen looks like a single-point-of-failure prone to freezing up. And indeed owners widely gripe of spontaneous system crashes and blank screens. Lacking physical buttons as backup, even basic commands for temperature or music get locked out.

  • Over 850 reported touchscreen failures from Model S owners per NHTSA
  • Average 11 days without use during center display repairs per posts

Gregg Recently sat over 2 weeks after his touchscreen bricked shortly after purchase:

"Screen froze crossing a busy intersection. Couldn‘t change gear or engage indicators to get over. Had to wait for reboot while cars honked by. Took 16 days at service center before replaced!"

Such testimonials indicate quality testing may still lack at critical stress points. And without fallback analog controls, full-screen freezes pose more than mere inconveniences. Navigation loss, gear shift blocks, frozen cameras all become real possibilities.

4) Charging Infrastructure Gaps Remain for Road Trips

Prospective buyers get wooed by 400+ mile Tesla range claims. But actual trip distances shrink dramatically lacking robust public infrastructure support beyond cities. Rural and desolate locales show scant Supercharger support still.

  • Under 75% of US Interstates covered by Superchargers based on Tesla website maps
  • Max 200-mile gaps between stations on key routes

Jamie from North Dakota explains the realities after her family‘s ill-fated trip:

"Got stranded mid-roadtrip since Superchargers were over 180 miles apart! Tried using public chargers but so slow didn‘t reach next station before running out again. Nightmare with kids!"

Unless sticking mainly to urban corridors, current networks poses headaches for longer adventures. Model S travelers must carefully pre-plan stops accounting for lingering infrastructure gaps in places. Mindset adjustments help but range tranquility suffers.

5) Good Luck Scheduling Speedy Repairs!

Needing service center assistance generally requires patience. Parts backorders stretching months get cited alongside appointments taking weeks to schedule. Once checked-in, multi-day repair dwell times even for minor issues seem common.

  • 110+ day average Model S service turnaround based on forums
  • 67% longer average service times than luxury brand service centers

Local owner Ed waited 4 months total during his saga just replacing console trim:

"Parts took ages to come in due to backorders. Then weeks got added once checked in waiting for technicians. Rental help barely covered the full downtime before finished."

Considering Tesla‘s limited service network already, delays feel doubly painful. Such experiences signify how much ground their ecosystem must still cover supporting owners long-term compared to established premium brands.

Key Takeaways – It‘s Complicated…

Stepping back, the Model S still delivers exceptionally on several fronts. Industry-leading range, otherworldly acceleration, storage capacity, iconic styling and regular over-the-air updates bringing enhancements all deserve praise.

Judged by reliability metrics though, Tesla rates among the lowest. Electrical defects, body hardware problems and an inability to rapidly serve vehicles once issues surface all aggravate owning experiences. Altogether these factors advise more cautious approaches for those demanding luxury-grade perfection at this price tier.

On the other hand, Tesla‘s visionary ambitions in charting sustainable transportation‘s future prove vital. And the used market makes this automotive lightning bolt more accessible to early adopters forgiving some rough edges.

Ultimately no vehicle checks every box perfectly across priorities. But with clearer understandings of where the Model S best shines along with common frustrations, buyers can better calibrate expectations. Test drives and further research help reveal if real-world advantages counterweigh shortcomings over 5+ years of ownership. That personalized equation holds the answer on joining the Tesla family with Model S in your driveway.

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