Tesla Model 3 after 4 years

Google News gadget recommended me an article about this Youtuber reviewing their Model 3, and it is a similar car to mine. I felt a response is worth it. It’s also a good video to watch to give you a sense of what owning that car is like, even if it is way biased IMO.

Just going to focus where my POV is different from this video. You know, to keep it short.

This guy’s Model 3 is a Rear-wheel-drive, Long Range model from early 2018 or late 2017, which is a bit earlier than what I got. The main differences between that car and mine are color, wheel (I have the bigger wheels), and I only got Enhanced Autopilot while that one has FSD. Just to note, EAP is no longer an option as some of the EAP features are now in all cars, and some are only available in FSD (like navigate on Autopilot and smart summon). Well, this particular trim is also no longer available, basically for a similar price you can purchase the dual-motor long range model, which the video also shows.

Surprisingly, my mid-production Hell Model 3 has stood up well, but unlike the guy who drives 100k miles in 4 years, I only have about 14.4k miles in mine after about 3.5 years. The value proposition for this car will be drastically different than that guy, who benefits greatly from driving an EV over a gas car at such a high mileage per year. Also I live in a colder climate than some dude in Louisville, as you’ll see he’ll probably never experience what I did which brings out the worst in EVs (and arguably Teslas, which is the only product that made me think of “designed in California” to be a huge liability). Also, his supercharging numbers are kinda sus! $60 a year is not a lot. (Also $100 on oil changes! Is that MB numbers or what? Gimme the Infiniti/Acura numbers please.)

On that note, my average electric cost over the last 4 years is about $0.15 per kWh. My car says it used 4272 kWh thus far for traveling on the trip meter. Until last year I was using the 12V wall charger, so let’s say that’s 70% efficient overall from the electric meter to the car. That’s about $915 USD total or about $261/year. This probably doesn’t include overhead costs of heating, AC, conditioning the battery and motor, and other vampiric uses. That also doesn’t include the supercharging cost. For a point of reference, I put up $204.43 in supercharger fees in 2019. A lot higher % of my driving is done via supercharging, I guess. If I were to prorate it, I could take the total power I got from supercharging and compare it to the total number up there (most supercharger bills include total kWh so it’s just a matter for me to download all the invoices and add them up, so it could be done, and I can guestimate the ones that don’t, but it’s too much effort lol). It’s close to double of my normal rate anyway–let’s say I charge 70 kWh worth of electricity at $0.15/kWh, that’s $10. Most charging stops is about twice that, maybe a bit less, so let’s just say 100% more. So if I ballpark 40% of my travel on superchargers, that adds another 40% to my costs or it goes to almost $1300 or $370/yr.

For comparison, at $3.45/gal and 30MPG (because, why not), 14.4k miles is at about $1650, and I likely saved a couple hundred dollars versus driving even a very efficient gas car (like a vanilla Corolla or a Prius). It might make up the difference of the Tesla wall charger that I bought ($500) a couple years ago. Technically that could save me a few hundred dollar over time just by going from 70% efficient to 90-95% efficiency. If we use $3/gal as a closer-to-truth average (NJ is a cheap gas state), we see $1440 for the same mileage, which gets us close to my ballpark electricity use, even if over 4 years that still equates to a wall charger.

To put it closer to a real world example, the BMW 330i gives about 30MPG. It uses premium fuel (as most luxury cars do) so we’re talking about $3.5/gal or $1680, which is just a bigger saving. Plus, lol, $100 oil changes. If you are a high powered lawyer this is one hour of every 6 months you can get back and bill to the customer. Or maybe, about zero trips to the gas station also counts for something. Tesla remote tech is a real advantage. Doing majority of your appointments and interaction with the company on the web or phone app, for most people like myself, is a real advantage.

Anyway, as I expected from the start back in 2015, buying an EV doesn’t save me much money at all on the gasoline front. Well, turns out I still saved something, just not very much. The rest still makes up for the shortcoming of living with a new-ish EV, besides the whole greenwashing part. But there were shortcomings, for sure.

Let’s start with the list of repair items I had. They were:

Not too soon since I got the car, a wheel was deformed when I jumped a “curb.” (This car, well, is very heavy and it zips.) This caused a leak in the right rear tire that had to get the wheel replaced. This was supposedly something I had to pay, but didn’t. I went to the service center (about 40 min away) and had a “spare” wheel put in for 2-3 months while I sat in a backlog queue. They ended up doing this work for free via remote repair tech.

Over my Tesla Model 3’s first winter, my charging port latch froze on a road trip, which required me to sit at a supercharger slot while my back seats were down, so the latch can warm up from the inside. It was for hours. The ambient temperature was below 14F/-10C that day and I drove over 2 hours at highway speeds just prior to that. This one was particularly bad because it was a range anxiety scenario: you can’t charge despite being low on power and nowhere close to home. This was part of a low-key recall which they took cared when they swapped my tires via remote tech. I wrote about this in more detail on my 1-yr review.

On a related side note, I’ve had a few times when my charging cable froze into the charging port, while at home, for the same reason as that recall. This is definitely not something someone in Louisville would have regularly experienced (long periods of <-10C temps). Thankfully, this is no longer an issue after the aforementioned replacement.

A year later, I got two flat tires at the same time, both of my left front and rear tires popped while going over some potholes at highway speeds. I decided to get it towed to the service center (which isn’t too far from EWR which was where this happened) and there they found that another, third wheel, was also deformed and had to be replaced. Three tires and one wheel costed me just over $1000, which they were able to do same day. Tesla serviced comped me about $200 worth of Uber credits which I needed since I planned to drive some folks into NYC that day. This way I even saved a trip…and made the bill a tad less of a sting. But I drive so little, and my tires are almost new LOL.

I had my car do the dealer service at the 2 year mark. Only thing I paid for was air filter change, which cost about $80 (half that if you did it yourself). It was probably unnecessary since I drive so little. This was done via remote tech.

I had my Summon feature looked at by 2 different remote techs and they can only open tickets. Basically there is a “tight” mode where you need minimum of 8″ clearance to park your car into the garage via Summon feature. This stopped working around August 2021–or rather, I can’t get Summon to work with my garage at around that time. It worked well enough until then, even if often it would pause half way or something. Nothing got fixed, and I wasn’t charged for anything. This is a bit of a down side to all that software updates, even if on the net it was definitely a positive.

That is it on repair/maintenance spending.

I didn’t include things like the floor mats I bought or whatever, because I would do that for any car. Maybe I should include the $10 screen protector, or the USB thumb drive and USB hub I have in there, lol. But nowadays more cars have big, touchscreen displays and other tech, yeah? It’s definitely not an EV thing and more a Tesla thing I guess.

There are other things I had to fiddle with the car. The initial rollout of the security camera was wonky with people who want to use 1 USB drive for both music and video camera footage. Later updates made this easier. A build quality issue is the driver seat trim is coming loose where it’s attached to the door part of the frame, but it isn’t something you can see. I often brush up against it when I enter or exit the driver seat and it would pop open and pop right back. Not really notable there (insert your favorite American-made Build Quality Joke here) I think.

More of a quirk and less of a feature is that my Model 3 doesn’t have a OBD2 port. This means some things won’t work with the car (like one of those insurance things that tracks how you drive). There is a port that is similar on later Model 3/Ys that can be connected to OBD2 with an adapter, and S/X had them at least at some point. Mine didn’t have it at all though.

The last quirk is autopilot. I think it takes getting used to, and once you do, it is a big time help. Rather than having it drive for you (which it does), it’s more like a new way to drive a car (which is what you practically do). Think of it as if you’re playing Gran Turismo on a PS4 controller. Just a new control scheme and more auto lane keeping–you are controlling the car at one more layer of abstraction up. I highly recommend it especially for people who drive long distances often. I probably didn’t need it given how little that I drive, but I took use of it as much as I could on the highways. The main features between just properly able to drive down a lane with curve (it will slow automatically) and being able to change lanes automatically are all that I need, and is majority of the value proposition in this type of system. As an EAP owner, I can pay $6000 to go to FSD, and it isn’t so much that it is out of realm of possibility, but it’s not needed still.

Other than that–that’s really all there is in terms of negatives. Oh, I guess having to plan road trips based on charging is a negative, but it is not a big deal since it gave me a good excuse to take breaks every 2-3 hours and check out the local eats and scenes on those drives. Having to plan hotels that have charging is not always necessary but a thing I have also done, so that could also be a minus.

On the upside, which gas car has all these stats in the computer that you can just look up? Let’s start there. Maybe some do now, and tells you the fuel efficiency and what have you. I just don’t know of one.

We can talk about AP, software, keyless-by-phone, app-based control, and other things the Model 3 excel at and others are now catching up to, but how many of them bring it all to you as standard on all their cars? Nobody. What is the minimum spend to even get SuperCruise? How much does BMW and Mercedes Benz charge for their equivalent?

Finally, the Tesla supercharging network is still by far the best way to road trip in an EV in North America in 2022. This is not even close to being contested.

And perhaps equally important: I love never having to go to a gas station, basically, ever. Or worry about gas prices. Only on road trips I have to do the supercharging. No oil changes, as mentioned earlier. There is barely any maintenance. My brake pads are probably going to last 10 years lol. I can change my air filter in 2024 and probably get away with any other maintenance until then.

As for value, well, if KBB is true, I almost made money owning this car, as it sits at about $48000 on the used market as of this writing. Out of the door I paid about $56000, then there’s the $7500 federal incentive. Not counting on any other savings. I guess I did paid interest on this car for the car loan. Dang those greedy banks.

I was initially worried buying a car that is so tied to consumer electronics as a value proposition would depreciate fast given how fast smartphones and computers depreciate. I am kind of glad to be wrong now, even if part of this is due to the current supply chain constraints. I guess they are not kidding that cars and car OEMs take forever to innovate and catch up to real competition, relative to the life of a car itself.