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Tesla Model 3 Reliability

The best selling electric car in history: Is it a reliable choice?

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BY The Drive Staff / LAST UPDATED ON March 16, 2021

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The Tesla Model 3 debuted in 2017 as the American manufacturer’s more compact sedan offering alongside the luxurious Model S. It is the all-time best selling electric vehicle ever built, and held 12 percent of the global EV market by itself in 2020. With a slick, grille-less design and a spartan interior, it redefined modern expectations for electric cars and set the tone for the rapidly-growing segment. 

With so many on the road now and EVs becoming massively popular, it’s time to take a look at some statistics from the NHTSA, JD Power, and owner reports to get a better idea of how reliable the Model 3 is. 

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What Makes a Reliable Brand? 

Reliability depends on a host of variables, but the two biggest structural supports are the development and manufacturing of a vehicle. When auto manufacturers spend the time and money developing a car and its manufacturing line, a car tends to last longer. Hastily designed, poorly manufactured, and cheaply constructed materials will all reduce a car’s longevity and reliability.

There’s also a work ethic variable that cannot be ignored. Honda and Toyota’s cultures of reliability-over-all embody that ethic and have thus kept each’s legendary reliability in the minds of consumers for decades. Lexus spent 15 years creating the perfect paint, for goodness’ sake. Add longer-than-normal warranties and good customer service, and it’s easy to see why these Japanese companies have enjoyed their strong standings for so long.

Yet, once a car leaves the dealership lot, outside factors impact a car’s durability.

What Impacts a Car’s Reliability 

Short answer, you. The longer answer is a car’s reliability and longevity are inextricably tied to how you take care of your vehicle, your maintenance schedule (if you have one), your conservative or brash driving habits, and whether or not you live in climates where extreme weather could affect the car’s construction.

Preemptive maintenance like regular oil changes, fluid flushes, tire rotation, and fuel system cleaners, along with keeping the exterior and underside of your car clean, will all increase the life expectancy of your car. Keeping it out of the harsh desert or tropical sun, as well as away from the rust-inducing salted roadways of winter, will also extend its life.

And lastly, keeping the Mario Andretti driving antics to a minimum will keep your brakes, engine, tires, and chassis under-stressed and happy for far longer compared to hitting every trip to the grocery store like it’s the Indy 500. 

Tesla

Model 3

Tesla Model 3 Specs

Vehicle Type: Sedan
Doors: 4 plus liftback
Motor: single-motor RWD or dual-motor AWD
Range: 220 miles to 353 miles based on trim
Curb weight: 3,552 to 4,072 pounds based on trim

What Makes The Tesla Model 3 Such a Reliable Model (Or Not)? 

Reliability is generally something that depends on the person, the car, and the situation, so we cannot make a definitive statement that the Model 3 is reliable or unreliable. However, we have assembled several data points from numerous sources to present you with as much information as possible. Let’s start with common problems, as told by comments listed in the Model 3’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) archives.

Common Model 3 Problems and Repair Costs

As with other car brands, not all Model 3s are built to the same exacting standards as the vehicles mentioned above. Here’s a quick rundown of Model 3s, including the issues, customer complaints, and repair costs that will help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car.

DOOR LOCK ISSUES

Average Estimated Repair Costs: Not available, according to CarComplaints.com and the Tesla owner forums.

Customer Complaints

“Just [a] three month old car. My car was locked down and I was told that it is due to their internal security control failure. Service center people had to tow my car and break into it to open it.” - 2020 model

“Does anyone have issues with their car not automatically locking? Sometimes the center console screen is on and [the] car won’t lock even though all doors are closed properly. I have to reopen and slam the driver door (even though it was already closed completely), then the monitor goes off and the car eventually locks.” - 2019 model

Consumer Reports Reliability Questions

The Tesla Model 3 has had a rocky relationship with Consumer Reports. In 2018, issues with excessive braking distance led them to not recommend the car, but an over-the-air update that addressed issues with the ABS allowed them to recommend it after downloading. Then again in 2019, that recommendation for the Model 3 was revoked due to issues of poor fit and finish and body panel installation. The recommendation was reinstated later that year after Consumer Reports stated that the issues had been satisfactorily addressed.

Full Self Driving Problems

Tesla Model 3s are now sold with an $8,000 software package advertised and marketed as Full-Self-Driving capable, an upgrade over the previous Autopilot branding. The NHTSA has allowed it despite industry concerns that the cars are not autonomous and may lull consumers into a false sense of security. The Autopilot system has already been implicated as a partial or total cause of multiple Tesla accidents, some fatal

NHTSA Recalls:

As collected by the NHTSA, these are the Model 3’s issues throughout the years.

2020:

Recalls: No recalls.

Complaints: 43

2019:

Recall: Sun visor missing airbag warning decals.

Complaints: 99

2018:

Recalls: No recalls.

Complaints: 167

2017:

Recalls: No recalls.

Complaints: 0

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

According to JD Power, this score “Measures the level of defects, malfunctions and design flaws experienced by vehicle owners. Covers the entire vehicle from engine to infotainment system. A higher rating means fewer problems.”

Tesla has not been rated for individual models by JD Power, because the company does not allow the industry benchmarking company to survey owners of their cars in the 15 states where permission is required by law. However, in an unofficial ranking of all brands by reliability in 2021, Tesla was rated 30th out of 33 manufacturers for reliability by JD Power.

FAQs About Model 3s 

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. Is the Model 3 still sold?

A. Yes it is, with the 2021 model starting at $37,490.

Q. What is the most powerful Tesla Model 3 sold?

A. The Model 3 Long Range AWD Performance produces 450 peak HP and 471 ft/lbs of torque. 

Q. Is the Model 3 available in AWD?

A. Yes, the Model 3 is sold in several different ranges in Dual-Motor form, Tesla’s branding for AWD.

More Information 

Here are a few more resources you can use:

Electric scooters to match your electric cars!

Floor mat guide for your Model 3.

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Endurance

Save $350 on an Endurance warranty plan with coupon code: DRIVE350

Going with a factory extended warranty is a good option for basic protection, but you can get more and save more with Endurance, ranked the top extended warranty provider by Consumer Advocates, Consumer Affairs, and Retirement Living.

Get a Free Quote

Save $350 with coupon code: DRIVE350

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

CarShield

CarShield — USA’s #1 Auto Protection Provider

CarShield pays claims directly to a US or Canadian ASE-Certified® repair facility of your choice. Our contracts have low or no deductibles to prevent stress to your wallet at a critical time. Never worry about being stranded somewhere after a breakdown. All of our vehicle repair contracts include towing services to transport you and your vehicle to a safe repair facility.

Get a Free Quote

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Carchex

Nationwide coverage for cars new and old

CARCHEX has something for everyone. Have an old car? No problem. Live in California? Not an issue. CARCHEX 's plethora of warranty plans includes options for cars up to twenty years old with up to 250,000 miles, regardless of any existing or expired warranties. Click below or call 1-877-207-3304 for a free quote.

Get a Free Quote