Model S Owner: Owning A Tesla Is Awesome, Until You Get In An Accident…

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While many of us who have an appreciation of what Tesla Motors has accomplished over the past few years don’t actually own one of their vehicles, some do, thankfully, and as a result, they can fill us in on all of the things that you just can’t know without owning one yourself.

A good example of this popped up recently in a thread on the Tesla Motors Club forum — the sometimes insanely high repair costs that accompany accidents, even ones with only very minor damage.

standardcode Tesla forums

Part of the issue is just that insurance companies are generally a total pain in the ass to deal with. But there’s more to it than that. Owing to the relative complexity/novelty of Tesla’s machines, and the proscribed use of only Tesla-authorized body shops, the services available are somewhat limited. As a result, there just isn’t much competition — making it easier for graft to occur.

Getting to the specific example, here’s a quote from the forum thread, from the Model S owner (hat tip to standardcode) that started it:

The accident happened in Midtown Manhattan. I called 911, and then immediately called Tesla Roadside. Since the S has no spare tire I had to wait for the tow truck Tesla arranged. It took more than 90 minutes for the tow truck to arrive to take my baby to the Tesla-authorized body shop.

So the Tesla-certified body shop takes apart my car to check for the damage and meets the appraiser sent by my insurance (Ameriprise) to discuss the repair. A day later it turns out that Ameriprise is declaring my baby a total loss!! Why you ask? Apparently Tesla-certified body shops aren’t cheap. In addition to the $10,000 in parts there’s $20,000 in labor. Ameriprise decided they’d rather declare the car a total loss than pay $30k+tax for repair. Why you ask? Well here goes…

Since there’s no KBB value for the S, apparently the insurance company can just arbitrarily decide the value! As it stands right now they estimate the value of my <1 year old perfectly maintained $90,000 baby at $70,000! (I owe $70k to US Bank on the car!) When I tried reaching Tesla to get a value so I can argue with the insurance company they first promised callbacks that never came and are now saying they don’t know if they can give me a value at all.

Damn. That sounds like quite a headache. Almost puts you off wanting a Model S doesn’t it?


While the insurance company’s position is understandable (and honestly $70k sounds fair, cars depreciate fast), being stuck between them and the of-questionable-morals Tesla-certified body shop isn’t a great position to be in.

What’s the solution here? It seems like something should be done to prevent what, at first glance, appears to price gouging by the certified body shops (at least some of them).

Image Credit: standardcode via Tesla Motors Club

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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