It’s in the news virtually every day. And not all of it is good: Production hell, cash shortages, wayward tweets from the CEO, threats from the SEC. Consumer Reports dropped the Model 3 from its recommendations because members say they’ve identified a number of problems with their cars. And yet, the same Consumer Reports says the Model 3 holds the top stop on its list of cars that owners say they will buy again. Tesla runs no ads or commercials for its vehicles. And yet, its Model 3 outsells the competitors at BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

In 2016, Daniel Mayeda stood in line at the Tesla store in Century City, California to place his deposit on the Model 3. In September of 2018, he took delivery on the car and never looked back. We asked him to tell all about life after Tesla Model 3 acquisition. He does. – The Editors

The Decision

In the Spring of 2016, I heard or read about the coming availability of a $35,000 all-electric car made by Tesla. I had seen the Model S on the road and liked its sleek look, as well as the concept of never having to stop at a gas station. I had never consciously thought about an electric car for me, in part due to the cost and in part out of a concern about the dreaded “range anxiety” that a friend who owned the original Nissan Leaf described to me.

But I was curious about an affordable Tesla so I started reading up on it. The Model 3 was intended to be an accessible electric that many could actually afford, especially after factoring in the $7500 federal tax credit, California’s $2500 electric car rebate, and savings in fuel and maintenance. My own commute was relatively short but I would be able to take the car on long trips and still never suffer range anxiety with a standard Model 3 battery. And, the early models of the car looked quite futuristic, with its glass roof and minimalist interior with the gigantic tablet in place of a dashboard.

In short, I was hooked.

High-fives from Elon Musk (Daniel Mayeda)

So, along with hundreds of others of all ages and backgrounds, I lined up early the morning of March 31, 2016 at Century City shopping mall to put $1000 on my credit card to reserve my spot on the waiting list for my Model 3. As a surprise bonus, Elon Musk himself made an appearance at that location, high-fiving the faithful as he walked the line (see photo). The fact that a few hundred thousand others also soon joined the queue, physically or digitally, only reinforced my feeling that I had made a sound decision.

Then came the wait.

Tesla was somewhat vague about the estimated delivery date of the cars, but I was initially led to believe they would be available for purchase by first day placeholders by the end of 2017. I liked my car, a 2012 Volvo S60 in a beautiful “vibrant copper,” and figured it would still be satisfied with it until then. But it was definitely annoying that the delivery date for the first cars kept getting pushed back, with the arrival of the basic $35,000 model nowhere in sight.

As this was going on, Elon was making other, unwelcome news with juvenile tweets about a British cave diver who helped rescue the Thai boys soccer team and taunting the SEC after being accused of making false statements to move the price of Tesla stock. I was beginning to wonder whether I should just give up waiting when, in September 2018, I was informed I could get a longer-range Model 3 for delivery within two weeks. It was time to do some serious number crunching.

A huge factor to me was the dwindling availability of the full federal tax credit. I learned that Tesla was selling so many cars that the credit would be dropping from $7500 to $3750 or even lower by the time the basic Model 3 would be available. I was also unsure about the availability of the California rebate into 2019. And no one at Tesla could tell me definitively what features the base Model 3 would have that were different than the long-range model (e.g., glass roof? Different interior?).

Penciling it all out, I determined that a long range Model 3 in September 2018 would only set me back a couple thousand more than waiting until Spring of 2019—and I would be getting a nicer and more valuable car if I bought right away. So, even though I originally signed up with the express motivation of buying a $35,000 electric car for the masses, I ended up the owner of a $49,000 rear wheel drive long range Model 3, plus a few thou more for metallic silver paint and 19” wheels.

And, I love it! It is the nicest, fastest, least expensive to operate and maintain, most technologically advanced, and, by far, “coolest” car I’ve ever owned.

Having virtually all of the dashboard controls on the center screen is a major adjustment (Timothy Artman)

The Adjustments

Driving adjustments from a gas motor to the Model 3 have been a breeze. I initially thought it would take awhile to get used to the regenerative braking but I got the knack of that by the second or third time I drove the car. Having to look to the right at the screen instead of at the dash directly in front of me took a bit longer but I am loving the massive navigation screen. The one kind of amusing thing that happened to both my wife and me, separately, is driving at night and having a momentary panic when looking straight ahead and seeing total darkness (“What happened?!? Are my lights off?”).

The Joys

The Tesla Model 3 is so fast, quiet, and smooth. It’s the first car I’ve driven in which you can actually feel yourself being pushed back into your seat when you floor it (which I sometimes do for fun on empty roads). It is also super comfortable, with the best seats of any car I’ve sat in. The back seats are also quite comfortable and I’ve been told, even on long trips, one is less inclined to get motion sickness because there is no claustrophobic feeling due to the expansive glass all around.

Every version of the Tesla Model 3 comes with the overhead glass roof (Timothy Artman)

I love the ease of setting and using the navigation system on the big screen. The woman’s voice giving turn-by-turn directions is the most pleasant and natural-sounding of any GPS system or app I’ve experienced. The audio system sounds great and the availability of so many music channels for streaming without having to subscribe to a music service has been an unexpected bonus. At first, I was surprised and a bit annoyed that the car has no antenna for Sirius XM service (whose news channels I’ve become addicted to) but then I figured out that I can access all of my Sirius channels via my phone since I have an all-access account for one of my other cars that allows me to listen to satellite radio on my phone or online, as well as listening to Sirius in my other car.

I appreciate the easy access to a phone charger in the center console—although enabling that space to charge a phone wirelessly via a Qi set-up would have been even better. I have made good use of the roomy trunk and the more secure “frunk” space as well. I like the way the car is able to automatically open my garage door as I approach it, while still giving me a chance to “skip” activation if I want.

One feature that I’ve come to really appreciate is being able to initiate interior cooling or heating prior to getting into the car. It is remarkable how fast the car can cool down even if all the windows are up and it has been baking in 95 degrees Palm Springs sun. Surprisingly, I have found that the all-glass roof does not make the interior hotter even on the brightest day. And although I didn’t think I would need to use it much, the ability to pre-heat the seats remotely (even all three seat spaces in the back) has been a fun toy in this unusually cold Southern California winter. In general, the ventilation system, with its excellent adjustability, has kept me comfortable inside the car no matter what the weather is like outside.

I love that Tesla regularly sends out software updates to the car and that I don’t have to pay for them. This gives owners the feeling that we have a car that is going to be kept technologically up to date. That resale values are the highest in the industry for the Model 3 is testament to the fact that this is a car that is not likely to feel as old as quickly as other cars.

Finally, there is real joy in being able to pass up gas stations without a thought and plugging it a couple of times a week into the NEMA 14-50 outlet I had installed in my garage. Since I had been generating more electricity than I was consuming with my rooftop solar panels, it doesn’t seem so far that I will be seeing a big increase in my electric bill. That my car use does not contribute to poor air quality or climate change is also a great psychic benefit.

That glossy black console surface is a dust and smudge magnet. Some owners have resorted to vinyl wrapping the surface as an aftermarket fix (Timothy Artman)

The Quibbles

Nothing is perfect and there are some minor things that I don’t care for, that are an annoyance, or that I wish Tesla had done differently. For example, the center console is finished with a glossy black surface that shows dust and smudges. The finish seems inconsistent with other parts of the interior and I wish those parts had a matte black finish instead. There is no ideal or dedicated place to put your sunglasses so you have to buy an aftermarket cheap plastic tray to fit in one of the compartments for that purpose. I think it is a bit silly that the only way to open the glove compartment is by touching the screen a couple of times.

A bigger annoyance is that with some frequency, there is a delay before the car unlocks from the outside. On occasion, I have to take my phone out of my pocket before the car unlocks. (Still, I do like not having to carry a large key fob and worry about battery replacement.)

Basically out of principle (remember, I had been holding out for the $35,000 base model), I refused to pay thousands of dollars extra for Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving capability when I bought my car. Even with the price reduction to add Autopilot, I have resisted adding it. But if one is buying a $50,000 car-of-the-future, it seems to me that a feature such as traffic-aware cruise control ought to be included. If a Prius, Civic and Fusion can come with adaptive cruise control for a lot less money, a Tesla really ought to have it, too (Editor’s note: No doubt upon reading Dan Mayeda’s comments, Tesla announced Autopilot will be a standard feature on all Model 3s).

The Tesla Model 3’s door-opening back-up: The keycard (Timothy Artman)

The No-Dealership Experience

I know that Tesla is moving to close down most of the showrooms they have and asking people to commit to buying a new car without even first test driving it probably seems like a tough sell. I feel fortunate that I got to test drive the Model 3 in Century City before committing. But Tesla’s offer of taking the car back if you don’t love it after driving it for one week and up to 1000 miles seems like a fair alternative if you can think of it like a really thorough, extended test drive.

I certainly don’t miss not having a Tesla dealership in every city or county to visit. The main reason to go to a dealer after buying a car is to have it serviced and in the case of Tesla, there are no rigid service schedules. More than six months out, I still haven’t experienced the need for servicing. There is a truly exhilarating feeling of freedom of passing up all of the gas stations one sees, and never worrying about oil changes, fuel filters, and spark plugs. I expect that even brake pad replacements will be rare since I am relying so much on the strong regenerative braking effect to slow my car down. When I do require servicing, I will probably be able to take my car to a service center only a few miles from home or, at worst, schedule someone to come out to my house for servicing.

A red Tesla Model 3 not visiting a gas station or dealership (Timothy Artman)

The Bottom-Line

A half-year out: would I do it again? Absolutely, without reservation. I have owned some good cars in my life but none of them has done so many things well and has been as much fun to drive as my Tesla Model 3. – Daniel M. Mayeda

Daniel M. Mayeda is the Associate Director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law. For more than three decades, Dan practiced law, most recently as a shareholder in the Los Angeles law firm of Leopold, Petrich and Smith, where he specialized in litigation involving the media and entertainment industries. He is the pro bono legal counsel and member of the board of director for East West Players, the country’s premiere Asian Pacific American theatre organization. Top photo of Tesla Model 3 deliveries by Timothy Artman.

For more information about the Tesla Model 3, including the latest pricing information, visit the carmaker’s Design Studio.

THE MAIN INGREDIENTS

Dimensions & Weight

  • Length: 184.8”
  • Width: 82.2” (76.1” with mirrors folded)
  • Height: 56.8”
  • Wheelbase: 113.2”
  • Track (wheel center): 62.2” front and rear
  • Ground clearance: 5.5”
  • Head room, standard: 39.6” front row, 37.7” second row
  • Head room, glass roof: 40.3” front row, 37.7” second row
  • Leg room: 42.7” front row, 35.2” second row
  • Shoulder room: 56.3” front row, 54.0” second row
  • Hip room: 53.4” front row, 52.4” second row
  • Seating capacity: 5 adults
  • Luggage capacity: 15 cubic feet
  • Weight distribution:
    • 47% front, 53% rear (Model 3)
    • 48% front, 52% rear (Model 3 Mid Range and Long Range RWD)
    • 50% front, 50% rear (Model 3 Dual Motor and Performance)

Body

  • Hybrid steel/aluminum body
  • Drag coefficient of 0.23

Chassis

  • Double wishbone, virtual steer axis front suspension with coil over twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
  • Independent multi-link rear suspension with twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
  • Variable ratio, speed sensitive electronic power steering
  • Electromechanically boosted four wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution
  • 18” aero or 19” sport or 20” performance wheels with various tire options

Standard Accessories

  • 20 foot mobile connector with storage bag
  • 240 volt NEMA 14-50 adapter
  • 120 volt NEMA 5-15 adapter
  • J1772 public charging adapter

Charging Rates

Standard Battery

  • Supercharging rate: 150 miles of range per 30 minutes
  • Home charging rate: 37 miles of range per hour (240V outlet, 40A)

Long Range Battery

  • Supercharging rate: 170 miles of range per 30 minutes
  • Home charging rate: Home charging rate: 37 miles of range per hour (240V outlet, 40A)