As I recently shared, we just procured a Tesla Model 3. Being one of the most obsessive Tesla reporters and editors in the world, I didn’t expect to need the local Tesla store to make this happen. However, I had an impetus to walk in for help almost immediately, and then another. None of this is going to show up in my order — which I quickly placed online after the store visits and after finalizing a couple of other things — but it was important to me as a consumer.
First of all, I wasn’t really expecting to buy a Model 3. It’s something I’ve thought about for years, well before Kyle and I were standing on the Model 3 test track for 2 hours on March 31, 2016. And I thought about it a bit more seriously in recent months, as my family and I prepared for our move back to Florida from Poland. But I didn’t qualify for financing for some reason last year, so I almost didn’t even give it a shot when we returned. But then I did.
I quickly got preliminary approval from 5/3 Bank (the 100% renewable electricity bank CleanTechnica now uses), which all of a sudden meant I could really, actually, seriously do this. The bank needed a bit of information about the sale and the car’s VIN (vehicle identification number), which I couldn’t get before making the purchase of course. But I didn’t want to finalize the purchase before fully securing the loan. I went into the Tesla store for help.
In the store, the helpful, friendly, but of course not pushy (sometimes the opposite of pushy) salespeople confirmed what I was afraid of: I had to finalize the purchase to get all that info. However, I also learned that I had some outdated information in my head.
In “the old days,” the deposit you put on your Tesla when you finalized the order wasn’t refundable. If you changed your mind or couldn’t secure the financing, you were out $2500. That’s no longer the case. Now, if you order the car and then have to back out, you get that $2500 back. Cool! (Don’t ask me how long it takes, but hopefully it’s a quick and easy process for most people who find themselves in that situation.)
I also learned that Tesla offered financing in a quick and easy step at the end of the ordering process. I guess I must have known this, but I forgot it (it’s not the kind of thing we cover daily here on CleanTechnica). Again, “in the old days,” Tesla didn’t mess with financing. For some reason, I remembered the info from the old days instead of this new system for the Model 3 era. As it turned out, and as the Tesla staff at the store told me, Tesla’s financing is hard to beat. The quote I got from 5/3 Bank was a bit higher than the 4.25% interest rate Tesla notes on its website, but then I even ended up getting 3.75%. I found out from a salesperson that Tesla partners with 6 or so banks for this.
The financing process was so quick and easy that I couldn’t really believe it when the application (if you can call it that) was approved. All of a sudden, the order was finalized and the loan was approved. I double checked this perhaps 5 times before it fully registered in my brain. Too freakin’ easy.
One thing to just be a little careful about is that there are various taxes and fees at the end of the process, so you should really consider how much cash you have available for a down payment before finalizing the order. A guest article on CleanTechnica recently said the same thing, but I ignored it and probably stretched a bit more than I felt comfortable stretching on the down payment. I have to admit I was thinking a little less carefully and moving more quickly than normal while finalizing the order. Anyway, live and learn.
The third thing I learned from the Tesla staff in Sarasota was that the 7 day return policy is now for all buyers, not just people who didn’t take a test drive. Okay, again, perhaps I heard this (or saw a tweet from Elon about it) and just forgot — I don’t really know. However, what I do know is that I didn’t realize that when I went in asking questions and considering whether to finalize the order. The other thing I know is that it was really nice talking to a few friendly sales people. It was nice to have them answer my pre-planned questions, have them answer questions that popped into my head while there, and have them calmly welcome me and implicitly encourage me to move forward and take home a new Tesla Model 3.
That wasn’t the end of their help, though. Of course, it was fairly easy for me to figure out which options I preferred, but I have a family and wanted to give them the chance to help choose some options. In particular, we had a long period of rumination regarding the seats — white or black. I had Elon’s recommendations in my mind (he’s recommended the white seats publicly at least twice). I had my experience riding in Model 3s with both types of seats. I had my lucky, special experience touring the Tesla seat factory in Fremont and interviewing the top engineers in that division of Tesla. And I had thought about it for many months. All of that told me to go with the white seats, but … I didn’t think my wife would go for them.
The white seats are bright — really bright. Neither of us like flashy stuff, but I am more okay with it. The Clorox-bleached whiteness of the seats did strike her, but she got over that quickly. More than anything, she was concerned about them getting dirty. I told her about the videos of people pouring wine on them, Elon’s recommendations, etc. Of course, she knew about my seat factory tour. Though, one of the biggest selling points came from a Tesla staff person in the Sarasota store. She said that she tries to wipe them off regularly, but that she only gets to it about once a week, and no one else bothers with that. Nonetheless, even with people — including kids — climbing on and off of them all day, they look clean! When they do get dirty, two of the Tesla salespeople told us you can easily wipe them off with a baby wipe / wet wipe.
The last clincher was from talking to a Model 3 owner, George Gerstein. We were both starting to charge at a ChargePoint station and we asked him a bit about them. He, like everyone else I’ve talked to who has them, highly recommended getting the white, saying he went back and forth on the decision too and that we wouldn’t regret it. (This is also his third Tesla, after and the S and an X his wife drives, so he had some seats to compare to.) If we hadn’t had that experience, the Tesla salesman in touch with me about the order would have made such a chat possible, because a day or two later, he emailed me that we could talk with a new owner about the seats. She had received her car a few weeks prior and was happy to share. It wasn’t needed, but that was yet another way in which the local Tesla sales staff was genuinely helpful and might well have closed the sale for another customer (on the white seats, at least).
For now, that covers the bulk of my Tesla store experience. One final nice thing the local salesman did for me was update me on the car’s progress from factory to truck to delivery center. Someone could do that for you even if you don’t go to a store, but it’s much different when it’s someone you’ve met, have casually chatted with, and basically see as a new friend. Also, it seems this isn’t the process for everyone — so just hope you get a cool salesperson or ask someone to do this for you.
Would I have bought a Model 3 even if I didn’t have a local store? Well, I’m obviously not a normal Tesla buyer, but even so, I can’t actually say definitively that I would have bought one. I assume I would have, but I went into the store so many times beforehand and got so much help so easily that it’s hard to say the store and the staff there didn’t have an impact on my decision, and my wife’s decision. Sometimes it’s just those little bits of help, the human connection, and some physical familiarity that gently but effectively ushers you through to the finish line.
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