How Long Are Tesla Cars Supposed to Last? Deciding Factors


Fellow drivers and online reviewers are raving about how great Tesla cars are. There’s been rumors of a “one million mile battery life.” But the truth about how long Tesla cars are supposed to last and how long they actually last isn’t quite as impressive… or, at least, not yet.

The three deciding factors that most affect how long Tesla cars are supposed to last are everyday use, maintenance and upkeep, and battery charging practices. These factors have a quantifiable impact on the car and battery’s longevity. 

Though Tesla treats its vehicles as separate entities from their batteries, as evidenced by their separate warranties, these three factors affect both. In turn, how an owner treats and upkeeps the vehicle has a direct impact on the battery, and vice versa. 

Factors That Affect How Long Tesla Cars Last

It may be surprising to learn that Tesla’s cars, despite being so technologically advanced, are fairly straightforward when it comes to the factors that affect their longevity and performance. Tesla has been touted as one of the leaders in the electric car industry. 

They pride themselves on creating cutting edge vehicles that push the limits of modern technology and out-perform competitors. So far, their Models S, 3, X, and Y do appear to live up to these impressive claims. This is especially true in terms of longevity.

Tesla cars have been reported to outlast comparable cars and SUVs from other brands. However, that doesn’t mean that they’ll last forever. Like every piece of equipment, they do have an expiration date.

There are three primary deciding factors that influence how long Tesla cars will last:

  • Designed and Realistic Longevity – This is essentially how long Tesla built their car to last versus how long it actually lasts when put through the rigors of everyday life.
  • Maintenance and Upkeep – How you treat your car after purchase and whether you follow recommended servicing schedules makes a huge difference.
  • Battery Charging Practices – As an electric car, the battery is perhaps the most important component. Knowing this, owners should use it as intended. 

Taken together, the factors that most affect how long your Tesla car will last are how you treat it, how you maintain it, and how you charge it.

Designed and Realistic Longevity

Since individual factors can vary so widely when it comes to how a Tesla car is purchased, maintained, and treated, it can be difficult to estimate how long the car will last.

Thankfully, it’s somewhat easier to calculate how long it should theoretically last. Based on manufacturer claims and provided warranties, it appears that a Tesla car lasts significantly longer than its average counterpart.

For context, a typical car lasts 200,000 miles and an average of 12 years according to AARP.

Based on the warranties offered, Tesla cars appear to hold up to this:

  • Tesla Models S, 3, and X have a basic vehicle warranty of four years or 50,000 miles (whichever comes first) and a battery and drive unit warranty of either eight years or 150,000 miles.
  • Tesla Model Y has the same basic vehicle warranty of four years or 50,000 miles and a similar battery and drive unit warranty of either eight years or 120,000 miles.

These warranties aren’t synonymous with the lifespan of the car, but do offer insight into how long manufacturers believe the car will last with no or minimal problems.

So how do the cars hold up after use?

Model S After 3 Years

Tesla-only shuttle service Tesloop gave a detailed report on a 2015 Model S that hit its 400,000 mile mark in 2018. They project that it can drive another 600,000 miles within the next five years. 

From 2015 – 2018, they’ve performed approximately $19,000 worth of general repairs and scheduled maintenance. That breaks down to roughly $0.05 per mile. This more than surpasses the average car’s mileage.

However, the battery pack didn’t quite hold up to expectations after extended use and had to be replaced three times during this period. 

The first replacement came at the 194,000 mark, the second at the 324,000 mark, and the third at the 400,000 mark.

Upon inspection of the batteries, Tesla reported that the short lifespan was a result of frequent supercharging to high state-of-charges and that following recommended charging guidelines would significantly prolong the lifespan of the battery.

As of 2019, an additional S model has also surpassed the 400,000 mile mark.

Model 3 After 100k Miles

Tesla CEO Elon Musk claims that the Model 3 can last up to 1 million miles and that the battery module should last between 300,000 – 500,000 miles.

So far, no Model 3 has driven far enough to test this claim. However, there are several over users who were nearing the 100K range at the end of 2019 without issues, as reported by Twitter user @TeslaMiles.

However, an owner released an in-depth review of a Model 3 that hit 150,000 in November of 2020. After reaching this milestone, he estimates that there is roughly 11.4% degradation on the battery.

However, he also admitted that he supercharges the battery 99% of the time, which is not recommended by manufacturers. But as a result, he was able to give insight into the pricing of supercharging, which he estimated at roughly $9K for 150,000 miles or $0.06 per mile.

Depending on weather conditions, traffic, and the driving mode, each battery charge supported anywhere from 200 – 300 miles. At no point did the Model 3 ever run out of charge, despite two close calls. However, both situations were remedied thanks to level 2 charges.

According to the author, the majority of the maintenance required was ‘self-inflicted.’ Only replacing the tires (after failing to rotate them) and minor replacement issues were necessary. Interior and exterior wear and tear were listed as minimal. 

Model X After 363,000 Miles

Seven of Tesloop’s top ten ranking cars in terms of high mileage are Model Xs. Two of these have reached over 363,000 miles and 345,000 miles, respectively. 

The first Model X to reach over 300K did so on its original drive unit and battery and had a maintenance cost of $0.06 per mile. 

The other five ring in at approximately 290,000, 267,0000, 260,000, 252,000, and 229,000 miles. All of these traveled over the 200K mark on their original batteries and drive units. Tesloop also has five Model X cars that have each traveled over 200,000 on their original batteries and drive units.

None of the models’ interiors have needed to be patched, repaired, or replaced; Tesloop reports that the seats show minimal wear and tear.

Model Y Speculated Maintenance Lifetime

As one of the most recently released models, there’s limited information on how the 2020 Model Y holds up against Tesla’s claims, the most impressive of which is that the Model Y’s battery will last up to 500,000 miles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that the average person drives roughly 13,500 miles per year. If the Model Y holds up to Tesla’s projection, that means its battery could last up to 37 years with minimal issues.

According to EPA estimates, the average range of the Model Y per full charge is up to 316 miles. Despite the absence of long term performance statistics, there are reviews from the last year that provide limited insight into the Model Y and its battery.

A contributor from The Drive who’d previously test driven and reviewed Tesla models provided a comprehensive breakdown of this model’s best (and worst) features. Though his exposure to the battery capabilities was minimal and short term, he did note that there was little charging range anxiety and that the battery technology seemed sound.

Other preliminary reviews from sources such as US News and Forbes add relatively little new information about battery performance, but do appear to confirm The Drive’s initial assessment.

Battery Charging Practices

One of the primary components of how long your Tesla car will last is the battery and your charging habits.

For all Models, Tesla claims that the easiest and most important was to preserve the battery is to leave your car plugged in when it’s not in use. When plugged in, the Model S will automatically ‘wake up’ and charge itself to maintain a charge level that maximizes its lifetime.

Besides this, the instructions provided are fairly straightforward and outlined succinctly in the owner’s manual. They are summarized below:

  • Supercharging – Tesla doesn’t recommend supercharging the battery often, as this could result in the battery degrading more quickly.
  • Discharging – The battery depletes at a rate of about 1% per 24hrs, so Tesla owners should plan accordingly if they’re going to leave their car, unplugged, for a longer period of time.
  • Stationary Power Sources – The battery should also never be used to sit and power other devices, acting as sort of a stationary power bank. This voids the warranty and would certainly damage the car’s batteries.
  • Battery Maintenance – Under no circumstances should owners or non-Tesla authorized technicians open, tamper with, or try to service the battery and/or its components. The battery requires absolutely no maintenance from drivers.
  • When to Contact Tesla – If the instrument panel signals that something is wrong with the battery or owners are worried about its performance, they should contact Tesla directly and arrange for servicing.

Battery Longevity of Teslas Tested

The battery performs best when charged regularly. Tesla recommends not to wait until the battery level is low to charge. In fact, this is one of the quickest ways to damage the battery.

Because of this, owners who wait until their battery hits 0% to charge suffer from damaged components that may need replacement. This is otherwise known as allowing the battery to fully discharge. 

According to a private study that analyzed over 500 Tesla owners’ cars, the battery easily reached 500,000 miles with no or minimal maintenance issues. On average, it found that battery degradation happened at a rate of 5 – 10% per the first 50,000 – 100,000 miles and then at a rate of 5% or less for every 100,000 miles after that.

This means that many owners with 150,000 miles on their car still had a 90% battery efficiency, and those with over 500,000 miles were operating with a battery at roughly 80% efficiency. Depending on the model, this 5% decrease translates to an average of 20 miles less distance per change.

Long Term Maintenance and Upkeep of Tesla Cars

If you don’t take care of your car after you buy it, the lifespan will be significantly shortened. Whether you get a Tesla, Ford, Honda— every type of vehicle requires regular maintenance and upkeep.

Because they’re electric and include advanced technology, Tesla may have more strict warranty policies and maintenance schedules than most.

Your owner’s manual should detail these policies and the recommended maintenance schedule. It will also include a healthy amount of warnings and caution tips that you should follow.

Tesla recommends the following services and maintenance schedule for each of its models:

Model SModel 3Model XModel Y
Brake Fluid Health CheckEvery 2 yearsEvery 2 yearsEvery 2 yearsEvery 2 years
A/C Desiccant Bag ReplacementEvery 2 yearsEvery 6 yearsEvery 4 yearsEvery 4 years
Cabin Air Filter ReplacementEvery 2 yearsEvery 2 yearsEvery 2 yearsEvery 2 years
HEPA Filter ReplacementEvery 3 yearsN/AEvery 3 yearsN/A
Brake Caliper Cleaning & LubricationEvery year or per 12,500 milesEvery year or per 12,500 milesEvery year or per 12,500 milesEvery year or per 12,500 miles
Tire RotationEvery 6,250 miles or if tread depth difference is > 2/32 in.Every 6,250 miles or if tread depth difference is > 2/32 in.N/AEvery 6,250 miles or if tread depth difference is > 2/32 in.
Tire ReplacementEvery 6 yearsEvery 6 yearsEvery 6 yearsEvery 6 years

Keep in mind, this is just the basic list that Tesla provides. It isn’t comprehensive and doesn’t include consumable parts (i.e., windshield wipers, brake pads, etc.). 

How Does Environment Affect the Maintenance of a Tesla Car?

Depending on your environment and driving schedule, you may need to adhere to the severe-use schedule (also known as the extreme-use schedule).

This is the maintenance schedule recommended for drivers who meet the following criteria:

  • Do a lot of city driving or take a lot of short trips
  • Live in a very hot or very cold climate
  • Live in the mountains or near saltwater
  • Live in an area with dirt roads
  • Regularly tow a trailer or carry heavy cargo

Though it’s unlikely you’ll be towing a trailer with your Tesla car, you may fall into one of the other categories.

Here are some Tesla-specific warnings that can also affect your car’s performance and longevity:

  • Car Covers – Only use Tesla-approved car covers; others may cause the battery to overheat and/or inadequately cool during charging, damaging the battery.
  • Tire Chains – Only use Tesla-recommended tire chains; others may damage the suspension, body, wheels, and/or brake lines.
  • Technicians – Only use Tesla-certified technicians; others may cause maintenance and/or repair-related damages or failures.

The warranty doesn’t cover damage that occurs as a result of not following these recommendations and other instructions found in your owner’s manual

How to Prevent Large Repair Costs for Long Term Tesla Cars

Regularly taking your car to be inspected and maintaining the recommended maintenance schedule can lengthen your car’s lifespan by years. Conversely, only servicing your car after a part breaks is likely to shorten its lifespan. 

Preventative maintenance is much more effective at preserving your car than repairs. 

Another factor that can affect how long your Tesla lasts is its upkeep at your home. For example, a car kept in a garage or other covered space will last longer than a car parked outside and exposed to the elements.

This is especially true when it comes to extreme weather and accidents. Hail, tree branches, and flooding are just three examples of events that can affect your car’s performance and longevity.

For the best long term performance, owners should not expose their car to temperatures above 140° F (60° C) or below -22° F (-30° C) for more than 24 hours at a time.

Conclusion

On average, Tesla Models S, 3, X, and Y all appear to last well over a decade, with batteries that generally reach the 300,000 – 500,000 range with ease.

However, there are several factors that affect how long your car will last. These essentially boil down to how you drive, how well (or poorly) you maintain your car, and how you charge your Tesla car battery.

Owners who follow all manufacturer recommendations regarding maintenance schedules and battery charging practices see longer vehicle and battery life than those who don’t. Beyond that, owners can look to years or mileage to gauge how long their car will last.

Those who are close to the national driving average will likely be able to have their Tesla car for 15 years or more.

Drivers that fall above the average and use their car more often or to drive longer distances may not have their car for as many years, but they’ll certainly come closer to a “one million mile life” than any other owner.

Fabville

Kevin has been involved in the custom automotive scene since he bought his first mini-truck in high school and began modifying it. He also has interest in sustainability, DIY projects, and various forms of fabrication. Seeing improved technology of batteries, he has made a concentrated effort over the last few years to transition away from fossil fuels. From lawn care to automotive.

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