Tesla Model 3 Review – 6 Years Later

We break down the real maintenance costs, service experience, and battery degradation. Plus we’ll discuss if Elon Musk’s antics would impact our decision to buy another one.

by Josh Teder

It’s been over six years since I bought a Tesla Model 3. While I’ve loved many aspects of driving a Tesla Model 3, there are some things I haven’t liked about it and the brand over the years. Full disclosure: I do not own any Tesla stock, I don’t short Tesla stock, and I don’t own any stocks of any companies I cover on YouTube.

Electric Drivetrain

Looking back on my experience with the Model 3 over the years, the number one highlight is that it’s an electric vehicle. You see so much in the news today about consumers pulling back from electric vehicles, but let me tell you, getting an electric vehicle is totally worth it. I do not miss having to go to a gas station every week. I just fill up my car in my garage, plugging it into the wall.

Though, to be fair, if you’re a renter looking at an electric vehicle, depending on where you’re renting, that situation hasn’t quite been solved yet, at least here in the US for most renters. Another benefit of not having to deal with gas is zero emissions. I’m not just talking about CO2 emissions here; one thing I think too many people overlook with gas cars is they emit toxic fumes and carcinogens. So, if you remote start your car in your garage, open the garage door, and walk in, you will be breathing in a lot of bad stuff. With my Model 3, I don’t breathe in any toxic fumes after remotely starting my car. Plus, it doesn’t add to local air pollution, which every gas-powered vehicle does.

No Third Party Dealerships

The second thing I’ve loved about owning a Tesla Model 3 six years later is that Tesla doesn’t have any third-party dealerships. Now, if you’re outside of the US, this may, depending on your situation, seem like an odd thing to highlight. But here in the US, if you want to buy a vehicle, you’re usually buying through a third-party dealership where you’ll have to haggle over the price. With Tesla, it’s so much better because they own all their stores and service centers and control the entire experience. The day I took delivery of my Model 3, it took less than 10 minutes to sign the paperwork I needed to sign, and then I was in and out of the Tesla store within an hour. In other instances, Tesla will even deliver your new vehicle to your home. You can watch tutorials online or in your new Tesla that’ll guide you through how to use your vehicle, streamlining the onboarding process even further.

Tech Stack

The next thing I’ve loved about the Model 3 over the past six years is the tech stack. I’m not always used to saying this for a six-year-old product, but the software experience is still fluid. There’s no lag, and it feels like a whole different car in certain respects, thanks to Tesla’s software improvements over the years. Features like Sentry Mode, which monitors your car and turns on the cameras if anyone gets too close to it or damages it, and dash cam recording, which always records footage while you’re driving, have been particularly useful. For instance, when my car was rear-ended in 2020, I had proof of exactly what occurred.

Another notable feature I’ve used is the green light chime, where the car can recognize a green light and give you a little chime after the light turns green. The Model 3 can also read speed limit signs and give you a similar chime when you go a certain speed over the limit, which has kept me from getting a speeding ticket. Within the past few weeks, the car has been updated to visually show all available parking spaces around the car, where you can slow down and tap one to engage Auto Park. The UI makes it easy to edit and change around your favorite icons in the dock. You can also integrate your phone calendar with the car’s tech, and it will try to guess where you want to go based on your habits. Over time, I found it to be pretty accurate. They’ve also added Spotify integration and Apple Music. While it doesn’t have CarPlay or Android Auto, I don’t find it a big issue. The user experience and interface cover many of the main things I use CarPlay and Android Auto for maps with live traffic data, music, hands-free phone calls, and reading text messages aloud. The only thing that’s really lacking in Tesla’s software is its voice control feature, which isn’t as good as Siri or Google Assistant. Most of the time, I just use whatever assistant is on my phone or watch to control and play media.

Another great thing about Tesla’s tech stack is the unlock and drive feature, where your car will automatically unlock when it senses your phone nearby. After getting in, you just put your foot on the brake to fully turn it on and put it in drive. I love how seamless it is. Occasionally, the door won’t unlock, which is frustrating, but that’s a rarity. The Tesla app is another highlight. It’s easy to remotely precondition my car’s cabin, pop the trunk, or unlock it. The app also estimates how much you’ve spent on electricity costs through charging at home or traveling, and it lets you remotely install software updates. You can schedule service and get roadside assistance through the app, which I’ve used and found seamless. I was especially impressed with the roadside assistance experience and how fast they got to me when I had a flat on the side of the highway.

Driving Performance and Safety

The next thing that stands out with the Model 3 six years later is the driving performance. It has a sporty suspension and fast acceleration, even for cars without the performance package. The Model 3’s design pushes the dash closer to the front of the car, giving excellent visibility to the road, and it’s a pretty safe vehicle, which is often overlooked with Teslas. It has five stars in NHTSA safety ratings and comes with forward collision warning and avoidance, parking sensors (at least on my model), lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Because it doesn’t have an engine at the front, the frunk (front trunk) actually doubles as a crumple zone in a crash.

Premium Sound System

Moving on, the last thing that I really liked about my Tesla Model 3 is the premium sound system. The speakers sound great, with rich detail in the music and good bass. It’s still one of my all-time favorite things about the car.

Autopilot Concerns

One giant feature often associated with Tesla that I haven’t yet mentioned is Autopilot, and there’s a reason for that. When I first got the car, I used Autopilot all the time and had the full self-driving beta enabled. However, a few years ago, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, changed Tesla’s strategy to rely only on cameras for all of its Autopilot features. Previously, Model 3s relied on cameras, a front-facing radar, and proximity sensors around the car. But newer Model 3s don’t have radar or proximity sensors, just cameras. Around 2022, when Tesla started rolling out the new camera-only software called Tesla Vision to my car, I didn’t fully grasp the ramifications. Soon after my car started using Tesla Vision, I experienced sudden braking in the middle of the highway while approaching an overpass. Luckily, I was cautious and immediately accelerated, avoiding an accident. After that, I switched off full self-driving with Tesla Vision and reverted to normal Autopilot, which still seemed to use the front radar at the time. However, reports of other Tesla drivers having similar experiences and Tesla’s reckless approach to developing Autopilot, including remotely deactivating the front radar on cars, caused my trust in Tesla’s Autopilot to plummet. Now, I don’t even use it.

Elon Musk

The biggest downside with the Model 3 six years later is honestly Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk. This should tell you that the product has to be pretty good if my main complaint is the company CEO. However, Musk’s increasingly erratic behavior and political statements have impacted how people view the brand and those driving a Tesla. His reported hard drug use, admitted ketamine use, and impulsive decision-making, like spending $40 billion on Twitter, have created a sense of chaos and disorganization under his leadership. Positive brand sentiment for Tesla has significantly declined over the past few years due to these antics, which can impact how you feel about the product. When I bought my Model 3, I didn’t necessarily think I’d be asked about Musk all the time anytime he does something controversial. It’s honestly a bit exhausting 6 years later.

Service Issues

Another downside I’ve encountered is Tesla’s service, specifically in the Raleigh-Durham area. With over one million people in the metro area but only one Tesla service center, the service center is always packed, with considerable wait times and limited parking spaces, making the service experience more stressful than necessary. Since Tesla tightly controls who can repair their cars, there aren’t many third-party service options available.

Road Trips and Auto Wipers

Road trips also take a bit longer because I have to charge the vehicle. Typically, I stop for 15 to 20 minutes at a Supercharger every 200 to 300 miles, which can add up on long trips. Another minor annoyance is the auto wipers, which still don’t work well after six years and several software updates. I often manually adjust the wiper speed using the scroll wheel on the steering wheel.

Range and Battery Health

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is range. Overall, it’s not a downside for me six years later. I’ve lost maybe 15 miles of total range, though it’s hard to tell because Tesla updated their range algorithms after criticism. I wish they had a setting like my iPhone that shows the overall battery health and capacity. The around 300 miles of range I still get with my car is adequate for my needs. I’ve only ever had range anxiety once in six years, on a very cold winter night during the holidays, but I found Superchargers along my route, so I was fine.

Maintenance Costs

Regarding maintenance costs, after six years and 18 service center visits, the total repair cost for my Model 3 is $7,585.37. However, my total out-of-pocket cost has only been $3,722.22, as insurance covered many situations like rear-end accidents, windshield cracks, flat tires, and cracked rims. This is below the average vehicle maintenance cost, though your mileage may vary depending on the issues you encounter. My car’s mileage is 49,000 miles (78,858 km) after six years.

Would I Buy Another Tesla?

So, would I still buy a Tesla today? That answer is more complicated than it needs to be. The Tesla Model 3 is an excellent product, and I’d certainly be tempted to buy it again when my current vehicle reaches the end of its life. However, my hesitation comes from the service experience I’ve had locally and concerns about the company’s leadership. The service center is always overcrowded, and the employees seem overworked, making the experience more stressful than necessary. While I’ve enjoyed Tesla’s mobile service experience, that’s been really awesome.

I’m frustrated that I’m on the fence about whether or not I’d get another Tesla Model 3 because the product itself is good, and the new, refreshed Model 3 looks amazing. But for me, it’s really going to depend on whether Tesla can mature into the sizable company it is now or if the chaos of its top leader continues.

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