I’ve written a lot of articles about how great and affordable the Tesla Model 3 is, and I truly believe it has the potential to become one of the best selling cars of all time. Does that mean it is the right car for everyone? No. Although it must be enjoyable for everyone to drive (or not drive, once the full-self-driving software is available), it just isn’t the right car for everyone.
So, in the interest of balance, I thought I should list the reasons why I wouldn’t recommend the Model 3 as your main car for some of you trying to use logic and be rational under certain circumstances. (If you can afford it, you could still get it as a second car.)
1. Your Driveway Looks Like This
Although all three Tesla models either come with all-wheel drive as standard or offer it as an option, they really aren’t designed for serious off-roading like a Jeep or the Range Rover. Of course, that doesn’t stop some people from trying (with more or less success). Next year, we will see if either the Model Y or the Tesla Pickup are superbly suited for rougher trails.
2. You Need to Haul Really Big Stuff
Although I’m not a pickup lover, I realize that many people love them for their versatility and style. Until Tesla unveils its own pickup (maybe next year), you can’t really haul very bulky stuff (without a trailer) with any of the Tesla vehicles. Instead of a Tesla, maybe you want to check out the Bollinger or Rivian pickups that are coming out soon. The Model X and S have a lot of cargo space, but they really aren’t the sort of vehicles you would feel comfortable loading up with dirt on a construction site. If you want to have an open bed for hauling, the best you can do is use a Model X, which now includes a towing receiver standard.
But as nice as the Model X looks towing a camping trailer (or airplane), the $84,000 base price of the Model X makes this choice not work for most pickup fans.
While the Model 3 is quite affordable for most people, until the Model Y is available, Tesla doesn’t have a vehicle to go head to head with small, semi-affordable SUVs — luxury or otherwise — like the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V.
Images via Tesla
3. You Live in a Rural Area
If you live in Alaska, Montana, or North Dakota, or vast parts of Canada or Mexico, I can see how you wouldn’t have convenient access to the Supercharger network. Having access to a well maintained network of fast charging stations that is located close to major highways on all major travel routes is a big reason that I feel comfortable taking my Tesla on long trips and don’t just use it as an in-town car (which is how I used my Nissan Leaf for almost 7 years). I think either Tesla or Electrify America or ChargePoint will get to the rural areas in the future, but until that happens, a gas or diesel car or truck might be your best bet.
4. You Don’t Drive Many Miles
In this article, I went into a lot of detail why it costs less to fuel an electric car and how that is expected to improve over time, but that is only important is you drive a fair amount. If you only drive a few miles a year, the fuel savings usually won’t be enough to justify the price of a Tesla.
If you have another car to use for long trips, a cheap used EV like the Nissan Leaf could be a rational choice — or if you need the ability to take long trips regularly but don’t drive much on a daily basis, maybe a used Chevy Volt would best meet your needs. For both of these cars, I do recommend getting an extended warranty, since repairs on EVs and PHEVs can be expensive, as I know from personal experience.
5. You Are Very Conservative With Your Spending (or You Don’t Make Much Money)
If you haven’t ever heard of Dave Ramsey’s plan for how to get free cars for life, it is worth 5 minutes of your time. In a nutshell, it suggests saving up for cars and paying cash and buying used cars every 5 years for about $12,000 cash instead of buying new cars with loans for about $32,000. This is good financial advice for people saving for retirement.
Unfortunately, for you and me, you can’t yet get a used Tesla for $12,000. In the previous section, I mentioned the Nissan Leaf as a possible alternative. Consumer Reports discusses how now is a great time to buy a used EV and the Nissan Leaf is the only recommended model you can get for $12,000. If you are willing to stretch to $17,400, you can also consider a used BMW i3. If you need more range, the only two widely available plug-in hybrids on the used market under $12,000 are the above-mentioned Chevy Volt (with about 40 miles of all-electric range) and the Ford C-Max Energi (with 20 miles of electric range).
Those of you living in one of the states that has a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program will have more choices available.
If none of those meet your needs, you may have to wait a few years until some of the exciting EVs that have come out recently (Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, and 2019 Nissan Leaf) depreciate into a more affordable price range.
A case can certainly be made to raise the $12,000 limit a few thousand dollars due to the fuel savings these cars enable. You just have to have the financial discipline to put those gas savings away to purchase your next vehicle.
6. You Are Risk Averse
Not everyone is cut out to be an early adopter. I love the thrill of finding new charging stations, calculating the expected length of a trip, and keeping track of the competing charging standards, but not everyone thinks the way I do. This is so much easier to deal with than when I got my first EV 7 years ago, but it is still a challenge.
Many people have a favorite local mechanic they know and trust, but when you buy a Tesla and other electric car, you also have to have the dealer do most of the service, because most of the information to service them isn’t available beyond them yet.
Luckily, EVs don’t need much service, but as they age, this may be more of a concern to people, especially as they get beyond their 8 year powertrain warranties. If you aren’t up for a few challenges, buying a Tesla (or any EV) might not be the right choice for you.
7. You Don’t Have a Place to Charge Your Car Daily
Although many workplaces and apartments offer a way to charge your Tesla, most do not. If you have a Supercharger close to your home or work, you can make weekly trips to that for a recharge, but you really don’t get to enjoy the convenience of charging “where you park.”
Over the next few years, the buildout of better charging infrastructure will eliminate this problem, but in many areas, this is still a significant concern for many. But getting a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, new or used, may still be the right answer for you until you can get better charging stations in your area. This allows you some of the advantages of an electric car while you wait for your apartment or employer to catch up.
But I Want One!
Even though we try to make smart financial decisions, all it takes is one minute of watching drifting via a Model 3 with stability control disabled and you may say, “I want one even if it doesn’t make any sense!”
So after all those reasons not to buy a Tesla, if you still want to buy one, you might as well order by November 30 and get the full $7,500 Federal Tax Credit in the US and use a referral code to get 6 months free Supercharging on Model S, Model X, or Model 3. You can also get a 5-year extended warranty on solar panels. Here’s my code: https://ts.la/paul92237