How to reserve a Tesla Model 3 online

Tesla Motors released the details on reserving a Model 3 yesterday morning, including options for both in-store and online reservations, as the company had previously discussed. The car will be unveiled to the public in a week.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File
A Tesla Motors logo is shown on a Tesla Model S at a Tesla Motors dealership at Corte Madera Village, an outdoor retail mall, in Corte Madera, Calif.

The Tesla Model 3 electric car will finally be unveiled to the public in just over a week, and Tesla will begin accepting reservations for the car that day.

So when March 31 rolls around, how exactly do you reserve a Model 3?

Perhaps more importantly, what is the fastest way to get one?

Tesla Motors released the details on reserving a Model 3 yesterday morning, including options for both in-store and online reservations, as the company had previously discussed.

The cost to make a reservation is $1,000, which can be refunded in the event of cancellation—or applied to the purchase of a Model S or Model X instead.

As for getting a car most quickly, the first and most likely way is to own a Model S or Model X already.

Tesla says it will give existing customers priority, but it also plans to break down the ordering process by region.

That means that if you're in a country or region with relatively few Tesla owners, you may be higher on that region's list. (However, deliveries to all regions won't start at the same time.)

In-store ordering may also provide an advantage, as Tesla Stores will begin accepting orders on March 31 at the local-time equivalent of 10 am Pacific (e.g. 1 pm Eastern).

Online ordering, on the other hand, won't start until the Model 3 live unveiling at 8:30 PST.

But any prospective Model 3 owners may also have to get in line behind Tesla employees placing orders for the new electric car.

And those that don't get an early spot in line may have to wait a while to receive theircars.

While Tesla will accept reservations throughout the rest of 2016, Model 3 production won't start until "late 2017," the company says.

Deliveries will begin in North America on the West Coast, and then move eastward. European and Asian deliveries will start sometime later.

That means California Tesla owners will likely get their cars before those further from the company's San Francisco Bay Area base.

In the U.S., an early Model 3 delivery could mean the difference between getting a $7,500 Federal tax credit, and missing out.

There's a cap on how many cars each company can make that qualify for the credit: 200,000 cars per manufacturer.

Tesla has already sold an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 cars as of December 2015, and still has a backlog of Model S and Model X orders to fill.

Even if Model 3 production starts as planned late in 2017, Tesla may already have accumulated a significant number of orders from employees and existing owners.

That means civilians may not get their cars until 2018 or 2019, at which time Tesla may have sold an additional 140,000 or 150,000 cars.

And that's the best-case scenario, based on the assumption that the Model 3 production will start on time.

Tesla has not yet met one of its own deadlines for a vehicle launch, and Model 3 production also depends on lithium-ion cell production starting at the massive battery "Gigafactory" now being built in Nevada.

Reservations for the Tesla Model 3 will be closely watched by Tesla followers, and will likely be discussed during Tesla's conference call in May to discuss its first-quarter financial results.

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