Here Are The Tesla Model S Years to Avoid and Peculiar Problems

Patrick Oziegbe
Updated On:

Are you considering joining the electric vehicle revolution with a Tesla Model S? As a savvy buyer, you want to make sure you’re investing in a reliable and high-performing vehicle.

But with constant improvements and updates over the years, it can be overwhelming to know which model years to avoid.

Don’t worry, our publication got you covered.

By steering clear of the 2012-2014 Model S, you can enjoy the latest features, increased range, and fewer headaches.

Don’t settle for anything less than the best in this pioneering EV. Keep reading (and related automotive tips) to find out why these years may not be the right fit for you.

Tesla Model S years to avoid

Model S Years to Avoid

2013 Tesla Model S

In your search for the perfect Tesla, you might want to steer clear of the 2013 Model S.

It’s one of the oldest versions of the Model S, and since then, Tesla has made significant improvements in quality and features.

The 2013 Model S had more reports of problems compared to later models, including issues with reliability, electrical systems, and overall build quality.

However, if you’re considering a used 2013 Model S, it’s essential to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and review its maintenance records. A well-maintained car might still be a good option for you.

2018 Tesla Model S

Another Model S year to be cautious with is 2018. In this year, Tesla introduced new features and upgrades to the vehicle, but some customers reported issues such as build quality and component reliability.

Due to the relatively high number of complaints, you might want to avoid purchasing a 2018 Tesla Model S altogether.

However, if you do go ahead and consider a 2018 Model S, make sure to look for a vehicle with low mileage and a thorough maintenance history.

Also, don’t forget to inspect the car thoroughly before making your decision.

2019 Tesla Model S

Finally, you should also be wary of the 2019 Tesla Model S. Consumer Reports has given this particular model year the “Never Buy” label, primarily due to reported problems with paint, trim, and electronics.

While Tesla has made significant improvements to its vehicles over the years, the 2019 Model S remains a year to be cautious with.

If you’re still interested in a 2019 Model S, make sure to inspect the vehicle thoroughly, review its maintenance history, and look out for any noticeable paint, trim, or electronic issues.

Remember to always do your research, and consider reaching out to Tesla owners with similar model years to hear about their experiences.

Common Issues and Complaints

Battery Degradation

As the owner of a Tesla Model S, you may encounter battery degradation over time. This is a common issue among electric vehicles, and it’s essential to be aware of the factors that can affect your battery’s health.

Factors that contribute to battery degradation include high charging frequency, high temperatures, and frequent use of fast charging stations.

To maintain your battery’s health, you should charge at a lower charging rate whenever possible and avoid exposing your vehicle to extreme temperatures.

Drive Unit Problems

One of the primary issues that Tesla Model S owners have reported is drive unit problems.

These issues can range from simple software glitches to more severe hardware failures, leading to reduced power or even complete loss of power.

To minimize the chances of encountering drive unit problems, it’s a good idea to keep your vehicle’s software up-to-date and have your car regularly serviced at authorized Tesla service centers.

Rust and Body Panels

Although rust is not a widespread problem for the Model S, some owners have reported rust appearing on body panels, particularly in areas with a harsh climate or where road salt is used during winter.

To prevent rust from forming, you can regularly wash and apply a protective wax to your car’s exterior.

Additionally, you can have your Model S inspected for any signs of corrosion or damage annually, particularly if you live in a region prone to rust.

Sunroof and Glass Roof Leaks

Owners of Tesla Model S vehicles with sunroofs or glass roofs have expressed complaints about water leaks into their car’s interior.

These leaks can occur due to faulty sealing around the roof’s edges or misaligned glass panels.

If you notice any signs of water intrusion in your Model S, it is essential to have the issue inspected and resolved by a Tesla service center.

This will help prevent any potential damage to your vehicle’s interior and maintain optimum performance.

Following these recommendations will help you address and prevent some of the more common issues and complaints associated with the Tesla Model S.

Recalls and Safety Concerns

Suspension Recalls

You might have concerns about suspension issues on certain Tesla Model S years.

While the overall suspension system is designed to be reliable and safe, there have been instances where Tesla Model S vehicles faced recalls.

It’s crucial to understand the scope of these recalls and how they may impact your potential Model S purchase decision.

Braking System Recalls

When it comes to brakes, safety is paramount. Although many Tesla Model S models have excellent braking performance, there have been recalls in the past due to braking system issues.

These recalls usually involve the installation of new components or updates to ensure the safe operation of the vehicles.

Make sure to verify if the Model S you’re considering has been affected by any braking system recalls and if the necessary repairs have been carried out.

Parking Brake Issues

Among the reported safety concerns for Tesla Model S vehicles, parking brake issues have surfaced.

Some Model S owners have experienced parking brakes remaining engaged after being parked, leading to their cars not being able to move.

This led to a recall affecting specific vehicles. Before purchasing a used Model S, be sure to check if any parking brake recalls apply to the specific model you are considering, and if so, be sure the recall remedy has been performed.

Fires and Safety Incidents

Although incidents of fires and other safety-related concerns in Tesla Model S vehicles are generally rare, it’s essential to be aware of any potential risks.

As an owner or potential buyer, you should familiarize yourself with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalls and safety alerts.

Be sure to stay updated on any recalls or safety notices related to the Tesla Model S, as this information can help you make an informed decision and ensure your safety on the road.

Autopilot and Software Updates

Hardware Limitations

As a Tesla Model S owner, you might enjoy the benefits of Autopilot, which is Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system.

However, it’s essential to be aware of the hardware limitations found in the earlier versions of the vehicle.

Early Tesla Model S vehicles, particularly those produced between 2012-2014, were equipped with the first generation of Autopilot hardware.

This hardware may not support newer software updates designed for the latest Autopilot hardware.

So, if you own or are considering purchasing a used Model S from this timeframe, keep in mind that some advanced features might not be available or compatible with your hardware.

Software Glitches

As with any technology, software glitches can occur in the Autopilot system of the Tesla Model S. These glitches can impact the functionality and safety of the system.

For instance, a reported issue was the sudden loss of Autopilot functionality while driving.

Such issues can compromise the safety of the vehicle and its passengers. In response to such glitches, Tesla frequently releases software updates aimed at improving performance and addressing known issues.

As a Tesla Model S owner, it’s essential to keep your vehicle’s software up to date.

Regularly updating your software can help to ensure the smooth operation of your Autopilot system and mitigate any potential glitches.

To do this, simply connect your vehicle to Wi-Fi and follow the prompts on your instrument cluster to download and install the latest updates.

Overall, while Tesla Model S is a cutting-edge vehicle, it’s crucial to be aware of the limitations and potential issues associated with its Autopilot system and software updates.

Reliability and Owner Satisfaction

Consumer Reports Ratings

When it comes to the Tesla Model S, it’s essential to consider the car’s reliability and owner satisfaction.

Consumer Reports has reported on the reliability of various Tesla Model S years, which can help you make an informed decision about which year to avoid.

For instance, the 2017 Tesla Model S had improved reliability, earning its first above-average rating.

However, the 2020 Model Y received a low reliability score of one out of five, with its owner satisfaction still rating a high five out of five.

Edmunds and Car and Driver Reviews

In addition to Consumer Reports, Edmunds and Car and Driver also provide valuable insights into the reliability and owner satisfaction of the Tesla Model S.

As you research further, look for reviews and ratings from these sources to create a well-rounded understanding of the car’s performance in these areas.

Remember, as you evaluate the Tesla Model S, your goal is to consider its reliability and owner satisfaction to determine the best year for you.

By using multiple sources like Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Car and Driver, you can make the most informed decision possible.

Comparing to Other EVs

We’ll look at the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace, and Polestar 2.

Porsche Taycan

The Porsche Taycan is a high-performance EV that competes with the Tesla Model S in terms of luxury and driving experience.

While both cars offer impressive range and power, the Taycan has a higher starting price.

  • Range: The Taycan’s range varies between 200 and 230 miles, compared to the Model S which is more than 350 miles.
  • Performance: Both cars offer exceptional acceleration and handling, but the Taycan is considered to have a more engaged driving experience.

Two key problems with the Taycan are its higher price tag and lower range compared to the Model S.

Audi e-Tron

The Audi e-Tron is an electric SUV that competes with the Tesla Model X, rather than the Model S. However, it is still worth comparing these vehicles to understand their differences.

  • Range: The e-Tron offers around 200 miles of range, which is significantly less than both the Model S and Model X.
  • Interior: In terms of interior quality and design, the e-Tron stands out with its luxurious and spacious cabin, arguably more refined than Tesla’s offerings.

The two main issues with the Audi e-Tron are its lower range and its less advanced technology features compared to Teslas.

Jaguar I-Pace

The Jaguar I-Pace is a stylish, sporty EV that boasts a more premium feel than the Model S.

  • Range: The I-Pace has a range of around 230 miles per charge, which is lower than the Model S.
  • Performance: Both vehicles have impressive acceleration, but the I-Pace is slightly quicker off the line.

The two key problems with the Jaguar I-Pace are its shorter range and less user-friendly infotainment system compared to the Model S.

Polestar 2

The Polestar 2 is a relatively new EV from the Volvo Group that competes directly with the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.

  • Range: With a range of approximately 230 miles, the Polestar 2 lags behind the Model S in terms of distance.
  • Interior: The Polestar 2’s interior features premium materials, offering a sense of Scandinavian simplicity and elegance.

The two main challenges faced by the Polestar 2 are its lower range and less-established brand compared to Tesla.

Throughout each comparison, it is clear that the Tesla Model S remains a strong contender in the EV market. However, these other options offer unique features and designs that may appeal to different buyers.

Lesser-Known Model S Variants


The Tesla Model S P85+ was a high-performance variant introduced in the early years of production.

This model boasted increased power, upgraded suspension, and improved handling over the standard Model S.

If you’re seeking a used Tesla with enhanced driving dynamics, the P85+ might be the right choice for you.

However, remember that it was only produced between 2013 and 2014, and as a result, it may not have some of the improvements seen in later Model S years like the 2018 or 2019 model.

The P85+ came with a performance-tuned suspension, a more powerful motor, and larger rear tires, all of which contributed to its sportier handling.

There will be some trade-off in overall efficiency compared to newer models, but if performance is your priority, then the P85+ is worth considering.

Premium Interior Package

Another lesser-known variant of the Tesla Model S is the Premium Interior Package.

This package upgrade was available throughout various years, enhancing the standard features of the Model S interior.

If you value luxury and comfort, keep an eye out for used Model S options with this package.

The Premium Interior Package offered several notable upgrades for the Model S, including:

  • Leather seats with extra cushioning and heating elements
  • Alcantara headliner for a more refined appearance
  • High-end audio system for an immersive listening experience
  • LED ambient interior lighting for added elegance

Don’t overlook these variations when searching for your ideal Tesla Model S, as they can make a significant difference in your driving experience.

Be sure to weigh the benefits of the P85+ performance enhancements or the upgraded comfort from the Premium Interior Package against potential drawbacks or concerns from the model years to avoid.

Review various options in your search and find the perfect Model S to suit your preferences.


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