Tesla Model S P85D, 2015 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
The rich-guy syndrome almost certainly plays a role in the higher labor rates for Teslas, as they do with other premium brands like Mercedes and BMW.
If a guy can afford a $100,000 car, he should expect to pay a higher labor rate--just because he can. Higher labor rates suggest a higher level of quality and care, although that is not necessarily always the case.
Double the cost
The combination of labor rates nearly double the norm and the difficulties of working with aluminum—along with the need to disconnect and reconnect various electrical cables—virtually guarantee that labor costs to fix a Tesla dent may be double those for a standard car, or more.
Peotter confirmed this. “Damage that might cost $3,000 to fix on a Honda Accord," he said, "would be $6,000 on a Jaguar and $7,000 on a Tesla."
2012 Audi A6 aluminum and steel constructionEnlarge Photo
Part of the shock by Tesla owners at body repair costs may be due to the fact that, for more than a few of us, the Tesla is our first foray into the world of high-end luxury cars.
For the first 48 years of my car-buying life, I had never spent more than $23,000 (or its years-ago equivalent) on a car. Writing a check for $88,000 for a car was surreal.
And, I suppose, my first body-repair bill may be equally surreal.
Some of the most outlandish estimates reported are far more than double the cost of standard cars.
In case after case, Tesla owners report getting shockingly high estimates from Tesla-authorized shops--then getting the repair done at a non-Tesla shop for as little as a third of the cost.
Stolen Tesla Model S splits in half, catches fire after massive crash in LA areaEnlarge Photo
The owner who got the $11,000 estimate for a minor scrape took his car to a non-Tesla operation that was savvy about aluminum, and came recommended by local Mercedes and Audi owners. That shop's estimate: $1,850.
It appears possible that a few Tesla-authorized body shops may be taking advantage of their hard-won exclusive status.
Unfortunately, Tesla owners don’t always have the choice of going to non-Tesla-authorized shops.
In cases where there is structural damage, beyond mere scrapes and dents, Tesla will not sell parts to non-authorized shops.
The insurance angle
Of course, it’s rarely the owner who pays for the repairs.
2012 Tesla Model S body-in-whiteEnlarge Photo
The insurance company foots the bill, so some might ask why the owner should care. Others might worry that Model S insurance rates will also be twice the cost of those for a regular car.
Thankfully, so far, that doesn’t seem to be happening with Tesla insurance.
Right now, collision and comprehensive insurance rates for the Tesla Model S seem pretty reasonable. I pay $622 a year, which isn't much more than the collision/comp rate on my wife's Mini Cooper.
Other owners report similar rates.
Fingers crossed it stays that way.