Don‘t Buy a Tesla Model 3 Until You Read This

The Tesla Model 3 took the electric vehicle world by storm when it was first announced in 2016. Offering impressive range, technology, and performance at a more affordable price point than Tesla‘s luxury Model S and Model X, hundreds of thousands lined up to put down $1,000 deposits to get on the waitlist.

Over 5 years later, the Tesla Model 3 remains one of the most popular EVs on the market. But is it the right choice for you? Here‘s what you need to know before taking the plunge into Model 3 ownership.

Tesla Model 3: The Good

There are many reasons why the Model 3 continues to dominate EV sales charts:

Exhilarating Performance

While EVs used to get a bad rap for being slow, that stereotype gets completely obliterated by the Model 3. Even the most basic Model 3 can go from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. Step up to the Performance model with larger 20" wheels, lowered suspension, high-performance brakes and a carbon fiber spoiler, and you‘ll hit 60 mph in a neck-snapping 3.1 seconds. No other EV in this price range comes close.

Impressive Range

Thanks to Tesla‘s expertise with batteries and drive systems, the Model 3 can easily achieve 300+ miles on a single charge. The Long Range model is EPA rated for 358 miles range. For context, the next longest range EV below $45,000 is the Hyundai IONIQ 5 at 303 miles.

Constant Over-the-Air Updates

Tesla is unique among automakers in using an over-the-air software update system similar to how your smartphone gets updated. This allows them to frequently push new features, fixes, and enhancements to Model 3 vehicles. Your car is kept fresh through the air, no dealership visit required. Recent updates included an upgraded UI, new camera-based wiper controls, and Disney+ integration.

Leading Self-Driving Tech

Every Tesla Model 3 comes standard with Autopilot – the company‘s advanced driver assistance system. Autopilot handles accelerating, braking, steering and lane changes on highways when engaged. Tesla is a leader in self-driving development, gathering data from hundreds of thousands of cars on real-world roads to improve automation. While still considered a "Level 2" system requiring full driver supervision, Tesla‘s Autopilot provides a glimpse of what the future could bring.

Potential Downsides to Consider

Of course, even the wildly popular Tesla Model 3 isn‘t perfect. There are some key things you should know that may factor into your buying decision:

Sparse Interior Controls Take Adjustment

Unlike a traditional car interior with dozens of buttons and knobs, the Model 3 interior is exceptionally minimalist. The lone 15" centrally-mounted touchscreen controls nearly all vehicle functions from navigation to music to AC settings. While sleek, this takes major adjustment coming from normal cars. Be ready to navigate through menus and submenus for tasks that are normally just a button away.

Reliability Concerns Persist

In Consumer Reports surveys, Tesla still ranks near the bottom on reliability. Paint issues, body panel alignment problems, haphazard craftsmanship, and electronic glitches continue to plague even newer Model 3 vehicles. Build quality is improving but still trails Toyota, Honda and other brands. Make sure you thoroughly inspect any Model 3 you purchase.

Repairs Require Service Centers

There are no independent Tesla mechanics, so all repair work has to go through Tesla‘s service centers. While their services are quick and work is under warranty, you may have to travel decent distances to have issues diagnosed and fixed. Not convenient when something goes wrong.

Charging Ecosystem fragmented

The proprietary Tesla connector means Model 3 owners can‘t take advantage of the expansive non-Tesla public charging networks (like Electrify America or ChargePoint) without paying ~$400 for a CHAdeMO adapter (still limited to 50kW). Tesla‘s Supercharger network mitigates this with exclusive access to ultra-fast charging for road trips, but still a hassle around town.

Model 3 vs Other EVs

How does the Tesla Model 3 stack up against rivals entering the increasingly crowded EV space? Here‘s a high-level comparison on range, performance and price between the Model 3 and other EVs gaining popularity:

Model 3 EV Comparison Table

A few things stand out:

  • The Hyundai IONIQ 5 nearly matches the Model 3 Long Range on range and undercuts it by over $5k on starting price. However it‘s considerably slower with a ho-hum 0 to 60 mph time over 8 seconds.

  • The just-released Kia EV6 posts extremely impressive range and charging speed numbers thanks to its cutting-edge 800V electrical architecture. It gives the Model 3 a run on performance too. Build quality is also better than the Tesla. Downsides are less range than the Long Range 3 and lack of Tesla‘s charging network and self-driving tech.

  • The Ford Mustang Mach E is arguably the closest direct alternative to the feel of the Model 3 with its tech-focused interior and fast acceleration. Range and performance specs are in the same ballpark. However, the Tesla brand cachet is hard to ignore for image-conscious buyers.

  • Even the lowly Chevy Bolt beats the Model 3 base model on some range metrics thanks to its efficiency. However its dorky subcompact hatchback design lacks the prestige and curb appeal of the sleek Tesla sedan. Performance and interior tech are also big steps down.

As more automakers expand their EV lineups, alternatives to the once dominant Model 3 will continue increasing. Tesla still leads but the competitive gap is definitely narrowing each model year.

5 Tips for New EV Owners

If you decide to take the plunge on a Model 3 or any other EV, keep these suggestions in mind as you transition from gasoline:

Tip 1: Be aware of charging needs before trips – Plan routes ahead of time accounting for charger locations and charging times. Apps like PlugShare, A Better Routeplanner and Chargeway help simplify the process.

Tip 2: Take advantage of home charging – Install a NEMA 14-50 or Wall Connector charger to conveniently fuel your EV overnight. Costs vary but subsidies like federal tax credits can help offset.

Tip 3: Maintain batteries properly – Keep batteries plugged in when not in use, avoid extremely high/low charge states, and limit DC fast charging sessions to maintain long-term health.

Tip 4: Learn your utility rates – Electricity rates vary drastically by region, utility company and time of day. Understand peak/off-peak timings to minimize charging costs.

Tip 5: Embrace one-pedal driving – All EVs allow "one-pedal driving" where lifting off the accelerator aggressively regens, slowing the car. It takes adjustment but soon feels natural while maximizing efficiency.

Verdict: Should You Buy a Tesla Model 3?

The Model 3 remains incredibly alluring to prospective EV owners. It backs up its futuristic exterior design with legit performance, industry-leading technology and Tesla‘s charging network. Reliability issues persist but overall owner satisfaction remains very positive. New lower pricing minus credits and emerging competition are chipping away at the value proposition though.

Here‘s my take on whether to take the Model 3 leap now or wait it out:

Buy Now If: You highly value performance, latest tech and self-driving capability AND lack current alternatives from brands you trust. Be ready to pay a premium and overlook some QC issues for the Tesla badge.

Wait If: You prioritize reliability, serviceability and interior quality over leading-edge features. Let Tesla work out production kinks and see how 2023 model year alternatives like the IONIQ 5 and EV6 flesh out first. More options benefit buyers.

Either way, the flood of new EVs hitting the market is great news all around. We‘re at the start of a massive transformation, and choices for innovative electric cars have never been better if the Model 3 doesn‘t fully convince you today. The EV future is bright!

What do you think – are you ready to buy a Tesla Model 3 or holding off for now? Let me know in the comments!

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