Tesla doesn't use dealerships, which makes getting ahold of one of their cars difficult in some states. So, where can you get a Tesla?
You can get a Tesla at showrooms in any state that allows direct-to-consumer sales or makes an exemption for Tesla. The majority of states don't have showrooms, and most of these allow you to order one online and have it delivered or pick it up.
In this article, we'll cover where to get a Tesla in areas where the answer isn't so clear. We'll cover state laws that govern direct-to-consumer car sales and go over the states where purchasing a Tesla is unrestricted. Additionally, we'll cover how to get a Tesla in states where it is restricted.
We sourced some of the information in this article from reputable news sources and from Tesla's sales center locator page.
What Can Tesla Showrooms Do?
Tesla showrooms aren't dealerships per se, but many of them can actually sell you a car. Unlike traditional car dealerships, which buy cars at a discounted rate from manufacturers and sell them at a markup, Tesla sales showrooms sell cars directly from the manufacturer to the consumer.
Tesla showrooms are prohibited from selling cars in some states. In these states, you can still pick up a Tesla after buying it, but you usually can't get it delivered to you directly. Instead, they make you jump through hoops and around import rules—but you can still take delivery of your car.
In states where Tesla direct sales are banned, showrooms can do only one thing—show you the car. They can't sell it, take it to your house, they can't negotiate, and they can't even talk to you about pricing.
Can You Get a Tesla Everywhere?
No. This is a common question people have when considering purchasing a Tesla. As it turns out, there are numerous states where you simply can't get a Tesla—you'll have to go out of state to buy it and bring it back or order it for delivery through the factory.
From what we could find, there are 30 states with no Tesla distribution locations, and it's unclear how these states will deal with direct-to-consumer sales when showrooms eventually arrive.
Here are the states where you can't currently buy a Tesla. Keep in mind that Tesla is expanding rapidly, so this list may change almost overnight.
As you can see, the list is pretty long. There are varying reasons for this, but it's primarily because Tesla just hasn't built any sales locations in these areas yet.
On the east coast, it's easy to find a Tesla at a nearby sales location or dealership in another state. This is also somewhat true for Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, as there are Tesla showrooms in Texas.
State Dealership and Car Sales Laws
Many states have laws regulating how automakers can sell cars to the public. This is a longstanding tradition, as car sales have been relegated to independently-owned franchised dealerships for decades.
Dealerships are beneficial to the local economy. Dealerships employ lots of people, pay good salaries, and contribute to the community. Dealerships are also a key cog in the used car distribution system, and removing them would harm people who rely on affordable used cars.
Some states believe that automakers who have previously attempted to sell cars without dealerships essentially strip thousands of communities of jobs and tax revenue—not to mention accessible and affordable cars.
In some cases, the primary reason why states ban direct-to-consumer sales is for taxes. And to be fair, Tesla showrooms also employ people--but it’s a matter of how states interpret their laws and the different justifications they have for them. As you can imagine, Tesla disagrees with their reasoning.
As a result, there are several states where selling cars directly to consumers through automaker-owned showrooms is prohibited.
States Where Tesla Can't Sell Directly to Consumers
In many states, the legality of Tesla selling cars directly to consumers is in dispute in the legislatures, and no concrete conclusion has been drawn.
However, there are several states where the matter is settled—and Tesla is required to sell cars through independently-owned dealership franchises. These states are Texas and (more recently) New Jersey. Arizona used to be on the list, but the law has since been removed.
States Where Tesla Direct Sales are Allowed
Some states take a more relaxed stance on Tesla selling cars directly to consumers. They believe it's beneficial to consumers, as it removes dealership markup and encourages better business practices.
States that allow Tesla to sell cars directly to consumers in an unrestricted way are California, Colorado, Virginia, and New Hampshire.
States Where Tesla Direct Sales are Undecided
Many states haven't dealt with an automaker that tries to sell directly to consumers in decades. That means that the law is a bit behind the 8-ball—and states are scrambling to come up with the right answer.
It's not entirely clear which way the majority will go. Here are the states where the legality of Tesla's business model is still up in the air.
New Jersey, which was formerly engaged in discussions with Tesla about direct sales, has opted to side with Texas, Arizona, and Maryland on the issue and ban the practice—but only in part.
Keep in mind that New Jersey is a state where it's still illegal to pump your own gas, so we probably can't use it as a legislative trendsetter when it comes to Tesla's direct sales business model.
Where to Get a Tesla in Texas
Texas is one of the four states that prohibits Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers. So can you get a Tesla in Texas, and if so, how? It's a little convoluted.
First, you must purchase the car online and sign the paperwork. Then, you need to ship the paperwork to the nearest state, where Tesla is allowed to sell cars directly to consumers. Once it's processed, you have to drive to a Tesla service center in Texas and pick up your car.
Tesla has several showrooms in Texas. These are located in Tyler, Southlake, San Antonio, Plano, The Woodlands, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Olmito, and Austin. But these are just galleries, and you can't actually buy a car at a gallery. They can't discuss the price, but they can show you around the car.
That's what the law really dictates. Tesla can't sell you a car at one of its own showrooms. Instead, it can sell you a car remotely or online and deliver it to a service station, or you can drive out to the out-of-state dealer and pick it up yourself.
That way, Tesla isn't 'really' selling you a car directly and delivering it to you in the state. They're selling you a car out of state and shipping it to a service center, which just makes it available for you to pick up. It's not delivered according to the law.
Where to Get a Tesla in Arizona
But what about Arizona? State laws are all different, so can you order a Tesla in Arizona like you can in Texas? Yes, and more—and you can now purchase each Tesla model at one of the state's many showrooms.
Arizona has three Tesla showrooms in Scottsdale and one in South Tucson. In 2017, the state allowed Tesla to sell cars directly to consumers as they do in California, effectively removing the state from the 'no sale' list.
The state figured that residents were just going to nearby California to buy Tesla cars anyway, so why not get the extra tax money and allow residents to purchase them in-state? This seems to be the trend nationwide.
Where to Get a Tesla in New Jersey
New Jersey has a partial ban on direct-to-consumer Tesla sales. The state initially opted to ban Tesla from selling anything in the state but later reversed course and allowed Tesla to sell cars from four designated showroom locations.
The showrooms authorized by New Jersey to sell Tesla cars are the Cherry Hill store, the Lawrence Township-Princeton store, the Paramus Route-17 Store, and the Springfield store. Tesla has two other service locations in the state, but they're not authorized to sell vehicles to consumers.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding