The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Owning a Tesla

*Disclaimer: In no way, shape or form should this post be construed as us complaining about the opportunity to own a Tesla. It is merely a reflection on our experience in making this type of financial decision, as well our experience of the highs and lows of the vehicle itself. It is intended for the benefit of those who are also considering an “out of the norm” purchase, or moving to an electric vehicle. We are extremely grateful to be in a position to even be discussing this type of purchase. 

THE DISSONANCE HURDLE:

Our decision to buy an electric vehicle was about as far from an impulse buy as you can get. We spent years making that decision. Literally – years. 99% of which we experienced intense dissonance between our financial goals AND our desire to join the electric vehicle movement.

Over those years, Mike spent hundreds of hours researching a variety of electric vehicles, and the companies producing them. At the time, it became quite clear that the only EV that would meet our needs as a family in terms of range, was a Tesla.

It did not have a budget friendly price tag.

We visited the dealerships. Mike read endless Tesla forums. We took a couple test drives. And we had dozen’s upon dozen’s upon dooozzzeeeenn’s of conversations about whether or not we would get sufficient value from the purchase to justify what we felt was an exorbitant cost, particularly for something that’s sole purpose is to get us from point A to point B.

We brainstormed a long list of the many reasons we wanted to buy the Tesla. Ranking high amongst them was safety, sustainability, a desire to be *relatively* early adopters of the electric vehicle, and an overall admiration for the two associated companies that our purchase dollars would ultimately support, Tesla and SpaceX.

Side Note: While not personal finance related, if you want to read some really cool articles about Tesla, SpaceX and many other awesome topics, check out one of our all time favourite blog’s, Wait But Why. Be warned – once you get there – you’ll probably stay awhile.

Despite our many reasons for wanting a Tesla, at the end of the day, not even the totality of our entire list of “pros” seemed to offset the one major item that sat glaringly under the con heading.

The cost of the vehicle.

Over the years practicality and the financial priorities of paying off our mortgage and reaching Financial Freedom won out time and time again, and we continued to drive our perfectly fine, basic, (but not all that fuel friendly) family crossover.

And yet, despite the financially logical basis of refraining from the Tesla, – we always found ourselves coming back to the conversation. Weighing “new” considerations, and re-crunching the numbers.

How long would we need to own it for fuel savings to offset the crazy cost? FOREVER.

What were the opportunity costs of sinking that much money into a vehicle? A CRAPLOAD.

Will we ever be able to fudge these numbers in a way that makes us feel like we are buying this car because it’s a good financial decision? NO.

Somewhere amidst the extreme dissonance between practicality and sustainability, we came to the realization that if we really wanted the Tesla, we simply had to stop trying to justify it in our usual way.

We had to call a spade a spade AND be okay with it. It would be a financial indulgence on a scale that was completely foreign to us.

Once we were within a stones throw of Financial Freedom, I remember standing in the kitchen and looking at Mike (after having visited the Tesla dealership for what felt like the 15th time), and  saying “Let’s just do it”.

That week we had just found out that our ideal model was being discontinued, and would be heavily discounted by Tesla (like 20k kind of discount). We had also discovered that a demo model that matched our exact wish list specs was available in Toronto, resulting in an additional thousands of dollars off the sticker price of the vehicle. And the car we wanted (color, specs etc) was not exactly a common one.

Now it’s not like the discounts negated the crazy cost of the car, BUT, if there would ever be a time for us to pull the trigger on this thing, that was it.

I remember Mike looking at me in total shock “Really?”

“Yup – why not? What’s the point of being Financially Free if we never spend some of it?” I said the words with calm and confidence, while inside, I felt complete unease and the less than reassuring sensation that I was going to throw-up.  I think he did too.

2 weeks later, we were the proud, albeit somewhat nasueous, owners of a Tesla Model X 90D.

So – after 18+ months of ownership, and all the research, contemplation, discussion and massive internal conflict over the purchase, are we happy we went for it?

The short answer: Yes. BUT it’s not all roses.

So without further ado, let’s get to the good, bad and the ugly of owning a Tesla.

THE GOOD

I am about the furthest thing from a “car person” that you can get, but even for me, it’s hard to ignore that the Tesla Model X is a pretty darn cool car. I mean, the thing can drive itself.

I actually don’t drive very often to being with, I much prefer to walk to where I need to go, but on the odd occasion when I’m the one behind the wheel on a long drive, the auto-pilot feature has been a total a game changer.

It’s not because I’m not paying attention to the road (you still have to do that) but it’s because I’m able to sit comfortably, without the physical/mental demand of having to actually drive the vehicle.

I know what you’re thinking – how much energy is anyone exerting by sitting on their butt, pressing two pedals, and occasionally turning a round wheel?

As it turns out – quite a bit!

Honestly, pre-Tesla I would have answered almost zero, but it’s only since I’ve had the benefit of contrasting the two back to back that I realize the difference of not having the muscles in your leg tensed for hours as you press the gas/brake pedals, or physically turning the wheel as you navigate corners.

The difference in the mental/physical engagement of actively performing those actions vs. having the vehicle do it for your and simply “overseeing” it, is huge.

I used to arrive after long drives to visit my family feeling totally exhausted, but with the Tesla,  I show up feeling rested and relaxed! The difference truly blew my mind, and in my view, it is one of the biggest most impactful “pro’s” to owning a Tesla!

The vehicle is also incredibly comfortable. Something I only came to appreciate recently when we rented a vehicle for several weeks while traveling. The difference in comfort and space over long drives is dramatic, not just for the front passengers, but for our kiddo’s as well.

The free supercharging network (although one could argue it is built into the high cost of the vehicle in the first place) is also a major pro. It has incentivized us to visit our family more, while also eliminating the usual $200+ of gas we would have previously paid to travel to see them.

Overall, our frequency in which we visited family since owning the Tesla has tripled.

We also feel better about our carbon footprint in general. While the technology behind electric vehicles isn’t perfect in terms of sustainability, it is absolutely a step in the right direction.

I’m also a teeny bit of worry wart (and outright painful passenger) when it comes to driving in general. I guess I could be called…….over reactive…..(I’m sure Mike has some different descriptors for it).

BUT the extensive array of built-in collision avoidance features, the impact of the regenerative braking on your stopping distance, and the overall safety features of the Tesla do help reassure me and make me a more tolerable person to drive with. Good for me, and for Mike!

As an added bonus, Tesla released a feature this Christmas that provides a substantial selection of fart sounds that can be sent to your speaker/seat of choice within the vehicle. Essentially, the technological equivalent of a Tesla whoopee cushion.

This has provided HOURS of laughter for my male dominated family. All three boys (the small ones and the big) think that it’s the most hilarious thing ever, and when you are on long road trips or sitting in ferry line-ups with small children, gimmicks like that can prove priceless.

THE BAD

There is simply no denying that this vehicle cost a lot. There are times when the frugal part of my brain starts down the garden path of what we could have done with that money instead, and the long term opportunity cost of choosing an indulgence over investing.

But – when that happens – I remind myself that at the end of the day our lives cannot always be about acquiring MORE money. We set a financial goal, and we achieved it. At some point we had to shift from the accumulation of savings mindset that allowed us to get there, to one where we are focusing more on the experiences and lifestyle we want to lead moving forward.

After being so entrenched in saving, it’s been a challenging shift for us to make. (Yes – I know – first world problems, right?)

For day to day driving, with the range the Tesla offers, charging isn’t something we even think about. But when we get into longer road trips, especially in area’s we aren’t familiar with, charging adds a whole other layer of planning that frequently dictates the route, stops, hotels etc.

There’s no doubt this has been cumbersome for us in planning some of our trips, but as electric vehicles and charging stations become more and more prevalent, this will undoubtedly become less and less of an issue.

Thus far the spec range of our model X (410 km’s) has worked well for us, but realistically we get more like 275-340 km’s of range per charge (depending on terrain, conditions etc). This translates to us stopping to charge every 2-3 hours.

Fortunately, because we have two children, we have to stop for bathroom breaks or food anyways, so while it hasn’t drastically impacted our total travel time, it is definitely noticeable.

There’s also no denying that as a company Telsa is in it’s infancy when it comes to making vehicles, and has therefore had and will continue to have, its fair share of growing pains. Fortunately because Mike did his research, we were fully anticipating that we would experience issues with the vehicle, despite the high price tag.

And we certainly have. If Mike hadn’t prepped me for it, I KNOW I would have been SUPER pissed about the laundry list of issues. I would have had a hard time accepting that we paid an absurd price for a vehicle that isn’t essentially near perfect.

So far we’ve had the seats replaced due to an issue with untimely wear in a supply of the vegan “leather”, the display screen replaced due to a rapid yellowing effect around the edges, the doors realigned due to issues with them opening, a few mechanical issues, our key fobs replaced, etc etc. The list goes on. Nothing has been major – but some ongoing annoyances no doubt.

But, when I take a step back and look at these issues from a logical standpoint, the early generations of Tesla owners are kinda of like the beta testers for the company. Working out the kink’s, providing feedback, and helping Tesla to refine and improve. Both for the debut of its recent mass market Model 3, and for the growth of the company moving forward.

When I frame it that way, the issues are less annoying, and it makes me feel like we are helping out the company in our own little way. (Well…..Mike is. Mike is helping the company, he deals with all of that stuff…..I don’t do a thing in that department. Thank you honey!)

Truthfully, Tesla has also been phenomenal about making adjustments or repairs wherever necessary. So in the grand scheme, it hasn’t been the end of the world.

THE UGLY

There is one thing, and one thing only, that has actually made both of us have moments of regret about buying it.

It’s also a factor neither of us anticipated, but in hindsight, we should have.

People see you differently.

People see the Tesla, and they make all sorts of assumptions about us. And I can say that to date, the assumption has never been “Wow, you guys must have really pinched your pennies, and spent years saving up for and contemplating the value you would get from owning this vehicle!”.

Internally, I feel proud of our reasons, and the financial accomplishments that led to us owning the Tesla. Externally, I often feel the need to explain or minimize the purchase whenever someone asks us about it.

It’s a weird juxtaposition, one that we still haven’t quite resolved.

It’s definitely the one thing that has made us, at times, give serious consideration to giving up the Tesla, and switching to our original Plan B contender, a minivan.

THE CONCLUSION

All told, we are still glad we went for it.

We continue to admire and support the goals of Tesla and SpaceX, and while Electric Vehicles may not be perfect from a sustainability standpoint – they are undoubtedly an improvement from our internal combustion vehicles, and a movement we are grateful to be a part of.

Hopefully Tesla’s efforts will continue to force the major motor vehicle manufacturers to up their game when it comes to pursuing long term sustainable (and more affordable) transportation options.

For now, the totality of the good continues to outweigh both the bad and the ugly, so we’ll hold onto the Tesla and hopefully as they become more mainstream, the “entitled rich person” stigma they seem to have attracted will dissipate, and be replaced with more of a “willing to pay a bit more for products that inflict less harm on our planet” type of association!

Have you departed from your frugal roots to make a large purchase that aligns with other core values/wants? Tell us about it in the comments section!

And don’t forget to check out next week’s post where I talk about the results of our 30 day Starbucks free challenge, and whether or not I’ll be returning to my daily habit.

Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Owning a Tesla

  1. Great article. Is the Model X the only car you guys own? We are a one-car-household. Our car is still relatively new but I’m seriously considering getting an electric car when we eventually need to replace our car. From long term cost and the environmental impact point of view, electric cars just make so much sense.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading! And nice work being a one vehicle household! That is definitely the direction we want to go!

      Up to this point we have kept our second vehicle (it’s a 17 year old little two seater truck, that is surprisingly fuel efficient). We put about 1000 km’s per year on it lol – and pretty much just use it when we get into a bind and need to go in two different directions, or when we need to remove yard waste etc.

      But since we bought the Tesla, we’ve talked about getting rid of it at length because we definitely think we can manage with only a single vehicle. So we have been waffling between letting it go, or just driving it until it dies.

      The decision may have been made for us last week though, because someone tried to (unsuccessfully) steal it from our driveway! Unfortunately they caused quite a bit of damage to the ignition/steering column. So it’s possible the insurance company may write it off, which would be unfortunate because it still is a great little truck!

      What type of EV do you think you guys would consider? Tesla is about to unveil the Model Y on Thursday, which is purported to be a smaller style, more affordable family SUV.

      Like

  2. What a GREAT article Phia! I totally didn’t anticipate the one big con you wrote about, but it totally makes sense.

    Those of us seeking financial freedom, like you, don’t buy things for status or to show off. For us, financial responsibility trumps most things. So I totally get the discomfort when it feels like others look at you differently because of the car you own.

    One last thing I just have to say: I had to reread that bit about the fart noises several times! OMG, that’s hilarious and such a non-sequitur! What a fun, but totally odd feature for a car manufacturer to offer.

    I guess it goes to show how very different Tesla is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Chrissy! Yah the con totally took us off guard, but I suppose its in large part because we’ve never owned something like the Tesla before, so we didn’t really think about it from that perspective.

      And yes, Tesla is definitely different! They release funny little “Easter eggs” like that into the system from time to time, and the boys just go crazy over it.

      They also have one that makes the car “dance”, it turns on the speakers, opens up windows/doors, flashes the lights all in rythym to the song it is playing. It’s quite funny, and the kids LOVE it.

      It always amazes me that Tesla spends the cash to make those type of freebies, but it sure leaves me feeling like they are having fun with their work, and a great sense of humour!

      Like

  3. Wow, you guys handled this like champs! I’m so glad it wasn’t “we decided to check out the Tesla dealership and ended up coming away with a Tesla!”… lol

    As my wife can attest, I’ve secretly wanted a Tesla for a long time. It looks like they are building quite a few supercharger stations across MT. We definitely are not at a good place where this makes sense for us. But I could see this becoming a possibility when the price goes down in the next 5-10 years.

    Maybe if you “rough up” your Tesla on the outside, people won’t judge you so much? Just make it look like a beater! But seriously, that’s stupid that people would do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Chris!! Ha – I can’t even imagine buying a Tesla on an impulse! But Mike and I do like to do our “research” before buying pretty much anything lol. Our friends find it hilarious, but painful (until they are buying something, then they come ask us about it!)

      Sounds like you are where we were when we started wanting the Tesla 🙂 the upside for you is that when you are ready to pull the trigger on it, the infrastructure for charging stops and speeds will have drastically improved, and from the trend of EV’s and the goals of Tesla, the prices will have definitely come down!

      I’m suddenly starting to see a TON of Model 3’s on the road here in Vancouver, and they are starting to push Tesla into the more affordable range of EV’s in general.

      The Model Y is being unveiled on Thursday, so I’m pretty excited to see what the specs on that one will be.

      Like

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