Have You Driven a Tesla? (My Thoughts)

I’m not a car person. In 2007, I bought a used Toyota Camry, and I happily drove it for 14 years. It got me from place to place, didn’t break down, and had seat warmers, so I was happy.

I used those 14 years to put away a little money every month so I’d be able to buy a car when the Camry could no longer do its job. I had the fanciful idea that I could keep the Camry until there were self-driving cars (or, even better, flying cars!), and then I’d buy one.

Then, a few years ago, along came the Tesla Model 3.

Again, I’m not a car person, but I’ve been enamored with this car. It represented a massive leap in technology, like going from flip phones to the iPhone. Among all of its amazing features was self driving, years before I thought possible. And, while expensive, it really wasn’t that much more than the nicest version of a brand-new Camry.

But I didn’t need a car. I had a perfectly functional vehicle, and when the pandemic struck, I barely drove anymore (though that’s changed with disc golf). So I just salivated while watched YouTube videos about the Model 3.

Then one day a friend’s car broke down. I had mentioned to a few friends that I was starting to think about getting a new car and if they ever really needed a car, I could use that as an excuse to give them my Camry and get the Tesla.

So I did. I ordered a long-range Tesla Model 3 online in early January and drove it off the lot in February when it was ready. I’d never driven a Model 3 or even been inside a Tesla before that moment. I was actually hoping it would be delivered to me (as some Teslas are), but that option wasn’t available in my area.

While there are a few aspects of the car that could be better (I’ll mention them in a minute), it truly is a joy to drive. So today I thought I’d mention my favorite aspects of the Tesla Model 3 in case you’re considering it.

  1. Autopilot: This works how I imagine magic working in real life. Wherever there are lines on the road, you can shift the car into autopilot, and it takes over for you. You’re still the driver, but you’re no longer exhausting your full mental capacity to consume all of the information you need to get from one place to another. And the car doesn’t get tired or distracted, and unlike you, it sees in 360 degrees. I thought it would take me weeks to trust the car to drive itself, but it literally took 30 seconds.
  2. No Keys: The key to get in and out of a Tesla is your phone (there are backup key cards in your wallet if necessary), and the car turns on when you open the door. There’s no ignition (you don’t turn a key on your computer when you turn it on, right?). You just tap the brake, shift to drive, and go. When you’re done, you simply get out of the car and walk away (you’ll hear a little honk when it locks itself). These are all little things, but think about how often you fiddle with your keys when you get in and out of your car. There’s no fiddling here.
  3. Acceleration: Okay, this was one of the biggest surprises to me. I knew Teslas could accelerate, but I didn’t care. Again, I’m not a car person–I don’t need to go 0 to 60 in five seconds. But as it turns out, I’m faced with situations all the time when I need to speed up to avoid trouble, especially when making a left turn across multiple lanes. It’s still my least favorite maneuver to make in a car, but as soon as I complete the turn, I can instantly match the speed of any other cars. It’s effortless for the Telsa because there’s no engine–it feels like driving a remote-control car. This does have a slight downside, though. Unlike normal cars, there’s no feedback from the car that you’re going faster, so it’s way too easy to go from 60 to 80 without realizing it. So I highly recommend switching to Chill mode, which adds a touch of resistance to acceleration. But you can still fly when you need to.
  4. Heated Seats and Steering Wheel: All 5 seats in my car are heated, as is the steering wheel. I’ll rarely use the back seats for that purpose, but in the front, my cold hands and butt are incredibly happy.
  5. No Need for Brakes: I had no idea about this feature when I bought the Tesla. Basically, when you take your foot off the accelerator, the car completely stops trying to move forward. It’s not quite the same as braking–it’s not a jolting stop–but it rapidly deaccelerates. What this means is that you hardly ever need to use the brake pedal, and you’ll hardly ever need to replace your brakes. Tesla calls it “one-pedal driving,” and it’s oddly satisfying.
  6. Voice Commands: There’s a little button near my right thumb on the steering wheel that I can press to ask the car to do pretty much anything. It doesn’t always understand, but there’s quite a bit it can do. I like that this helps me keep my focus on the road instead of on the controls.
  7. No Gas: This is obvious about an electric car and completely surreal the first time you plug it in, but it’s still kind of miraculous. No gas and no more gas stations. Sure, on long trips I’ll need to stop at a supercharger, but for 99% of my driving, all I need to do is plug it into a normal electrical outlet and it’s fine.
  8. Wireless Phone Charging: This is just a pleasant touch. I can put my phone at an angle on the center console, and the car will charge it. The one downside is that it’s very easy to get out of the car with my phone inside, so I really hope Tesla adds an optional alert as soon as the seat no longer senses me.
  9. Full Seat Adjustments: Speaking of the seat, it’s the most adjustable seat I’ve ever had in a car. After my first drive, I had trouble seeing the lights of cars behind me, so I raised the entire seat up a few inches to give me a better angle. The steering wheel has a full range of adjustments too. Whenever you change either of them, the car prompts you to save the new setting so you can quickly revert to it after someone else drives it.
  10. Three Trunks: The car has three trunks! There’s the normal back trunk, a trunk in the front of the car (again, no engine), and a trunk under the back trunk. I don’t know why this is so exciting to me, but I like how clean the car looks with the few things I store in it kept in the trunk under the trunk.
  11. Phone Connectivity: My phone talks to my car wherever I am, so if I ever need to warm up or cool down the car a few minutes before getting inside, I can do that from my phone. My favorite feature, though, is if I look up a destination on Google Maps on my phone, I can send the destination to the Tesla so when I get inside, it already knows to start navigating there.
  12. Quiet: Because of the lack of an engine, the car is incredibly quiet. I love that.
  13. Huge navigation screen: A Tesla has a crystal-clear touch screen that is around 10x larger than a cell phone, which is what I was used to looking at for GPS. Imagine watching TV on a screen 10x smaller than your current TV. It’s really, really nice to have the bigger screen.

Aside from the minor quibbles above, the only element I wish were a little different is the need for wi-fi to update the Tesla’s software. The car’s evolution depends on those updates, and I park pretty far from my condo, so I’m not quite sure how those updates will happen unless I really drain my phone’s wi-fi pairing capabilities (which only works when the car is in park).

I’m so impressed with what Tesla has done. I’m sure there are plenty of criticisms of Elon Musk and Tesla specifically, but the car really feels like someone looked 10 years in the future and said, “Let’s not wait until then.” It’s to the point that as much as I hope you have the chance to drive a Tesla, I wouldn’t recommend doing so until you’re ready to buy one, as you might not be able to resist.

That said, have you driven a Tesla? What did you think? In case you decide to get a Tesla, we can both get 1000 miles of supercharging if you use this link.

17 thoughts on “Have You Driven a Tesla? (My Thoughts)”

  1. I never drove one. And never had any interest in one – until I read your article! For the first time you made me interested in checking one out. 🙂

    Reply
  2. I am not a car person either but Teslas are amazing. My first car was a manual Saturn Vue (manual locks and crank windows too) but I still miss that car because it did everything I needed.

    I had the chance to test drive the Model 3 with my girlfriend last year and I was blown away by all of the features that were added to make the user’s experience even just fractionally better.

    My favorite part of the car was the lack of noise like you mentioned. The lack of sound paired with the lack of a transmission makes the car feel out of this world.
    The only aspect I didn’t like was the lack of tactile buttons/dials. I found that having everything on the tablet is not my preferred way to adjust sound, heat, etc.

    Reply
    • Parker, it may have changed since your test drive, but there are a few buttons on the steering wheel now, and I’ve been impressed by how well the voice controls cover the lack of buttons.

      Reply
  3. I have test driven the Model S twice, and would recommend anyone do the same. It’s out of my price range, plus I don’t currently live someplace you can charge an electric car, but the experience was truly mind-blowing. And you’re a brave one, Jamey, for buying a car without test-driving it first! 😉

    Reply
    • I thought about the Model S, but it’s quite a bit more expensive, and the Model 3 seemed to offer many of the same features. I’m curious about it, though!

      Reply
  4. Jamey,

    This is great!

    I test drove a Model X that a friend has a while back. I was majorly thrown off by the one-pedal driving!

    Can you tell us what settings and interior options you picked out for everything? Looks like you got the grey exterior, is that right?

    How do the seats feel? Perhaps this is TMI, but I find that my back and rear end have a sweaty sticky sensation on leathery-plasticky types of car seats. Do you think I’d experience this? For this reason, I’ve always gravitated to fabric type of seats.

    Would you ever consider buying a used Tesla? Why or why not?

    Congratulations on the fun purchase!

    Reply
    • Thanks Cody! The only modifications I made were the gray exterior and the long-range upgrade.

      I really like the seats, though I haven’t sat in them in hot weather yet, so it’s possible that will change.

      If the price was right, I would consider a used Tesla, yeah. The only big factor holding me back is that if you buy a new Model 3, you’re getting the best version of the Model 3 ever made. Like, a month before I got my car, Model 3s didn’t have heated steering wheels. But then they quietly added that feature, and now they all have it.

      Reply
  5. I live in the Silicon Valley; every third car here is a Prius or a Tesla. We’ve had a huge problem in the last year or so (just before the pandemic, I think) with thieves stealing catalytic converters off of Prius cars. That’s $3000-$4000 to replace. There wouldn’t be a catalytic converter in the Tesla, so that’s a plus. I’m not a car person either – and I currently own three Toyota vehicles: a 2004 Prius, a 2006 Sienna (to transport rescue dogs) and my 2015 Corolla.

    I’m sure the Tesla models are all comfy and supremely outfitted with features – the “dog in car” setting that lets you lock the doors but leave the air on for your dog in the summer is a thoughtful feature. I think I would probably start falling asleep at the wheel if I didn’t *need* to be watchful and alert. I also wonder if the thing would connect with an Android phone.

    It’s really far out of my price range, and I worry that I’d never be able to rely on it completely – would still need a gas or hybrid car to go on long trips. If I won the Lotto tomorrow, I’d probably go give them a look-see. I’d always thought I’d have a Subaru as a next vehicle due to the higher carriage. We’ll see!

    When you said you ‘gave’ your car to your friend – does that mean it was a gift, or did you sell it? I’m wondering because here I thought I was the only one who would give a car away to someone who really needed it. 🙂

    Reply
    • Sara: Wow, that’s a huge problem with catalytic converters!

      I had the same concern about simply not paying attention at all when the car drives itself, but the car requires you to keep your hand on the wheel, and every now and then it will tell you to apply pressure to the wheel. It wants you to be ready in case you need to take over.

      I gave my Camry as a gift–I hope it holds up for at least a few more years! And that’s generous of you to do the same for a friend. With a 2003 Camry, maybe I could have made a little money from it, but I’m happier to have given it to someone I know who really needs it.

      Reply
      • That’s so awesome of you! For me it started when my mother bought herself a Prius and gave her ‘bells & whistles’ Oldsmobile sedan to my father’s widow (who she’d never met). I love paying it forward.

        Reply
  6. This is great Jamey, thank you for sharing your thoughts. We’re in a fairly similar position (I’m also not really a card guy, been fine with my older car, and largely work from home). However, I’ve also been eyeing the Model 3 as a next car – so it’s great to hear thoughts from someone who has a similar use-case.

    I’m probably about 6months off from the purchase, and I’d love to hear an update from you in 4-6 months to see if any of your thoughts have changed, or if there are other things you’ve learned to appreciate!

    Reply

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