From Toyota to Tesla back to Toyota

Almost 4 years ago, I became the proud owner of a 2013 Tesla Model S (P06092). I loved the car so much and I was so passionate about the company, that I decided to share my experience in this blog. When I bought the car, I suspected that I would have some problems.  I read a lot about the company and I knew they were focused on quality, but at the same time, it was a relatively new company, the Model S was their first mass produced car, first generation, new suppliers, new technologies: the perfect recipe for problems!

I live in Gatineau and the closest service center is in Montréal (+200km away).  I decided to pay extra for the ranger service.  That was a fantastic idea!  I had many problems with the car while it was under warranty and every time, the ranger service took good care of my Tesla.  They really exceeded my expectations during that period. Unfortunately, the number of problems I had with the car also exceeded my expectations by a strong margin. What can possibly drive such a passionate individual like me, to exchange his Model S for a Toyota Corolla 2017!?

Here is my reality check list:

Expectations Reality
Electric cars have less parts than gasoline car so they are less likely to break. Electric cars do have less parts but that does not mean the parts will be reliable.

In 3 years I had:

  • 2 drive trains replaced,
  • 2 battery packs replaced (Had to pull away 3 times with the error message: “The car is shutting down, please pull away safely”),
  • brake leaking problems (2 times),
  • suspension problems,
  • door handles stopped working,
  • heating system replaced,
  • 2 headlights replaced.
Maintenance cost is low I bought more tires for my Tesla in 3 years than other cars in 10 years.  A lot of 2012, 2013 model S owner are paying high end cost to keep it running.
I planned on keeping this car for at least 10 years, like I did with my previous cars. I exchanged it for a Corolla 2017 this year because of the number of problems with my Tesla, the lack of service center in Ottawa, the ranger service no longer available and the future maintenance cost.

I hesitated a lot before exchanging my Model S because I really enjoyed the full user experience (Good job UX Team). One option was to keep the Model S until I got the Model 3. Unfortunately, because of my reality check list I decided that it was just time to let go.

When my heating system broke down, Tesla replaced it (Good will = replace for free) even if my warranty was over. I really appreciated this, especially after knowing that the heater itself cost $3000, excluding labor. When I strongly reacted to that price, the guys at the service center replied: “What do you expect? You bought a luxury car, maintenance is more expensive”.

Back in 2013, I did not buy a luxury car, I paid for research and development for a long distance driving electric vehicle.

  1. I am not in for a luxury car, electric or not, I usually put my money elsewhere.  This was a one time deal… Let’s do this crazy thing once in my life!
  2. I am not a car guy. I would never have paid this much money for any other car.
  3. I suspect that the Model 3 will be expensive to maintain like an Audi or a BMW.
  4. The Model 3 first iteration are more likely to have issues similar to the first iteration of the Model S and Model X because:
    1. They re-designed the battery pack.
    2. They re-designed the drivetrain from scratch.
    3. Usually, version 1.0 of hardware is more likely to have problems.

I am a strong believer in the Tesla mission, but I did my share and will let others enjoy the fun and potential problems with the first iteration of the Model 3. Unless someone has the arguments to convince me otherwise, I’ll get my deposit back.


Now, I am a very happy owner of a Corolla 2017 with loads of security features, led lights, heated seats and heated steering wheel for a very reasonable price. I needed a reliable car after the Model S experience. Believe it or not, I was (sadly) happy to go back to the gas station every 2 weeks to fill up a gas car that just works.

Did you know that Toyota is finally getting serious about electric cars? Read this. They have a dedicated team with a target date of 2020.  I doubt they will meet this dead line if they only really started this year. If my Corolla 2017 is as reliable as my previous Corolla, I should be able to buy a reasonably priced, reliable, fully electric Toyota in 10 years from now.


11 thoughts on “From Toyota to Tesla back to Toyota

  1. Why go from one extreme to the other? You should have picked up a Toyota Prius or Auris HSD. I have had one and in its 8th year (from new) with zero faults.

    Having said that however, have to say EV is definitely the future. But I can understand your frustration. I am also waiting for me Model 3 and I am not expecting Toyota reliability at all. I could have gone for a Model S all these years but didn’t simply because I could not see myself paying that much for a car and supporting initial R&D. With Model 3, we are looking at a 3rd generation car but there will be issues with early deliveries but things should improve over time. Also, as you know with Tesla, there is no clear “iteration 1” as such, there will be continual improvement of hardware for every manufacturing batch but this is going to be transparent to outsiders. Then there will be a major revision after which again there will be a spike in faults and will again go through fix cycles and so on. As for Toyota producing a decent EV, yes this is possible. Have a look at Nissan who despite there reputation for reliable ICE cars, are having multiple issues with their Leaf EV so what I take from that is that the first mass produced EV to come from Toyota will not be as reliable as their ICE cars. I expect my Model 3 in the 2nd year of production i.e. end of 2018 by which time Tesla would have dealt with most of the early issues and if they don’t, I am quite certain it will put them out of business when half a million customers start going back and forth to repair shops which will be simply unsustainable.

    • I tried all the Toyota hybrids before, I did not like them. I know the first Toyota EV will not be as reliable as their gas cars. I hope that in 10 years when it is time to replace my Corolla, they will have something decent. Tesla won the large luxury market and they will win the small luxury one. I am not sure I want to get in the small luxury market… higher initial price, higher maintenance cost. If you know the phone market, I was an early adopter of the Google nexus one and I loved it. I continued with the nexus line but now, Google lost me with their Pixel phone.

  2. I moved from Toyota to Tesla back to Toyota. But in my case I had no problems with my more recent leased 2015 Tesla Model S. I had it for 14 months. It was strictly because of the monthly payments that I let it go. I switched to a 2013 Toyota Prius which I am very happy with and consider I am still doing my bit for our planet. If I could afford it, I would still prefer to be driving a Tesla though. I am lucky, although I used it just once, I have a Tesla Service Center close by.

  3. I am a Tesla fanboi, but by all means apareciate your non-exaggerated and totally valid reality check comparison. If I had to go back, it’d definitely be a Toyota.

  4. Thanks for this writeup. Those issues w your model s sound so annoying. Ive heard the new teslas have far less issues which makes sense. I bet you drop that toyota in shorter time bc the tech-info system. The onboard updates are so clutch. That toyota will feel like and be a relic in a year or two. Also dont hold your breath on a tesla ev anytime soon

  5. Yes, you were an early early adopter and we appreciate your sacrifices. There was a steep learning curve for sure. Having said this, my 2015 Model S has had zero problems. I love it and look forward to my new Model 3.

    Could I go back to an ICE car? Never in a million years.

    Oh and did I mention that my car drives itself on the highway and reaches 100 kph from a dead stop in less than 3 seconds? 🙂

  6. I have newer Model S with autopilot and with essentially all other options (but no jump seats and no cold weather package), and I don’t love the car or the company at all. I’ve certainly not had any serious problems, such as those you describe. But there are numerous small and annoying issues that shouldn’t exist in such an expensive car. And Tesla service is absolutely terrible, and the wait times for service appointments are unacceptably long. Super charging for longer distance trips is an annoying waste of time. And there are other unacceptable irritations and annoyances too. In my opinion, it’s not even really a luxury car. In any case, I can’t wait to go back to a non-Tesla car (a real luxury car), which I’ll be doing soon. Unless a lot changes, I will never buy another Tesla.

    • >> I will never buy another Tesla.

      Quite a harsh thing to say after you admit yourself that the car has not had serious issues, it just doesn’t add-up (at least to me). Perhaps EV is not your thing?

      >> can’t wait to go back to a non-Tesla car (a real luxury car)

      You are in luck, they are struggling to sell premium ICE cars and it will only get better for people looking for bargains

    • It is surprising that you do not love the car nor the company after everything they accomplished so far. I got an exceptional service. Super Chargers are the fastest chargers on the planet, what’s not to like? Based on your comments, if I were in charge of Tesla I would not know what to fix without you stating specific issues.

  7. Pingback: From Toyota to Mitsubishi? – Mario Electric

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s