Owning a Tesla – Expectations vs. Reality

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Do you have a Tesla? Thinking about buying one? If you are, please use my referral code, we’ll both get 1,000 free supercharger miles!

Owning a Tesla has been quite the experience – here are my expectations vs. what I experienced in reality after a year of owning this wonderful car.

Was it Expensive?

This was, of course, one of my main concerns when buying the car. The model I purchased, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus, was about $40,000 including the autopilot. Now, I’m a teacher, so that’s no small change at all. I heard my brother had got a loan for around $500 a month, which is of course steep, but when you factor in the savings on gas, etc, it’s not terrible.

Unfortunately, my loan was far less generous. I was only able to get a 60-month loan instead of a 72 month, so it’s significantly more per month. Does it make life a little harder to pay that monthly bill? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.

Does it really drive itself?

When I was researching the car before buying it, I couldn’t believe that it actually drove itself. I had my doubts about the autopilot feature and thought I would be the kind of person who messed around with it occasionally but didn’t actually use it very much… The idea of taking my hands off the wheel freaked me out.

Today, I use the autopilot function constantly. Any time I drive and there are lines on the road, I hit the button and boom – it keeps the speed I set it at, stays in the lane, and adjusts the speed automatically when I get too close to another car. Also? It changes lanes automatically when I turn on the blinker. After a year with this car, I genuinely trust the auto lane change more than I trust my own eyes when changing lanes.

Nowadays, my commute to work is actually one of my favorite times of the day. For a good 75% of the drive, I barely touch the wheel. I can put on music, relax, and even meditate. Of course, I still pay attention to the road, and if anything unexpected happens I can take over immediately, but man. This feature has really changed my life.

Does it come with a stigma?

Short answer? Yes. I was worried about this when I first got the car, and my fears were generally true. I definitely get lots of looks driving around in this car, especially since I live in an area where I am probably the only Tesla owner. People assume I am rich, which is ridiculous. In fact, I actually struggle financially partly because of the car’s monthly payments. It’s dumb to assume I am rich based on my car.

The annoying thing about this is that I see so many cars in my neighborhood that easily cost as much as mine. From the Audi across the street to the BMWs and Proches I see driving around, it really makes no sense to think Tesla drivers are any more well-off.

Is it really cheaper to drive than a gas car?

When I bought the car, I had done all the math about how much it would “save” me. I outlined this in my previous article about my adventures in the car. Yes, the electricity is about half the price of driving a standard sedan that gets 25 MPG. However,  it doesn’t pay for itself. If you currently drive a pickup truck or an SUV, it actually might, or it might be close. There’s no gas, no oil to change, and very little maintenance.

Don’t expect it to pay for itself, though. It is a pretty expensive car. And these days, with the current COVID-19 outbreak, gas prices are at a historic low. It’s still cheaper to drive electric, but by quite a bit less.

Is charging inconvenient?

I was definitely worried about this one since I bought the car while living in Brooklyn. The only charger near my apartment was at the Botanical Gardens, where you had to pay $6 to park for an hour and charge. Definitely not ideal. But, we were moving to Rhode Island soon, where we would live right near a supercharger. I only needed to go and charge there once or twice a week for half an hour or so.

Not too long later, I finally bit the bullet and paid around $400 to have someone come and install a stage 2 charging outlet in my garage. It’s the same kind of outlet used for RVs and electric stoves Now, I have 0 problems whatsoever. I wake up every morning with 200+ miles on the car.

For road trips, I have never had any problems at all. There’s always a supercharger along the way, and I don’t find myself stopping any more often than I would to go to the bathroom in any other car.

So, if you live in New York, it could be kind of annoying. Check on superchargers in the area before you buy.

Is it a pain to fix?

I was worried that it would be difficult and expensive to fix this car. Just a couple weeks after I got it, I was keyed in Brooklyn in two places… I drove the 45 minutes to the only certified Tesla body shop, where I got a quote for $1,300 to fix it. Needless to say, the scratch is still there. To their credit, Tesla did do a touch-up for free, so the scratch is much less noticeable.

Last July, I was also sideswiped by a tractor trailer truck. I tried to get it to pull over, but it refused. Luckily, the Tesla has several dash cams. You can watch my footage here. As you can see, he was caught red-handed! It took forever to get the insurance in order, but in the end it was 100% paid for. Annoyingly, though, the nearest certified shop is an hour drive and one state over though…

So, yes. They’re a pain to get fixed. But the dash cam feature is a life saver!

Can you use it for Uber?

I was into this idea before even buying the car, and I finally got my car all registered with Uber last December. It is actually a lot of fun! People love the car, and many have never been in a Tesla before. They marvel at the autopilot and the other little easter eggs in the car.

It’s fun for the extra cash, but it isn’t enough to fully pay for the car. For me, it’s just a fun side gig. Were I to do it for a whole summer, it might go a long way in making my monthly payments on the car.

One annoying thing about Uber is that the Model 3 doesn’t qualify for Uber Black, so you can’t do the more expensive rides. Other models, like the Model S, do qualify. Kind of dumb that a $40,000 car can’t qualify…

Of course, my Ubering is also on hold for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. I’m excited to get back to it when this is all over!

What’s With Dog Mode?

I had seems some funny images on the internet of Tesla’s Dog Mode feature. we had one dog and we’re planning on getting another, so the dog friendliness of the car was important to us. Turns out, we use dog mode all the time! It locks the doors, keeps the climate control on, and has a cute message informing passersby of the temperature.

Keeping the car undamaged by our doggos has been a challenge we bought a seat cover, but it soon fell apart. We bought door covers, but they’re kind of annoying. Definitely consider spending a bit extra for quality protection from your furry friends!

Do you have a Tesla? Thinking about buying one? If you are, please use my referral code, we’ll both get 1,000 free supercharger miles!

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