I bought a new car last year and seriously considered buying a Tesla Model 3, but I decided against it — here’s why

Not this time, Tesla. Matthew DeBord/BI
  • I recently bought a new car, but it wasn’t a TeslaModel 3.
  • The TeslaModel 3 has wildly impressed me in the multiple times I’ve driven and tested it. But while I seriously considered buying one, I ultimately chose something closer to my old Toyota Prius.
  • I haven’t ruled out future Tesla ownership, of course. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll own one on the next decade.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For various reasons, I had to buy a car last summer. The details aren’t terribly important, but I ended up with a certified pre-owned Toyota RAV4 hybrid.

I’m quite happy with the RAV4, and for the record, I was already a proud Toyota Prius owner.

Of course, the vehicle that’s most influenced my thinking about cars in the past year or so has easily been the Tesla Model 3. I seriously considered ordering one, and for the record, I fully expect to own some sort of Tesla vehicle in the next 10 years.

I didn’t go for it this time around, however. And I had my reasons!

Here they are:

1. The Model 3 is a bit too new in the market. I’m no early adopter. I prefer to wait until something new has taken a few spins around the block. The Model 3 is sufficiently different from the Model S and Model X that I’d rather wait a few years while the kinks are ironed out.


2. I don’t have a charger at my house (yet). We don’t test enough electric and plug-in vehicles at Business Insider to justify a Level 2 home charger, so I usually just charge off a wall outlet and run the cable into my front yard.


Tesla can set you up with home charging, but it is an additional initial expense. And were I to go for it, I’d be limited to charging only my Tesla, as the company’s chargers aren’t compatible with other EVs.

3. The Model 3 is still more expensive than what I like in a car.


I’ve sampled several different versions of the Model 3, and while the current Standard Range Plus, rear-wheel-drive (single motor) trim level is priced under $US40,000, I prefer to spend around $US25,000 (or less) for my family’s basic transportation needs.

Some of this is because of my job. I test at least one new car each week, so we don’t require anything too fancy for getting around. Our “second car” can be fairly basic. We chose the RAV4 because I already had a relationship with a local dealer and because we figured a hybrid crossover with all-wheel-drive would would be a little bit better for us than the Prius we had been driving.

It helps in life to be of two minds about cars. These days, you can find a perfectly good used car that might have given you pause 10 years ago because in had close to 100,000 miles on it. But quality has improved so much that the sub-$US10,o00 used cars of 2019 are a world better than the el-cheapo rides of the past.

So, you can obtain transportation for not a lot of money – and spend far less time worrying about it than people used to.

But, you can also indulge yourself. There’s more variety in the marketplace than ever before, and EVs are a legit options. In many cases, however, you have to pay up.

The upshot here is to figure out which mind you’re in. I know that I can spend on the low side and bee happy. But that’s just me.

4. The Model 3 fits my lifestyle perfectly — but I still need an everyday gas-powered car.


I essentially use my car for local errands and ferrying my kids around, with an occasional longer trip thrown in.

On paper, I’m an ideal candidate for an EV. And in my estimation, if you’re going to buy an EV, you might as well make it a Tesla. (You can always get something else if you’re unhappy after a few years.)

A Model 3 would also be extremely cheap for me to operate, if somewhat more expensive to buy or lease. I’d end up recharging the cheapest Model 3, with its 240 miles of range, perhaps two or three times per month with my typical use pattern.

Still, having the ease of a gas-powered car remains something I need. It boils down to the longer trips and the need to avoid any sort of range anxiety, largely because we drive our car so infrequently that we gas up only about once a month. We forget about how much fuel is in the tank, and in that context, being able to fully refuel in five minutes makes a difference.

5. The sound system is magnificent.


The Model 3 is a darn good car, and even though I should buy one but haven’t, I must note that the Tesla-designed sound systems is incredible – among the best I’ve ever experienced. Just throwing that in because I’m somebody who likes a great audio setup in his ride.

6. I like hatchbacks. The Model 3 has a groovy fastback roofline, but it terminates in a trunk, not a hatch (there’s also a front trunk, or “frunk.”)


Cargo capacity is good, and the frunk helps. But for me, a proper hatchback better suits my needs.


7. The Model 3’s dashboard and touchscreen are cool — but I prefer knobs and buttons.


Testing the Model 3 in several configurations made me a believer in the ultra-minimalist dashboard, with the central touchscreen controlling almost all vehicle functions and providing crucial driving information, such as speed.

But in practice, I still prefer knobs and buttons. Being able to change the temperature, for example, is just easier with a knob. And truth be told, even though the Model 3’s voice-command system is superb, having to interact with a tablet all the time isn’t for me ideally. It’s often distracting.

8. The Model 3 wouldn’t be my first choice for a road-trip-mobile.


I usually arrange for test vehicles when I take road trips, but at least half a dozen times each year, we need to use our personal vehicle to cover a few hundred miles. The Model 3 can be had in a trim level that delivers 310 miles of range on a full charge, but that’s not quite enough to guarantee that you won’t have to hit a Supercharger at some point in a journey.

Supercharging is great, and Tesla has a passel of destination-charging partners that offer slower, Level 2 charging. So the abundance of re-juicing options isn’t the issue.

Rather, it’s the time required to recharge. While not at all slow when Supercharging, it’s much more time-consuming than simply stopping for gas. This is OK if you’re flying solo, but when I’ve taken Teslas on road trips, the recharging stops have been met with protest from my family.

My kids made me promise to never line up a Tesla for a road trip ever again, in fact, after a jaunt to Maryland from New Jersey.

Faster charging times should eventually solve this problem, but for now, I need a car that fits into the old gas-and-go tradition.

9. I lack confidence in Tesla service.


Tesla has gone its own way by avoiding franchise dealerships, preferring to keep its entire operation in-house.

In practice, this has meant that Tesla is still figuring out service. But I don’t expect miracles, and it would be foolish to think that buying a car from a 15-year-old automaker, on the first iteration of that car, wouldn’t lead to some service issues.

When it comes to service, I like to have two choices: my local mechanic; and the dealership.

The former is ideal for tire rotations, small-scale maintenance, oil changes, and so on.

The latter is good for scheduled maintenance and anything model-specific or a recall.

While the simple stuff on a Model 3 could be handled by a local mechanic, with such a new vehicle, you’re looking at dealing with Tesla’s work-in-progress service department, and I decided I wasn’t yet ready to go there.

Plus, I fixed my new RAV4 after it got backed into a truck bumper — and all I needed was a cheap roll of tape! Yeah, yeah, I could fix the Model 3 with tape, too, but it wouldn’t look so cool anymore. Toyota’s are legendary for wearing their battle scars well.


10. The Model 3 isn’t the ideal family car. But the Model X is.


If I were to buy a Tesla, the logical choice would be a Model X, given that I have three kids and would want to be able to use the car for road trips, taking advantage of the Supercharger network.

Of course, if the Model 3 is too rich for my blood, the $US150,000 Model X that I test drove is out of the question.