I am not a car enthusiast by any means, but buying a Tesla has always been my dream.
In September, I finally realized my goal of buying a Tesla. So I bought the Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus. This model is the LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate) battery version, a slightly lower range than the other Tesla Model 3 Standard Range. It's about 253 miles vs. 267~ miles, but the LFP battery wants to be charged to 100% constantly. So being able to charge to 100% felt like a better buy than having a Standard Range Tesla that only wanted to be charged to 80% or 90% unless you're going on a road trip.
Overall, I have positive thoughts on the car. At writing, I have had the car for a little over two months and have put around 3,500 miles on the vehicle. I have also named the car Timothy!
Buying the car turned out to be the worst part of dealing with Tesla. However, it's 1000% better than buying from a dealership. I went only around 11 pm and put in an order for a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range. Then I filled out the paperwork online, submitted my driver's license, uploaded the docs they asked for, and did a credit pull. I should've waited for the credit pull because the loan offer is only suitable for 60 days. The first order I placed was in early July, and I ended up swapping the car at the last minute (beginning of Sept) when Elon announced the new Standard Range Plus models.
Throughout the whole process, you cannot talk to anyone. You can call the sales/order line to try and get an update. Unfortunately, that line often has long waits, or the person helping you cannot tell you much information beyond the car being built at Freemont. In addition, the delivery date changed day-to-day, and my final delivery date kept getting pushed back. I ended up picking up my Tesla 3 days after the original delivery date, with me finally having to call to get a date scheduled.
Beyond the initial wait of roughly two months, which has now become upwards of 6 to 8 months, the after purchase was a pain. I'm in Texas, which means Tesla cannot legally sell the car directly to consumers; there are odd workarounds to allow them. One is Tesla not registering the vehicle. Tesla gives you temporary plates, but you have to take the car to the local tax office and pay the taxes plus fees.
They do not share about the taxes until later in the process. It does say it on certain docs, but it isn't clearly stated. Some of the onus is on me for not doing the research or reading the docs clearly, but
Full Self Driving
I have FSD (Full Self Driving) equipped on the car.
I have driven the car without it turned on and didn't enjoy driving it as much as when FSD is enabled.
There is a couple of significant differences between Autopilot and FSD. One is around adaptive cruise control. The FSD software offers the ability to see and react to red and yellow lights, stopping as needed. You have to provide input, but pushing down on the driveshaft or pressing on the gas to confirm the light is safe to go through when green, but it's a great feature. Another difference is that FSD can navigate the highway suggesting the best lanes and move you from the passing lane when you're on the highway. FSD knows when to take an exit or get over to stay on the route. When taking a road trip makes driving a lot easier and safer.
I am not sure if I would tell everyone to buy the FSD package for $10,000, but the monthly subscription may make more sense. The monthly is $200 for FSD - you can cancel it or start at any point. For example, if you're taking a road trip, you could enable it for one month and then cancel.
Driving an electric car is different. There is no transmission, so acceleration is not only instant but smooth. There is no bucking from different gears or having the engine rev up. Instead, the car takes off just like a spaceship. While the Model 3 Standard Plus is the slowest Tesla, it's still fast. Elon has even been quoted saying this exact thing! It's a thrill hitting the gas and getting to 60 in only a handful of seconds; I can only imagine how it feels in a Model S Plaid.
The road noise isn't loud, but it is more noticeable in the Tesla than in other cars. I think part of the issue is there is no engine drowning out the road. The other big complaint folks have is the suspension isn't as smooth as other cars in its class since the Model 3 doesn't have air suspension like other Tesla models. I've noticed a bumpy right sometimes, but its not much different than the ride I would get from a Civic or Corolla.
Charging the Tesla is easy, and while I had range anxiety around only getting roughly 253 miles per charge, it's been better than I expected. I seldom think about the car's charge. I plug it in overnight, and it charges 100%, no stopping at a gas station or stressing that I need to get gas when I am already running late. However, I have forgotten to charge at night and needed to go to a supercharger. There is a number around me, and from almost empty to full it only takes around 45 mins. Most supercharger stops only take 15 to 20 mins to get enough juice to go to the next location or next supercharge.
We have taken one small road trip in the Tesla that was about 200 miles away. We stopped once to charge and didn't stress about the car after that. However, we did more planning than needed, checking other charging stations since there wasn't a supercharger near the final destination. All Tesla's come with a J1772 adapter and can charge at other charging networks.
The best part of the LFP Model 3 Standard Range Plus is charging the battery 100% all the time. In fact, Elon Musk recommends charging the battery nightly to 100%. Other Tesla's with the standard battery tech should only charge between 70 and 90%. Then you can charge the battery to 100% when you are going on a road trip.
The other consideration around charging is the savings. Our electric bill hasn't gone up much from what we were paying, roughly $30 to $40 more. The offset of not buying as much gas is a positive. We still have an ICE car, a Ford Explorer, that we will replace with maybe another Tesla or Rivian truck one day.
Software & Interior
The inside of the car is minimal. There is a single 15inch screen where you control every part of the car. There are vegan leather seats; the front comes standard with heating options. The back can have heat seats for a $300 upgrade, which we didn't opt for since our children are still in car seats. You won't find the standard air vents either; they're hidden under the front dash, and like everything else - you control them via the 15inch screen.
I love the screen with the maps, Spotify, and the FSD visualization. The only drawback is you have to pay attention to where everything is on the screen. Also, you are not able to feel the way to which nob or button you are hitting. The windshield wipers and lights are all within the settings menu, though I keep both of those on the auto settings, so they manage themselves.
The biggest surprise when I got the Tesla was no floormats came standard. I ended up buying some right off the bat, linked below, but you'd think a premium car like a Tesla would have some standard floor mats.
The new 2021 Model 3's all come with the power lift for the trunk, which was not the case with older Model 3's which had the manual trunk. The frunk is manual, but often I only put take-out or smelly items, oh and sometimes children.
Below is the list of accessories we bought for the Model 3, including the car seats we bought for the 2-year-old and 6-year-old.
The Model 3 is one of the only cars that makes me want to drive. Admittedly, it is a bit pricey still for a car, $45,000 now based on the price increases, but well worth the money. The savings from gas is excellent, the instant torque and overall experience is incredible.
I love the FSD and would not want to go without it. The purchase experience could've been better, but I would repeat that any day over going to a dealership and talking with a salesperson.
If you want to ask me questions or find out my other thoughts on Tesla, shoot me at tweet @leonhitchens.