I’ve now had my Tesla Model 3 AWD for six months and 10,000 miles. Here are my impressions so far.
Overall, I still love the car and do not regret purchasing it at all.
My expenses have been:
Registration – $200 extra to make up for the lack of paying gas taxes
Tire Rotation (every 6,500 miles) – $24
Superchargers (road trips) – $43 (after burning through my 1,000 mile referral bonus)
Home Charging – about $70/month in electricity
Here are the highlights of the car:
Acceleration – The acceleration is immediate, amazing, and smooth. A friend of mine compared it to being on a roller coaster when it first shoots out of the station. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
Autopilot – Not to be confused with the Full Self Driving beta (FSD), Autopilot is basically lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control turned up to 11. You still need to keep a hand on the wheel and need to pay attention, but it makes highway driving for road trips so much easier.
Comfort – Another road trip benefit. The seats are very comfortable. I was perfectly fine even after a 12+ hour road trip to New England.
Software Updates – For some reason the car was delivered a couple of versions behind on the software, and it took 3-4 weeks before they started showing up. That was frustrating, but apparently is typical. After that initial delay, however, they began showing up regularly. I know some people didn’t care for the V11 update but I was OK with it.
Supercharger Network – These are everywhere. A couple of months into owning the car I took a trip to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. I had no issues finding Tesla Superchargers along my route. Other people have made this observation before, but I actually found it relaxing to have to stop every three hours or so to get out of the car and charge for 15-20 minutes. A charging session takes longer than gassing up, but you can plug the car in and walk away. Most of the charging stations are at convenience stores, and by the time I was done in there the car was close to being ready to go anyway.
I have had a few minor issues with the car since purchasing it:
Clearance – The Model 3 has roughly the same clearance as a Honda Civic. You have to be mindful of some uphill turns or you might scrape. Fortunately the bottom of the car is well protected.
Rattling – When I’m driving on some bumpy or poorly maintained roads (for example, 80% of local WV driving), I can sometimes hear a rattling coming from either the seat belt connector or the back seat. First world problems, I know. Tesla service found the issue with the back seat, but I’m waiting for a part to come in. For the seat belt, I found a fix on YouTube.
Water in Camera – One time after washing the car I got some moisture trapped inside the drivers side rear-facing camera. This disabled the camera. As a result, Autopilot was entirely disabled. Again, fixed by Tesla Service.
In my original post I recommended a number of accessories. All of them have turned out to be great and useful except for the sun screens. They might be good, I just haven’t used them yet.
Having the car for six months has given me some additional insights into the two biggest objections to going with an EV:
Range Anxiety – This is a non-issue. I charge at home every night, and for daily driving have the battery set to 70% capacity. I pull out of the garage every morning with a 250 mile range, more than enough for anything I’m doing during the day, including my 80 mile round trip to work and back. It’s really nice not even having to think about stopping for gas.
Battery Wear – The battery is warranted to maintain at least 70% capacity for ten years, which is still 250 miles. That’s the range that the VW ID.4 comes with now. That said, battery costs have been declining rapidly. By the time my car needs a new battery, the replacement will be much cheaper and/or have a much higher capacity. I’m not worried about it.
Getting the Tesla has definitely been a positive experience. I would encourage anyone looking at switching to an EV to do whatever you can to make charging at home an option, though. The benefit is definitely diminished if you can’t do that.
There are a number of states where you can’t purchase a Tesla directly. West Virginia is one of them. Your only option is to order online and pick it up in a neighboring state.
So this is a guide to doing that based on my own experience.
Why I Purchased a Tesla
Let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t think I’m saving the world. I am aware that the initial environmental cost for the construction of an electric vehicle (EV) is actually higher than for an internal combustion engine (ICE) car. I am also aware that currently the vast majority of electricity in my state is produced from fossil fuels (mostly coal).
One study I read said I’d have to drive around 70,000 miles before I made a net-positive environmental impact. If you want to look at it another way, this is your opportunity to drive a coal-powered car in West Virginia!
So why do it? Here are my reasons:
Maintenance: The only maintenance items are tires, brakes, and wipers. No oil changes, no 50,000 service, no mufflers, no belt changes, etc.
Financial: The move to EVs is coming. I read an article about a year ago predicting that 2018/2019 ICE cars may be the last to have a good trade-in value. Of course, that was before the big chip shortage. Related to that, with the chip shortage and spiking used car values, this seemed a good time to trade-in my 2018 car and make the jump.
Convenience: With home charging, I liked the idea of leaving every day “with a full tank of gas” and never having to stop at a gas station. Or paying attention to gas prices.
Updates: A Tesla is like an iPhone that you drive around in. And like an iPhone, it gets frequent software updates with new features.
Resale Value: Teslas hold their value really well. In fact, with the ordering backlog, I’ve read that some used ones are selling for more than new ones because they’re available immediately (and because people are insane).
Curiosity: I just really want the experience of owning an EV to see what all the fuss is about.
Owner Satisfaction: Everyone I know who has a Tesla loves it and wouldn’t go back to driving anything else.
Typically I get a car and drive it into the dirt. I traded my last car in at 120K miles, and only because my wife wanted me to drive a car with the latest safety features (she likes me or something). During a discussion about this, a friend of mine wondered if it made more sense to get an EV and drive that into the dirt rather than your current ICE vehicle. That’s the theory I went with here.
Choosing a Car
In my case I chose the Model 3. Most of the time it will be just me driving the car to work, so I didn’t need anything big, and I didn’t have a need for the extra space to justify the additional expense of a Model Y.
However, I did want to shell out the extra money for AWD and longer range because of the weather here (and range anxiety). I opted against the performance package since frankly I’m not that interested and the range actually decreases, which seems counter-productive.
The next step was color. White was the first obvious choice because it’s the least expensive and looks nice. However I feel like most Teslas I see are white, a lot of cars in general are white, and my current car is white. Also, I didn’t like the look of the default 18” wheels when paired with a white body. The 19” wheel upgrade looks good with white, but now you’re up to the same price as choosing another color, and you actually lose range with the 19” wheels.
I don’t like Tesla’s red and blue. That’s just a me thing.
So it was down to upgrading to black or grey with the default 18” wheels. My wife, my daughter, and I all independently choose the grey, so I felt pretty good about that.
You definitely want to check with your insurance company on how your rates will change after purchasing the Tesla. Mine wouldn’t change much, but I’ve heard stories of people having to switch companies because their current company wanted to massively increase their rate for having a Tesla.
Placing the Order
Just like any car, you pay for your Tesla through a combination of an optional vehicle trade-in, optional financing, and cash. Your total cost will be the car itself (based on your selected trim and options), a $1,200 destination fee, and a $4 tire fee.
You will have to put down a non-refundable deposit when you order, but this comes out of your final cost when you settle up before delivery.
I decided not to purchase Full Self Driving since it was in beta and can be purchased for the same price later anyway. That ended up being a smart move since they offered a month-by-month option shortly after I ordered.
Don’t just accept the trade-in offer from Tesla. It’s a joke. You seriously want to shop around. Try Carvana or CarMax. Look into other local dealerships who are buying used cars. I ended up finding a local dealership that purchased my car for $2,500 more than Tesla offered, matching the offer from CarMax. That saved me a trip to the DC area.
This wasn’t as bad as the trade in. I actually got a competitive rate on the financing through Tesla and went with it.
Between selling my car and cash, I covered about 60% of the cost of the car and financed the remaining 40%.
The Ordering Process
When I was purchasing my Tesla, I had a chat session open with a sales rep. She offered to stay on the chat if I had any questions during the ordering process, which was nice. My advice: If you want to do this, do the actual order in a separate window. I lost the chat session on the second or third screen in the ordering process.
However, literally as soon as I hit submit on the page with my contact info, I got a call from my personal sales contact with Tesla. I wasn’t even done with the whole ordering process! He was also super helpful and offered to answer any questions I had. He also gave me a number where I could text him with questions.
He told me my car would take about 9 weeks. On the website it said 11-17 weeks. Turns out he was dead-on.
There are a number of items you should take care of while you wait for your car. Fortunately you have plenty of time to do it.
Change Delivery Location
By default, Tesla sends all WV deliveries to the dealership in MD. You can move it by calling the dealership you want to move it to and giving your order number. In my case my personal sales contact was able to move it to the Wexford, PA dealership. That’s a 90 minute drive for me vs a 3 hour drive. Someone from Tesla Operations told me that only PA residents can pick up their cars in PA for tax reasons or somesuch. Totally wrong. You can pick up in PA. The Wexford dealership does it all the time.
Prepare Home Charging
You really want to be able to charge at home. It’s best if you’re able to park in your garage.
In my case, the Telsa purchase kicked off a month-long process of purging and reorganizing so we could finally — after being in this house for ten years — park both cars in the garage. It’s tight, but it works.
For home charging, I went with having a 220v 14-50 outlet (like for an electric stove) installed in the garage, close to where I’ll be parking the car. I then purchased the 14-50 adapter for the charging cable that comes with the car. That’s $45 vs $500 for a fancy Tesla wall charger. The Tesla charger has a slightly better charging rate, but if it’s charging overnight anyway, who cares if it charges an hour faster while I’m asleep?
Purchase Other Items
There are some other items you may want to consider purchasing for your car. You don’t have to order them before you get the car, but you might want to have them from day 1.
This is not a normal car. It’s worth it to read through the manual a couple of times. I keep finding new stuff every time I look through it.
This is the worst part, the waiting.
There’s really nothing to see here. When it’s time to actually do something, Tesla will email and/or text you. If you want to torture yourself, you can login periodically and watch your estimated delivery dates bounce around.
That’s what I did. I even made a chart.
You’ll note that the chart does in fact converge on my actual delivery date as the days progress, except for one point where it was just the end of the quarter. Also, that the very first date range ended up being really accurate!
OK, I lied, there is one thing you can watch for: The VIN. When the car has left the factory and is about two weeks from delivery, the VIN will appear on your account and your delivery date range should stabilize. Some time over the next few days you will need to set up insurance using that VIN, and upload the insurance information to your account. You can’t take delivery of the car without that.
Eventually, you will get an email letting you know that it’s time to schedule your delivery appointment! Just follow the link and schedule a date and time. I’ve heard you only have so many days to pick up your Tesla, but in my case I scheduled for the second day that was available since that’s the first day we could both be off work to go up and get it.
After you schedule, you’ll quickly get a second email to pay off the non-financed balance. The one thing with this is they use Plaid to handle the payment. It only works with certain banks, and you have to give Plaid the username and password for your account with the bank. Yikes.
So be prepared for that.
Exactly 24 hours before your delivery date, you’ll get another email letting you know your purchase agreements are ready for review. Here you want to verify that your full name and address are correct and that the VIN is correct.
You may want to print out the proof of payment to bring with you just in case.
This would be a good time to download the Tesla app for your phone.
The Wexford dealership is in a strange location. It’s behind a strip-mall/office building. You drive around to the left of the building to get to the dealership. It’s a narrow pass that’s easy to miss.
I brought all my paperwork with me, but I only ended up needing my license and proof of insurance (they said the one I uploaded was “blurry” for some reason). There was a sign on the door asking you to wear a mask in the building, so we did, but we were the only ones there wearing masks.
We met our delivery rep, he made a copy of my license, and he led us to the car. It was inside and charged to 88%. The car came set to charge to up to 90% by default.
Some people have put out delivery day checklists. However, it looks like the Wexford dealership has already adopted something similar. When we were shown the car, our delivery rep said the car had already passed their “pre-delivery check”. He left us alone with the car for a few minutes, and I checked a bunch of stuff out, but didn’t find any issues.
When he returned I signed the final paperwork to accept delivery along with paperwork for my temporary PA plate and for them to send me the package to self-register for WV (and pay the WV sales tax). We also set up my phone as a key.
After that, I was on my way. I’d recommend stopping before you go too far and do the following:
Connect your phone via bluetooth. This is different from setting it up as a key and allows you to access music and send/receive text messages.
Set the car to auto-lock when you walk away.
Create a driver profile and adjust the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors.
Driving the car was disconcerting at first, but once I got used to it, it was a blast. I found myself laughing out loud at the acceleration when I needed to pass a truck on I79 on the way home.
We made several stops to do some shopping while we were up there, but I still had 55% battery when I returned home. I plugged it in, and it was up to 65% after only a couple of hours and we took it out again. It easily charged back to 90% overnight.
There are a number of configuration settings I recommend after you get home:
Set max charge: My car was set to 90%. I’ve heard 70%-80% is even better for preserving the battery. Take it up to 100% for road trips only.
WiFi: Connect your car to your home network.
There are a couple of additional items you should consider:
This, I think, is the big whiff from Tesla. Homelink doesn’t come with the car. It’s a $325 option that they mail to you, then you have to have them install it for you. At least the installation is included in the price. When you get it, don’t open the box. They won’t install it if the box has been opened.
(I had the bright idea of ordering it early and calling the dealership to have it installed immediately after getting the car. At the time they said that wouldn’t be a problem, but when I called back to arrange it after setting my delivery date, they said their service department was too busy and actually couldn’t do it — so sorry)
Tesla service is really backed up. When I went to schedule the installation, the closest date was a month from now! Our delivery rep said that mobile service was available since we live so far away, but that didn’t show up as an option when I scheduled. The Wexford dealship suggested sending a message along with the appointment, requesting mobile service. I did that, and got a message back the next business day letting me know the appointment had been switched to a home install. Only a week sooner, but at least I don’t have to make that drive!
Other Tesla owners (and mechanics) highly recommended getting a set of Lift Pucks to protect the battery when the car goes on a lift, for example to rotate the tires.
I’m really impressed with this car and I’m glad I made the switch. I was about halfway home when I thought “I’m so glad I did this. This car is amazing.” If you have any corrections or additions for this guide, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!