As fuel prices rise and electric vehicles become more affordable and practical, you may feel the pull to buy one. While most top automakers offer hybrid and electric versions of their most popular car and SUV models, you’re probably thinking about choosing a Tesla for your first electric vehicle. After all, who doesn’t want to drive a cutting-edge electric car made by the leading electric vehicle brand?
At the same time, you’ve probably seen or heard the horror stories involving the reliability and safety of Tesla cars. Whenever an electric car catches fire, crashes due to an error with its self-driving function, or shows paint job issues, a Tesla is usually involved.
So, are Teslas reliable vehicles? Should you get one? Read on to find out more.
Are Teslas Reliable Vehicles?
Two big-name research groups recently released annual reports that ranked car brands according to various factors. Both studies gave Tesla poor overall scores because there were many reports of reliability problems during the period they covered.
However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any good points about Tesla vehicles. Their exceptional road performance continues to win over drivers who want to drive sports cars or give back to the environment. Whether these advantages outweigh Tesla’s bad points is up to you.
In its 2021 Brand Report Card study, Consumer Reports ranked Tesla 16th out of 32 brands. Tesla placed five places lower than its ranking of 11th place in the previous 2020 study.
According to the study, the top three most reliable brands were Mazda, Toyota, and Lexus, respectively. Mazda beat out perennial champion Toyota because the former refined existing models and took its time introducing new but potentially unreliable technologies. Conversely, Lincoln was the most unreliable brand, while its parent company Ford also dropped several places.
Consumer Reports pointed out that numerous reliability issues plagued the Tesla Model S, Model Y, and Model X. Because it’s a new vehicle, the Model Y had its fair share of complaints. Common issues include badly-fitted body panels, mismatched paint, and hair follicles in the paint. However, the same vehicles handled well on the road, and their owners seemed highly satisfied with their Teslas despite their drawbacks.
Interestingly, the Tesla Model 3 passed the Consumer Reports study with flying colors. It even made it into Consumer Reports’ list of 10 Top Picks and was one of four electric vehicle models considered to deliver the best performance, reliability, and safety alongside excellent emission ratings.
Conducted every year by J.D. Power, the US Vehicle Dependability Study takes a look at how many problems per 100 vehicles did drivers report over a 12-month period. All participating vehicles are three years old.
The 2021 study included Tesla in its study for the first time. However, the automaker did not allow J.D. Power to interview Tesla owners in 15 states. The research organization made do with its findings from survey participants in the other 35 states, but could not officially add Tesla to the list of participants.
Tesla didn’t do well, ending up in 30th place out of the 33 brands evaluated. It also had far more problems (a score of 176) than the industry average (121).
Tesla Quality Issues
The various reliability problems that hound Tesla vehicles may in part stem from issues with the build quality. Notably, another J.D. Power study gave Tesla the worst rank among 32 evaluated brands.
In the 2020 Initial Quality Survey, Tesla recorded 205 problems for every 100 vehicles. For comparison, the number one spot was shared by Dodge and Kia, both of which only had 136 problems per 100 units.
Why Tesla Remains a Popular Choice for Electric Vehicles
While Teslas are far from the most reliable vehicles, they remain a highly popular choice for electric vehicles. Many owners say they’re happy with their Tesla and will stick with the brand despite encountering various problems.
According to the Consumer Reports study, most Tesla models made their owners happy enough to give five out of five satisfaction ratings. Even the notoriously unreliable Tesla Model Y got a perfect score when it came to satisfying its owner. And 91% of the interviewed owners affirmed they would buy another Tesla in the future.
So why are Teslas so beloved despite their unreliability? For one thing, they are easy and fun to drive, which is never a bad combination for any vehicle. They also scored high in road performance tests in the Consumer Report study.
Comfort is another big factor. Teslas go out of their way to make both the driver and occupants comfortable with various amenities and furnishing. Combined with their good handling and responsiveness, Tesla vehicles are a breeze to drive as long as everything is working properly.
Tesla vehicles also look very stylish. Most automakers keep the exterior of their electric and hybrid vehicles similar to their internal combustion engine-powered baselines. On the other hand, Teslas feature the futuristic sleekness many drivers expect out of electric cars.
Tesla reliability issues may very well become a thing of the past. Until then, there are many electric and hybrid models available from other brands. Most of them performed well in both the Consumer Reports and J.D. Power studies, and they share many parts with their conventional counterparts, making it easier for you to keep them running. In short, you won’t run out of options if you want to get an electric vehicle that’s not a Tesla.
But if you’re bent on getting a Tesla, you can reduce the risk of mechanical issues by taking good care of it and sticking to its maintenance schedule. The Model 3 is your best bet if you’re in the market for the most reliable Tesla. Just remember to research the model year of the Model 3 you’re eyeing since not all of them did as well as the ones in the surveys.
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