Why I’m Selling the Tesla Model 3 Cannonball Run EV Record Holder
The new Tesla does many things well...but even Elon Musk's magic can't make a small car larger than it is.
Daniel Zorilla, along with The Drive's own Alex Roy, recently set the Cannonball Run record for electric vehicles in his Tesla Model 3.
I grew up as a car guy. I had a subscription to every car magazine when I was a kid, and could name every make and model on the road, and the engine size and horsepower of any muscle car or supercar on the road. And I always loved gas cars—that is, until Motor Trend awarded the Tesla Model S its 2013 Car of the Year. After seeing a few Teslas on the road and watching them blow other cars away at stop lights in absolute silence, I decided that I had to have one of Elon Musk's electric cars. I had never even test-driven one at that point, but I was bound and determined to find a way to park one in my garage. However, with a growing family, I couldn’t really afford a new one.
In the year 2014, even the cheapest used Teslas were going for more than $70,000. But by analyzing prices and depreciation trends, I determined that by the end of the 2015, the price of a Tesla-certified pre-owned Model S should come down to the more manageable $50K range. And I was right: In December 2015, I finally located a certified preowned Model S 85 that met all of my requirements in Houston for $48,400.
Although friends and family thought buying a $50,000 used car sight unseen was crazy, Tesla made me feel at ease. The company sent me photos of the car, had me complete all of the paperwork on the website ahead of time, even sent an Uber to pick me up at the airport in Houston. When I arrived at Tesla’s Houston dealership, I was given a thorough walk-through of the car, signed a few documents, and handed the key fobs in less than an hour. The car was absolutely immaculate. Even though the car had 51,000 miles on it, Tesla had completely reconditioned the vehicle from top to bottom. The car didn’t have a shake or rattle anywhere.
During the two years since taking delivery, I’ve had a couple minor warranty issues that Tesla took care of without question and some minor maintenance costs, but no major unforeseen expenses. And of course, there were none of the associated costs that came with owning an internal-combustion vehicle: no gas costs; no oil changes; no transmission, engine, or brake service. My only costs have been tires, wiper blades, and a cabin air filter. And the impact on my electric bill was so small, I didn’t even notice a difference.
That said, while I have no complaints about my five-year-old Model S, I wanted the latest cutting-edge technology. So once Tesla announced it was coming out with the Model 3—a more affordable EV for half the price of a Model S—I jumped at the chance to put down a deposit. I even decided to take delivery in California, so that I could nab my car as early as possible.
Once it became clear my car would be delivered in December 2017, Alex Roy and I set out to set out to break the Cannonball Record for electric cars. (As you know by now, we knocked that out successfully, crossing from L.A. to NYC in 50 hours and 16 minutes.) On our trip, Alex asked if I was a car guy. I responded that I'd been a car guy since I was young—but since I had bought a Tesla, I wasn’t really that interested in ICE car news anymore. Whenever anyone told me about some updated muscle car with more horsepower or a new gearbox or a fancy aluminum body, I shrugged my shoulders and responded, "But can it beat a Tesla?"
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some tree-hugger or anti-oil conspiracy theorist. I believe there will always be a place for gas-powered cars. Enthusiasts will always love them, the rich will collect them, and there will likely always be ICE race cars. But once the average Joe can buy an EV for less than a gas car costs and have lower fueling, maintenance, and service costs to boot, it's hard to see a reason for the masses to buy internal-combustion passenger vehicles.
Tesla is nearing that tipping point with the Model 3, which starts at a base price of $35,000. And it holds up as a car, too. After driving my Model 3 for more than 4,500 miles in 5 days—from San Francisco to L.A. to NYC to Tampa, through the rain, sleet, snow, mountains, and desert—the only complaints I have are a couple minor software issues I assume will be resolved soon via over-the-air updates.
The Model 3 is as quick as my 2013 Model S 85, but it's perceptibly lighter and more agile. Don’t get me wrong, the bigger Tesla sedan is no slouch, but the Model S is so big and heavy by comparison that it almost feels like a boat after driving the Model 3. (On an unrelated, personal note, however: I really hate the Aero Wheels that Alex made me buy for their 10-percent better efficiency.)
In addition, the Model 3 passenger compartment volume—which nearly equals the larger Model S—is nothing short of remarkable. However, with a smaller footprint, the expansive cabin space had to be taken from somewhere...and that turned out to be cargo capacity.
Although the Model 3’s 15.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity is more than the roughly 13 cubic feet in a BMW 3 Series or an Audi A4, it's less than half the cargo capacity of a Model S. Which presents a big problem for me—because, as you can see below, I need every bit of cargo space the larger Tesla sedan has to offer.
I'd been hoping that I’d be able to squeeze my family of five into the Model 3 on road trips the way we can cram into the Model S, but the Model 3’s smaller cargo capacity means there just isn’t enough space for all the stuff you have to take along when you're bringing young kids on road trips.
If I were 10 years younger, or had just one kid, the Model 3 would be the car of my dreams. But, at this point in my life—with three young kids in car seats, and strollers, cribs, diaper bags, toys, and the rest of their junk—I just can’t make it work. So that's why I'm selling my car, in spite of its Cannonball Record-achieving status.
For now, I’m going to have to forego my tech dreams and wait for the hopefully soon-to-be-released Tesla Model Y SUV, or until I can afford a certified pre-owned Model S or Model X with the cooler new tech that I want. I will miss my Model 3...but my loss can be your gain, if you feel like placing a bid for the car on eBay.