You might not realize it at first, but there are a couple main features your Tesla has that actually require external accessories. These two features — Tesla’s dash cam, and Sentry Mode — both require that you plug in some form of external storage into your car’s USB port to take advantage of them. Tesla will rewrite over old footage as your SSD fills up.
How much storage does Tesla Dashcam and Sentry Mode need?
Tesla stores 1 hour of dashcam footage. We recommend at least 8GB for dashcam alone
60 minutes X 32MB per minute per camera X 4 cameras = 7680MB + some overhead
For Sentry mode, the numbers can go much higher. For 10 hours, that’s 80GB.
Another huge consideration is rewrites which ages your SSD. The bigger the SSD, the fewer rewrites necessary and obviously the more video you can store.
Because of this and because of pricing of SSDs, we currently (Nov. 2021) recommend 512GB SSDs which can usually be had for under $100.
Here’s a quick look at Sentry Mode in action (“keep Summer safe!”):
Here are Electrek’s recommendations for the best USB storage options for various Tesla models.
Best USB storage options for Tesla Model 3/Model Y
Samsung T7 Portable SSD 500GB
Electrek’s pick. A trusty hard drive for your Tesla.
As we wrote in 2019, it definitely makes sense to go with something a bit beefier than just a USB stick if you’re looking to take advantage of Tesla’s TeslaCam and Sentry Mode features.
I recommend more than a USB flash drive, especially if you plan to regularly use Sentry Mode. It racks up footage pretty quickly and if you don’t want to be cleaning your drive too often, because hopefully nothing happens to your car, more robust storage can be useful.
We recommended the Samsung T5 portable SSD back then, but now we can safely recommend the Samsung T7 portable SSD. The new model has read and write speeds that are twice as fast (not that the car’s USB ports will be able to take advantage of it), and it also has USB 3.2 versus 3.1. The drive has generally great reviews on Amazon, too.
Jeda’s Tesla Sentry Storage Drive
A great hard drive from Jeda’s ecosystem of high-quality Tesla products.
We haven’t yet reviewed the Jeda Sentry Storage Drive, but we’ve heard mostly good things! It’s a custom-made SSD for your Tesla Model 3 and Y and it matches up perfectly with Jeda’s other products, which you can find on our best-of lists for USB hubs and center console organizers as well.
SanDisk 500GB Extreme PRO Portable External SSD
Another great SSD pick for your Tesla.
The SanDisk 500GB is another one of the best USB storage options for your Tesla. This drive is usually available for around $100, and it has a great rugged design with a “forged aluminum body” meant to protects the internal SSD and dissipate heat. Heat can be an issue with these drives (as opposed to USB and microSD options below) depending on your climate, so that’s something to keep in mind.
(If you are constantly running into heat issues, consider a heat shield or sun shade.)
Like the Samsung T7 portable drive, these little SanDisk 500GB Extreme Pro drives are known to work well and reliably with Tesla Model 3 and Y. As mentioned with the T7, we can’t guarantee that any drive will not exceed peak power availability for the Model S and Model X.
WD 512GB My Passport SSD Portable Storage
Another great SSD pick for your Tesla.
SanDisk and Samsung sit right alongside WD in terms of reputation when it comes to solid state drives. This drive from Western Digital — which comes in 256GB, and 512GB capacities — will work great with your Model 3 or Model Y for TeslaCam and Sentry purposes.
Best SD/USB storage options for all Tesla models
Vanja USB Type-C SD Card Reader
Pair this with a microSD card for a budget option.
Another popular route for the best USB storage on your Tesla is to get a microSD card and an adapter. There are many options in this category, including the highly-rated SanDisk Mobile Mate, the very-popular Vanja, SmartQ C350, and others. The biggest upside is that many of these adapters have microUSB, USB-C, or Lightning ports on one end, making it easy to browse footage on your smartphone.
Regardless of which SD card reader you choose, you’re going to have to pair it with a microSD card. We recommend a card with MLC flash, which typically you’ll see signified by “high endurance” branding. Some options to pair with your USB Type-C reader include: Samsung Pro Endurance in various capacities, SanDisk high endurance in various capacities, or Transcend High Endurance in various capacities.
SanDisk MobileMate USB microSD reader
A tiny microSD reader that works well with Tesla vehicles.
A great microSD card reader from SanDisk. Pair this with a high endurance microSD card and you’re off to the races. Just remember: the larger the microSD card you buy, you more footage you’ll be able to store before it fills up and old footage is erased.
Samsung PRO Endurance 128GB
Snag this to pair with your microSD reader.
We’d recommend you get a fairly large-capacity microSD card to go with your microSD card reader. The larger the better. Nowadays, microSD cards in sizes upwards of 128GB or more are still very cheap — around $20.
Best USB Drive storage options for all Tesla models
Samsung BAR Plus 64GB USB Drive
Not ideal but an acceptable, cheap solution.
While standalone USB drives aren’t ideal for your Tesla’s dash cam or Sentry Mode capabilities because of read/write speed limitations, some drives will work just fine. One such drive is the Samsung BAR Plus 64GB USB 3.1 drive on Amazon.
Kingston 128GB DataTraveler Elite
Another solid USB drive option.
Like the Samsung BAR Plus, this Kingston is known to work fine with TeslaCam and Sentry mode. For the purposes of write/read speeds and temperature limitations, It’s still best to choose a microSD card adapter and memory card if you want to store footage on your Tesla without going for a full SSD, but this is a suitable solution.
Transcend 128GB JetFlash
More expensive, but probably longer lasting.
If you’re concerned about larger-capacity SSDs that could overwhelm the power capacity of Model S or Model X’s ports, you don’t want to deal with microSD adapters, and you want to get something that will last a long time and store ample footage, this is the USB drive for you.
Feedback about any the products on this list? Contact us via email.