How to Maintain a Tesla and the Costs


How to Maintain a Tesla and the Costs

Tesla vehicles offer owners the opportunity to avoid the servicing demands of gas-powered cars and their complicated engines. But how do you maintain a Tesla, and what are the costs associated with maintaining the electric vehicle? 

Teslas do not need frequent oil changes and tune-ups that gas-powered cars require. However, they do still need tire rotations and wheel alignments periodically. Estimates show that Tesla owners can expect to spend $400-$900 per year on routine maintenance.

Are you a new Tesla owner? In this article, we will break down the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle along with the costs you should expect for services. 

Do Tesla Cars Require Regular Maintenance?

It’s no secret that cars require routine maintenance, especially as they get older and with more use; for example, for traditional vehicles, you will need:

(Gas Car)
Service Required
Frequency
Oil ChangeEvery 5,000 miles
Tire RotationsEvery 6,000-8,000 miles
Tire ReplacementEvery 25,000-50,000 miles
Air Filter ReplacementAnnually (or every 15,000-30,000 miles)
Brake FluidEvery two years
Transmission FluidEvery 30,000-60,000 miles
Coolant System FlushEvery five years (or 100,000 miles)
Battery ReplacementEvery 4-5 years
Brake Pad ReplacementEvery 25,000-70,000 miles

Of course, with gas-run cars, the list doesn’t stop here. Because of their many moving components, you’ll also have to keep track of regular and occasional services like a spark plug or bulb replacement, fluid top-off, and more. 

Teslas, on the other hand, do not require as much regular maintenance:

(Tesla)
Service Required
Frequency
Tire Rotations Every 6,250 miles
Tire ReplacementEvery 20,000-40,000 miles
Air Filter Replacement (unless it’s a HEPA filter)Annually (or every 12,500 miles)
Air Conditioning MaintenanceEvery two to six years, depending on the model
Brake Fluid Every two years
Brake Pad Replacement*Rarely: Tesla’s regenerative braking system is less demanding on brake pads and, therefore, can potentially last the lifetime of the vehicle. 
Transmission Fluid Rarely: Only certain models may need the transmission fluid serviced, but every 12 years (or every 150,000 miles)
Coolant System FlushEvery four years
Battery Replacement*Rarely: Tesla batteries are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle. 

(Source: Tesla)

As you can see, much of what Teslas need to maximize their performance is only required annually or between years of use, while services for gas-run cars may need to occur multiple times throughout a single year to extend their life. 

Are Teslas Expensive to Maintain?

As you may have guessed from the previous section, Teslas are relatively affordable to maintain because many regular servicing tasks for gas-powered vehicles are not required for electric cars or do not need to be done as often. 

Additionally, Tesla owners will find that their vehicles have fewer parts to take care of than the standard gas-powered car: The standard gas vehicle’s drivetrain contains as many as 200 different components, but Tesla claims that their drivetrain only has 17 elements!

Finally, most of the Teslas’ features will be drastically different from their internal-combustion counterparts. In fact, as much as 70% of an electric car’s components may differ from the parts in gas-powered vehicles and are also relatively less costly to service.

How Much Does It Cost to Maintain Teslas?

Although Tesla vehicles contain fewer parts than traditional cars, there are still costs associated with Tesla ownership, and many of the typical responsibilities of car ownership continue to apply.

The following table sums up what you can expect to pay for Tesla maintenance year-by-year: 

Year of OwnershipMaintenance Cost Per Year
Year 1 (~12,500 miles)$400
Year 2 (~25,000 miles)$700
Year 3 (~37,500 miles)$400
Year 4 (~50,000 miles)$900
4 Year Total Maintenance Costs$2,400

(Source: William & Mary University)

How to Maintain a Tesla

The following are different, highly recommended services to maintain the life and performance of Tesla vehicles. Also included below are the estimated costs associated with each type of maintenance. 

Tire Rotations 

Tesla recommends that you rotate your tires every 6,250 miles or as soon as the tire tread difference is 2/32” inches or greater. Without regular rotations, your car’s balance and wheel alignments will be off, resulting in poor steering or handling. Additionally, the lifetime of your tires can be reduced. 

You can expect to pay somewhere between $50 to $100 to perform a tire rotation, balance, and wheel alignment in a Tesla; this is pretty standard, as tire rotation alone has been estimated to cost $25-$50 in a traditional gas-powered vehicle.

Tire Replacement

The tires are where Teslas do not vary vastly from the internal combustion vehicles you typically see on the highway. Therefore, they do not represent a significant cost advantage or disadvantage over the tires on most cars.

Here are the tires that come standard in Tesla vehicles:

ModelStandard Tire NameReplacement Cost (costs vary by tire type)
S19” Tempest Wheels$143 to $245 per tire
318” Aero Wheels$238 to $288 per tire
X20” Silver Wheels$324 per tire
Y19” Gemini Wheels$277 per tire

(Source: Tire Rack)

Note: The standard tires listed are considered “original equipment,” or factory options that usually come with Teslas.

With that said, the final price you end up paying for tires may vary, depending on whether you choose to replace your tires with the standard Tesla option or go with an alternative brand. You will also need to consider the cost of labor for replacing your tires at a dealership or tire shop. 

Air Filter Replacement

Primarily found behind your car’s glovebox, the cabin air filter prevents pollen, dust, dirt, smoke, and factory smog from entering the vents of your vehicle. The most significant impact of not replacing the filter is a noticeable change in the vehicle’s air quality. 

Tesla recommends that owners replace their High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air filter every three years, provided that your car is equipped with such a system. If you do not have a HEPA filter, the system can be purchased online for a low price:

A two-pack of these air filters can cost as little as approximately $25. These can be a little pricier than the equivalent air filters seen in most vehicles. However, replacement only needs to be done every two to three years in Teslas, and you can do this yourself without paying labor fees for it to be done at a dealership or shop. 

Air Conditioning Maintenance

Eventually, you will have to perform maintenance on the air conditioning and heating system of your Tesla, but the frequency of service will differ by model:

  • Model S – every two years
  • Model X – every four years
  • Model Y – every four years
  • Model 3 – every six years

(Source: William & Mary University)

The cost of servicing your car’s A/C will vary between models, but generally averages to be $50. 

Brake Fluid & Pad Replacement

Brake fluid replacement usually occurs on a two-year or 25,000 mile cycle in Teslas. The total cost for all-brake related activities, including brake fluid and pad replacement, a tire rotation, and safety inspection, can total $700

However, keep in mind that Tesla’s brake pads are meant to last the vehicle’s lifetime due to its regenerative braking system, so the most you may spend for just the brake fluid/brake system flush alone could average at $153.

This is not bad when you consider what it costs to replace the brake fluid and pads on a regular gas-powered car. According to AutoZone, it costs anywhere from $115 to $270 per axle to perform a brake pad replacement alone. 

Battery Replacement

The current stock of Tesla batteries is designed to last 300,000 to 500,000 miles, or approximately 1,500 charging cycles. In other words, the chance that you will have to replace the entire battery in your car is pretty slim. 

This is due to Tesla’s innovations on maximizing the battery’s efficiency:

  • Tesla decreased the amount of cobalt in the battery, a relatively heavy and expensive element. 
  • The lithium-ion battery built into Tesla vehicles is made of thousands of commodity cells that are much like those in your laptop battery.
  • Teslas use two independent electric engines at the front and rear of the vehicle to increase battery efficiency.

Ultimately, you may only have to perform maintenance on the battery if you do not take good care of the system. 

If you have to replace your Tesla’s battery, it will cost an estimated $3,000-$7,000 depending upon the vehicle’s condition. Prices will vary by specific model, too, as some models have long-range or performance variations with different mechanical demands. This cost makes Tesla’s battery the most expensive component to replace. 

However, it’s worth noting that electric car battery systems’ prices have been on the decline since 2007, so it’s possible these costs may be lower in the future. 

How Much Will Repairs on a Tesla Cost?

While electric vehicles are not expensive to maintain, they can have very costly repairs if they are not maintained properly. The following are a few common repairs for Teslas more likely to put a dent in your wallet:

Battery Upgrades

As identified in an INL report, one primary challenge of electric vehicles is the limited battery range. Those who own older models of Tesla cars can identify with this. Some of these vehicles have a battery range of approximately 200 miles, while high-performance batteries are more than capable of exceeding 300 miles.

However, you do have the option to replace the battery in your model with a high-performance one. With most models in the Tesla lineup, you will be able to choose among different battery range levels:

  • Standard Range
  • Performance
  • Long-Range

But with the upgrade comes a high price tag. For example, a customer who replaced the 60 kWh battery in their 2013 Model S with an 85 kWh battery ended up paying around $18,000 when parts and labor were all accounted for.

Collision Repair 

Even the lightest accidents are of concern with Tesla vehicles. This is because you may have difficulty locating a body shop stocked with Tesla OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts.

The following are a couple of examples of prices you may see for different types of body repairs:

The high cost of collision repair results from Tesla’s almost exclusive use of aluminum in the structure and body panels. These materials certainly make the vehicle much more efficient, but owners are encouraged to be on high alert to prevent dings and dents.

How to Keep Tesla Maintenance Costs Low

Generally, the best way to keep your Tesla’s maintenance and repair costs down is to care for your vehicle as best as possible; this includes taking care of its battery, updating your software regularly, and taking advantage of its safety features to avoid accidents. 

Taking Care of Your Battery

Because Tesla batteries are the most expensive component of the vehicle, you can significantly reduce your maintenance and repair costs with these tips:

Avoid Using Supercharger Stations

Tesla serves its owners well with a network of supercharger stations capable of charging a car battery and getting you back on the road in as little as 30 minutes; this is certainly a nice feature to have when you need a charge in a jiffy, but overuse can have detrimental effects.

With that said, avoid using these supercharger stations regularly. It’s usually best to charge your Tesla with a standard outlet, like the one found in your garage. 

Manage the Charge Level of Your Car

Maintaining an appropriate charge level will help ensure that the battery lasts the full length of its expected lifetime. Overcharging the battery or letting the battery die out will contribute to an unanticipated rate of decline.

Try keeping the battery within the following ranges:

  • Try to avoid letting the battery charge above 90%
  • Keep the charge level from dipping below 20%

(Source: Tesla)

Take Advantage of the Battery Warranty

If you have any concerns about your battery, you are encouraged to take advantage of the warranty it came with to avoid paying excessive out-of-pocket fees. 

The terms of the battery warranty vary between each Tesla model available:

  • Model X & Model S: 8 years or 150,000 miles
  • Model 3 & Model Y (Standard Range): 8 years or 100,000 miles
  • Model 3 & Model Y (Long Range): 8 years or 120,000 miles

Note: The battery warranty comes with the stipulation that you can retain 70% of the battery capacity. In other words, the warranty is void if you do not take good care of the battery. 

Keep the Tesla’s Software Updated

Tesla is innovative when it comes to the amount of software included in the vehicle. Yes, all new cars have built-in computers, but none of them are quite like the software network that you’ll find incorporated within Tesla’s lineup. 

In 2012, Tesla became the first auto manufacturer to introduce OTA (over-the-air) software updates for their vehicles. Some of these updates serve the purpose of improving vehicle safety as well as performance. 

An example of this would be the “creep mode” update in the Model S that would allow the vehicle to move forward very slowly when the driver’s foot is off the accelerator. This specific update helps improve battery life.

Tesla has an app that drivers can download and use to monitor their car’s system performance and download any available software updates. 

Take Advantage of Safety Features 

Collision repair can be quite the nightmarish experience for Tesla owners. You are encouraged to take full advantage of the wealth of safety features that the manufacturer offers:

  • Blind-spot detection and warning: Blind spots are a common source of near misses for drivers of all ages.
  • Lane departure warnings
  • Rear-view cameras
  • Conditional speed limits
  • Automatic parking: Tesla has also recently released an automatic parking feature to assist drivers in all sorts of adverse conditions, including parallel parking. (You can learn more about this feature in this video.)
  • Autopilot and self-driving capabilities: The autopilot package includes a cruise control feature capable of automatically matching your vehicle’s speed to be equivalent to the cars around you on the highway. The full self-driving capability package includes intuitive navigation guidance that helps you focus on the road ahead.*

(Source: Tesla)

These safety features and more can significantly assist you in avoiding collisions. 

*Note: While autopilot is standard, the full self-driving package typically costs $10,000 to add on (and increases over time). It can be well worth the cost, though, when you consider how much collision repairs can cost.

Prepare Your Car for Winter Conditions

If you live in a climate with frigid weather, you are encouraged to prepare your Tesla for those conditions, especially before the winter season. 

For example, excessive snow and ice can put a strain on your vehicle’s braking system. For this, Tesla recommends that owners clean and lubricate all brake calipers every year or 12,500 miles. For other climates, the brakes only need to be inspected every two years or so.

While this type of maintenance is not required, it is a helpful form of preventative care to extend the life of your car’s performance. 

Visit Electric Car-Certified Shops

Tesla owners have the option to bring their vehicles to a certified electric car technician at a shop or dealership or have a mobile technician come to them by making a request through the Tesla app. If you visit a certified shop, your costs may be lower as your warranty may cover certain types of repairs.  

Currently, Tesla owns and operates a limited number of specialized Body Repair Centers in the United States:

  • San Jose, CA
  • Pomona Village, CA
  • Elk Grove Village, IL
  • Rockville, MD

The manufacturer also continues to expand its network of approved auto body repair shops, so if you are not near any of the above locations, you are encouraged to visit a shop within the network. You can do so by simply visiting this page and scrolling down to the search bar to find an approved shop near you.

Note: While you are welcome to seek out services from a non-Tesla shop, this is often discouraged if you need to have your vehicle repaired; this is because your warranty may not cover any issues with a technician who is not certified through Tesla.  

This will likely not be a concern with minor repairs and maintenance tasks like tire rotations, but for more serious repairs, you are encouraged to visit a certified service provider. 

Don’t Forget to Maintain the Interior

Tesla vehicles also have a simple interior, so the maintenance requirements here will be much the same for them compared to any other vehicle. However, a critical interior feature that will need special attention is the vegan leather seating and steering wheel covering found in most 2020 Model 3 and Model Y Teslas.  

Cleaning Vegan Leather Seating

Due to vegan leather’s sensitivity to harsh chemicals, it is best to use warm water and a mild detergent to clean its surface every month or so. Great examples of a mild detergent you can use include:

Some recommend using a mild household soap or soap bar shavings as well. 

Before cleaning, you are encouraged to mix the warm water and soap solution into a spray bottle. When you clean, don’t spray the mixture too heavily to avoid over-soaking the fabric. Scrub the cleaning solution using a microfiber towel or a brush with soft bristles. (Avoid using stiff bristles because this can damage the vegan leather.)

After adding the cleaning solution, use a soft dry cloth to wipe off any remaining moisture from the leather. 

Note: Besides routine cleaning, you can protect your vegan leather interior by avoiding leaving your Tesla in the sun for long periods. If you must, use a windshield sunshade to prevent harsh sunlight from damaging the seats. 

Invest in a Tesla with a Permanent Magnet Motor

If you have ever shopped for a gas-powered vehicle, then you probably spent a bit of research focusing on what’s under the hood. This is especially true of the pickup truck market, where the discussion of going with either a 6-cylinder or 8-cylinder engine always promises to be a lively conversation.

However, if you visit the Tesla website to look at their cars’ specs, you won’t see very many specifics on the electric motors. This may lead buyers to believe that all electric motors behave much the same and therefore have the same maintenance requirements. 

This is not true, as the specific type of electric motor that the manufacturer uses can have a lasting effect on durability.

About Permanent Magnet Motors

In 2019 Tesla decided to install a permanent magnet motor in both the Model S and the Model X after already featuring such an engine in its range of Model 3 vehicles. The move has been estimated to increase drivetrain efficiency by 10%, highway driving range by 5%, and city driving range by 14%. These motors are also known for having lower maintenance costs versus other types of electric motors.

There are trade-offs associated with permanent magnet motors. For one, they include a blend of rare earth elements that drive up the costs of parts, but they do make the entire system more efficient. 

The cost savings really come in when the powertrain is installed. The improved engine performance means that the manufacturer doesn’t have to make such a big battery. Even building a battery with just 5% more capacity can cause the powertrain to cost an estimated $300 more.

Final Thoughts

While Teslas don’t necessarily require a visit to the shop every 5,000 miles in the same way a traditional gas car would for an oil change, there are a few servicing options Tesla recommends to maintain your vehicle. 

The recommended routine maintenance for Teslas include:

  • Tire rotations and replacement
  • Air filter replacement
  • Air conditioning servicing
  • Brake fluid replacement
  • Battery maintenance (as necessary)

Fortunately, many of these services are relatively inexpensive or comparable to gas-run vehicles, costing drivers only $400 to $900 each year during the first four years of ownership. However, although you can save on maintenance costs, you can end up spending quite a lot on repairs and battery replacement—over thousands of dollars in many cases—if you don’t maintain your car properly.

However, as long as you keep up with your car’s needed maintenance, take care of its battery, stay up-to-date with software updates, and take advantage of its unique safety features to avoid collisions, you can significantly reduce how much you pay for regular servicing, and increase the life of your vehicle.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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