Disclaimer: This entry was all about my journey in getting my first electric vehicle, a Tesla Model 3. I am not a car expert. This is not Motor Trend, or Car and Driver. I’m just an average Joe who wanted to get his first EV.
March 31, 2016 – It was early Thursday morning. We were in San Diego’s Mission Beach where we spent a few days on Spring Break.
I prepared a hearty breakfast for the family, but in the back of my mind, I had every intention to try and make it to a Tesla store for a chance in reserving the new Model 3.
If I remember correctly, the store in the Fashion Valley Mall, opened at 10am. I left Mission Beach a little after 9:30am, and made it to the mall at 10am. Imagine to my surprise, there was a long line near the parking structure where I parked.
I surveyed the area, and the line wrapped that side of the mall like a letter L which led to the Tesla store/showroom. It was quite reminiscent of lining up for Black Friday, or an Apple product release.
When you stand in these types of lines, you make friends with other crazy people in line with you. We later learned that the first person lined up around 3 or 4am. At that time, knowing that my family was on a Spring Break vacation, I had my moment where I said, there’s no way I’d stay in this long line. But while it didn’t exactly move quickly, I just decided that I might as well stay in line. Heck, I already made the effort of driving to the mall, why not?
By 12:42pm, after staying in line for nearly 3 hours or so, I finally made it to the store, and a Tesla salesperson assisted me with my order.
What did it take to place this order?
- Waited in line for 3 hours
- Used a credit card to give a $1,000 deposit
- Reservation process took no more than 5-7 minutes
That’s it. I placed a deposit on a vehicle that I believed would be a game changer, a vehicle that was sight unseen. What if I changed my mind? I could easily cancel and get my full $1,000 back.
The Model 3 Reveal
What’s the big deal with lining up for this car? Reservations were made on a first come, first served basis. Priorities were given to existing Tesla owners (and I was not one of them). Therefore, being one of the early birds, in my mind, helped in getting me close enough to getting one of the early Model 3’s.
We were already on our way back home from San Diego during the actual Model 3 reveal. I was driving on the road while Nancy and the kids watched the reveal from my iPhone. I could hear the excitement of the crowd, and we were excited too, looking back, excited on a car that had no specific delivery timeframe. In just one day, Tesla Model 3 orders were 200,000 according to CNNMoney. And I happened to be part of that big, crazy movement.
Two years, how bad of a wait was it
It was in the summer of 2017 when Tesla finally delivered its first set of Model 3’s. From what I remember, some Tesla employees were among those who first received their Model 3’s in July. While I was excited for the release, I knew that I still had to wait, a long wait. So I remained patient.
I joined quite a few Tesla groups on Facebook, and the anticipation just kept rising. The existing Tesla owners who ordered a Model 3 began sharing their news that they received the signal to begin configuration, and weeks later, shared the delivery of their Model 3. I kept wondering when will I get the invite. So I continued to remain patient.
I tried to stay in tune with Tesla news, but I can’t profess that I knew all the ins and outs about the car and the process of getting it. I was just happy enough to be waiting for my turn.
No such thing as test drive
A typical car purchase goes like this. You have a vehicle in mind. You do your research. Go to the dealership, take a test drive. Try other cars. Figure out which one works for you. Get your financing in order. Purchase the vehicle.
Not this Model 3. There was really no abundance of Model 3’s out there. There was no typical Tesla dealership for you to go to and request for a test drive. In some parts of the country, perhaps. But not where I live. I believe there was a Model 3 that was displayed in Century City in LA, but I didn’t take the time to go there. It generated a bit of a spectacle. So, I sat back, and waited patiently.
Your Model 3 is ready to order
I finally received the email from Tesla on February 28, 2018, just shy of two years from when I first made the reservations in San Diego. I was informed that I could begin configuring my Model 3.
I jumped on the opportunity, right? No, I didn’t. A car that I waited for nearly two years, and I didn’t act on it quickly. Why not?
- I wasn’t ready
- The Long Range battery was the only option available (this battery could give you a little over 300 miles on a full charge)
- The Short Range battery was not in production (it could be available in the Fall or Winter 2018 (a cheaper option)
- Clueless about charging and the effect with my electric bill
- Undecided – do I get it now, or wait for the Short Range Battery
- Where do I stand when it came to the Federal Tax Credit and State Rebate.
Long Range vs. Short Range Battery
The Short Range battery (at no extra charge) was not going to be ready for a few more months. The Long Range Battery option was the only option available. After mulling this over with Nancy, it made sense for us to go with the Long Range battery (a $9,000 option). Why?
- Nancy’s commute to LA is about 100 miles roundtrip. This means she can go to work 2-3 days in a row with a full charge and not have to worry about recharging. The good news, there are charging stations over at Kaiser Permanente where she works.
- Resale value – I know, I know, we’re not planning on selling this. But if ever we had to, a car with a long range battery would be more attractive than a short range battery.
How the income tax credit and state rebate work (acc. to Tesla)
I spoke with our tax preparer and confirmed with him that we were a perfect fit to take advantage of the rebates and credit by getting an EV.
Electric vehicle incentives are available to those who purchase a new Tesla vehicle. A $7,500 federal income tax credit is available to all customers and several states offer additional incentives, often taking the form of a rebate. Rebates can be claimed immediately after purchase, while tax credits are claimed when filing income taxes.
Many states also offer non-cash incentives, such as carpool lane access in California and free municipal parking.
…California $2,500 rebate (based on income eligibility)
Get the full tax credit & rebate while available
What I needed to remember about the Federal Tax credit was that this credit will be phased out once Tesla delivers 200,000 vehicles. From what I’ve read and gathered, once the 200,000 are delivered, tax credit will go down, meaning, it could be lesser than $7,500. This made us decide to go for this vehicle now while we have access to the full incentive.
My rationale with the $10,000 incentive ($7,500 Federal Income Tax Credit and $2,500 California State Rebate)? Well, there goes my justification in getting the $9,000 upgraded battery. The government, in some ways, was buying that for me. If I waited until later this year or next year, I wasn’t so sure how much more of the credits/rebate I’d have access to. So our decision was to get the car now while we had a chance in getting the full credit and rebate.
How do I charge this car
This was the other concern. I knew that I could plug the Tesla Model 3 directly into one of my regular wall outlets in my garage. The drawback? Using a regular wall outlet would only recharge the Model 3 with 3-4 miles of range per hour. So on a typical 10-hour overnight charging, the most we could get is 40 miles of charge. So I had to do more research. I didn’t really know much about my options. Since I got the invite to configure, I had done the following:
a. Inquired about the Tesla Superchargers – these are exclusive charging stations for Tesla vehicles only. They charge at rapid speed. There are 2 superchargers near where we live (15-20 minutes away). One more is being built.
b. Learned about the charging stations located at Nancy’s work, and the charging stations near where we live
c. Educated myself in possibly getting solar panels for my house
d. Got quotes for installing a NEMA 14-50. This is usually referred to getting a dryer outlet for the garage. Why this outlet? Recharging the Model 3 when plugged in to a NEMA 14-50 gets up to 30 miles of range per hour. During an overnight charge, I could get 240 miles or up to 300 miles of range.
Ordering the Tesla Model 3
After one week of inaction on my part, and after doing more thorough research, on Friday, March 9th at 7pm, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered my Tesla Model 3. How was the ordering process? It was very easy. I picked the following options:
For the color, I initially wanted to go with Pearl White, or Solid Black, but our car colors have always been Black or White, and we needed a change. I’ve always liked the look of gun metal grey, and Midnight Silver Metallic was the answer.
I was also going to get the standard Aero caps, and upgrade it later, but I decided toupgrade them now to the 19″ Sport Wheels. Everything else were easy picks, or had to be picked. I couldn’t choose a different battery size, and Premium Package had to be ordered at this stage. I also gave a $2,500 additional downpayment in order for this to be processed. That was on March 9th, and I was advised that it could take 3-6 weeks from order to pick-up. I got time. I was in no rush.
Once my order was placed, I got the rest of my ducks in a row. I checked on car insurance and after making adjustments to our existing policy, this Model 3 (along with our three other cars) would reduce my yearly premium by under $1,000. Go figure!
Waiting for that VIN
I planned on financing the vehicle, but was advised NOT to do anything yet until Tesla notified me with a VIN (vehicle identification number). This meant that the car would be available very shortly once a VIN is assigned. On Friday, March 23, after two weeks from ordering, the VIN finally showed up on my Tesla account. I called Tesla, and was advised that my sales advisor would be calling. Patrick S. from Tesla Sales called me, congratulated me, and advised me that my car could be picked up as early as March 29 (Wednesday).
Sorry, my Model 3 will have to wait for me
That’s right. I couldn’t agree to the March 29th pickup. Why? We had a vacation planned, we went to Hawaii’s Big Island on March 26th. I couldn’t cancel the trip. Heck, we only paid $11 per person for the airfare.
Patrick gladly rescheduled. This also gave me an opportunity to finally begin securing the loan for the car. Would you believe that I took care of my financing while I was on vacation in Hawaii? I was signing loan docs while we circled around the island. Yes, everything was handled while I was over 2,000 miles away. All documents were signed online, checks were sent via Fed Ex to Tesla. It was a smooth transaction, a transaction that did not ruin our vacation.
Still not ready, please move my pick-up
We flew back and arrived in Los Angeles on April 2nd. Patrick had advised me that the car would ready for pick-up as early as Thursday, April 5th. However, my wife, Nancy, was scheduled to work and I wanted her to be with me during pick-up. We all agreed to move the pick-up to Saturday, April 7 at 5:45pm.
The day finally came
Saturday, April 7th, finally, it was the day of our Model 3 pick up. We were told to go to Marina Del Rey, at the Tesla Delivery Center. We hit a bit of traffic on that afternoon, and made it exactly at Tesla at 5:45pm.
The lot was not as busy as I had imagined. We were greeted by a valet driver, and he offered to park our car.
We walked into the lobby, very simple, just a reception area, a guy with a MacBook greeted us and we were led inside to the red seating area to wait for our appointment.
Jeff, the Customer Experience Advisor, welcomed us and greeted us. He first took us to the drinks bar where we availed of Cafe Mocha for Nancy, and an Iced Cafe Americano for me.
Once we had our drinks, it was time to meet our new baby, our 2018 Tesla Model 3.
Jeff spent a good hour with us, if not more. He carefully went through many of the major highlights that allowed us to get to know the vehicle. This was the very first time I actually sat inside a Model 3. This was the the closest we got, and it was ours, our car. Most of our biggest questions had to do with the charging cable and accessories that it came with. The most intimidating part was the iPad-like screen. I’ll talk more about this later.
Of course there were pictures
Thanks again to Jeff for being so patient with me and Nancy, it was like the birth of a new member of the family. Lots and lots of pictures were taken, so thank you, Jeff.
Too soon for a review
As of this writing, we’ve only had the Model 3 for less than 48 hours, and have driven it a total of 150 miles. Instead of a review, I’ll give you my first impressions:
Roomier than I thought
I’ve always driven a smaller sedan (a Camry, Honda Accord, BMW 325i, a few Mercedes Benz C-Class vehicles, and the biggest one was a Lexus GS300). I’m used to the space. The kids had no problem with them sitting in the back of the Model 3.
Trunk and Frunk (front trunk)
I noticed that you can’t really slam the hood, or the front trunk, or the frunk, so for now, we’re having to carefully close them. But man, the room, the additional room for storage. You have to remember that I’m a family man, with 4 kids, and any kind of additional space is surely welcomed.
0-60 in 4.6 seconds
During our test drive before we brought the vehicle home, Jeff with Tesla, suggested that I step on the pedal, I couldn’t say step on the gas. Wow…again, I don’t do that kind of driving anymore, maybe because I’m older now, but it was thrilling to be driving at that speed within 5 seconds. To think, I didn’t even floor it. I have to admit, I’ve stepped on that pedal quite a few times since driving it off the lot – fun!!!
15 inch touchscreen display
If there was something intimidating, it was the touchscreen.That was the main control center for this car so I had to grasp as much as I could in order to confidently drive off with the car.
Learning the touchscreen was something I picked up quickly enough, and it was just making sure I managed well as I navigate my way around it. For now, as long as I could play my music, control the temperature, use the nav – I’ll be okay.
Tesla App and Keycard
This was another thing I need to get used to. I learned that there were no keys, and that the car senses my presence once I’m near it. I have a bad habit of misplacing my keys and wallet. Good luck to me!
I also have a bad habit of using up my phone’s battery, thanks to my kids who seem to fancy using my phone and play games. So why was that important? On the night we got home, my brother-in-law came over to see the car, and my phone was dead. I couldn’t show him how to control the car using the Tesla App. I had to use an external battery to power up my phone. While that was all happening, I also made use of the Tesla keycard.
My final thoughts
While waiting for the Model 3, we needed to get another vehicle to replace a lease that we returned. The most logical move for us was to get a 2016 Toyota Prius III Touring. It was not a plug-in hybrid, but I was quite thrilled to have averaged 52 mpg with this vehicle. We visited the gas stations so much less with driving our Prius. It was the car that made a lot of sense for us before owning our first EV. The Model 3 was not yet ready for our purchase when we bought our Prius in Jan 2017. The closest thing to an EV with this Prius was using the EV mode which allowed me to drive using the battery with speeds up to 25 mph (yahoo)!!!
I just couldn’t believe that we are now actual owners of a Tesla Model 3. I’m not going to profess that I am the best example of saving the planet, but this would be my contribution in using no gasoline, no emission.
It’s a whole different ball game for us to be charging this car instead of filling up our tank by going to the nearest gas station. It’s truly a lifestyle change.
We are excited for the days ahead, and we can’t wait to learn more about this EV. For now, we’re charged to go places with our new Tesla Model 3.