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Is Tesla Model 3 a Good First Car?

by Simon Naylor | Published: March 21st, 2023
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If you’re in the market for your first car, you might be considering the Tesla Model 3. It’s a popular choice, and for good reason – it’s sleek, eco-friendly, and packed with innovative features. But is it the right fit for a first-time car owner?

The Tesla Model 3 can be a good first car due to its impressive performance, safety features, and eco-friendliness. However, it’s essential to consider charging access, resale value, suitability for young drivers, and insurance costs before deciding. Test-driving the Model 3 and comparing it to other vehicles will help you make an informed decision.

How Does the Tesla Model 3 Compare to Other Vehicles in Its Class?

selective focus photo of gray coupe on road

When you’re shopping for your first car, it’s essential to consider how the vehicle stacks up against its competition. Let’s start by looking at the Tesla Model 3’s performance, range, and price compared to other electric vehicles (EVs) and traditional gasoline-powered cars in its class.

In terms of performance, the Model 3 is tough to beat. With its quick acceleration and smooth handling, it’s a joy to drive. The standard range version can reach 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, while the long-range and performance versions are even faster. Its electric powertrain also provides instant torque, making for a responsive and exhilarating driving experience.

When it comes to range, the Model 3 is competitive with other EVs on the market. The standard range version offers 263 miles of driving on a single charge, while the long-range version boasts an impressive 353 miles. This is more than sufficient for most daily driving needs, and it’s comparable to many gasoline-powered vehicles.

In terms of price, the Model 3 may be a bit more expensive upfront than some traditional cars in its class. However, this initial investment can be offset by lower operating costs, thanks to reduced fuel and maintenance expenses. Plus, there may be federal and state incentives available to further lower the overall cost.

Is the Tesla Model 3 a Safe Choice for a First Car?

Safety is a top priority when selecting a first car, so let’s examine how the Tesla Model 3 fares in this department. In my experience, Tesla has a strong track record for safety, and the Model 3 is no exception.

The Model 3 has earned a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). These accolades are thanks to the car’s strong body structure, advanced airbag system, and extensive suite of safety features.

Additionally, the Model 3 comes equipped with Tesla’s Autopilot system, which includes features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking. While these features are not meant to replace attentive driving, they can provide an added layer of safety for first-time drivers.

What About the Learning Curve With a Tesla Model 3?


It’s true that the Tesla Model 3 is quite different from traditional cars, and there may be a bit of a learning curve for first-time drivers. However, this doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker.

One of the most significant differences is the user interface, which is centered around a large touchscreen that controls most of the car’s functions. While this can be intimidating at first, many new owners find it to be intuitive and user-friendly once they’ve had some time to adjust.

Furthermore, the Model 3’s regenerative braking system, which helps recharge the battery while slowing the car, may take some getting used to. However, most drivers adapt quickly and come to appreciate the system’s efficiency benefits.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Choosing a Tesla Model 3 as a First Car?

While the Tesla Model 3 has many advantages, there are some potential drawbacks to consider when deciding if it’s the right first car for you.

How Does Charging Work With the Tesla Model 3?

Charging Tesla Model S

One of the most significant differences between owning an electric vehicle and a traditional gasoline-powered car is the need to charge the battery. If you have access to charging at home, this can be a convenient and cost-effective way to “refuel” your car. However, if you don’t have a garage or live in an apartment building without charging infrastructure, finding a public charging station may be more challenging.

While Tesla’s Supercharger network is extensive and continues to grow, relying solely on public charging can be inconvenient and time-consuming, especially for those who live in areas with limited charging infrastructure. Additionally, charging times can be longer than the time it takes to fill up a gas tank, which may be a concern for drivers with busy schedules or frequent long-distance trips.

How Does the Model 3’s Resale Value Hold Up?

Another factor to consider is the resale value of the Tesla Model 3. While electric vehicles, in general, have been known to depreciate more quickly than their gasoline counterparts, the Model 3 has shown better-than-average resale value retention. However, keep in mind that factors like battery degradation and the rapid pace of technology improvements could impact the car’s resale value down the line.

Is the Model 3 suitable for young or inexperienced drivers?

The Tesla Model 3’s impressive performance capabilities might be a double-edged sword for young or inexperienced drivers. While it’s an exciting and responsive car to drive, its quick acceleration and the high top speed could be tempting for drivers who haven’t yet developed responsible driving habits. As a result, parents or guardians may want to consider whether the Model 3 is the best choice for a teenager’s first car.

What about the Model 3’s maintenance and reliability?

When considering a first car, it’s essential to think about maintenance and reliability. The good news is that electric vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 generally require less maintenance than their gasoline-powered counterparts. With fewer moving parts and no need for oil changes or tune-ups, you can expect to spend less time and money on maintenance over the life of the car.

However, it’s important to be aware of the unique maintenance needs of an electric vehicle. Battery health is a crucial factor to consider, as it can degrade over time and affect the car’s range. Tesla has made efforts to minimize battery degradation, and the Model 3’s battery is designed to last for many years. Nevertheless, it’s still essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for battery care and maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

As for reliability, Tesla has experienced some growing pains as the company has rapidly expanded its production capabilities. Some early Model 3 owners reported issues with build quality and fit-and-finish. However, Tesla has been proactive in addressing these concerns, and the overall quality of the Model 3 has improved over time. It’s always a good idea to research owner reviews and reliability ratings to get a sense of any potential issues with a specific model year.

How does insurance factor in when considering a Tesla Model 3 as a first car?

car on road

Insurance is another essential factor to consider when choosing a first car, and it can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle. In general, the Tesla Model 3 tends to have higher insurance premiums compared to some other cars in its class. This is due in part to the higher repair costs associated with electric vehicles and the cutting-edge technology found in Model 3.

However, the Model 3’s impressive safety features and ratings can help to offset these higher premiums. It’s essential to shop around and compare insurance quotes from different providers to ensure you’re getting the best coverage and rate for your needs.

How does the Tesla Model 3 fare in terms of comfort and practicality?

Lastly, let’s consider the Tesla Model 3’s comfort and practicality for first-time car owners. The Model 3 offers a comfortable and spacious cabin, with ample legroom and headroom for both front and rear passengers. The minimalist interior design and large touch screen can give the cabin a modern and upscale feel.

In terms of cargo space, the Model 3 provides a decent amount of room for groceries, luggage, or other items. The trunk is spacious, and the rear seats can fold down to accommodate larger items. Additionally, the Model 3 features a front trunk, or “frunk,” which adds extra storage space.

One aspect to consider is the Model 3’s ride quality. While it’s generally comfortable, some drivers find the suspension to be on the firmer side, which can lead to a slightly harsher ride over rough or uneven surfaces. This may not be a deal-breaker for most drivers, but it’s something to keep in mind when test-driving the vehicle.

Is the Tesla Model 3 suitable for teenagers or inexperienced drivers?

While the Tesla Model 3 has many attractive features, it’s important to consider whether it’s a suitable first car for teenagers or inexperienced drivers. The powerful performance capabilities of the Model 3 could be overwhelming and even dangerous in the hands of a novice driver. Additionally, given the expensive nature of repairs for a Tesla, any mishaps or accidents could be costly.

As an alternative, consider starting with an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, like a Honda Civic, which is easy to drive, more affordable, and better suited for those who are new to driving. After gaining experience and confidence on the road, it may be more appropriate to transition to an electric vehicle like the Tesla Model 3.

How important is parking and charging access for a Tesla Model 3?


A suitable parking setup and charging access are crucial factors when considering a Tesla Model 3 as a first car. To make the most of your electric vehicle, you’ll need a convenient charging solution. This could be at your own home or a nearby charging station if you live in an apartment complex or building without dedicated EV charging points.

It’s important to ensure that you have a consistent and reliable charging solution, as you’ll need to charge your car overnight or during extended periods of inactivity. Inadequate charging access could lead to inconvenience and frustration, making it less practical to own a Tesla Model 3.

Can the Tesla Model 3 be made safer for young drivers?

If you still decide to purchase a Tesla Model 3 for a young driver, there are some precautions you can take to make the vehicle safer and more manageable for them:

  1. Limit the car’s top speed: You can configure the Tesla Model 3 to have a lower top speed, preventing inexperienced drivers from reaching dangerous velocities. Additionally, you can set a PIN code to prevent the young driver from overriding this setting.
  2. Lock acceleration to ‘Chill’ mode: This setting reduces the car’s acceleration capabilities, making it less likely for the driver to lose control due to sudden bursts of speed.
  3. Use ‘Valet mode‘: This mode limits the top speed to 70 mph and reduces acceleration to 25%, providing a more controlled driving experience for young drivers.
  4. Monitor the car through the Tesla app: The app allows you to track the car’s location and speed in real-time, enabling you to keep an eye on your young driver’s habits and intervene if necessary.

By taking these precautions, you can help ensure a safer driving experience for young drivers using the Tesla Model 3 as their first car.

Final Thoughts: is the Tesla Model 3 a Good First Car?

Tesla Model 3 drive

Ultimately, whether the Tesla Model 3 is the right choice for your first car depends on your unique circumstances and priorities. The Model 3 offers excellent performance, safety features, and an eco-friendly driving experience that is hard to beat. However, the charging infrastructure, resale value, and suitability for young drivers are factors that need to be weighed carefully.

If you have access to charging at home and prioritize safety, efficiency, and a cutting-edge driving experience, the Tesla Model 3 could be an excellent choice for your first car. On the other hand, if charging access is limited, or you’re looking for a more traditional driving experience, you may want to explore other options.

In any case, it’s essential to test drive the Model 3 and other vehicles on your shortlist to determine which car best meets your needs and preferences. Happy car shopping!


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  5. PlugInAmerica. (n.d.). Charging Your Electric Vehicle. Retrieved from