Seven years ago this month, I wrote Prius to Tesla transition about the experience moving from a hybrid electric vehicle to a fully-electric one. It talked about the decision making process, my expectations and the emotional ride. It made sense to write it then before there were millions of Teslas on the road. Since that was written, we traded in our 2nd car, a Toyota gasoline model, bought a 2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range rear wheel drive. I drive the Model 3 now and my wife drives the larger Model S. I actually ordered my Model 3 in 2016 before it was available to get on a waiting list for delivery in the summer of 2018.
I bought the Model 3 with the intention of never buying another car. It had Tesla’s Full Self-Driving feature that would supposedly keep me mobile even after I was too old to drive myself. I’m still waiting for that feature to be fully implemented, but it’s improving. The battery was supposed to last 350,000 – 450,000 miles.
Both those cars were purchased before I had experienced a winter in Virginia where I live now, with a driveway I cannot climb after it snows, so the main driver to switch was to get an AWD car.
Here is a partial list of features I gain by switching to a 2023 Model Y:
- All-wheel drive
- Heat pump (greater efficiency, especially in winter)
- Heated steering wheel
- Higher resolution HW4 cameras
- Faster Full Self-Driving computer
- Faster infotainment computer (Ryzen chip)
- Wireless phone charging
- USB port in the glove box for dash cam SSD
- Lithium ion 12-volt battery that should last the life of the car (rather than replacing a lead acid battery every 4 years)
- External speaker, including pedestrian warning
- Powered trunk lift gate
- More USB ports. My Model 3 had 2 USB A ports in the front that had to be shared between phone charging and a dash cam drive, plus 2 rear seat USB A charging only ports. Model Y has separate wireless charging for two phones, a USB A port in the glove box for the dash cam, two USB C charging ports in the front and two in the back.
- Higher stance with easier entry and egress.
- Much more cargo room (9 more banana boxes in Bjørn Nyland’s test)
- Carpet padding inside the doors and acoustic side window glass (overall the Model Y is reported to be quieter)
- Heated windshield wiper channel
- Dual jet wiper spray
- Chrome delete
- 12V outlet in the trunk
- Matrix LED headlights
- Better side support on the seats
- Bioweapons Defense Mode
And there are losses:
- Ultrasonic sensors
- Premium connectivity for life (ouch!)
- Temporary unavailability of Full Self-Driving Beta and some regular FSD features, like Summon.
- 5 mph slower top speed (only 135)
Tesla pulled a demand lever in Q3 2023 by allowing owners to transfer Full Self-Driving to new purchases. Meanwhile the US federal government is offering a $7,500 tax credit for ordering an EV (a benefit I got on the other two Teslas also); a $22,500 incentive was pretty hard to pass up. The new car will be red, same as my 2007 Prius.
One reason for pulling the lever is that a new version of Model 3 is about to start manufacture, with Model Y not far behind. Without a little kick, folks might hold off buying a new car, and Tesla likes for those numbers to look strong. (Disclosure: I own Tesla stock, and I like those numbers to be strong too.)
Buying a Tesla is not like buying a traditional car. The car is ordered online; there’s no haggling; the price is the same for everyone. The buyer just picks the car and options, then clicks a button to place the order on the Tesla website, paying a $250 order fee. Once the order is placed, just about everything from sales to operation to service relies on the Tesla app. If you’re trading in a car, that’s through the app too. I filled in a few details, took some pictures and got a trade-in offer.
Tesla is notorious for low trade-in values for non-Tesla cars. When I tried to trade in my great-looking 2007 Prius with 144,000 miles and one accident, they offered $2000 for it. I decided to donate the car to the SC ETV Endowment and they got $4500 at auction! When it came time to trade in our Toyota Camry, I just sold it to CarMax for exactly what I wanted. This time I’m trading in a Tesla so I got an offer from CarMax and one from Tesla. The Tesla offer was $23,500 ($1,500 higher than CarMax), so I’ll take that. A trade in is convenient because I can just drive to the sales center, leave one car, and pick up the other. I won’t have to worry about timing the money transfers.
Payment and financing is also handled through the app. In this case with the trade-in, there’s not all that much money to change hands, so I’ll pay by bank transfer, and that’s through the app.
Buying a car at a dealership is always a stressful experience. You never know whether you’re getting a good deal. The negotiation is a one-sided contest between a trained professional salesman and someone who only buys a car a few times in their lifetime. I never want to go back to that.
My second Tesla delivery was pretty low key compared to the first one. With the first I got swag — a coffee mug and an umbrella. Nothing came with the Model 3. I just sat around a little while while they completed the paperwork. They still gave a little training on operating the car, pairing the phone with the car (the phone acts as the key) and answering any questions. I was already pretty familiar with Tesla when I got number 2. Model 3 and Model S are pretty much the same car except for the shape, and Tesla keeps the older cars up date with firmware downloads. I probably won’t have many questions. [Update: no training this time, just signing the paperwork and inspecting the car. During the ordering process Tesla sent links to videos on basic operation and features.]
There are some loose ends. The Model Y doesn’t come with the HomeLink feature my Model 3 has to open my garage door. It has to be ordered and installed after delivery. I’m not able to order it yet. A Tesla advisor said there was a known glitch in the Tesla app, which is the only way to order this particular option. [Update: I think the Tesla advisor just made that up. Tesla is intentionally not allowing this item to be ordered until the purchaser takes delivery of a car compatible with it. As soon as I accepted delivery, I was able to order HomeLink through the app, and Tesla Mobile Service will come out and install it.] [Update 2: Then installed it.]
I have to figure out Premium Connectivity — mobile internet access built into the car. Older Model 3s came with Premium Connectivity for life; now it’s available for a monthly free ($9.99 + tax) with the first 30 days included. I’m going to try to do without it, using my mobile phone as a mobile hot spot to give the car internet access if I need it. Satellite maps require it, but I never use that feature. I normally listen radio rather than stream. Connectivity for the app and navigation is included and I can probably connect to Wi-Fi at places where I charge the car on the road. I can use the mobile hot spot from my phone. I could also pay for Premium Connectivity in the month for any road trips I take.
If I recall correctly, I have a week or so to transfer my insurance, and I’ll to enroll the car in VA Mileage Choice to pay my road use fee based on odometer readings rather than an average mileage that’s more than I drive. They can take odometer readings remotely.
I got Tesla’s FSD Beta Christmas Day in 2022, a limited release to owners who purchased the feature and passed a safety score test. Today it’s available to everyone who buys it; however, there is a complication. My car will come with a new version of the FSD cameras and computer (Hardware 4 it’s called) that only works with the latest versions of the Tesla FSD Beta software, and that software only comes with slightly older versions of the car’s firmware. New cars come with new firmware, so it’s entirely likely I will temporarily lose FSD Beta. That leaves me with the older FSD feature that doesn’t do automatic driving on city streets; basically, it doesn’t do turns. I hope that the delay will not be too long. I hope the announced Beta V11.34.7 will be available soon and available to me. [Update: as of September 12, I still don’t have FSD Beta. Beta V11.4.4 is compatible, but very few cars have gotten a firmware update including it. [Update 2: I finally got the firmware update including FSD V11.4.4, or most of it. My car doesn’t have ultrasonic sensors, so it current lacks Summon, Smart Summon and Autopark. It’s been 3 months without those so far.]
I got some bad advice on the internet that said I should purchase FSD with the new car, and when I picked it up, they would reduce the price based on my transfer from the old car. That may work, but it adds complication to the delivery with them having to change the price and recompute tax. The correct procedure is to order the car without FSD and obtain, sign and submit an FSD transfer form from Tesla in advance. A Tesla advisor was able to remove FSD from my order and upload my form very efficiently.
Talking to a human being
This isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done. Sometimes and in some situations you can chat online during the sales process, but most of the time you fill out a form and someone calls you back, sometimes days later. What I did was to locate the phone number of the nearest Tesla Store to me, and call that. I’m fairly sure my call was transferred to corporate offices, but it still worked and I got all the information I needed, including adjusting the time for the delivery, something you schedule through the app, but cannot change there. Delivery is 2 PM, August 25.
I had all my ducks in a row and delivery was simple. A delivery specialist got me to sign a pile of paperwork (mostly to do with my trade in and title transfer) and he told me that my car’s “birth date” was August 6. The last time I bought a Tesla I think that the car didn’t show up in the Tesla app until some hours later, but now it appears the moment you click “Accept” in the app and your “phone key” starts working immediately. The firmware I received is 2023.20.200. The release that end 100, 200, 300 are factory releases.
Just a few minutes after accepting the car, FSD transferred from my old Model 3 to the new Model Y. After the cameras calibrated I had original FSD — basically Navigate on Autopilot plus stop light control. It’s pretty basic stuff for someone who has driven the Beta for almost 2 years. I will have to wait until the FSD Beta makes it into a current firmware branch that I can download. [Update: Version 2023.26.11 has started to roll out with V11.4.4 in it. There is some delay between delivery and Teslas starting to get firmware updates. Hope springs eternal.]
Naming the car
Tesla cars can be named (it’s a setting). Choosing a name is not as momentous as naming your first-born son since it’s changeable at any time, but I did think about it for a couple of weeks with nothing coming to mind. I arrived at some clarity on the 50-mile drive to the Tesla store and named the car “Nell-E.” The reader will probably have guessed already that the “E” is for “electric.” I’ll leave the first part as a puzzle.
Here are my first impressions from a 60-mile drive home from the delivery:
- I like the red color.
- The car is really easy for me to get into and out of.
- The car is tall. When I got it into the garage, I realized for the first time how really bit this car is!
- The old Full Self-Driving software (not Beta) is a huge step backwards.
- Regenerative braking is noticeably stronger in this dual motor Tesla.
- I was not impressed at the noise reduction over Model 3. I’m sure part of that is going from 18″ to 19″ tires and perhaps from Michelin to Continental tires.
- When I activated the turn signal, the side car image appeared on the touch screen and remarkably the sky was blue! (This is supposedly due to a change in firmware and not the HW4 cameras.)
- Some if the controls, like the window switches look rather plain and flat compared to my Model 3.
- I really miss the shelf in the center console. The prices for some Tesla accessories are more expensive than I think they’re worth. I found a pair of center console shelves on Amazon for $23 that I will try.
- It’s hard to park in the garage because the sides of the car aren’t visible from the driver’s seat and it’s difficult to gauge your position. (I’ve had parking problems with most new cars.)
- Those matrix headlights are really something. My old Model 3 headlights weren’t very good. The new matrix lights look like there is a straight line across the horizon between where the lights illuminate and where they don’t. But the completely different appearance will take some getting used to.
I like the car a lot so far.
- August 21: State Farm is sending me a Drive Save & SaveTM transponder.
- August 22: The car is now paid for through the app.
- August 25: Picked up the car (see below)
- August 27: Installed the DS&S transponder and hooked it to the State Farm app
- August 30: Tesla Mobile Service installed HomeLinkTM garage door opener.
- August 30: Center console organizer inserts arrived from Amazon — installed.
- August 31: Trunk mats arrived from Tesla, made by WeatherTech. Amazon has less expensive ones.
- September 1: Removed old car from Virginia Mileage Choice program
- September 1: Installed first firmware update to car (2023.26.9, but it doesn’t have a version of Full Self-Driving I can use.
- September 13: Installed second firmware update to car (2023.32.4) with V11.4.4 of the Full Self-Driving Beta. Yea!
There are still some things to do:
Waiting for registration documents from the state of Virginia. Install permanent license plates. Add car to Virginia Mileage Choice program (it reads odometer to get road use tax information). Get barcode for my subdivision. Get Full Self-Driving installed. Remove screen protector from touchscreen.
OK. Everything’s done. I am transitioned.
So why did I trade for a Model Y again? Model Y is bigger, meaning bulkier. It takes up a little more room in the garage. It costs a little more. The reason I got Model Y, I remind myself, is because it’s easier to get in and out of and I’m getting older — and more importantly at this moment, it’s easier for my older friends to get in and out of. And of course all-wheel drive foprm when it snows.