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These Are the Hidden Costs of Buying That Tesla You Always Wanted

Tuesday I picked up my new Tesla. At least it was new to me.

In a fit of relative frugality I purchased a used version of the luxury electric Model S, which is part of Tesla’s new certified pre-owned program. I was convinced to go on a hunt for a used Model S after test-driving the car at a showroom in my hometown of Austin, Texas.

The certified pre-owned program lets you pick up older Tesla’s (TSLA) for about $20,000 to $30,000 less than the current generation model price tag. I’m not going to spend too much time going into Tesla’s CPO program, although if you want to investigate the market for used Teslas I recommend you start with the site EV-CPO Consolidator.

That service aggregates the listings of available certified pre-owned Teslas in the U.S. and Canada in a single place. For an optional $10-a-month subscription, the site also shows historical sales data and will alert you when a car matching your specifications hits the market.

That’s important because the best cars often disappear within a day or two.

My husband and I ended up finding a 2014 silver Tesla Model S 85 that met my distance needs (the S85 has a range of about 265 miles), and also had the smart air suspension which automatically raises and lowers the car based on where it is. The smart air suspension felt necessary given our incredibly steep driveway.

The car was in Florida and also included several other nice-to-have features such as parking sensors, leather seats and a tech package. Delivery and transport of the car from Florida to Texas cost $1,000.

After purchasing the Tesla however, we weren’t even close to closing our wallet.

In my case, because I purchased my car used, I didn’t get the $7,500 federal tax credit, which means I was on the hook for the 6.25% Texas state sales tax, which added roughly $4,000. I can deduct that later from my federal taxes because Texas doesn’t have an income tax, but that phases out with income (the more you make, the less you can deduct).

However, even if you’re buying the car new, you’re probably going to want to pay to install a more powerful 240 volt electrical outlet in your garage, rather than using the traditional 110-volt outlet scattered around your home. The more powerful outlet can recharge your Tesla overnight, with an average of 29 miles per hour, as opposed to the 3 miles per hour that the outlet you charge your phone in can provide.

For the better charger, you’re going to need an electrician to come out and install a different type of outlet and check the voltage running to your home. For us that cost was $543, but that will depend on the going rate of electricians in your area.

We also needed to get a city inspector to come out to the house to make sure the job was done correctly, which was included in the cost of the electrician, but also takes time and requires someone to be home if it’s inside a garage. The City of Austin will rebate half the cost if we agree to a few terms, such as giving them the option to install a special charger in the future. Tesla offers recommendations for electricians on its web site.

There’s also the cost of insurance, which again, is location-dependent, but may prove shocking depending on the Tesla you decide to buy. My insurance went slightly down from about $800 a year for insuring my 10-year-old Acura TSX to $734.

The drop was related to the safety features on the Tesla that my Acura just doesn’t have. However, when my insurance agent originally ran the VIN associated with the car, it came back as the high-end performance model Tesla, the P85D. Using that model, my insurance quote came in at a whopping $3,438 per year. So buyers with deeper pockets watch your insurance premiums.

The only other surprise so far that I’ve encountered was a close look at the paperwork for financing, titles and vehicle inspections associated with getting a new (or used) car. Because Texas doesn’t allow Tesla to sell cars directly to consumers, tasks such as getting temporary plates and inspections fall to the car’s buyer. Tesla does a good job of explaining exactly what you need to do and how to do it, but it does require some extra steps.

All of the extra steps and purchases are collectively a lot so far, but the fun of recreating my Tesla test drive whenever I feel like it, is making it all worthwhile.

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