Below are a few of the top things I wish I knew before (or soon after) I got my Tesla Model X. Note that most of these apply to all Tesla vehicles. Enjoy and drive safely!

Don’t overdo/otherthink your home charging infrastructure.

You might be tempted to overdo it on your home charging infrastructure like I did. At the end of the day, it is not needed. All night is a long time. And you really don’t go on unexpected trips very often.

Before I installed my Tesla wall connector, I was plugging in with a regular wall outlet. I got around 2-3 miles per hour added to the battery, which was fine for daily driving of around 30 miles per day. When I needed to get “full”, I could hop over to a Supercharger or give it the weekend to charge up.

When I installed my wall charger, I went with 90 amps at the circuit breaker, since your maximum output would be 80% of what you have at the circuit breaker (in my case, 72 amps). My 2018 Model X had an 72 amp onboard charger, but 2018 was pretty much the last year this was used. Going forward, the onboard chargers have been 48 amps (requiring only 60 amps at the circuit breaker). In fact, the Standard Range Model 3 has 32 amps onboard, so you only need 40 amps at the circuit breaker.

A few considerations:

  • Model 3 charges at ~45 miles per hour maxed out @ 48 amps onboard. Model X charges at ~45 miles per hour maxed out @ 72 amps onboard (~30 miles per hour @ 48 amps). Yeah, this means it costs more to charge a Model X over a Model 3.
  • You don’t need the fastest charging at home. You don’t need to max out the onboard amperage and you don’t need a Tesla wall connector. I have found that getting ~15-30 miles per hour of charge for your vehicle is plenty for everyday use. If you just get a normal NEMA 14-50 with a 50 amp breaker (40 amps onboard), you can avoid having to have more power run to your house and be plenty fine for charging while also not getting locked into the Tesla charger (and also saving that extra money) in case you end up with another EV, or have other uses in your garage at some point.
  • Don’t overpay for an electrician to set up your home charging. This is a simple plug situation. And even the Tesla Wall Connector is a simple task for a certified electrician.

You’re going to get less milage than what you planned. But don’t worry.

When I bought my Tesla, the model was called 100D (later named the Long Range version). I’m pretty sure it was advertised at the time to get 310 miles of range. Not long after I bought the car and noticed I wasn’t getting this range when driving, I remember Tesla stopped advertising the range at 310 miles and reduced it to some 295 or so. A few key points I did not realize at all about the battery/charging:

  • You will get much, much less mileage out of a cold battery. In some cases early on, I realized I was getting ~60% of the expected range out of my battery when traveling on freezing days on the highway. You also reduce your range when driving over 70 MPH. I generally try to make sure I have double what I need to travel listed on my display when traveling in the cold on the highway (e.g., if I have to travel 60 miles, I try to have 120 miles of range remaining on my display).
  • By default, Tesla recommends and sets charging limit to ~90% of the battery capacity. You can override this and charge to 100%, but this is what Tesla considers “Trip” mode and is only recommended when on a long trip where more than 90% of capacity is needed.
  • Full-charge (100%) will not necessarily list the mileage on your vehicle to the amount you are expecting. I had near 310 listed at 100% charge when I bought the car, then it reduced to high 200s, and then the max was around 280 within 1 year. The other point to mention here is that the miles remaining changes based on software and it is not entirely accurate to just look at the number of miles remaining.

These battery surprises have been the biggest bummer for my EV ownership (there was a time I really felt ripped-off about it). I will say, however, I have realized I don’t need more than 90% of my range for daily usage outside of trips and the improvements (charging speed and likely efficiencies) have probably offset the battery degradation. There were enough other things I liked about the vehicle (Superchargers being added to the point where stopping for a charge wasn’t a big deal) that I did not feel the need to complain too much about this.

The Tesla Supercharger Network makes the car that much more valuable.

I view the Tesla Supercharger Network as one of the greatest benefits of owning a Tesla. That’s weird, isn’t it? One of my top reasons I enjoy my Tesla is something not even on/in the vehicle, but instead, part of the infrastructure provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer. I regularly take my Tesla on 3-5 hour trips and never have issues quickly charging up. I really don’t think this would be possible (today) with any other EV other than Tesla. Also, similar to my point later about the vehicle itself improving significantly since the day I bought it, the Tesla Supercharging Network has improved significantly since the day I began driving my Tesla as well. I used to have just 1 Supercharger station between my most common 3 hour drive 2 years ago, and now I have 5 along that same route!

Non-Tesla vehicles cannot use Tesla’s supercharging network. Early on, this was not very clear. My friend even bought a Jaguar I-Pace in 2020 (without talking to me) and was given the impression that his vehicle could charge at any Tesla charging station. While non-Tesla vehicles can use an adapter to charge from Tesla chargers to non-Tesla vehicles, those adapters DO NOT work on Tesla Superchargers. At the time of this writing, Tesla Superchargers ONLY work with Tesla vehicles.

Don’t sleep on the Tesla mobile app.

Much like the Tesla Supercharging network, the Tesla mobile appĀ is also one of the greatest benefits of owning a Tesla that is not actually part of the physical vehicle. I have had other vehicles that I could remote start and do a few other cool things with, but nothing compares to the Tesla mobile app. A few things I can do with the app include:

  • Locate the vehicle (address is always shown)
  • In addition to the current location, I can see the current speed the vehicle is traveling at (I don’t use this, but perhaps something a parent would want to see when their child is learning to drive — one of my kids drove way too slowly on the road when first learning!)
  • Charging status. I use this all the time while using a Supercharger or generally when/if I am ever waiting for the vehicle to charge (which is rare outside of trips with a Supercharger since it just charges at night in the garage)
  • Vehicle VIN and odometer. For some reason, it is nice to know these are handy.
  • Software version. You will want to know this as you await (excitedly) new software improvements and enhancements to your Tesla!
  • Service. All service appointments, including the amazing mobile service, can be made right from the app. Also, they typically communicate with you via text messaging.
  • Summon. If you have FSD, yeah, you can control your vehicle almost like a remote control car. Easily the “coolest” feature of a Tesla.
  • Climate. Heat or cool the vehicle ahead of time. You will use this all the time.
  • Remote unlock/lock and keyless driving. This is simply amazing. You don’t need a physical key to operate your vehicle.

Pay attention when using Autopilot. It’s not as perfect as you might get lulled into believing.

Teslas do not stop (or even slow down) for stationary objects when traveling on the highway. If you think about it, this makes sense. You wouldn’t want the vehicle to slam the brakes on a piece of rubber tire on the road, a squirrel running across, a traffic cone that has been positioned (or even fallen) a few inches into the road, etc. Braking hard in these situations would be more dangerous as other vehicles easily navigate around/through these situations and you would run the risk of creating a large accident. That being said, it also cannot stop nor nimbly steer around when a highway splits and there is a concrete barrier in front of you. These situations (not to mention potholes of various sizes/depths) exist all time when driving. So, please, pay attention when driving. People are not “just being cautious” when we tell you to pay attention while using Autopilot and FSD. You really need to pay attention due to limitations that are known to be fatal.

From the Tesla manual:

“Traffic-Aware Cruise Control cannot detect all objects and, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h), may not brake/decelerate when a vehicle or object is only partially in the driving lane or when a vehicle you are following moves out of your driving path and a stationary or slow-moving vehicle or object is in front of you. Always pay attention to the road ahead and stay prepared to take immediate corrective action. Depending on Traffic-Aware Cruise Control to avoid a collision can result in serious injury or death. In addition, Traffic-Aware Cruise Control may react to vehicles or objects that either do not exist or are not in the lane of travel, causing Model X to slow down unnecessarily or inappropriately.”

This car will continue to get better than it was the day you bought it.

Since my first experiences with Autopilot (AP), the capability (and resulting vehicle as a whole) has truly gotten much, much better. I’ve never had a vehicle that has objectively gotten any better since the day I bought it, let alone much better like my Tesla has.

A few examples of the improvements include:

  • Now much smoother (in the past, the vehicle jerked around alarmingly at times) when being confused about lines on the highway (e.g., missing lines or situations with merged lanes)
  • Now much smoother driving on the right lane of the highway where exits and hence, missing lines, are found. In the not-so-distant past, the car would jerk towards the exit lines and you would have to overtake Autosteer.
  • Now much better detection and diplay of surroundings (cones, bikes, people, trucks, traffic signs, traffic lights). In the past, there were only a few different types of objects in the display and no signs/lights.

Don’t jerk the car when letting Tesla know you are still there.

When using Autopilot (specifically, Autosteer), instead of jiggling the steering wheel to let Tesla know you are there, just scroll the left (volume), right, or adjust the “following distance” on the Autopilot stalk. This creates a much smoother driving experience for yourself and passengers when compared to creating resistance on the steering wheel. Also, it helps avoid the possibility of jiggling the steering wheel to the point of disengaging Autosteer.

From the Tesla manual:

“Autosteer detects your hands by recognizing light resistance as the steering wheel turns, or from you manually turning the steering wheel very lightly (without enough force to retake control). Autosteer also qualifies your hands as being detected if you engage a turn signal, Autopilot stalk, or use a button or scroll wheel on the steering wheel.”