The “best car” on the market is generally something you’d think to tie to a specific price range, class, or at least body style. In 2019, though, I don’t think you have to do that at all. In my humble opinion (and I’ll make the case for it in a moment), the best car on the market is now cost-competitive with the highest selling mass market cars on the market. It wasn’t in the first quarter, but it is in the second.
It takes time for the mass market to learn about new products — to really learn about them, not just hear their names. Just because a car is cost-competitive with cars it’s much better than doesn’t mean it will be a hit overnight. Even among the people who know what a Tesla is, many still think of them as expensive vehicles. It will take some months for a sizable number of these buyers to learn that you can get a Tesla Model 3 at a base price of $35,000–38,000 (and that there are still financial incentives available).
Nonetheless, despite all of that and despite most Model 3s being shipped abroad last quarter, the Tesla supersedan was the 13th best selling car in the USA in the first quarter.
When I consider the full picture, which I’ll try to briefly summarize, of how these cars compare, and then I look at that chart, the thing that impresses me the most is the Model 3’s room to grow — if word gets out there about the car.
Safest car in the USA: The Model 3’s best attribute, in my opinion as the father of two young girls, is that it has the best NHTSA safety score in history, with the score essentially covering likelihood of severe injury or death in an accident.
There are numerous reasons for this, from the Model 3’s frunk (large crumple zone), to its extremely strong doors in the case of a side collision, to its super low center of gravity. One thing not really accounted for is how advanced Tesla’s active safety features are, especially if you purchase the optional Autopilot software suite.
Driving experience that feels 100 years better: It’s quite hard to describe this benefit. Actually, it’s impossible to convey it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. The best way I think I can capture it in a nutshell is that every other car on this list feels like it’s using technology that’s 100 years out of date. The smooth driving experience and instant torque of a Tesla Model 3 feels that much better. Going back to a gas car after experiencing this is almost unbearable, like going back to a landline after getting used to a smartphone, or going back to a typewriter after getting used to a computer word processing program. Yes, those are dramatic analogies — for a reason.
Infotainment: Car companies hype up their infotainment systems as if they are going to bring you into the world of The Jetsons. In actuality, they’re generally mediocre. They improve incrementally, but they mostly remind me of the original Nintendo. Tesla’s infotainment systems are currently in a league of their own. There are concept cars that compete, but even then, I’d be shocked if they offered the brilliant navigation system and hilarious and fun Easter eggs Tesla includes. They don’t. They won’t. Tesla is unique.
Zero emissions: For my own preferences, I’d put this much higher on the list, but I understand that many consumers are more focused on what they get from a product than whether it will help stop catastrophic climate change, numerous diseases, and premature deaths related to air pollution. That’s a big deal, especially since transportation accounts for approximately a third of the average American’s pollution footprint.
All of these features above beat the best premium/luxury cars on the market, so they certainly beat the mass-market vehicles on the chart above. Nonetheless, the factor I’m saving for last means that there is essentially no question at all which is the best car value on the market in 2019, especially for the average new car buyer.
Cost: As I’ve shown before, the Model 3 offers more or less the same 5 year cost of the most popular cars in the USA. If you extend the period another 5 years, it should have the other models under its thumb.
Case closed. Looking for the best car you can buy in 2019? It’s the Tesla Model 3.
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