Wally Nowinski bought a Tesla Model 3 in 2020 to drive from California to his parents in Michigan.
He was surprised by how easy it was to find charging and how helpful the Autopilot was.
He says the biggest downside is that owning a Tesla encourages people to ask you about Elon Musk.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Wally Nowinski, a 38-year-old Tesla owner and cofounder of PerfectRec who lives in El Cerrito, California. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I bought a Tesla in July 2020. I was living in San Francisco, and being able to get out of the city quickly and easily became more important as the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
I bought the Model 3 for $58,790 specifically because I could get it delivered quickly. I wanted the Model Y, but the Model 3 had guaranteed delivery within two weeks, and I needed it to drive back to Michigan to visit my parents.
I didn't want to take a plane at that point during the pandemic, so I needed the car specifically to make my long-distance, cross-country drive by a certain date.
Now that I have my Model 3, it's been much better for long-distance drives than I expected, and there's only one downside to being a Tesla owner.
It was so easy to buy
Even if Tesla was selling a gas car, I would probably buy it. Buying a car is famously one of the least pleasant consumer-retail experiences, and with Tesla, you just buy it on the internet. You don't have to be worried that the guy next to you got a better deal — everyone pays the same price.
Even though I work from home, I've put 44,000 miles on the car since I purchased it, driving back and forth across the country and then driving from San Francisco to Seattle when I moved there.
It takes about 20% longer to make long-distance drives once you factor in stopping to charge, but that doesn't bother me.
The most surprising thing is that it makes long-distance driving less stressful
The Autopilot is good — the car doesn't drive itself, but it does give you the feeling of being a driving instructor and watching a kid who's really good at driving.
With other cars I've owned, after driving three to four hours by myself on the highway, I'd start to get fatigued, but with the Tesla, I've done 12-hour days by myself and felt fine. It doesn't drive me to a restaurant without me paying attention, but it does decrease the cognitive load of driving on the highway.
I was also surprised by how little the charging network matters
I'll go months at a time without ever using a third-party charger because I charge at home, and I know where the Tesla charging stations are near me. I've only used a non-Tesla station about six times successfully because they're not reliable.
Charging does make your neighborhood gas station completely irrelevant, which is a positive for me. Most people go to their neighborhood gas station once a week, but with an electric car, you'll never have to do that again.
For most of the time I've owned the car, I've lived in apartments. When I moved to Seattle, I looked at several apartments that didn't have chargers, but when I told them I had an electric car, a few landlords were willing to install one because they knew it would be in high demand for other tenants, too.
People think if you don't own a house, it's hard to charge, but I lived in places where I didn't have a garage and was able to figure it out.
The only downside I've found to owning a Tesla is that people occasionally want to talk to you about the latest Elon Musk controversy.
One thing to consider is electricity costs
It was interesting moving from the San Francisco area, where electricity is ludicrously expensive — up to 55 cents per kilowatt-hour — to Seattle, which has cheap electricity by coastal standards, averaging just about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for me. Moving increased how much I was saving by not buying gas, but my costs are back up now that I'm back in California. It's still worth it to me.
What I didn't anticipate was the maintenance savings. I've only spent about $1,300 on maintenance in three years, and that was for a new set of tires. There are no tune-ups or oil changes, and you rarely have to replace the brakes.
I've had 2 repairs, but Tesla's warranty covered both
I think I'm coming up to the end of the general warranty for my car, but so far I've just scheduled repairs in the app at no cost to me.
I'm thinking about getting a Model Y now that they're more accessible. I'd even consider another electric car. I was all in on Tesla initially because the other electric offerings weren't that great, and I was worried about the charging network, but I'd be open to something else now.
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