Last June, when my family and I moved to Florida from Poland, we bought a used BMW i3. Tesla haters can hate on the i3 all they want, but I honestly love the car, and so does my whole family. It is a ton of fun to drive, it’s great for parking and sneaking through city streets thanks to its tiny size and great visibility, and it zips around like nothing else on the road. No doubt about it, it’s not as quick as a Tesla, but the instant torque is still superb and it genuinely enjoys BMW engineering, and combining that with its tiny size makes for a ton of fun. We were recently behind an i3 for a while in our own i3 and watched this unique fun in action from the outside, something I found surprisingly fascinating. I haven’t seen another vehicle move around traffic like that*.
All of that said, the i3 is not a Tesla, and that lingered in my head for several reasons.
The Tesla Model 3’s cost evolution, my many total cost of ownership analyses, imminent “Full Self Driving,” and the Model 3’s superb safety scores tickled my brain. They kept tickling and tickling. We went back to Poland for 4½ months in the spring and just recently returned to Florida. I decided to throw my name into a loan application again (they weren’t kind to me last June when we landed in the US and I was initially expecting to buy a Model 3, but I thought I’d give it another shot and see if anything changed). The bank quickly informed me that I had preliminary approval. If I got some info about the sale from Tesla, I could get the loan. “Oh, shit, this is for real!” Because it was unexpected, I had to go through some serious mental processing, and also look more carefully at the options again.
I found out a few things that I am embarrassed to say I didn’t know, including that Tesla offers financing. (I guess I had seen that at some point, but I somehow retained outdated information from years ago that Tesla didn’t mess with the financing side of things — you better arrange to get the money before delivery if you want the car.) The process for applying for financing through Tesla is insanely easy, and the interest rate is nice (the rate mentioned on the page is 4.25%, but I got 3.75%, well below what the other bank had offered), so that’s how I ended up proceeding.
It all went through so fast that I had to do a few mental double-takes and keep checking my Tesla account to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood something. For a couple of days, I did continue to wonder if it was for real, half my brain telling my other half something was surely wrong, and the other half saying it was all legit. Indeed, it was all true: the order was placed, the financing was approved, and the car would soon be on its way.
Anyway, the things I learned in the ordering process are topics for another story. This story is supposed to be about why exactly I thought it made sense to drop an i3 my whole family loved and get a more expensive Model 3 instead. I think there were 7 reasons that inspired the switch, but 4 of those were definitely more important than the other 3, so I’m highlighting them first.
I definitely drink the Kool-Aid I provide for others here on CleanTechnica. I’m quite the optimist, trust Elon Musk much more than I don’t, and have a lot in common with him in regards to openness, generic optimism (not including deep concern regarding society’s big existential crises), long-term focus, and honesty. When he indicated that …
- new features will soon be coming to “Full Self Driving” (FSD)
- the price will go up afterwards
- the FSD suite will essentially be feature complete this year and then rely on regulatory approval for implementation
- the price of FSD will increase each time Tesla activates a major improvement
- Tesla’s autonomous ridesharing network will be highly competitive and could make owners a lot of money
- and a Tesla could actually be an appreciating asset thanks to all of this
… I took it all seriously.
I do think Tesla will implement subsumption-based self-driving vehicles long before anyone else, and I think the company as well as owners will reap the rewards. I also think that makes a Tesla purchase today a rather unusual vehicle purchase, even compared to buying a Tesla in a couple of years. As Chanan Bos explained quite well, as soon as real FSD and the Tesla Network are implemented, the value of a Tesla should jump. Elon has tweeted that Tesla will basically have to raise prices at that point, or else leave all the profits of the improved cars to scalpers (people who don’t serve any real societal purpose).
After those prices jump and the value of all Teslas jump, I don’t think new Teslas will be appreciating assets again. The market transition will have occurred. So, if you really want a Tesla that appreciates in value, here’s your chance. (Yes, I acknowledge that some people think this is all nonsense, and there’s a clear risk in the calculation, but I am genuinely sold on the story.) Knowing that the price of FSD would soon be going up, since Tesla is about to implement new features (the cars will soon respond to red lights and stop signs, among other things), an immediate purchase seemed most sensible to me.
Don’t get me wrong — I definitely don’t think it’s guaranteed Teslas will appreciate in value, even if Tesla does hit its FSD goals. Further, even if they eventually do appreciate in value, I have no idea when the crossover will actually occur. However, I believe in the narrative enough that I didn’t want to hesitate and pay the price later for too slowly purchasing a Tesla.
Aside from the appreciation possibility, Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving features are, frankly, amazing. I’ve driven from Poland to Paris in a Tesla with its first-gen autonomous driving hardware. It makes a world of difference on a long road trip. No joke about it. It can make driving considerably more enjoyable and more relaxing. On the one hand, it can be hard to “justify” it. On the other hand, it’s hard to accept cars that don’t have it.
Of course, this wasn’t the only major reason for buying a Model 3.
Another factor at the top of my list was safety.
Shit happens. I’ve been in accidents in recent years and they shook me up. A split-second mistake can mean a lot of damage and pain. In a really bad scenario, it can mean more than that. With two young daughters and a wife, I’d just like to lower the risk as much as is possible/practical. With the Model 3 having the best NHTSA safety score in history — by a large margin — while also sitting near the top of the European testing system, this factor continuously popped into my head.
The thought that kept really digging in was, “If something did happen, it’d be really hard to accept my decision if I had passed on buying the safest car on the market.” If my girls got injured or worse because I didn’t take enough precaution … well, I don’t want to think about it.
Elon Musk said something along the same lines at a presentation a few years ago — I think even with tears welling up in his eyes a little. He was explaining Tesla’s focus on building the safest cars in the world. This may seem like a side issue, but it is something I appreciate and take seriously.
Granted, anything is possible and the Tesla Model 3 isn’t an invincible tank. Life could throw us something horrible whether in a Model 3 or not. However, probability is probability, and I prefer to go with a car that’s going to provide a lower probability of injury — because of both the active safety features and the strong, protective build of the car.
Getting back to cash money, there’s the possibility I already mentioned that the Tesla Model 3 could be an appreciating asset, but there’s more than that.
Kelley Blue Book, widely used and respected for decades for providing a fair value for used cars, has forecasted that the Model 3 will hold its value better than any other car on the market. When including pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers, the analysis concluded the Model 3 would hold its value better than all but one other vehicle after 5 years of ownership (and it was nearly a tie for #1). I don’t think that analysis takes the potential for FSD into account. Assuming I’m right, it shows that even if Tesla doesn’t hit the FSD grand slam, the value retention of a Model 3 should be superb. Naturally, many of us Tesla fans have assumed for years that the Model 3 would have a superb resale value, and our own quarterly analyses of Model 3 resale values versus competitors (which we think are conducted excellently) also show the Model 3 far in the lead, but it’s a notable boost to get such a prediction from Kelley Blue Book, which I think sits firmly outside the Tesla fanboy bubble.
I’m not sure if this really makes a big difference in our case, because the i3 already saw massive depreciation before we bought it and there’s a decent chance it will have a base resale value level that isn’t too shabby, but we have a 2015 i3 REx with just 60–70 miles of electric range (and ~60 miles of gasoline-powered range in case of an emergency, bad planning, or just a long day of driving). That would be fine for us, but I’m not confident it would be easy to sell the i3 in a few of years when used EVs with much more range are available for purchase. Losing the extended warranty on the i3 won’t help either.
In the end, it just seemed financially prudent to switch cars now. Maybe I’m wrong. If so, I’ll pay the consequences.
This is a big one. It runs under the surface quite strongly, but it doesn’t often work its way into my explicit rationale for the purchase. However, it is definitely in my top 4. The fact is, I’ve been working for more than 20 years to try to help solve our climate crisis. I think humanity is facing a genuine existential crisis, and I don’t think we’re doing too well with the threat. I know zero-emissions transport is a critical solution to the problem, as well as the related problem of deadly air pollution. Not only do I know that Tesla exists in large part to help stop global scorching, but I’m confident that if Tesla disappeared tomorrow, the entire auto industry — globally — would slow down its efforts to electrify. Major automakers could go back to slow-walking the transition (well, slow-walking it even more than they are today).
Aside from dramatic situations like that, I just don’t see any other major company that is pushing 100% clean transport (plus 100% clean energy) as much as Tesla, so I think the company (which I’m also an investor in) will do more with my money than any other company. “Voting with your dollars” is important in my mind, and buying a Tesla is one of the biggest, best votes I think I could make.
With a Tesla Model 3, I can hopefully convince a number of people (non-Tesla fanatics) to go electric. I had a handful of people ask me about the i3, and I had many good things to say about it, but I’d bet $10,000 none of them went on to buy one. (That doesn’t count people who read CleanTechnica. I know for a fact some people happily bought a used i3 like I did in part because of my coverage.) With a Model 3, we’ll see, but I expect some people will get the nudge they need to buy a Tesla. Even just seeing another one on the road will help people to realize this car is going mainstream, and as that realization hits more minds, they will look into the company and the car, some of whom will go ahead and buy a Tesla.
As I wrote at the top, I actually have ~7 reasons for why we decided to buy a Tesla Model 3 and sell our 2015 BMW i3 REx. However, the 4 above are the big ones, so they are getting priority in this article. The next 3 (or more if I think there are more) will come tomorrow.
In the meantime, if you’d like to buy a Tesla and get 1,000 miles (1,500 km) of free Supercharging, feel free to use my referral code: https://ts.la/zachary63404
The girls will appreciate it.
*Meta note: I realize my love for the i3 will make many of you think I’m an idiot or even convince you to detest me. So be it. The i3 is a wonderful car. A handful of years before he heaped praise all over the Model 3, Sandy Munro did so for the i3 — because it’s a super cool car and a ton of fun to drive. Our whole family loves it. If I had enough money, I’d keep one alongside a Model 3 and Model X.
All photos by the Fosse family, Marika Shahan, and Zach Shahan