Is the Tesla Model 3 a good family car?
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Tesla Model 3 As A Family Vehicle – Thumbs Up Or Down

The Tesla Model 3 is many things to many people. But is it a “great family vehicle?”
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When the Tesla Model 3 was in pre-production, Tesla promised it would be many things. These included having a price of $35K (nope), offer a very low cost of ownership (OK), and being extremely safe (sure). These are attributes that any great family car should have. However, they are not the only attributes a great family vehicle should have. Here is our analysis of the Tesla Model 3 as a family vehicle.

What Is A Family? What Is A Family Vehicle?
We see red flags everywhere related to the question, “what is a family?” Our general opinion is that a family is any group of people who consider themselves a family. However, when it comes to vehicles, the term family generally implies some things we will adopt for the basis of our story. First, a family involves children. Second, that a family vehicle is one that has attributes that make it more practical day to day than say, a Kawasaki Ninja.

Another important consideration is the family fleet. In a family with two adults and one child with three different types of vehicles, it is hard not to say that a Tesla Model 3 would be an ideal part of that mix. For this story, we are going to ask a more specific question. Is a Tesla Model 3 a great family vehicle if it is the primary vehicle and if the family has children? Here we go:

Subaru Forester Cargo

Tesla Model 3 Cargo Capacity
If there is a single area where the Tesla Model 3 fails the family-vehicle test it is cargo capacity. This has nothing to do with the Model 3 being a Tesla and everything to do with being a relatively small sedan. With just 15 cubic feet of cargo capacity (including its frunk), the Model 3 offers less than half the cargo space of a Honda CR-V crossover with its rear seats up and occupied. A CR-V, which tops out fully-loaded under $35K, has 39 cubic feet of storage with all five seats occupied and a whopping 76 cubic feet of space when the second row is folded down (yup, that is a Forester in the image above).

Kia Niro BEV Cargo

Even other electric vehicles the same size of the Model 3 have dramatically more cargo space. For example, the Kia Niro BEV or Hyundai Kona BEV. The Niro has 19 cubic feet of cargo with all its seats occupied and 54 cu ft when the rear seats are folded. Why does this matter? You are only asking this if you don’t have kids. Hockey bags, banana strollers, baby joggers, bikes, etc. etc. Cargo space matters and the Model 3 has less than comparable EVs and way less than crossovers priced far less.

Hyundai Kona

Tesla Model 3 Safety
The Model 3 is easy to call safe. We will know more in late August when the Model 3 IIHS evaluations are published, but from a safety standpoint, the Tesla Model 3 gets a thumbs up on safety from us until someone proves otherwise. Unless the Autopilot system is being used incorrectly. Of course.

Tesla Model 3 vs. Outlander PHEV

Tesla Model 3 Initial Price and Long-term Affordability
From an initial price standpoint, the Model 3 gets a thumbs down as a family vehicle. For its 97 cubic feet of passenger space, its entry price tag of just over $40K with zero options is just dumb for any family on a budget to consider. There is just so much more vehicle available in that price range. Take the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It starts at about $37K before incentives and those incentives are much greater in value than the Model 3’s. In cold months, range drop and increased charge times is not a big deal, since the Outlander PHEV does not rely solely on batteries for range. With a 74 MPGe rating, it is the lowest cost to fuel crossover its size under $40K. Its 10-year, 100K warranty also means its repair costs won’t be surprising. Sure the Outlander PHEV is unusual. Trailblazers always are.

Compared to other premium/performance compact/midsized sedans the Model 3 does offer good affordability. But what does that segment have to do with family vehicles?

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in snow

Tesla Family-Friendly Attributes and Features
There are a few demerits for the Model 3 when it comes to family-friendly features. First up, no spare tire and no run-flats. So if your family has a tire damaged, it will likely mean being towed and your family heading home in an Uber. Although spares are going away in many specialty vehicles, every top-selling family vehicle in America still has one (Every truck model, CR-V, RAV4, Rogue, Odyssey, Accord, Camry etc).

Range is also an issue for many. Now, rather than give you our opinion on this, we will refer readers to Green Car Reports’ Content Editor’s recent story on why a BEV can’t fully replace a gas-powered car in a parent’s world. Short summary – You need to be able to go when the kids are sick and not be challenged with charging worries. This is a Tesla-specific issue. Other types of EVs such as PHEVs and EREVs have the ability to travel as much as 700 miles with 10 minutes of refueling. That can matter in real-world situations involving families.

Since the Model 3 is a sedan with a low seating position, the Model 3 is a poor choice for those families who will be using car seats or even boosters. Bending and twisting to buckle in kids is no fun. Crossovers have a big advantage here, which is why they have become the top choice for most families.

Our Take – Tesla Model 3 As a Family Vehicle
As a second vehicle in a family that also has a minivan, truck, crossover, or SUV, a Tesla Model 3 would be ideal for a family that can afford a premium vehicle’s up-front costs. It is safe for its size, offers the promise of low long-term maintenance costs, and as a green vehicle, the Model 3 has a low cost of energy.

However, as a primary or only family vehicle, the Tesla Model 3 has serious drawbacks compared to other options. Cargo, price, parent-friendly features like child loading and even the lack of a spare tire are all areas in which the Model 3 is not a good choice as a primary family vehicle.

Tell us your opinion in the comments section below. If you are a parent shopping for a primary family vehicle, what things do you put at the top of your needs and wants list?

Related Story: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus vs. 2019 Kia Niro BEV – Surprising Similarities & Stark Contrasts. See you in the next story titled: 2019 Audi e-tron Earns Top Safety Pick Plus Rating From IIHS Ahead Of Any Tesla Model.

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Comments

The first point that I think about with your analysis is how many families with kids own only one car? You make a fair case that many families will choose to buy a crossover, pickup or SUV for their bigger space needs. For Tesla, that is why they offer the Model X, and why they are coming out with the more affordable Model Y within a year. But for those of us who already own a SUV/CUV then we do not need another one for the second/third car. As far that EV range for the Tesla goes, I do not think that it is a big concern for most buyers especially with the latedst batch of long range EVs. In the end, most owners of EVs just charge up overnight to replenish the electricity used in a given day. I am not sure how important the spare tire is these days. Years ago you needed a spare because tires were not always reliable, or puncture resistant, and you didn't have tire pressure sensors, and you didn't have cell phones to call for help, or built-in OnStar for roadside assistance. In my previous Chevy Volt (which has no spare) I did get two flat tires, and I saw the tires pressure drop in real time, and then I got a call on the car's audio system from someone from OnStar who got a warning of tire pressure loss. They asked if I needed assistance, and when I said yes they said that they had already contacted a tire reseller who was 1/4 mile away and confirmed that they had the correct replacement tire for my car in stock. And they knew that I has AAA towing and they called them with my current location and gave them directions to the nearby tire reseller. Surprisingly, it was 30 minutes before I was sitting at the tire place waiting for my new tires to be installed. The first time I was surprised at how easy they had made this process that would have been a real pain to happen in my youth. I have to wonder how many people these days know how to change a tire themselves at all. So all in all, I think that a Model 3 would make a fine family car as long as the family doesn't have the specific requirements shown above, and the upcoming Tesla Model Y should satisfy most of those with CUV needs as well.
That is a fantastic OnStar story. Worthy of a published account. When I was with my family this past April we toured a bunch of National Parks in the West. We were often hours from anywhere (in a rented Rogue). A flat there would have been a serious issue. The last flat we got that caused us problems was in a BMW X3. It was Sunday. Dealer was closed. Only open local tire shop did not have the run-flats in stock. Distant tire shop did not have the run flats in stock. We ended up burning a workday getting the tire late Monday. My story about that is the top-performing I have ever penned at any publication.