How to reserve a Tesla Model 3 at stores and online (updated)


2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

The Tesla Model 3 electric car will be unveiled to the public tomorrow evening, at long last, and Tesla will also accept reservations for the car starting tomorrow.

So when March 31 rolls around, how exactly do you reserve a Model 3?

Perhaps more importantly, what is the fastest way to get one?

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Tesla Motors released the details on reserving a Model 3 the morning of March 21, including options for both in-store and online reservations, as the company had previously discussed.

The cost to make a reservation is $1,000, which can be refunded in the event of cancellation—or applied to the purchase of a Model S or Model X instead.

As for getting a car most quickly, the first and most likely way is to own a Model S or Model X already.

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

Enlarge Photo

Tesla says it will give existing customers priority, but it also plans to break down the ordering process by region.

That means that if you're in a country or region with relatively few Tesla owners, you may be higher on that region's list. (However, deliveries to all regions won't start at the same time.)

Making a reservation in person at a Tesla Store will provide a clear advantage, as stores will accept orders as soon as they open tomorrow.

ALSO SEE: Tesla Model 3 invitations going out for March 31 debut event

A few reports from Vancouver and other cities indicate there are already people waiting in line outside the stores to sign up early.

Online ordering, on the other hand, won't start until the Model 3 live unveiling at 8:30 PDT.

But any prospective Model 3 owners may also have to get in line behind Tesla employees placing orders for the new electric car.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

And those that don't get an early spot in line may have to wait a while to receive their cars.

While Tesla will accept reservations throughout the rest of 2016, Model 3 production won't start until "late 2017," the company says.

Deliveries will begin in North America on the West Coast, and then move eastward. European and Asian deliveries will start sometime later.

MORE: When do electric-car tax credits expire? (further update)

That means California Tesla owners will likely get their cars before those further from the company's San Francisco Bay Area base.

In the U.S., an early Model 3 delivery could mean the difference between getting a $7,500 Federal tax credit, and missing out.

There's a cap on how many cars each company can sell that qualify for the credit: 200,000 cars per manufacturer.

tesla model s prototype 008

tesla model s prototype 008

Enlarge Photo

Tesla has already sold an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 cars in the U.S. as of December 2015, and still has a backlog of Model S and Model X orders to fill.

Even if Model 3 production starts as planned late in 2017, Tesla may already have accumulated a significant number of orders from employees and existing owners.

That means civilians may not get their cars until 2018 or 2019, at which time Tesla may have sold an additional 140,000 or 150,000 cars in the U.S.

And that's the best-case scenario, based on the assumption that the Model 3 production will start on time. Tesla has not yet met one of its own deadlines for a vehicle launch.

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

Enlarge Photo

Model 3 production also depends on lithium-ion cell production starting at the massive battery "Gigafactory" now being built in Nevada.

Reservations for the Tesla Model 3 will be closely watched by Tesla followers, and will likely be discussed during Tesla's conference call in May to discuss its first-quarter financial results.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article, published on March 22, indicated that Tesla Stores would begin accepting orders on March 31 at the local-time equivalent of 10 am Pacific (e.g. 1 pm Eastern). That policy was subsequently changed, and they will now accept orders as soon as they open tomorrow. 

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