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Top Tesla EV models compared (and which ones qualify for a tax credit now)

If you're looking to buy a Tesla but don't know where to start, here are the top models compared from the S, 3, X, and Y ranges. Keep in mind, on top of recent price cuts, the Model 3 and Model Y also qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.
Written by Sherin Shibu, Contributor
Reviewed by Amy Lieu
Tesla Model Y Long Range | Best Tesla overall
Tesla Model Y Long Range
Best Tesla overall
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Tesla Model 3 | Best affordable Tesla
Tesla Model 3
Best affordable Tesla
View now View at Carvana
Tesla Model X Plaid | Best luxury Tesla
Tesla Model X Plaid
Best luxury Tesla
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Tesla Model S Plaid | Fastest Tesla
Tesla Model S Plaid
Fastest Tesla
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Tesla Model X | Best Tesla SUV
Tesla Model X
Best Tesla SUV
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Tesla has always been on the cutting edge of electric vehicle technology -- and now, the company is slashing prices by up to 20%. The aim is to boost sales and qualify certain models for an additional $7,500 federal tax credit. 

In order to find out if you qualify for a clean vehicle tax credit, check out the IRS requirements. I elaborate more on Tesla pricing and the tax credit below, but first -- here are the best Tesla models compared. ZDNET has pitted the top models against each other, so you can consider everything before purchasing and can take full advantage of the discount, tax credit, and everything a Tesla offers.

Update: As of March 8, Tesla has made price cuts of around $5,000 to $10,000 on the following models:

  • Model S Long Range AWD
  • Model S Tri-Motor Plaid
  • Model X Long Range (AWD)
  • Model X Tri-Motor Plaid

Must read:

Pros & Cons
  • 5-star safety rating from Euro NCAP
  • Can choose five or seven-seater configuration
  • For $15,000, you can upgrade to full self-driving capability
  • Remotely control your Tesla through the mobile app
  • Only two interior options, all black or black and white
More Details

Features: Range: 330 mi | Top speed: 135 mph | 0-60 mph: 4.8 sec | Drive: Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive | Qualifies for $7,500 federal tax credit as of March 2023? Yes.

The Model Y received a 5-star safety rating from Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme), "the highest overall score among any vehicle tested under Euro NCAP's newest, most stringent test protocol." This means that the Model Y was rated extremely favorably in protecting passengers in the car, pedestrians, and bikers. This Tesla model is not only safe but also exciting. It has a top speed of 135 mph and it can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Its range of 330 miles is impressive, and it is highly configurable -- you can choose between the five and the seven-seater options. Both options qualify for the $7,500 tax credit, although the seven-seater is $4,000 more to start. 

The Model Y Long Range includes basic autopilot, for automatic steering, acceleration, and braking within a lane. It also has advanced safety features that kick in with emergency braking, collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and more. it benefits from over-the-air updates that add new features, entertainment, better range, and improved safety over time. You can add features like full self-driving at an additional cost.

Pros & Cons
  • High energy efficiency
  • High resale value
  • 23 ft³ of cargo space through the front and rear trunk
  • Can upgrade to dual motor all-wheel drive with the performance and long range models
  • Qualifies for tax credit
  • Lacks luxury finishes found in other models
More Details

Specs: Range: 272 mi | Top speed: 140 mph | 0-60 mph: 5.8 sec | Drive: Rear-Wheel | Qualifies for $7,500 federal tax credit as of March 2023? Yes.

The least expensive Tesla EV still packs an impressive performance. With a range of 272 miles, a top speed of 140 mph, and an acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, you'll be comfortably speeding down the road in this EV. In Nov. 2022, the Model 3 was awarded 5 stars by Green NCAP, getting the highest score of all Green NCAP-tested vehicles so far on the highway test. Green NCAP applauded the Model 3's low greenhouse gas emissions and high energy efficiency.  

In terms of resale value, it usually costs more to buy a recent, used version of a Model 3 than to purchase one new. This car holds or even increases its value, unlike most cars that depreciate in value: Cars.com reported that the Model 3 jumped 12% in resale value from March to April 2022. To put this number in perspective with the larger EV industry, that 12% increase was the highest increase in that time frame, only matched by the Toyota RAV4 Prime. The Tesla Model Y had a 9% increase. It's not certain how recent price cuts will affect these percentages, but they say a lot about a Tesla's value nonetheless. 

The basic autopilot package included with every Tesla applies to the Model 3 too, of course. That means automatic steering, acceleration, and braking for other cars and pedestrians within the car's lane, plus advanced safety features.

Pros & Cons
  • Tri-Motor AWD
  • Higher range than the Model Y Long Range
  • Second-best acceleration after the Model S Plaid
  • 92 ft³ of cargo space
  • More interior options
  • Three displays
  • 22-speaker audio
  • Active road noise deduction
  • Does not qualify for the federal tax credit
  • Only comes in a six-seater option
More Details

Specs: Range: 333 mi | Top speed: 149 mph | 0-60 mph: 2.5 seconds | Drive: Tri-Motor All-Wheel Drive | Qualifies for $7,500 federal tax credit as of March 2023? No.

The Model X Plaid is a six-seater SUV, a heavier vehicle, that still manages to clock in a 333-mile range. It also has the second-best acceleration of the Teslas on this list, going from 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds. That's a lot of power for a six-seater with 92 ft³ of cargo space! The front trunk of the car can fit a full-size carry-on suitcase and the rear seats can fold down with the push of a button for a spacious storage area. There are three displays included with the Model X Plaid: One 12.3-inch display for the driver, one tilting 17-inch display for entertainment or games, and an 8-inch second-row screen for rear passengers. That 17-inch display boasts up to 10 teraflops of processing power and compatibility with wireless controllers, so it's all set for high-powered gaming via the Tesla Arcade. This SUV is highly configurable: You can choose from three interior colors instead of two and you can choose between a yoke steering wheel and a regular one at no additional cost. 

The Model X Plaid is only available in the six-seat configuration, but the Model X comes in either a five, six, or seven-seat configuration.

Pros & Cons
  • Quick acceleration
  • High range
  • Low drag coefficient
  • Adaptive suspension
  • 22-speaker, 960-watt audio system with active road noise reduction
  • 28 ft³ of cargo space
  • Front truck is not powered
  • The yoke steering wheel can be a divisive option
  • Top speed only applies when the car is equipped with paid hardware upgrades
More Details

Specs: Range: 396 mi | Top speed: 200 mph | 0-60 mph: 1.99 sec | Drive: Tri-Motor All-Wheel Drive | Qualifies for $7,500 federal tax credit as of March 2023? No.

The Model S Plaid has a tri-motor all-wheel-drive electric powertrain with 1,020 horsepower -- meaning that it can get you from 0-60 in less than two seconds. That's high-powered acceleration! Tesla boasts on their site that the "Model S Plaid has the quickest acceleration of any vehicle in production" and a drag coefficient of 0.208 Cd, "the lowest on the planet." If you're all about speed, power, and endurance, this is the car for you. However, keep in mind that the Model S Plaid can only reach the top speed of 200 mph with paid hardware upgrades, so make sure to factor that in when budgeting.

One feature of the Model S that stands out is its adaptive suspension. The car reacts to road conditions and driver actions to optimize ride quality, automatically adjust ride height, and maximize range. Cool extra feature: The back seats fold down, giving you enough space to fit a bike or two inside the car. 

Pros & Cons
  • Can change seating layout to five, six, or seven seats depending on need
  • Can choose between a regular steering wheel or the yoke steering wheel
  • 92 ft³ of cargo space
  • Interiors could be improved
  • Does not qualify for tax credit
More Details

Specs: Range: 348 mi | Top speed: 149 mph | 0-60 mph: 3.8 sec | Drive: Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive | Qualifies for $7,500 federal tax credit as of March 2023? No.

Tesla's luxury electric SUV has a sizable driving range of 348 miles per full charge, which is more than even the Model X Plaid. You can also configure it to have three rows of seats by choosing the right seating layout for your needs. That could be either the five-seater, six-seater, or seven-seater option. 

One downside of the Model X that also applies to reviews of the Model X Plaid, Model S, and Model S Plaid, is that the interiors of the car do not match the luxury expected at the price points of the vehicles. This is a subjective disadvantage of course, as you might find the interiors to your liking. Tesla is known for sleek, minimal design and the interiors reflect that.

What is the best Tesla?

Here's a breakdown of the mechanics behind the best Tesla models, including range, top speed, acceleration, drive, and eligibility for the federal tax credit.

Tesla model


Range (EPA est.)

Top Speed

0-60 mph


Model Y Long Range*


330 mi

135 mph

4.8 sec

Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive

Model 3*


272 mi

140 mph

5.8 sec


Model X Plaid


333 mi

149 mph

2.5 sec

Tri-Motor All-Wheel Drive

Model S Plaid


396 mi

200 mph

1.99 sec

Tri-Motor All-Wheel Drive

Model X


348 mi

149 mph

3.8 sec

Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive

*Qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit up until at least March 2023

Which is the right Tesla for you?

Here are the use cases for each Tesla. One model may be better suited to your needs than another.

Choose this Tesla…

If you want…

Model Y

The best Tesla overall

Model 3

The best affordable Tesla

Model X Plaid

The best luxury Tesla

Model S Plaid

The fastest Tesla

Model X

The best Tesla SUV

How did we choose these Teslas?

I prioritized vehicles that qualified for the federal tax credit and discounts set out by the company. In addition, stats like range, top speed, acceleration, and drive type all played a role in setting out this list. Teslas are impressive vehicles, but what really sets them apart is the use case each car offers to the right buyer. It's not enough to score a discount; what matters most is finding the right vehicle for your needs. I wanted to provide clarity on that point.

How does the federal tax credit work with Tesla cars?

The federal tax credit for new clean vehicles purchased in 2023 or after is the one that matters for EVs. 

Tesla's most recognizable vehicles are the Model Y and the less-expensive Model 3. New versions of these vehicles qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit until March 2023, at which point the credit amount could change and even be reduced.

The tax credit adds to discounts the company has already applied to its most popular vehicles. As of Jan. 12, the price of the Model Y dropped by $13,000 or nearly 20%, going from $65,990 to $52,990. With the federal tax credit, that price could drop to $45,490. The Model 3 is now $43,990; with the tax credit, it's $36,490. 

That places it firmly in the affordable EV category.

Tesla modelPrevious priceNew priceDifference
Model 3*$46,990$43,990-$3K (-6.4%)
Model 3 Performance*$62,990$53,990-$9K (-14.3%)
Model Y*$65,990$52,990-$13K (-19.7%)
Model Y Performance$69,990$56,990-$13K (-18.6%)
Model S$104,990$94,990-$10K (-9.5%)
Model S Plaid$135,990$114,990-$21K (-15.4%)
Model X$120,990$109,990-$11K (-9.1%)
Model X Plaid$138,990$119,990-$19K (-13.7%)

*Qualifies for $7,500 federal tax credit | Calculations: ZDNET | Source: Tesla

The federal EV tax credit is only available to individuals reporting modified adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of $150,000 or less, heads of households with AGIs of $225,000 or less, or $300,000 for married couples filing jointly. The credit only applies if you buy a new vehicle with an MSRP of $80,000 at most for vans, sports utility vehicles, and pickup trucks or $55,000 at most for other vehicles. In addition, the seller must report your name and taxpayer identification number to the IRS in order for you to attempt to claim the credit.

On your end, make sure to file Form 8936, Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit (Including Qualified Two-Wheeled Plug-in Electric Vehicles) with your tax return, You have to provide your vehicle's VIN on the form. 

You cannot simply go out to a dealership and expect the dealer to give you these savings up-front. However, according to the US Department of Energy, starting in 2024 you should be able to get your credit at the dealer.

Which is the cheapest Tesla?

The Model 3 is Tesla's cheapest offering. Right now, the EV is priced at $43,990; with the tax credit, it's $36,490.

How long is the warranty on your Tesla?

According to Tesla:

Your vehicle is protected by a New Vehicle Limited Warranty, which includes the Basic Vehicle Limited Warranty, the Supplemental Restraint System Limited Warranty and the Battery and Drive Unit Limited Warranty.

The basic vehicle limited warranty covers your Tesla for 50,000 miles or for four years, whichever comes first.

Are there alternative Teslas worth considering?

Yes, there are. Here are some other impressive models that you can order new on Tesla's website or find used on Carvana. 

View at CarvanaView at CarvanaView at Carvana
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