Four Year Checkin: Tesla Model 3

October 1, 2022

In November 2018, I decided to order a Tesla Model 3. So far it's been a joy to own and drive. This post details my history and experiences with the car, and gets into just how much money I've saved by choosing this car over something comparable. Spoiler: It's seriously no contest.

The Car!


I owned a Volkswagen e-Golf since 2015, and while it was a super fun car, its meager range (realistically 80 miles on a full charge) made anything but an around town trip something of an anxiety-fest. Fast chargers that were compatible with the car were few and far between, and my experience was that half the time they weren't working properly.

I had been eyeing Model 3's for a while (especially after getting a ride in my friend Travis's Model 3 Performance -- WHOA 0-60 in 3.1 seconds!), but had held off because the only ones they were building up to that time were all-wheel-drive or had the long range battery, both of which I decided I didn't need. In fall 2018, Tesla announced the rear-wheel-drive midrange model for around $45K and that was exactly the car I was waiting for. The midrange's 230 mile range was a huge upgrade from the e-Golf.

Ordering it was absolutely painless -- just click a few options on their website and provide a credit card number for the $2500 down payment, then wait for a delivery date. No haggling, no sleazy car dealers deal with. My bank made it easy too, with a special loan program expressly for Teslas.

The car was delivered to my house in December 2018. The guy who brought it was a maintenance worker at the factory. They were scrapping for any available delivery driver at the time! I offered to drive him back to Fremont, but he was insistent on taking an Uber back.


The car felt like it was from the future, and honestly it still does. From the silent driveline to the very well executed touchscreen, to the lack of guages or buttons, but still everything you really need is at your fingertips. The car is softly sprung and stiffly damped which gives it a comfortable and sporty feeling that is really unique to this car.

It's as quick in a straight line as the 2005 BMW M3 that I bought new for $75K, and is arguably a better daily driver. The M3 still beats it when it comes to at-the-limit driving, since Tesla's traction control cannot be deactivated. They weigh about the same (3,600 lbs). The RWD Tesla has a 40/60 front/rear weight distribution, so in some ways it feels like a 911 in how it goes around corners (not at the limit of course!)

Daily Driving

It's worth restating that this is the best daily driver car I've ever had. It's quiet, quick, great handling, comfortable, has great seats, and a great sounding stereo. The little features like automatic lock/unlock with proximity to your phone, automatic garage door closing, a mobile app that is actually good, etc etc etc. I could go on for a long time about all the little convenience functions in the car.

In owning and driving the car, it's obvious that Tesla took a holistic customer-experience-first approach to designing the car and its features, which produces a far better product than established manufacturers' approach of having various departments "own" parts of the car, designing them in relative isolation. Tesla's approach is a lot more like Apple's and it really shows. No other car that I've been in comes close at all to the seamless experience of operating the car. For example - there is no on/off switch. Opening the door powers up the HVAC system and turns on the touchscreen. Sit down, put it in drive, and drive.

One feature that I think doesn't get enough attention is the regenerative braking and one-pedal driving. This is the car's default mode, and I think it's awesome. In this mode, letting off of the gas pedal will bring the car to a comfortable stop (about 0.2g of deceleration). By comfortable, I mean it slows down at a very normal rate like a good driver. It rewards driving with attention, since you never have to move your foot to the brake pedal unless you need to stop in a hurry. Regenerative braking uses the electric motor as a generator to convert your momentum back into energy and recharges the battery. In a normal car, that momentum is converted to heat by the car's brakes, which is a total waste!


People have the impression that they think that Teslas are luxury cars and only for rich people. The same people are driving Suburbans and Lexuses and BMWs that cost as much or more than this car to purchase, and are far more expensive to operate.

In the 37,268 miles I've driven, I've consumed 10,420 kilowatt-hours of energy. Aside from the rare road trip, I charge my car at off-peak times at home. Off-peak power where I live is relatively expensive - about $0.25 per kilowatt hour. This gives a total of roughly $2,500 in electricity cost for all four years that I've owned the car - $50 per month!

A similar gasoline-burning car with similar performance, generously giving it about 35MPG would take 1,000 gallons of gas to go this far. That's over $5,000 in gas to go the same distance. Twice as expensive!

Maintenance-wise, I have done nothing to the car except change the cabin air filter at about 2 years ($100) and I had to replace the tires about about 25,000 miles. I got new wheels and tires soon after I got the car, and went with the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, which is a very "fun" tire rather than a "long lasting" tire. The brakes still look brand new -- regenerative braking basically eliminates the need to actually use the brakes except when you need to stop in a hurry, so the brake rotors don't even have a grooved lip like you'd expect from a normal car at this mileage. There are no oil changes or other periodic maintenance items to pay for.

Compare this with a similar BMW, which would have had at least 3 oil changes ($150 each if you have a good/cheap mechanic), close to needing a set of brakes (>$500).

In sum: this is an economy car!


As I mentioned above, for the most part I charge the car at home. For me, it's far more convenient to plug the car in the once per week it needs to be plugged in versus going to the gas station. Exit the car, plug it in, and it takes care of charging itself overnight when electricity is cheap. The wall-mounted charger I use was about $400 (I bought it when I got the e-Golf), and it cost another $200 to have an electrician run a 30A circuit to a receptacle that the wall charger plugs into.

Longer road trips require a tiny bit of planning ahead, though the car's nav system will take you to superchargers appropriately on its own. Tesla's Supercharger network is incredibly well thought out. There are always banks of 8-20 chargers, so if there is ever a wait, it's been minimal (just a few minutes if that). The chargers are located close to food or coffee, so it's always been a nice opportunity after a few hours driving to take a little break and stretch my legs. 15-30 minutes is the right amount of time for a quick break, then it's back on the highway.


I've never regretted getting this car. For the money, it really can't be beat - by a long shot.