I Finally Bought a Tesla and These 8 Things Surprised Me

My initial reaction after driving a Tesla for one hour was:
It’s fine, but not amazing 🤷🏼‍♂️

Then, after I spent two days with it:
Living with a Tesla feels like living in the future!!!

man leaning out the Tesla Model Y window (Nick Gray) wearing sunglasses, and cartoon background text saying VROOM behind him
Me, living my best life. Probably driving to Costco.

These are my notes after owning a 2021 Tesla Model Y for six weeks.

I’ll tell you why I picked this car, how I bought it, and exactly which features are my favorites.

Deciding to Buy

Hi, I’m Nick.

man standing inside Tesla sales office in Texas, red Tesla banner and logo behind
I wish I always looked this cool.

I haven’t owned a car in 15 years. You don’t need one in New York City.

But that all changed when I moved to the suburbs of Dallas.

No subways, few Ubers – I needed a car, and fast.

Test Drives

I thought I wanted a Tesla. People seem to love them!

But I wasn’t sure. Could it live up to the hype?

Nick Gray (that's me) holding a sign that says BUY TSLA at the New York City Marathon in 2018, standing on side of road while runners run in the background
Speaking of hype: here I am at the 2018 New York City marathon, trolling the Wall Street shorts. I’m a long-time fan of the Tesla stock. But I had never driven a Tesla until now. Photo by Ben Gold.

I did a few hour-long test drives. They were easy to schedule via the Tesla website.

Those test drives gave me a feel for the Tesla operating system.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but much like a first date, there’s only so much you can do on a test drive.

I needed to spend more time. I decided to rent a Tesla for two days.

Tesla Model 3 for rent, with a white car and white sign saying Rent Me and me standing next to it
I paid a ridiculous $119 per day to rent this guy David’s Model 3 on Turo, which sort of looked like this one but it was black. Supposedly you can get a free overnight test drive loaner from some Tesla locations. This was never offered to me, and I never asked.

Having that guy David’s car for two days allowed me to see how a Tesla would fit into my life beyond the driving experience itself.

Could it accommodate my travel needs? Would my post-gym protein shake fit in the cup holder?

I drove it to errands, visited friends, and slow-charged it in my garage using a normal electrical outlet.

The Tesla Model 3 was a lot more fun than other cars I’ve experienced. It was fast, smart, responsive, and had a great sound system. I’ll talk about each of those things later.

But here was my major take-away:

Living with a Tesla felt like the future.

The Autopilot, key cards, lack of buttons and switches, the silent acceleration, the big single screen interface… all very futuristic.

I love things that make me feel smart and like I’m living in the future. So I knew I had to buy one.

Why Model Y vs Model 3 or Model X

Now that I knew I wanted a Tesla, I had to decide which kind.

I considered the Tesla Model 3, Model Y, and Model X.

Me standing next to a Tesla Model X and wondering if I should get it, with an elephant inexplicably above me with wings
Do I want a Model X? It has those cool wing doors.

The Model X felt like too much car for a single person. Most of my drives are just me running errands. I also didn’t want to spend $130,000 on a car and then worry if I scratched it up.

Me standing in front of the Tesla Model 3, thinking about it, with talk bubble saying COOL behind it
Should I get a Model 3? All my friends have this one.

The Model 3 looks really nice and svelte. A lot of my friends, like Noah Kagan and Jonathan Wegener and Cathryn Lavery, have a Model 3. But I worried this car wouldn’t have enough space when I’m moving between cities.

I picked the Model Y because of the larger trunk, additional headroom, and my general assumption that it was an upgraded version of the Model 3.

man sitting in the backseat of a Tesla Model Y with white interior, hand is raised to show the height above head
The Model Y has lots of headroom, even in the back! Look at that great glass roof, too.
Exterior shot of a red color Tesla Model Y car in a parking lot
Red color 2021 Tesla Model Y. I like it.

The Purchase Process

I went to a nearby Tesla showroom in Texas. I told them I was ready to buy a Model Y.

They helped me select exterior and interior colors and a few other options.

man pointing at wall which says DESIGN STUDIO up top, pointing to red panel and white SEATING panel colors
I picked the red exterior and the white interior for my Model Y.

Then I went home and ordered the car on the Tesla website. Ordering was fast and easy.

Regarding the White Interior

I almost didn’t get the white color seats.

Or, as my friends call it, the “I have no kids” interior.

But I’m so happy that I did. The car feels brighter and lighter.

front picture showing white interior

Here’s an interesting anecdote:

As I was thinking through various options to order, the sales staff was never pushy. But they were clearly trained to talk through objections or hesitations about the white interior. They told me several times how the fake leather cleans easily and doesn’t stain. When I continued to voice my concerns about it, saying that I wanted white but was still worried it would get dirty, the salesperson looked me straight in the eye and calmly said,

“If you want the white, you should get it.”

It was a simple, confident nudge. I laughed. And I got it.

interior of Tesla Model Y with a cartoon butler in passenger seat who says "If you want the white, just get it" and man (me Nick Gray) sitting in the backseat wearing sunglasses
White interior is bright white. I’m so happy that I got it!

Specifications and How Much

Here’s exactly what I ordered and how much it cost:

Description
Price (USD)
Model Y
$41,000
Long Range All-Wheel Drive
$8,990
Red Multi-Coat Paint
$2,000
19″ Gemini Wheels
Included
Black and White Premium Interior
$1,000
Five Seat Interior
Included
Autopilot
Included
Full Self-Driving Capability
$8,000
Tow Hitch
$1,000
Subtotal
$61,990
Destination and Documentation Fee
$1,200
Order Fee
$100
Total
$63,290

 

What Happened Next

  1. I paid $100 to secure a delivery spot.
  2. A few weeks later, a VIN was assigned (69xxx).
  3. I got car insurance.
  4. I paid for the car.
  5. Finally, I took delivery in November 2020.

It took a total of 22 days from when I ordered to when my Tesla was delivered.

Delivery Day

This was exciting. I was counting down the days!

Nick Gray waiting inside lobby of Tesla Service Center in Plano, sitting on small red chairs, cartoon drawing with toy car
Me, waiting in the Tesla showroom on delivery day. These are children’s chairs. Or chairs for single and unemployed 39-year-olds.

Here’s what my car looked like with zero miles:

Red color Tesla Model Y car outside of the Plano Texas Tesla service office, with signs saying Delivery Day and Your New Car
My red Tesla Model Y, ready for me on delivery day.
PRO TIP You can use this checklist to look for any “bugs” when picking up your Tesla Model Y, such as:
  • Check the headlight fit
  • Inspect the paint around intake vents on the front bumper
  • Inspect the frunk (front trunk), look for paint defects, dents, and signs of improper closing by the sides of the T logo
  • Make sure the hood sits flush with the quarter panels and frunk

I didn’t find any problems with the car, so I accepted it and drove home.

Man (Nick Gray) sitting in the back of a Tesla Model Y red color in a mostly empty parking lot
Chilling in the trunk.

My Favorite Things

I’ve now driven the car 1,500 miles.

Here are the most interesting things which make me feel like I’m driving a futuristic car.

Many of the features that I document below are shared among all Tesla models. They are not unique to the Model Y. I’m also leaving out things like their great resale value and the non-polluting nature of EVs – I like those aspects, too!

Autopilot

I love Autopilot. It makes certain driving so much easier.

man sitting in driver's seat of Tesla Model Y car, looking at camera and smiling (Nick Gray)
The car is driving itself right now. Always keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. This photo is sponsored by Coke Zero, Kirkland seltzer, and Ikea.

A bit about what Autopilot is:

Tesla’s Autopilot helps make driving easier. Features include automatic lane centering, cruise control that adjusts to traffic speeds, lane changes to bypass slower cars, and semi-autonomous navigation on freeways.

This is different from the Full Self-Driving Capability, or FSD, that I paid $8k for. FSD has not been released yet, so I won’t cover that in this post.

I’ve found that Autopilot especially shines on wide open road trips and in heavy, slow traffic.

The 3-hour drive from Dallas to Austin is a prime example. Tesla’s Autopilot software can do most of the driving.

Tesla car driving down Texas toll road, with steering wheel in bottom middle, taken from driver's perspective and hand waving
Driving with Autopilot on a beautiful, empty Texas toll road.

I monitor the route, keep my eyes on the road, and confirm lane changes. It takes much less energy than driving the whole way by hand. I arrive in Austin fresh and not exhausted.

Driving through downtown Dallas, I often hit bumper to bumper traffic. Autopilot works fantastically in these situations. It constantly pays attention to the changing pace of stop and go, leaving me to relax and listen to audiobooks. I keep an eye out for emergencies, but the car does most of the work driving. I’m so much less stressed.

The first few days using Autopilot were mildly terrifying. It is nuts to be going 85 mph on a highway with a concrete divider mere inches to your left, buzzing by with mechanical precision. Each day I learn a little bit more about how Tesla’s Autopilot works and where I can trust it most.

Ridiculously Fast Acceleration

This one is my favorite feature.

See, I’ve never owned a fast car.

My first and only car was a 1996 Jeep Cherokee. It was all black, with gold trim, and an inline-six engine. I’m pretty sure my parents bought it for me because it was the closest reasonable thing to a tank.

I never thought it was slow. But my Tesla makes that Jeep Cherokee feel like a fully-loaded concrete truck.

When I push the accelerator, the Tesla jumps forward.

man leaning out the Tesla Model Y window (Nick Gray) wearing sunglasses, and cartoon background text saying VROOM behind him

My friend Jeff took my Model Y for a test ride. Afterwards, the first thing he told his wife was, “That car is crazy fast! I’ve never driven anything that fast before.”

He even got car sick.

On paper, the acceleration doesn’t seem THAT fast: the Model Y goes 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds. But, oh boy, is it fun. I often speed out of stoplights now just because I can.

My friend Marc told me that this speed boost in electric vehicles is because of the motor’s torque. It’s also very quiet when you accelerate, which maybe makes it feel faster.

Single-Screen Interface

No dials, switches, buttons, or gauges sit behind the wheel. There’s just a huge touchscreen monitor in the center of the dash.

Blonde haired, blue-eyed attractive man sitting in passenger seat of a car, pointing to a center LCD screen (Tesla Model Y center console feature photo)
“This feels like a spaceship!” is a common comment from my friends who get in for the first time.

Six weeks in, this single-screen interface still feels refreshing. Sitting down to drive is pleasant. I like not having so many dials and buttons around the wheel.

Not having a speedometer directly in front was jarring at first. I panicked a few times when I forgot where to look on the screen for my speed. I got over this by setting the car to make a ding sound whenever I go 11 mph over the speed limit. It dings a lot now 😂.

No On/Off Switch

Get in, and the car is ready to go.

Walk away, and the car will power down.

It was very odd to get used to: I’d arrive at my destination, put the car into park, and then look for a switch to shut off the music and display.

But there isn’t an On/Off switch. You just open the door, exit the car, and it will automatically sleep when you close the door.

showing the Tesla dashboard inside a Model Y, featuring the steering wheel and center console monitor
There’s no on/off switch anywhere.

The same applies for booting up and starting the car: just get in. When you open the door, the screen lights up, your music starts playing, temperature control is subtly initiated, etc.

No Keys

My mobile phone is a secure key to my car. It connects via Bluetooth. Whenever I have my phone, the doors unlock. I love not having to carry metal car keys in my pocket!

Other cars must have this keyless operation feature. But it is a first for me.

This is the normal Tesla “key,” by the way:

Hand holding a black Tesla key card, with a red background color
Tesla key card. I carry one in my wallet in case I lose or brick my phone.

Sometimes it can take my Tesla a few seconds to recognize my phone when I walk up. Perhaps that is a delay in the Bluetooth sync. Still, it’s pretty cool. No car keys!

Software Updates

Have you ever watched a television series and been excited for the latest episode?

That’s the feeling I get from Tesla software updates. I can’t even begin to imagine what the next one will look like.

You may have heard about the latest update: it allows you to change the honk noise to a fart sound. Other free updates have increased the car’s range by a few miles, changed how text messages are read aloud, and improved the built-in Spotify software.

Nick Gray standing in front of a Tesla Model Y that is red in color, with some cartoon-ish effects added around the car
The free software updates that load overnight seem to make my Tesla Model Y smarter. Or at least more interesting.

Because of this constant evolution from Tesla, I’m not as worried about outgrowing my car. I’ve already gotten three software updates. It gets better with time, which helps me feel like I have a front row (driver’s) seat to the future. After all, that’s what drew me to the Tesla in the first place.

Remote Control

Tesla cars are always connected to the internet thanks to their integrated LTE modem.

As long as there’s cellular service, I can heat it up, cool it down, open the trunk, even back it up or make it drive forward using the Summon function.

screenshot of the Tesla iPhone app which shows buttons including Vent, Lock, Flash, Honk, Start, Front, Trunk, Homelink, Valet Mode, and Sentry Mode
I can open the trunk – or do any of these functions – from 1,000 miles away.

I used the temperature feature last night when I was leaving Costco and had a long walk across a cold parking lot. It felt great to slide into a heated car with the seat warmers already blazing.

One-Pedal Driving

I saved one of the best for last: I almost never use the brake pedal.

Hand pointing to the gas pedal, with electric cartoon lines around it, next to the brake pedal with Red cross out over it
Because of the aggressive regenerative braking, I rarely use the brake pedal.

That’s not because I blow through stop signs. It’s because my Tesla Model Y uses an aggressive regenerative braking system.

It’s another feature that was at first unsettling, but now I love it. Driving is a lot easier when you only use the gas.

Regenerative braking works like this: When you take your foot off the gas pedal, the car immediately starts to slow down. It feels like the brake pedal is being pushed. But instead of wasting this energy on degenerative brake pads, the car directs your kinetic energy to recharge its batteries.

You very quickly learn (within a few minutes) how to adjust to only using the gas. And the brake is still there, for emergencies and quick stops.

Jonathan Wegener added:

“I love how you can roll between drive and reverse in a Tesla, and even go back and forth. You don’t have to make a full, complete stop. You don’t even have to move your foot off the gas pedal. To do that in a normal car is a somewhat complicated feet and hand shuffle.”

Conclusion

I guess I never realized how much I had to tell my car to do until I bought one that was so independent and smart.

Mike Nguyen told me, “If you like the idea of a computer that drives, versus a car with a good computer, get a Tesla.”

I like that. I decided that if I’m going to have a car, I want it to be a smart car. And this is the smartest freakin’ car out there.

But, look: my Tesla isn’t without issues. Range drops by up to 30% in the cold, Autopilot can be buggy, and charging on road trips takes getting used to. These could be major problems for a lot of new customers.

I’ve also hardly covered all of the great things — I didn’t mention the sound system, or how much storage space it has!

Interior view of the Tesla Model Y trunk space with seats folded down
The trunk is dummy thicc, which is slang for “very large.”

Here’s the frunk, where I store an extension cord and power adapters:

man standing in front of a Tesla Model Y with the front trunk open (frunk) holding electric extension cord
I’ve used the extension cord for slow overnight charging at hotels with a regular A/C outlet outside.

I find new things to appreciate in the Tesla operating system all the time. It really is a great car. I’m happy I bought it.

I’ll share more of my observations in a few weeks, especially about charging tips.

If you read this far, you should totally subscribe to my free monthly Friends Newsletter. I’m going to send more Tesla stuff out soon. See why almost 9,000 people say it is their favorite newsletter and one that they always read. Read it and get access here.

Other Random Tesla Notes

  • The car always stays perfectly centered in the lane when it’s on Autopilot. Supposedly, that laser-like alignment while driving is one of the tell-tale signs of an autonomous or computer-assisted car.
  • I didn’t consider the Model S because I perceived that it was outdated and had less headroom and storage space than I wanted.
  • My friend Nathan Barry owns a Tesla Model S P90D. He loves it. “My 0-60 is 2.6 seconds. It’s incredibly fun. I think the Model S is the perfect car in many ways. It has crazy fast acceleration, plenty of seating space, and a ridiculous amount of storage space. I bought mine used, and I couldn’t pick the interior, but I saved $50k. It is getting dated compared to the Model 3 and Model Y. If Tesla updated it, I would get another Model S in a second. If that doesn’t happen, my next car will probably be a Model Y.”
  • My friend Jonathan Wegener remarked about “how minimal and elegant the entire experience is” of driving and owning a Tesla. “Tesla has done so much in removing unnecessary things. They’ve simplified the driving experience.” He also likens the Tesla’s acceleration sound to the low whizz or hum of a spaceship.
  • Nathan Barry noted in his blog post about the automatic brights feature of the headlights as being a surprisingly nice feature, which is standard on most all new cars now. I agree!
  • My friend Cathryn Lavery has the Homelink upgrade with GPS option on her Model 3: “It opens my home’s garage door without me doing anything. When I get 50 feet from my house, my garage door automatically opens. When I leave, it closes behind me.”
  • Harper Reed commented to me about the lack of an On/Off switch: “I rented a gas car last year and accidentally left it on overnight because I was so used to just getting out and my Tesla turning off automatically.”
Man wearing a mask inside a Tesla dealership, leaning on a Tesla charging stand and holding the electric car charging plug
You can buy one of these Tesla base stations for your garage.
  • I have a ton of thoughts on charging, which I’ll put into another post. For a few hundred dollars, I had an electrician install a NEMA 14-50 plug in my garage (a dryer plug). I get 30 miles of range per hour of charge. Versus only four or five miles per hour of charge via a “regular” AC adapter. Subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send out my charging tips when I’m done.

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Thanks and Credits

Thanks to Bethany Mangle for helping me outline and edit this post. Special thanks to the always-talented Fru Pinter for the illustrations on top of my photos. Thanks to these people for reading drafts and giving feedback: Michael Winter, Nathan Barry, Harper Reed, Diksha Basu, Judhajit De, Sriram Ramakrishnan, Lucas Linhares, Crystal Zurn, Saad Bassi, Phillip Castagna, David Nebinsky, Marshall Haas, Marc Lucente, Tyler Schwartz, Nate Kadlac, Ashley Knipe, and more. Shoutout to Galileo and HyperChange on YouTube. My friend Charles Forman originally shared the Github delivery day checklist.

Tesla owners are smart. These are a few other articles on my blog that you might like:

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