What Do Tesla Model S Owners Complain About?

Introduced in 2012, the graceful, sporty Tesla Model S broke new ground in the world of electric vehicles. This five-door liftback sedan was the first EV to offer long-range performance, and its 416-hp rear-mounted electric motor made it blazingly fast.

By 2018, buyers coveted the car so much that it became the second most-sold EV after the Nissan Leaf. But what gripes do its owners have about it? Since we know all too well about complaints about the Model X and Model 3, we’ll look closely at the specific problems that have been bothering Model S owners.

The top three complaints about the Tesla Model S

Automotive complaint website CarComplaints.com notes that very few complaints about the Tesla Model S have been submitted, which could either mean that it’s a good, reliable car or that not many people have bought one. Since Model S sales for the U.S. topped out at slightly over 26,000 in 2016, it seems as if the former conclusion might be right.

It doesn’t mean that the Model S has been completely problem-free. Car Complaints has identified the top three problems for this car.

The third-worst problem related to the 2013 model year’s door handles. Only one owner reported this issue, but it earned the worst severity rating of “really awful.” 

He said that he almost burnt his hand because the door handles became hot to the touch when exposed to the sun. What made this problem truly terrible was that it happened at just 2,500 miles. No information about this problem’s repair cost was available nor was a common solution provided.

The 2014 Model S’s failing transmission was the No. 2 worst problem overall. Although a single owner complained about this trouble, Car Complaints gave it the worst severity rating of “really awful.” The car’s transmission gave out at just 750 miles and replacing it was the only solution. No repair cost information was available.

The worst problem of all model years had to do with the cardan or drive shaft that sits between the transmission and the rear axle on the 2013 Tesla Model S. One owner recounted that he tried to test the acceleration of his new Model S right outside the dealership. He heard a loud noise, lost what little power the car had, and had to have the Tesla technicians push the car back to the dealership’s parking lot.

It turns that one of the universal joints on the shaft wasn’t fitted securely. Instead, it was somehow molded to the gearbox, resulting in severe damage to the motor.

Car Complaints assigned the worst severity rating of “really awful” to this problem. Replacing the motor and the transmission was how this problem was resolved. No repair cost data were available. 

The worst Tesla Model S model year overall

According to Car Complaints, the 2013 Model S had the most complaints. It was also the worst model year overall, based on problem severity and repair costs. A total of five complaints were reported.

Owners sent in three exterior accessories problems: one about a faulty door handle latch, the previously mentioned hot door handles, and improperly functioning windshield wipers. One complaint involved a USB port that didn’t work, and the last complaint related to the disconnected cardan or drive shaft.

The relatively few complaints about the Model S prove how good it is

On the 2014 Model S page, Car Complaints notes that the car has earned a five-star safety rating. Further proof of the Model S’s quality comes from Consumer Reports, which gives it a consumer satisfaction score of 99 out of 100.

The testers at Consumer Reports offer additional confirmation of this car’s value in its review of the 2020 model year. The Tesla Model S ranks second out of 10 in the ultra-luxury car segment. It scored an 83 out of 100 overall and a remarkable 97 out of 100 for CR’s road test.

Predicted reliability for the Model S was a three out of five. It ranked second following the Genesis G90 in the new model comparison and was followed by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Lexus LS. Predicted owner satisfaction was five out of five, which is a strong testament to the Model S’s worth. So, it’s true that owners do have complaints about the Tesla Model S. But they are few, and by most accounts, the Model S is an excellent car.