White Tesla Model 3

That Time We Bought a Tesla

We bought a Tesla. I never thought I would say those words. In fact, before March 2022 I had an irrational yet deeply ingrained loathing of Tesla drivers. I have since shifted my abhorrence to BMW drivers. Which I admit is the same brand of irrationality, just under a different logo.

We didn’t mean to buy a Tesla. Which sounds weird, I know. Was it an accident? No. We didn’t fall into a Tesla and accidentally sign for a loan. What I mean is that when we were shopping for a new car, we weren’t even considering one.

We were replacing our 10-yr old VW Jetta and had some specific needs in mind for a new car. Switching to an automatic from a manual was the number one priority. Hours crawling on L.A. freeways left my knee throbbing, and I wanted to fix it before I would need surgery. Also on the wish list was something that had less of an environmental impact. A hybrid was a big consideration and an EV was certainly something we talked about but not very seriously.

Electric vehicles were for people either much braver or more stupid than us. Sure, you can get to the grocery store on a single charge, I thought, but can you get home again? After all, getting home successfully is at least half the goal of going out. I pictured us waiting in a parking lot wondering how much a tow would cost to the nearest charging station.

Then I saw the Kia. Lazily browsing online for cars, I ran across a Niro EV. It was cute. It was roomy. It came in lots of pretty colors. It had a 250 mile range. Hmm. We headed to Simi Valley to take a test drive. This is significant, because there’s nothing worse than going to a car dealership and dealing with salespeople except… Well, I was going to say “root canal,” but nope. Car dealership takes the prize — and I’ve had two root canals. But I pretended to be an adult and we went to see the Kia people.

To sum up, the car was great. Comfy, quiet, easy to drive, and went like a bat out of hell. EVs typically have lots of torque — something I never imagined, having been stuck behind many a hybrid Prius trying to merge onto the freeway, throwing curses usually reserved for German sports cars in other situations. After discussing the logistics of daily driving and charging, we figured out a plan and decided to go for it. EV all the way!

Then we got sticker shock. Of course I had already seen the price on the website and it matched the window sticker of the test driver. That’s one reason we wanted it. But after a few phone calls with local Kia dealerships in the L.A. metro area, we discovered that after all the added fees and usual dealership bullshit, we would end up paying almost $15,000 over the sticker. One salesperson even taunted me by saying, “Hey, it’s a seller’s market.” It’s like an entire used car over the MSR, for cryin’ out loud — an option we started to consider. Yikes, to put it mildly. I even contacted Kia directly, asking them if that type of markup sounded reasonable to them. Predictably, they stood behind their dealers and told me they really can’t do anything about it.

Square one.

I half-heartedly browsed Toyota.com, thinking that we were destined to be another set of cursed-at Prius owners. And I started to think that we were also doomed to be at the mercy of a greedy dealership again, even if we did find a car we liked.

Out of purely desperate, idiotic curiosity, I decided to see what that Tesla thing was all about. As I checked out the different models on their website, they did look intriguing. Just like the Kia Niro, they had good range, came in a few pretty colors, and were roomy but not SUV huge. Then I remembered there was a Tesla store/showroom thing at the mall. Just for kicks — because we were not serious about this at all — we went to see if we could check out a Tesla in person. There was a Model 3 demo available, so we went out to the parking garage to kick the tires. At least it would be good for a laugh.

From the moment I sat in it, I knew I had to have that car. The driver’s seat cradled me like no other car. The glass roof made it feel spacious and open. Great trunk space, with an extra compartment. Huge control screen. And the frunk was cute, if not as big as I imagined. We left without taking it for a test drive. As much as we loved the car, we weren’t 100% sold on getting an EV anymore — much less the evil Tesla.

I spent the next day or two researching Teslas. One interesting thing we had learned at the showroom was that the price is the price. Aside from taxes and small fees, there was no markup and no haggling. We knew exactly what we would pay, no matter where we bought one. And, it turned out the “more expensive” Tesla Model 3 would turn out to be less than the jacked-up Kia price from their dealers. That fact clinched the deal for us. I went back to Tesla.com and bought one.

At this point you might be thinking, “Hold on. You forgot to talk about how you went back for a test drive.” Nope. I never actually drove a Tesla until we picked it up at the showroom. The closest one available was in Camarillo, which is about 30 miles away. Luckily for us, the thing is a dream to drive. I love it. It feels like a comfortable sedan, handles like a sports car, and accelerates like one, too. Jenni loves riding in it.

White Tesla Model 3
Our other car is a 1966 VW Beetle named Helga.

The car has a 270 mile range. We made space in our garage and that was where we charge it 95% of the time (according to the charge stats). So far, we’ve only been down to 16% one time, and that’s because I was being stubborn about not wanting to get off the freeway before we got to our exit and home. In September 2022, we drove to San Diego. We got there with plenty of charge to spare, and there charging stations close to our hotel. My initial fear of running out of juice has been almost completely abated. In fact, we’ll be taking a longer trip to Chicago in a couple of months and I’ve already mapped out our route to include charging.

I’ve used the “self-driving” feature a handful of times. It seems to be most useful when we’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway. I’ve never used it off the freeway, because frankly I’m a control freak when I drive. The media kerfuffle over the recent recall is somewhat misguided. It mostly amounted to a software update that tells you more often, in more obvious language, that you still have to be aware of your driving while in self-driving mode. Well, duh. The drivers who ignore warnings or try to fake out the system are more of a problem than the feature itself.

After two years we still love the car, which we named Betty White — because she’s sassy and well, white. Yes, we are those people, we name all our cars. We also tend to keep them for at least ten years, so they’re like family.

What I love less is the bad attention that Tesla gets. From labor issues, to the aforementioned recall, to the idiotic drivel the CEO babbles every day, we’ve discovered some unfortunate traits of the company along the way. That’s hard to reconcile, and while our next car will most certainly be an EV, we’ll be looking at other models — although it’s hard to give up that no-haggle pricing.

When all is said and done, it’s still just a car. We’ve had our share of clunkers in the past — older, used cars that had us tensely gripping the wheel with three kids in the back, wondering if we would make it home without getting stuck somewhere. Cars that had us eyeing the check  engine light, willing it to not come on. Any car that lets us go out and come home without worrying if it’s even possible is a wonderful thing. This one just happens to be a Tesla.


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