The two Tesla stores near me each had only a couple of cars, in colors that were either unavailable or of no interest to me. None of the cars on display had a production interior. (Eventually the stores will have production cars on display--but only a few.)
So I had no choice but to pick my color and interior without ever seeing them in a real car. I'm not particularly happy about that.
No trade-in. Instead of taking trade-ins, Tesla forged an agreement with an as-yet-unnamed nationwide company that buys cars for cash. If you want to "trade in" your old car for a Model S, Tesla will put you in touch with the cash-for-cars outfit--and you make your own deal with them.
Limited test drives. With only a handful of cars available at each store, customers may not be able to test-drive the configuration they want. The Model S, for example, offers four different power levels and two suspension choices.
No price haggling. Some people just hate paying retail. Buyers who enjoy beating a salesman down to a rock-bottom price will have to grit their teeth and pay the sticker price.
For three years, I've been telling people my 2012 Tesla Model S would cost $49,000 (approximating the base price of $57,400 minus the $7,500 Federal tax credit).
But "options creep" and sales tax bumped up the final number on the check I'll be writing to more than (gulp) $70,000. I won't realize the tax credit until next April 15.
The big option bombshell was my move up to the mid-size 60-kWh battery, at a cost of $10,000.
My Model S has to be able to make it from my home in upstate New York to New York City and back, about 120 miles. At first I assumed the base 40-kWh battery, with a listed range of 160 miles, would do the trick.
But after watching the electric range of my Chevrolet Volt drop by 40 percent when the temperature fell to the teens, I began to doubt that the Model S would have sufficient winter legs for the NYC trip.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk told me he expects the winter range loss to be "closer to 20 percent than 40 percent." That would put me at 128 miles, right on the bubble. But Tesla has no hard data on range loss in cold weather at the moment.
Faced with this uncertainty, I felt I had no choice but to go with the bigger battery. Yeah, it's a lot of money for a little peace of mind. But presumably I'll get some of that extra cost back in added value when I eventually sell or trade it.
Air suspension is a $1500 "option" that's mandatory on all cars delivered before 2013. Not willing to delay delivery to trade down, I had to check the box.
Only two body colors--white and black--are available at the base price.
Not fond of either color, I opted to spring for an extra $750 for metallic dark green paint. I'm hoping it's something like the British Racing Green I remember on my Dad's MG many years ago.
Having already spent $12,250 on options, I figured $1,500 more for a leather interior would hardly matter. (I know, I know.....)
At least I had the willpower to forgo the 21-inch wheels, moon roof, high-tech package, and super sound system.
The total came to $71,150. Add in a delivery fee ($990), inspection, prep, and coordination ($180), sales tax ($5,876), and registration fees ($157.50), then subtract the $5,000 deposit I putdown three years ago, and the final number on the check will be $73,357.
Will the car be worth it? Stay tuned.
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City. This is his fourth article for High Gear Media.