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Which Tesla To Buy? Is Tesla FSD Worth It? What About Other EVs?

See part one of this short series here: “Taking Delivery Of Your 1st Tesla (Or Other EV) Soon? What Do You Need To Know?

What Car Should You Buy?

The lowest priced Tesla is the Model 3 rear-wheel drive version with seating for 5 and a range of 267 miles. Its current cost is $42,690. Not long ago, you could buy the Model 3 Standard Range for $35,000. However, with the price of batteries, automotive computer chips, and other parts going up, Tesla has been raising prices. In spite of that, you will need to wait over a year for delivery of some Tesla models. With more efficient manufacturing and economies of scale, I predict that Tesla will lower prices once the new Texas and Berlin factories are humming and the backlogs are cleared out. Regarding this lowest-cost option, 267 miles is plenty of range for both local and cross-country driving.

However, if you want to up the range to 353 miles so you can skip Superchargers or carry bikes and have four-wheel drive for winter driving, you need to get the Model 3 Long Range for $51,690. This is the version I purchased. For $7,000 more, you can get the Model Y Long Range. It costs $58,690. With the Model Y, you get a lot more room for baggage, you ride a little higher, you get a much bigger liftgate, and you have the option of a factory-installed receiver/tow hitch. The standard Model Y also seats 5, but you can get the optional 7-seat package. The two rear seats have very little room and are most useful for small children. The Model Y was not available when I bought my Model 3, or I would have bought a Y. The Model Y Standard Range is not available presently, so if you want the least expensive car, you need to stick with the Model 3 RWD.

Tesla Model Y features: taller than Model 3, receiver/hitch can be factory installed in the black area below rear bumper.

Should You Spend an Extra $12,000 for Full Self Driving/Full Self Driving Beta?

Every Tesla comes equipped with smart cruise control and autosteer. If there is a car in front of you, you essentially have 100% self-driving until you need to change lanes or make a turn. You have full automation in a traffic jam where the car will move forward, automatically following the car in front of you. The autosteer is phenomenal most of the time. It will track your lane more accurately than you can, slow down for sharp turns and relieve most of the tension of long-distance driving. You have to stay alert, because it won’t always make the right decision in complex lane changes and it won’t handle rotaries and really sharp turns like those marked 15 mph.

With Full Self Driving, you can navigate on Autopilot on limited access roads. The car will automatically pass slow-moving cars and exit the passing lane. It will change lanes when you activate the turn signal. It will use the route you have inserted into the navigation to steer you even through complex interstate interchanges in big cities, take the exit specified and pass control of the vehicle back to you. It will automatically stop at stop signs and stop lights. You can summon the car to you in a parking lot. It will automatically parallel park between two cars on a street.

For the last three months, those of us who paid for Full Self Driving have been able to download FSD Beta after passing a safety test. This allows your car to automatically navigate on city streets. It will automatically drive your car from in front of your house to any address you put in the navigation, likely with only a few interventions. However, like with the basic autosteer, you will still need to be alert and prepared to take over when the system makes mistakes. Since it won’t handle the whole route without intervention in most cases, many people think FSD is not worth the money.

As a techno nerd who loves to keep up with the latest technology, I purchased FSD when I bought my car and it was only $6000.  It now costs $12,000, and Tesla threatens to raise the price even further as new capabilities are released. For $199/month, you can try it out on your new Tesla and see if you want to pony up the full $12,000.

I have friends who don’t even use the autosteer. They love to drive and don’t see the point of letting the car drive itself.

How to Operate Your New Tesla: Main Screen

Tesla user interface Main Screen. March 1, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler

This is the main screen of your new Tesla Model 3/Y, showing your car on the left with buttons to unlock/lock the car as well as open the trunk, frunk (front trunk), and charge port. If you touch the car ikon in the lower left hand corner, it brings up the controls shown in the image below on the left side of the right screen. In the image above on the right side is the beautiful satellite map which you get with the premium streaming option, which you get free for the first year and then have to pay ~$10/month for after that.

Controls sub-screen shows tire pressure, owner’s manual, etc. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

In the first infotainment picture above, you can choose Controls on top for critical functions like mirrors, seat, and steering wheel settings for each driver. In this example, I have chosen Service, which brings up your tire pressure (shown after driving for a few minutes). If you want a quick rundown of some other critical functions, see this video:

You will find 30 car functions. You won’t be able remember all 30, but you can always play it again to refresh your memory.

Here’s one more video highlighting 30 tips and tricks (there’s some overlap, of course):

Why Would You Buy Another Brand Besides Tesla?

Tesla and GM have exhausted the 200,000 car federal government subsidy, and Nissan and Toyota will soon exhaust their allocation.

This subsidy will give you up to a $7500 refund on your purchase for any other brand. However, you need to have a $7500 tax obligation in the year you buy the car. If your obligation is less, you will get a refund the size of your tax obligation. Also, you don’t get the refund at the point of sale. You will need to file your taxes and wait for your refund. One way to handle this if you have a good credit rating: Put the $7500 part of the purchase price as a charge on a credit card. Many cards offer free balance transfers with 0% interest for up to 18 months for a new credit card application. Before the balance is due you will have your tax refund and can pay off the credit card.

The problem with purchasing another brand is that you won’t be able to count on chargers being available for long-distance travel. There might be some superfast charging stations, or there might not. Those stations might be reliable, or they might not. One example: Tesla put four Superchargers on I-80 through Wyoming in 2014. As of 2022, there are still no CCS chargers for other brands on I-80 in Wyoming. You can travel I-70 coast to coast and through the mountains of Colorado, which can be difficult for an EV, but you can’t take the virtually mountain-free route through Wyoming. This will improve with time as more CCS chargers are installed, but it is still something to consider today. Also Tesla has promised to make Superchargers available to other brands, which Tesla is already doing in some parts of Europe, but don’t hold your breath.

There are literally hundreds of electric vehicle models either available now or that will be in the near future. However, many of these models are not available in the US.

I will present one good alternative to buying a Tesla: The 5-seat Volkswagen ID.4 SUV with 260 miles of range.

Volkswagen ID4 ID.4 car of the year winner

Volkswagen ID.4: seating for 5, range of 260 miles, price of $40,000, or $32,500 with full US government tax credit. 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year winner.

The ID4 base price is ~$40,000. If you can get the full government rebate, it would effectively be $32,500. This vehicle compares well with the Tesla Model 3 RWD, which costs $42,690, nearly $10,000 more. If you can manage with limited long-range driving for the next couple of years, you get a very comparable car for considerably less money.

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I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.


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