Skip to main content

First Time EV Owner’s Take On The Tesla Model 3 RWD

As much as electric vehicles (EVs) are capturing headlines in the US, most US drivers have never owned an EV. I recently had an opportunity to interview someone that purchased their first EV recently. Their perspective is worth considering.


First a little background about the subject of my interview: He is in his early fifties, lives in southern California, and had only ever driven an EV a couple of times before deciding to buy one. He and I have known each other since we were teenagers and he is one of the reasons I became an automotive enthusiast.

Describe your previous car ownership experiences. My first car, a 1985 Volkswagen Jetta, is still in my father’s garage (it is my project vehicle) and I literally took it completely apart, rebuilt it and did all the maintenance on it. I mean did everything. After having kids and buying a Toyota Sienna minivan though, I stopped doing as much of my own maintenance (I had less time, there was a warranty, etc.). I am looking forward to having less maintenance on my EV.

Since you have never owned an EV before, what influenced your decision? A combination of things. Seeing and hearing that the technology is getting more reliable, prices coming down, getting solar panels installed (which lower the costs of fueling an EV) and other ongoing incentives that lowered the cost as well all drew my attention.

What do you like more, or less, about your EV and driving it compared to your previous vehicles? The instantaneous power (torque), especially for the price point. I would say my EV feels and handles a lot like the most sporty car I previously owned (a 2008 Mini Cooper Turbo S), but it may have even better performance. It felt easy to transition to the one pedal driving. All of my previous (personal) vehicles had been manual transmission, and regardless of their more obvious differences, I see some similarities between manual transmissions & EVs in the “pedal work”. This is in the way one applies/removes pressure to the accelerator in order to accelerate / decelerate (regeneratively brake), it is much the same as a person driving stick will learn to feather the clutch with the purpose of engaging / disengaging it and thus controlling the transmission braking effect, especially in city/ stop & go traffic.

How much did you pay for your EV after all incentives? About $29,000. I also got incentives for charger installation and a prepaid charging station card (worth a combined $2,300).

Which EV did you buy? I bought a Tesla Model 3 (Standard Range) RWD. I did not test drive it first, or any other models.

How long have you owned your new EV and what do you think of it so far? I’ve owned it for less than a month. Overall, I very much like it but I am still getting used to a lot of its features and settings. It is very different from the older cars I drive or have owned. 

How do you expect it will suit your driving needs and what exactly would your typical driving patterns look like? 100% charging at home (because I have solar and a 240V charger). I typically use it to commute to work and take the kids to school, run errands etc. I drive about 30 miles a day.

What is your charging pattern so far? I only charge it about once a week, or whenever it gets under 100 miles of range remaining. If the sun is shining and I need to top off the car, I do.

What was the most noticeable or tangible difference for you, in driving an EV? The instantaneous torque and regenerative braking are the obvious things, but the far more advanced technology compared to my other cars was quite impressive too (my two other current vehicles are 10 and 38 years old, respectively). I appreciate the thoughtful, user focused, and reliable software in my Tesla too.

What do you not like so far about driving an EV? Nothing really, though the sensors and cameras sometimes seem to not pick up things I think they should. I really feel like it is me getting acclimated to the car though (I am trying to get used to the slightly different behavior the technology requires or supports).

What would you say to other drivers who might be considering their first EV? I would suggest, if they are not aware of the credits and incentives, to research those. These things can make an EV much more affordable than a gas powered car (especially in California or states where there are additional incentives). For people that are renting homes, I might suggest they make sure they can charge their vehicles where they live (or if not that they would be okay with only using public or work based chargers). And I would generally say check out the variety of models on offer; there are more and more to choose from. 

If there was one thing you could change about your purchasing process, what would it be? Our previous two car purchases were very spur of the moment decisions. We just bought the first thing we saw/liked that met our needs. With the purchase of our Tesla though, we actually did more research and talked to more people about it. It was very weird to put a car in my shopping cart from my phone. Getting an email when my car was ready to pick up, having a seamless pick up experience was fantastic yet, being totally new to EVs and the high tech nature of them, I think I would have appreciated a little more of a concierge experience but I do not think it was a bad or poor quality experience in any way. Tesla service was great.

Is there anything you wish you would have known beforehand? Not that I can think of.

Do you think you might buy another EV if and when the time comes to purchase another vehicle? We would probably buy either a hybrid or plug-in hybrid because we would want the option to use gas if, for example, there was a lengthy power outage. However, if we could connect the car to our house and power the house in an outage, we might consider a second EV.

I find it interesting and potentially helpful to hear about people’s experiences buying and driving their first electric vehicles because it represents a significant, ongoing change that is occurring in our society. It can be easy to lose sight of what new EV buyers experience once we have gone down that path ourselves. Do you have any questions about buying your first EV? Would you pose any different questions to us? If so, please leave your questions or comments below.

Image courtesy of R.A. Bemis

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Torque News Kia or X for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.