Category: cars

  • Lessons Learned from Owning a Tesla

    In November of 2022, I picked up my 2023 Model 3 from the local Tesla Service Center. I was ecstatic to finally own an EV, and it also happened to be the first car I bought brand new. After a year and a half of ownership and upkeep, I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ll be upfront and say that while it hasn’t all been roses along the way, 99.9% of the time I’m impressed and happy with the vehicle.

    Cold Weather

    The Tesla Model 3 was not designed with PNW winter climate conditions in mind. The frameless window gets stuck when snow/ice forms at the base, and can cause damage to the door if you try to force it open. The solution is to defrost your car, which can take a while if it’s been sitting in snow for a while. Supercharging is much slower in the extreme cold, and there’s no fix outside of navigating to the charger so your car can precondition. Even then, charging is painfully slow.

    On the plus side, the heater is extremely efficient, the heated steering wheel and seats are amazing in the cold, and the car handles like a dream on ice considering it’s a RWD vehicle.

    That said, I can’t imagine the pain of owning an EV in the mid-west winters.


    I’ve brought my car in twice, once when I was forced off the road by another driver and hit the curb, and once when I noticed vibration above 65 mph. Both times, the initial estimate is a few hundred dollars, but quickly ballooned into the low 4 digit range. The first time I was without my car for a month because they were waiting on a specific part to be made for this repair, as all the parts in production were slated for new cars. The worst part of this was that they did not have a loaner vehicle for me at that time. Fortunately I still had my second car, but if I hadn’t I’d have been SOL and riding the bus. The second time, I was able to get a loaner M3, which came with Full Self Driving so that was cool.

    Tax Rebates, Price Drops

    I can’t sugar coat it, I took a massive L ordering my M3 when I did. Less than two months after taking possession of the car, the $7500 tax break was made available, but I missed the boat. Tesla also dropped the price on the M3 significantly in 2023. Nothing more to say, other than to warn potential buyers: wait for a deal. I went full retail, and I’ll never make that mistake again.

    Road Trips

    The battery percentage estimate works amazingly well on road trips (Eastern Washington to Seattle/Portland is my most common trip). I usually arrive within 1 percentage point of the estimated battery life. This is because I stay to the speed limit, or maybe 5 over on long road trips. I noticed that going more than 10 over the limit significantly reduced my range. So I’m of the opinion that most people complaining about range estimates are speeding. It would be nice to have an option in the OS to tell the car “hey, I may be travelling this much over the speed limit, please calculate my range based on that information”.

    I’ve been immensely pleased with the 10/15 minute “top off” stops at superchargers along the way. You can stay longer to pad your range, but really you don’t need to.


    I’m 6’5″ (1.95m for the rest of the world) and I fit quite well. I’m not slender by any means, and I feel very comfortable in the seats. I have lots of head room, and everything is within easy reach.

    Would I do it again?

    Aside from waiting for a price drop/tax break, I’d make the same decision again. The M3 standard is plenty fast, fun to drive, and quite entertaining thanks to the streaming services available when parked/charging. I love that Spotify and Apple’s Podcast apps are now baked in, and the autopilot is just second to none. I still won’t shell out for advanced autopilot or full self driving. In the future, I’ve got my eye on the Model X, and may splurge for FSD when I get one.

  • It’s taken less than 2 weeks of ownership to experience a fundamental shift about personal vehicles. Electric is the way to go for most, with few excuses. I can understand making exceptions for having to tow heavy loads or needing a utility vehicle for work (using it on the job site, not simply commuting). For the typical commuter, town runabout, or even the long road trip however, I can see no reason to not utilize modern electric vehicles.

    Fuel is an expensive pollutant, requiring in most vehicles an engine with hundreds of moving parts (pistons, cams, transmission gears, pumps) to burn fuel and gain only about 20% of the potential energy stored in fuel. 80% is lost, and that doesn’t factor in the energy required to convert oil to gasoline and the energy then required to transport it from refineries to gas pumps. Electric cars have an efficiency of 80% after factoring losses to AC to DC back to tri-phase AC. This alone makes electric vehicles 4 times as efficient as internal combustion engine vehicles. Electricity can be produced in a multitude of fashions, from hydroelectric, to wind, to solar, to nuclear. Notable exceptions like Chernobyl aside, nuclear is a clean and safe way to produce electricity.

    A common detraction about electric vehicles is that they will become an untenable strain on the electric grid. This infrastructure, already in place for at home charging, is augmented by charging stations at destinations as well as Super Charger destinations along common long trip routes. Strain on the grid can be alleviated by scheduling cars at home to recharge during off-peak hours, such as between 11pm and 6am in most cities. Further alleviation can come in the form of home solar panels, such as the Tesla Solar Roof, which after seeing recently I think would be a lovely addition to any home.

    When it comes to cost, there’s no getting around it. Teslas are expensive, and even considered luxury vehicles. I’m not going to assert any differently. However, there are 6 options from the list below that fall under $30K after tax credits, with the Nissan Leaf S falling just under $21K. With the average price of a new sedan being $23K, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a consumer looking for a new car shouldn’t consider electric.

    Credit to Inside EVs for this list

    Noise pollution is another area where EVs surge ahead of ICE vehicles. After driving an EV, already I detest hearing loud exhaust clearly designed to amplify rather than muffle. Performance vehicles can now be whisper quiet thanks to electric.

    What about road trips, you say? Thanks to an ever-growing network of Super Chargers, and L2 charging stations around the US, chances are your closest charger is only a mile or two away. Sites like Plug Share allow for travelers to find charging stations, and Tesla’s in car navigation allows for planning to charge en route. I would also encourage people to consider taking the train or flying for trips, as these options are typically less damaging to the environment.

    You will save on maintenance as well. Regular oil changes, radiator flushes, and fluid checks are a thing of the past when driving electric. In fact, Teslas only have a scheduled fluid maintenance for checking and changing the brake fluid every two years.

    I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest my entire life. I have always traveled from point A to B in a front or rear wheel drive car, without needing all wheel drive. I’ve owned two Camaros, which I’ve managed to drive successfully in the snow and ice as well. I have owned a Tahoe, and I did not notice a huge advantage to driving a truck with 4WD over a sedan or coupe. Given EV’s superior traction control, even driving on the ice with a Tesla has been a breeze, and I have the rear wheel drive model. Get the right tires for the conditions you drive in. A rear wheel drive car with good all season tires will beat an all wheel drive vehicle with balding snow tires every time.

    I would like to offer the notion that we should re-evaluate how we perceive cars. They’re a vehicle to carry passengers from place to place, nothing more. They don’t need to be large, they don’t need to be lifted, and they certainly don’t need to have massive wheels. They’ve become a part of culture, and that makes change all the more difficult. People see cars as a part of their personality, an extension of themselves, when, pragmatically, that’s simply not the case. They’re a tool to do a job, and they should do that job as efficiently as possible.

    I look at ICE commuter vehicles as relics now, to be replaced by EVs at some point (2035 if legislators have their way). There are problems to solve, such as sourcing enough rare metals to construct current generation batteries, and how we can recycle and reuse components from those batteries for the next generation of vehicles. I’ll leave you with this perspective. ICE technology has had over 100 years to reach where it’s currently at, improvements continue to be marginal at best. EV technology is only 15 years old, and improvements over that short time have been staggering. We’re only just beginning to see what potential EVs have to offer society.

  • I’ve come across some articles (this one in particular) that bash on convertibles, and don’t pull the punches. 

    I have also noticed, during my recent search for a new car, that American domestics have all but given up the convertible form factor. Your options, as of 2019, for a new convertible are limited to the following: The Buick Cascada, the Chevrolet Camaro, the Ford Mustang, and, even though I would barely count it as convertible, the Tesla Roadster.

    Before I delve any further into refuting the alleged downsides of convertibles, however, I want to extoll their virtues.

    The Highway Example

    Imagine you’re driving down Highway 1 on the golden coast in the middle of summer. It’s a brilliantly bright day, heat tempered into comfortable warmth by the ocean air, occasional patches of mist brush against you, making your skin tingle. The wind is lightly tousling your hair, and you have a playlist of The Eagles and America music keeping you company.

    Now, forget everything in the above paragraph. You’re still driving down Highway 1, but you have no idea what it’s like outside b/c you don’t have a convertible. The A/C is sterilizing the ocean air, the roof prevents any sun from hitting you, and your windshield wipers dispel any mist on the windshield. It’s a clinical, detached experience, devoid of anything that makes driving enjoyable.

    That’s a large difference, but I think it best illustrates why you’d want to own a convertible. It’s not because it’s the fastest, or the most practical, or the safest. 

    It’s because a convertible lets you enjoy the world as you drive through it. It’s an immersive experience, and takes the monotony out of even the most boring of commutes, time and again. 

    But back to talking about convertibles

    I was a little cheesed that there’s not as much in the way of convertible selection as there used to be in America. I can understand why. 

    • They’re not as safe as their full body counterparts.
    • They’re not really practical for a family. (see the rise in SUVs)
    • They’re typically more expensive than their full body counterparts.

    I’d like to imagine that, even given the above facts, convertibles still appeal to the rebel in all of us, even more so than motorcycles. I’m going to rebut most of the claims made by Aaron Miller in the article I’ve linked to above in an effort to make the convertible more attractive.

    1 – He complains about bird poop

    This is laughable as argument number 1. I truly believe you’re more likely to get hit by bird poop walking in and out of work than you are by sitting in a convertible. 

    2 – He says: “Putting the top up is an enormous pain”

    Not really. I push a button, and the car takes care of the rest, even rolling the windows up. I don’t think I’d ever consider it a “pain” or even and inconvenience. It’s just part of parking a convertible if you had the top down.

    3 – He states: “It rains”

    Um… duh? Of course it rains, that’s when you don’t put the top down. I’ve never had either of my convertibles leak on me, and one was almost 20 years old.

    3.1 – He complains about trunk space.

    Neither of the two convertibles I’ve owned have had tiny trunk spaces. In fact, my Chrysler 200 has a massive trunk when you’re not storing the top in there, and even when you are, there’s still a decent amount of space.

    4 – He mentions mold

    Could this not happen to any car that gets water in it, maybe even by means other than rain through the top (e.g. snow on your shoes).

    5 – He claims they’re slow

    I didn’t buy my car to go fast. I bought a convertible to cruise with the top down and enjoy it. And honestly, my 200 isn’t going to be breaking any land records, but it’s no slouch of a car, either.

    6 – He gives some random, outdated example

    Not even worth a response.

    7 – He says convertibles are flexible

    On this point, and on point 11, we are in total agreement. It can be unnerving to feel your car “flex” a little from time to time, but you get used to it. This is a byproduct of the convertible form factor, and unavoidable without being re-engineered.

    8 – He says “We don’t want to see you”

    I cannot tell you how much I don’t care.

    9 – He claims the shapes suck.

    This is largely subjective, but I have to disagree. The new Mustangs, Camaros, and the Tesla Roadster look pretty sweet. I’m not a big Buick fan, but even the Cascada looks pretty sharp.

    10 – He says you can’t hear the radio

    This complaint leads me to believe the author has never ridden in a convertible made within the last 20 years. My 2000 Camaro had a sound system w/two modes. The first mode was for driving with the top up, and, surprise, the second mode was for driving with the top down. You had to manually toggle it, but it worked very well. My 2012 200 also has this feature, but it’s toggled automatically.

    11 – He says: “Sunburns Suck”

    Again, …duh? Sunburns can happen in convertibles, but can also happen if you leave your arm on the side of the car with the windows down. 

    I would hope that I’ve refuted enough common complaints to restore someone’s interest in convertibles. If nothing else, I’d like to be able to send this to someone next time they get snarky about convertibles.