I bought a Tesla. A base rear-drive Model 3 to be specific, in white. The only option I selected was the white interior, which matches quite well with the slightly pearlescent exterior hue in my humble opinion. Now, before I go any further, I’d just like to point out that this is a product, not a statement. I bought a car, not a set of values. A means of transportation, not an announcement of my ideals. If you can’t separate those two things, well, you probably already hold a steadfast opinion on the topic, and you may as well stop reading now.
Still with us? Alrighty then. I bought a Tesla Model 3 because it was the right choice for my family. I did not buy it because I like Elon Musk (more on that coming). I did not buy it because I believe Tesla is the segment leader in self-driving tech (I don’t believe it is). I did not buy it because I believe everyone who buys a car powered by gasoline in 2023 is a bad person (they aren’t).
First, it should be noted that this is primarily a car for my wife. In addition to being her primary set of wheels, it will also very likely displace the vast majority of trips taken in my primary car, a GMC Suburban. Two cars for two drivers, with the more efficient option being the one we’ll choose to drive when shopping, visiting friends and family in the area, and for general around-town appointments and meanderings. The big-block 4×4 will be reserved for me when my wife has taken the Tesla already, or when we need to travel particularly long distances, and finally when we need to put half of our worldly possessions in a vehicle for any number of reasons (camping and vacationing in general being prime candidates).
After years of testing them, I knew an electric car would work very well for my family. We’ve discussed buying an EV several times in the past, and finally decided it was time to pull the trigger. I actually tried desperately to buy a Ford Lightning pickup truck, but local dealers literally laughed at me when I asked how long I’d have to wait to get one at its sticker price. I called every dealer I could locate within 200 miles and not a single one I spoke with was willing to honor the MSRP. And then Ford jacked up the price. And then Ford jacked up the price again. The Lightning was now out of the running entirely.
As useful as a pickup truck may be, I didn’t need one. I have a very large SUV already, and trailers are easy to rent. So, why not choose a much more efficient sedan or hatchback design instead? I resisted considering a Tesla at first, for a wide variety of reasons that I’ll discuss as this article goes on.
Why didn’t I want a Tesla to begin with?
First, I am not a fan of the way Elon Musk manages the company. I offer a hearty applause for Musk’s contributions toward making Tesla the first successfully launched American car company in many, many decades. Past his role at the helm of Tesla, I find Musk at best a bore and at worst a nuisance. I don’t find him humorous. I don’t appreciate his constant meme-driven Twitter feed, his constant need to make his opinions publicly broadcast or his controversial rhetoric.
From his insistent childishness – always focusing on the numbers 420 and 69; using S, 3, X and Y as model names that spell SEXY; painting over the ‘w’ on Twitter’s HQ so it instead reads ‘Titter’, using terms like “pedo guy” … the list goes on – to the brazenness and morally questionable decision to sell (at a very high cost) “Beta” self-driving software that operates on public roads alongside human beings who were not offered a choice to “opt-in” as part of the test, I’m quite comfortable saying Elon Musk was a major detraction for me and my family when considering a new vehicle. Not that he cares. I also wish Tesla at least occasionally hit a production target date or price point.
Expanding on Tesla’s self-driving ambitions, I feel very strongly that it’s morally irresponsible to use public roads as grounds to refine software. It’s one thing for me or another human being to decide they are fine with beta testing untested software. It’s another thing entirely to test that software out in the real world alongside people who weren’t given the same choice. I will never use Tesla’s Full Self Driving technology package as long as it’s in Beta form, and I certainly will not pay the current $15,000 asking price for the privilege. The $6,000 Enhanced Autopilot package is much more reasonable, and it can be added at any time even after delivery.
Moving on to the car itself, I don’t think the bare-bones aesthetic of the Model 3’s interior is a positive. I’m particularly irritated by the centrally located touchscreen. Not only is it necessary to use the screen for just about everything, its also placed in a spot that sometimes interferes with my knee space while driving.
Why did I end up buying a Tesla Model 3 anyway?
For starters it was the best deal, by far. Once Tesla started knocking thousands of dollars off the car’s starting price, competitors like the Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4 started to look a wee bit expensive. I paid extra for the white interior, but pretty much everything a modern car needs to have comes standard. We also considered every available plug-in hybrid but ruled every one of them out either because of price or because they’d still end up spending too much time running on gasoline, thereby defeating the purpose of our decision to buy an EV.
After much deliberation, we had very nearly decided to buy a very low-mileage BMW i3 REX with a certified pre-owned warranty. I wanted the sportier S trim, and in this lone instance the small gasoline-fueled generator was a bonus, not a drawback. We cast a very wide net, finally found the perfect i3 about five hours away and made plans to go look at it. And then I remembered that the Model 3’s price, brand new, had been dropped into the same bracket as the used BMW. At today’s prices, the Model 3 I bought costs $42,880 including all ordering and destination fees. The Tesla would have a longer warranty, more range and sportier dynamics. It would also have access to the Supercharger network. So we decided to make a trip to the Tesla showroom about 30 minutes away to take a look.
The Model 3 drives very well, feels quite solid and offers a firm but comfortable ride. Acceleration from the electric drivetrain is good – Tesla quotes a 5.8-second 0-60 run and a top speed of 140 miles per hour – and 272 miles of range is plenty for the type of driving we bought it for. The 3’s heated seats are clad in a soft faux leather, the glass roof lends an airy feeling to the cabin, and outward visibility is very good. All the desirable safety stuff is included in the base price, and crash tests prove the car to be sturdily designed and built. Storage space is solid, and the back seat, even though we don’t often use it, is relatively roomy and comfortable. I also was happy to find that the base Model 3 uses a cobalt-free lithium-iron-phosphate battery chemistry.
I was very concerned about build quality, but those concerns proved premature. The Model 3 I ordered and received is screwed and glued together just as well as any other new car I’ve driven, with reasonable body gaps and no discernible squeaks or rattles. We took it on an in-state road trip a week after purchasing it and found the range estimate to be reassuringly accurate. The car is quiet on the road, boasts a sporty driving position and surefooted handling to match. I also think the Model 3 is attractive (to my eyes, the design doesn’t translate nearly as well to the more bulbous Model Y).
The benefits of Tesla’s Supercharger network cannot be overlooked. There are lots of chargers in my general vicinity, and even though over 90% of my charging needs are covered at home, the speed and ease of use compared to EVGo or Electrifiy America makes Tesla’s charging solutions vastly superior to anything else on the market. Pull up to the charger, plug it in and, presto, you’re charging. Payment is automatically made through an app. It really couldn’t be easier, and it’s a massive advantage that Tesla currently enjoys.
The Tesla Model 3 is a product, and it’s a good one. It was the right choice for my family, so a shiny white EV now sits in my driveway. I also don’t like the way Apple runs its business or many of the decisions Google makes that hurt the publishers the search giant relies on for content. And yet I’m typing this on a MacBook and use Google search in a Chrome browser daily.
Not everyone will agree, but for me and my family, we decided that it’s possible to buy a Tesla without drinking the Kool-Aid.