I just bought my very first Tesla. Here’s what happened

I’ve been writing for Electrek for nearly two years now, and last week, I took delivery of a Tesla Model 3 – my very first electric car. Here’s how the whole process went, from the initial order to final delivery.

A disclaimer: This is my own personal experience, not a sweeping generalization of the Tesla experience. I have no doubt that others’ experiences will be different from mine. While I have had 40+ hours a week of experience editing and reading about electric vehicles over a couple years, this is the first time that I actually have one of my own. I’ve driven a Model 3 once before, with the awesome Dory Larsen at Electrify the South. So I got a quick taste of Tesla Model 3s pre-pandemic, thanks to Dory.

My history with cars, briefly

When I joined Electrek, my husband and I were leasing two gas cars: a MINI Countryman and a Toyota RAV4. When we lived in Britain (we’re both dual citizens), we owned a series of MINIs and a couple Audis and VWs. The RAV4 was a purely practical purchase when we moved to the US – my daughter, who is now away at college, drove it to school and back. I work from home, and my husband’s workplace is only two miles away.

We really wanted to ditch the gas and go electric asap, but we were tied into those leases. The RAV4’s lease was due to end in June, and we decided once the MINI’s lease ended in two years beyond that, we’d buy a Tesla Model 3 and become a one-car household. As regular readers know, I write mostly about green energy, and I want to practice what I preach. Plus, we live in St. Petersburg, Florida, which is a small, accessible city. We can get to most places on foot or by e-bike, so one car will more than meet our needs.

Then the pandemic hit, and with it came supply chain disruption in the auto sector. Car dealerships don’t have the vehicle stock they need. Toyota called me in April and offered to pay me to bring it back early. So we got an idea – maybe MINI was desperate, too?

We called MINI and asked them if they wanted our Countryman back two years early, and they almost bit our hand off. We drove to the dealer in early May, signed a bunch of papers, handed in the keys, and left within an hour, free and clear. Their parking lot was about one-third full. No wonder they wanted it back so badly.

We held onto the Toyota, as there was no risk of them changing their minds, since the lease is actually ending.

Ordering the Model 3

With the MINI gone and the Toyota nearly out the door, we created an account on Tesla’s website and got down to business.

When we ordered the Standard Range Plus in May, the price was shown as “$35,000*.” (Now it’s showing as $35,690*.) Annoyingly, Florida doesn’t have state incentives for electric cars.

But here’s the thing about that asterisk after the price, which means, “Prices above include potential incentives and gas savings of $4,300.”

I’d have much preferred that Tesla showed the purchase price – now $39,990 – as is, with the incentives and gas savings separated out, in the upper-right-hand corner, so that it matched the number at the bottom of the screen.

Tesla makes the valid good point that you shouldn’t compare purchase prices between gas cars and EVs as they’re not like for like, but the way they do it is a little confusing for first-time buyers.

Choosing paint, wheels, interior, and (in our case not) opting for Full Self-Driving Capability was quick and easy.

Paying for it

We compared the three choices of cash, lease, or loan and started our lease process.

Everyone has their preferred method of buying cars, whether it’s switch them out every couple of years, or buy one and drive it into the ground. We’re lease people. That’s just what we like to do.

We tweaked the down payment numbers and annual miles using my Mac’s calculator for about 15 minutes, and then came up with figures that worked for our budget.

Then we put down the $100 non-refundable order fee, got approved for our lease by providing details that any credit card application would ask for, and the waiting period began.

It was great to not have to sit in a car dealership for five hours. I’ve negotiated many a car, and as everyone who has knows, it’s a long, tedious process full of silly games. Dealers usually have snacks on hand for a reason – so you don’t die of malnutrition while you negotiate and then sign 100 pieces of paper.

My Model 3’s specs

Here are the specs on my Model 3, and why we chose them:

  • Standard Range Plus Rear-Wheel Drive – We didn’t need a longer range, as we aren’t commuters and there are plenty of chargers in Florida. The state is third in the US for chargers. We don’t have range anxiety. (But it’s amazing how many people brought up range anxiety when we said we’d bought a Tesla. More education of the general public is needed on range anxiety.)
  • Black and White Interior – We indulged in this, because it looked nice, and our publisher, Seth Weintraub, told me it wipes clean easily. Good thing, because I’m kinda messy. I already got food on the seat, which wiped right off.
  • Pearl White Multi-Coat – We like the Pearl White, so bonus that it doesn’t cost extra.
  • 18’’ Aero Wheels – Again, we liked them. No need for 19″ Sport Wheels.
  • Basic Autopilot
  • Pay Per Use Supercharging

Our Tesla sales rep

I had a question about how and where to enter my referral code that I got from a colleague who drives a Model Y. (Hey, 1,000 miles of free Supercharging for him and for me – it’s a must!) So the website referred me to Tesla in Tampa, and I was assigned my own Tesla adviser, whose name was Nik Wyland. Nik called me, applied the referral code to my account, and gave me his phone number and email address. Very nice personal touch – I now had a contact person with a name in my local area. This felt very reassuring.

The waiting game

We placed our order on May 13. Nik said our car’s estimated delivery was sometime between mid- to end of June. (Unsurprising that the end date was June 30 – we all know what end of Q2 means to Tesla.)

Here’s where it got a bit unnerving. Every day I’d log into my account, and every day that date span would shorten: June 9-30. June 10-30. June 11-30. And so on. And so on. It would have been comical if there weren’t real financial repercussions.

I was due to turn in my Toyota at the end of June. I decided to extend the lease for a month to end of July, as I wasn’t feeling overly confident that my Model 3 was going to be delivered on time, thanks to that daily date creep.

And then finally, finally, the “schedule your pickup” email arrived on June 17. We scheduled it for Sunday June 27 at 2 p.m. – the earliest date available. We needed to drive to the far side of Tampa, which is a real pain during weekday traffic, so Sunday was great. Until it wasn’t.

Pickup delay

A Tesla rep (not Nik) called to say that the car carrier was delayed. Tesla ships their cars to the southeastern US on a train to Alabama – I do believe it’s Birmingham – and then the carriers deploy in all directions from there.

Tesla rep said, “So we’ll need you to come pick up your car on either Tuesday or Wednesday.” I replied, “I’m sorry, that’s not possible.” Tesla rep: “Ummmm… Why not?” Me: “We’re working. We can come the following weekend.” [Cue silence from Tesla rep.]

Then he says, “Then you might have to wait til August.” In other words, we’re going to give your Model 3 away if you don’t do as I ask. Not the best customer service approach in the world. I didn’t respond to that comment and asked him to speak to Nik, and then asked him to have Nik call me.

Nik to the rescue. He calls and says he’ll deliver our car, aka Tesla Direct, to our house on Monday, June 28. Superb.

Then Nik called on Saturday the 26th. The carrier was delayed again. Tesla Direct on Tuesday instead. Not a problem.

You know how one can track a Fedex package? That’s what Tesla needs to do. If customers can track the progress of their cars being built and shipped, it creates transparency and builds excitement.

Because anticipation and communication are considerably better than dread caused by the fact that your delivery date keeps getting pushed back, and a rep you’ve never spoken to before insinuates that your car may be taken away since you can’t drop everything to meet their yet-again-revised date.

Tesla Direct

Tuesday afternoon, Nik showed up at our house with our car. Both my husband and I had already watched all our Support Videos. I worried I might forget everything once I climbed into the driver’s seat, but that fear was unfounded – the car is completely intuitive (or at least it was for us).

Nik, left, and Michelle, right. Michelle’s Model 3, background

Once we carefully inspected our car for problems and flaws, of which there were none, Nik helped us get our profiles set up, then we parked it in our driveway, and Nik left in an Uber. He was professional, patient, and made the delivery fun. (And we almost adopted a kitten, because he showed us pictures of cute kittens he’s fostering, but we managed to keep our heads.) Charging is super easy – we currently charge at a charging station two miles from our house, and also do an overnight charge on a 120v outlet in our carport. I’m waiting on a quote from the electrician for a NEMA 14-50 outlet. Everything about the car is super easy.

How I feel about my first Tesla Model 3

Oh. My. God.

I messaged Fred Lambert on Slack: “The Kool-aid has been drunk.”

Fred replied: “No going back.”

Me: “Absolutely not.”

I get it now. I always knew Teslas were extraordinary. I like cars. I like learning about cars. I used to hang out with my mechanic in college, to learn more about how my VW Golf worked. But I don’t like emissions.

And nothing prepared me for the weird euphoria I feel about our Model 3. This is the best kind of car, because it’s stupidly fun, it’s gorgeous, and it’s fast. I drive it with a stupid grin on my face. I truly get the fanaticism now. And we don’t have to go to the gas station anymore.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.