Or more accurately, to buy or to lease again, that is the question!

Back in May 2021 I blogged about a Tesla Model 3 test drive, which very shortly afterwards became a Tesla Model 3 delivery day and led to a Tesla road trip blog later that year.  Almost 3 years later, our Tesla Model 3 lease is almost up, and we must make some future motoring decisions.

We’ve done 17,747 miles in Lexee (yes, you get to name your Tesla and it was leased through Lex and my daughter is called Katee).  Other than some inconsiderate Mercedes driver putting a large dint in the rear wing in a car park (which was repaired at the beginning of this year) we’ve had almost 3 years of trouble-free, and incredibly cheap motoring.  Lexee was serviced by Tesla after 2 years, but that was done exactly as shown in the picture, on our drive, where a Tesla Service Technician visited and replaced the pollen filter and carried out some minor checks.  The tyres are still fine, although I’m hoping we might get them replaced before the lease ends if we do decide to buy.  We’ve spent around £600 on electricity, which is crazy compared to how much we spent on petrol in the previous car(s).  Some of that is down to free charging, both locally and at work for the first 18 months.  We also have a home charger, and an ‘agile’ tariff which allows us to pick and choose when to charge based on the cheapest rate, so only £130 of the total.  Most of the £600 is when we’ve taken Lexee on holiday, travelling down to the Northeast of England quite often, down to London and Yorkshire a few times, and around Scotland more frequently.  During the last 2+ years, we’ve had countless software upgrades, which have added new functionality to the car and fixed some minor issues.  I can honestly say, that the only thing that still irritates me about Lexee is the automatic windscreen wipers, which are hopeless, but given some of my previous cars didn’t even do this, it’s a small price to pay.

I’ve owned cars (I blogged about them here) that have all done one of two things better than Lexee (apart from perhaps the acceleration) but as an overall package, nothing comes close.  The Tesla Model 3 is an incredible car and one I’m more than happy to continue driving.  We had another test drive in a Model Y back in 2022 when they first came out, and it’s a very similar driving experience.  My conclusion was that from a driver’s perspective, the Model 3 is a better car, but from a passenger perspective the Model Y probably edges it.  We also hired a Model Y on a road trip around the Northeast of America and Canada last summer.  We flew in and out of JFK, and travelled down to Philadelphia and Washington DC, before heading up to Niagara, Toronto, and Montreal, swinging back via Boston and Stamford.  We (I) drove almost 2000 miles and the experience couldn’t have been better.  We never waited for a charge.  We generally needed to stop before the car, and it cost $140 including tolls (excluding the $1,200 for the car)

As you might know, Tesla has just updated the Model 3 (the aptly named ‘Highland’ project) just in time for our lease ending in June.  After reading and watching far too many reviews, there was only one thing for it.  Another Tesla test drive!  It was just me and Katee last weekend when we headed down the M9 to Edinburgh trying to take in all the noises and bumps, so we could compare on the test drive.  We had the choice of a red or grey standard-range version.  Katee picked red before I’d even had a chance to think!  She drove in the front for the first half of the journey and then switched to the back for the return leg, although was a little disappointed the rear screen wasn’t working.

 The biggest difference is the lack of stalks behind the steering wheel.  My Model 3 has 2 stalks – the left one for indicating and a wiper button, the right one for selecting drive and cruise controls.  The Highland version has these controls on the steering wheel and the drive controls on the screen and above your head by the courtesy lights.  Selecting drive wasn’t a problem as we did this once on the trip.  I think you can set it, so it tries to select this automatically too.  The indicators were more of an issue, and while I’m sure it’s something you’d get used to, I can’t help feeling it would alienate some non-Tesla drivers from switching.   Every car I’ve owned had stalks for indicators, so it does feel strange and unnatural, even though it never felt much of a problem.  The only area where the Highland model didn’t feel ‘a little better than my Model 3 was the acceleration, although given that the test car was a standard-range single-motor version and we have the long-range dual-motor version, it’s a bit of an unfair comparison.  The standard range is still more than fast enough for a family saloon, but the ~4-second 0-60 time of the LR model never tires.  

But yes, everything else was just a little better.  It was a little quieter.  It was a little more comfortable.  The screen and responsiveness was a little faster.  The interior trim felt a little better and the seats a little more comfortable.  It has a nice interior light around the car (which you can change the colour) and the seats are heated AND ventilated.  The screen in the back would have perhaps sold it for Katee, but even she felt it wasn’t a compelling enough improvement to retire Lexee.  And she is absolutely right!

I’m hoping we might get to buy Lexee for around £25k.  Similar spec and mileage cars are selling on Autotrader for over £28k, so it seems like a reasonable offer, and we know the car has been looked after (I clean it every 2-4 weeks). Leasing a new one looks like it would cost more than the previous deal, which worked out around £500/month after the salary sacrifice and tax implications.  Another long-range would be at least £125/month more and even a standard range would be around £40/month more.  We’d have to factor in things like insurance, road tax, maintenance, etc. if we bought Lexee (they were all covered in the lease) but it’s probably not that much more than the monthly lease costs when you add in the cost of the car.  We’d still own Lexee in 3 years, whereas we’d be back in this same solution if we leased again.

We still have another few months to decide, and a few longer trips to do.  I’m heading down to Banbury in a few weeks to see friends and we’re back down to the Northeast for Easter.  We’re also considering a European road-trip holiday for the summer, which might be more difficult in a new lease car than it would our own Tesla.  I’ll let you know what we decided to do over the summer, probably as part of a road trip blog…