We’ve had our Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+) for a little more than 3 years. It’s sitting at 28,698 miles, or about 9,500 miles a year. (True, we’re not road warriors. Part of the low mileage compared to the US average is that the car hardly moved during the covid lockdowns. Part of it is that we don’t like spending hours in the car and thus avoid going on long road trips. We’ve really only taken one in those 3 years.)
While it’s true that we don’t put a lot of miles on the car compared to the US average, it sure feels like a lot to us. Also, we’re a one-car family, so all of our miles are indeed logged on this one car.
I wasn’t sure how to go about approaching this 3-year review. I’ve been providing updates anytime we have any kind of service on the car, but that’s not really the same as a review. We have the initial review articles and not much has changed from that point, but it’s not like that’s all there is to say about the car and living with the car — there are a lot of little nuances to mention. It seems like the best approach, though, may be to just start with the core reasons we bought the car.
Line of Tesla Model 3s in Florida. Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
The top 4 reasons we bought the car (in no particular order) were: Autonomy, Safety, Long-Term Value, and The Mission.
In terms of Autonomy, I have already acknowledged several times that “Full Self Driving” (FSD) is not where I had expected it to be by now. I actually bought the car right before Elon Musk announced that they had to totally rework and rewrite the code for the way they were approaching the challenge. It took a long time to do that and then get back on track, and then to finally release “feature-complete” self driving for customers (which still isn’t available for everyone who bought FSD, but which I’ve had for about a year thanks to quickly passing the Safety Score test). That’s fine, and I am definitely not upset about that, but I have come to think that Tesla’s approach is not going well and am now skeptical that it will achieve robotaxi-level full self driving. Though, I’ll be more than happy to see it happen! As one final note, despite not really being happy with the level of FSD at the moment (not the actual capabilities but rather the reliability and consistency of those capabilities), I think it’s important to emphasize that I bought the FSD package for $6,000, and once Monday arrives, the price of the same package will be $15,000. So, frankly, it still looks like a good investment — even if I can’t sleep or work on the drive to my daughters’ school.
Tesla FSD Beta in use. Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
In terms of Safety, well, I think it’s the same story as it was back then. The car’s superb safety features make it one of the smartest cars to buy, and I am still content knowing that.
In terms of Long-Term Value, so far, the Model 3 has held its value superbly — or even risen in value! Some of that is all the market disruptions that have come from the covid era, but some of it is unique to Tesla and the high demand for its vehicles. We’ll see how this matter evolves in the coming years (I have no intention of selling my car anytime soon, if ever).
Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
Lastly (until the next section), the Tesla Mission is still massively important to me. At this point in time, I don’t think Tesla is critical to pushing the industry forward any longer. If Tesla disappeared overnight, the industry might just continue evolving into clean EVs at the same pace. Though, as much as the cat is out of the bag on this topic, it’s also true that Tesla’s incessant innovation and propensity for risk and for trying new things is probably always going to push the industry in some ways. The big thing for me, though, was how critical Tesla was to getting the EV industry truly off the ground. I don’t think it’s legitimately debatable that Tesla played an enormous role in this and greatly hastened mass EV adoption. Tesla has been one of the most important companies in history in my eyes.
After publishing an article about my 4 reasons for buying the Model 3 back in August 2019, I wrote one about 4 more reasons that put the thumb strongly on the scale of the Model 3. Those were: Range, Infotainment & Navigation, Space, and “Come On.”
Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
As far as range goes, I’m still happy that I got a car with this much range — I don’t see a need for the long range that comes with a bigger and more expensive battery, but I think notably less range could be annoying. A software update increased our range once upon a time, but battery degradation brought it down from the initial amount of about 240 miles of range to about 200 miles on a full charge. That’s not fun to see, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem to have changed our charging patterns much, and I think it should hold steady around this range for a long time. (But we’ll see.)
When it comes to infotainment & navigation, I still think that no other car in the United States comes close to a Tesla on these matters and, everything else aside, I’d buy a Tesla over any other brand automobile if they were otherwise comparable. Also, since I bought the Model 3, the infotainment features have improved dramatically, with Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and many video games and other services being added.
CleanTechnica girls playing Stardew Valley on a Tesla Model 3 infotainment screen. Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
The space in the Model 3 is not amazing, but it’s far greater than it was in the BMW i3 we had before the Model 3, and it’s adequate for our needs. If the Model Y was on the market at the time we bought the Model 3, we most likely would have bought the Model Y, but there are also some benefits to having a lower-riding car that doesn’t have such a large rear end. When in need, the under-storage area in the trunk and the frunk are hugely useful. The biggest issue we have with space is just that very bulky or long items don’t fit (like a garbage can, which we had to buy once and then realized at the store we needed our friend with a Model X to come help us bring home).
The “come on” argument boiled down to the Tesla Model 3 being beautiful and Teslas being cool. I still think the Model 3 is beautiful, even though it’s all over the place now. The “cool factor” definitely seems to have worn off, but I guess that varies from person to person.
Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
We absolutely love the white seats and continue to see them as one of the best choices we made when buying the car. They are so much cooler than the black seats here in Florida, they look beautiful, and they are far easier to clean and maintain than even I expected. They are super fabulous and I highly recommend them.
Regarding service, most of the time I’ve needed anything (even tire rotations now), Tesla has sent mobile service to my driveway. It’s so convenient, easy, and even fun. Despite a lot of chatter about Tesla service from some critics and unlucky owners, I’ve found it to be one of Tesla’s selling points. There are a few things that aren’t ideal. For one, I gather that paying Tesla to supply and change my tires when my first set was worn out was not a great idea — I’ve been informed it’d be much cheaper to get tires from a third party. Additionally, when I do have to go into the service center, it is not the most pleasant place. It’s got an industrial, warehouse-like atmosphere and almost nothing extra for the customer to enjoy. The BMW service center right around the corner that I used to go to with the i3 is much nicer. It seems to me that Tesla should invest a little more to make its service centers nice places. Lastly, Tesla has a tendency to line up a bunch of cars for service and even if you book a service slot for a simple, quick fix, they expect you to wait for hours or go away and come back later. Being a one-car family, this has been an issue multiple times. I’ve had to reschedule appointments as a result and once got a loaner car from them even though they said they didn’t offer loaner cars, but it was quite broken in various places and very dirty (I was happy nonetheless to have a different car to try and to be able to leave and come back easily).
Tesla service cars. Photo by JRR | CleanTechnica.
There’s no doubt that the Model 3 is not the best car for blocking out road noise (it’s very loud within our car, especially at high speeds). Rattles can also appear from time to time and are annoying when they do. All of that said, I think reading these things without experiencing them, one can think they’re a bigger deal than they are. YMMV. Most important: drive the car a bit if you’re considering buying it, and do the same for other cars you might buy (including the Model Y). Similarly, the Model 3 is very sensitive to bumps in the road, which I find annoying, but that’s in some ways the flip side of having a small/midsize sedan that’s super fun to drive.
The minimalist design of the Model 3 — inside and out — is still one of my favorite things about the car. I love it.
Line of Tesla Model 3s at Supercharger. Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
I almost forgot to mention the glass roof. While we do love the view out the glass roof, it brings it way too much heat. In the hotter months of the year (which are several months in Florida), we stick heatshields underneath the glass roof in order to block out the heat. They work well, but it’s not an ideal solution, they do of course block the nice view out the roof, and they can fall down from time to time (not good). Also, the glass roof has a tendency to get chips in it, especially driving on the Interstate. We got a chip in ours almost immediately after buying it. Luckily, it didn’t spiderweb and we never had to fix or replace it. In Florida, you get one free windshield replacement a year for chips like this (it’s the law), but that doesn’t apply to glass roofs. Also, companies that quickly, easily, and cheaply fix chips in windshields don’t do the same for the Tesla glass roof. It would have cost me a few thousand dollars to replace our glass roof.
I think that covers the majority of things. We love our Model 3 and can highly recommend it, but typically recommend a Model Y when asked since many people want the extra cargo space and higher seating position. We’ll see how the Model 3 does in the next 3 years.
Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.
For much more detail and nuance on 3 years of Model 3 ownership, go through the archives for our Model 3 SR+ review articles, or go through our broader long-term Model 3 review articles (which include many articles from other Model 3 owners).
Zach is tryin’ to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.
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