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The Munificent Musings Of A Maniacal Mammal

At the time of posting this, it is the one year anniversary of the date I took delivery of my 2023 Tesla Model Y standard range AWD (May 7, 2023). For those who care, it came out of the Austin plant and has HW3. But first… if you are planning on getting a Tesla, here’s my referral link you can use to get both of us a bit of extra goodies.

A Bit Of History

It all started with a silver 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix SE. It had roughly 65K miles when I got it in early ’92 (maybe late ’91). I got about 70K miles out of it before going to a new, green 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix GT. I got just over 200K miles from that vehicle, which was then replaced by a…… drum roll, please……. new, black 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP. This one had a couple mistakes. The first was that it was black (with black interior) and was essentially an oven on wheels. The second, and bigger, mistake was that it was supercharged and wanted premium gas. That’s all fine and good in 2004, but by the time it was nearing the end of it’s life in 2013, gas prices were spiking over $5. Then the transmission on it started to fail at a little over 210K miles.

With gas prices so stupid high at the time and the fact that I was using premium, when I started looking at the hybrid options at the time, the cost difference was staggering. Just the difference in fuel costs each month would save me more than half the car payment, comparing the mileage of a new Prius to the Grand Prix GTP I had. So, I ended up going with a new, blue 2013 Toyota Prius (model 4 trim). It served me well, not have any major problems for about 200K miles. I replaced a couple wheel bearings just before and after the 200K mark, but had otherwise not really had any big costs beyond the usual tires and brake pads and rotors and yada, yada, yada. I had a vacation week planned for early April, 2023 and was flying to Atlanta and then flying a day and a half later from there to Phoenix, where I would spend the rest of the week or so before flying back to Chicagoland. My Prius had been developing a bit of a vibration for a few months leading up to that, but just two days before I was flying out on that vacation, it turned into an sporadic but very noticeable shake. I stopped at Toyota, who dug into the OBD logs and found a code that indicated that a couple cylinders in the engine were occasionally firing out of sync with the other cylinders, causing the engine to shake. They said there was a chance of repairing the engine, but even that would be upwards of $1,500, if it worked and helped long term. More than likely, it really meant a new engine, which was at least $3K at best. Seeing as it had nearly 210K miles and was getting pretty beat up in the interior, I decided that it was probably best to just replace it, as it would sure start racking up costs that probably wouldn’t be too far off car payments on a new car in the long run.

Initial Research

I hadn’t yet booked the rental cars for Atlanta and Phoenix for my trip, and for a number of years, I had figured that my next car would be an EV. Since I would only have the rental in Atlanta for a couple days, I decided to splurge an extra $12 a day and reserved a Tesla Model 3 via Hertz. Figured it’d be good to spend a little time with a Tesla, as that was one of my leading choices, though I hadn’t really done much research about them yet. The one I ended up with was a blue 2022 (I think, might have been a 2021) Model 3 Long Range. I got a good feel for driving it over that day and a half of time, and had my very first use of a supercharger before dropping it back off on the way to the airport. And, quite frankly, I realized I kinda loved driving it, particularly on the highways. Then, due to some weather delays, I got in late to Phoenix, and the Thrifty location I had booked with was a bit swamped when I arrived late that night. They ended up bumping my “just give me anything” cheap option up to a…… you guessed it… a Tesla Model 3. This time, it was a red 2022 Standard Range, which unlike the dual motor AWD Long Range model I drove in Atlanta, was a lower power, rear wheel drive. It’s still a perfectly capable car, but living in an area where there’s a good amount of difficult snow, I don’t love the idea of rear wheel drive cars. Granted, EVs like the Teslas have much more weight and torque and better handling than traditional RWD vehicles, but I still liked the idea of having dual motor AWD if possible. Another big difference that I noticed pretty immediately between the Long Range model I drove in Atlanta and the Standard Range model I drove in Phoenix was that the Phoenix one didn’t come with the premium sound system that the one in Atlanta had. I was very impressed by that sound system in the one in Atlanta.

So, I spent my evenings in the hotel room in Phoenix deep diving into learning tons about EVs, watching many YouTube vids and reading lists and reviews. By that point, I’d had a decent amount of experience with both of the Model 3 rentals that week, and I loved driving the one in Phoenix as well, and again, particularly on the highways. And since a vast majority of my driving is highway miles, I knew I would love driving a Tesla as my day-to-day vehicle. At the time, the standard range Model 3 was about $42K. Normally, there would also be a long range and a performance model option, but the long range 2023 Model 3 was not yet available, so the only other option for the Model 3 was the performance variation, which was $53K. That one was overkill for what I wanted, and definitely not worth an $11K difference. That’s when I started to consider the newer Model Y, which is an “SUV crossover” (a term I consider silly, as it’s essentially just a car with a hatchback). The more I looked at the differences, the more I realized I preferred the Model Y, anyway. It has more space, similar to my Prius, which could fit a surprising amount of stuff with the seats down. As it turned out, the standard range version of the Model Y was about $49.5K, coming in cheaper than the performance Model 3 and getting me dual motor all wheel drive as well as the premium sound system. I figured that the 280 mile range was fine for me (more on that later). So, I decided that the standard range Model Y was the one I was most interested in given the available options. I scheduled a demo drive for a Model Y, stopping at the Tesla dealer location that’s near my house on the way back from the airport. I mainly wanted to do the demo drive to check out the storage space and the main physical difference, knowing that the driving would be pretty close to identical to the Model 3. I decided that I definitely preferred the Model Y, particularly for its additional storage space (and a handful of other reasons).

Placing The Order

I nearly put down my $250 reservation that evening, but decided to do a bit more research. Thankfully, it’s good that I didn’t, because the very next day, they dropped the price of all Model Y vehicles by $3,000 (and by $2,000 for the Model 3). Since others would jump on orders after a big price drop like that, I decided to just go ahead and put my order in. One of the benefits of doing an EV is the $7,500 tax credit. At the time, you had to claim the credit when you did the taxes the next spring, though as of now in 2024, you can transfer that credit to the dealer when buying the vehicle and just get the discount up front.

I was initially gonna do a trade-in of my Prius, which miraculously had yet to trip the check engine light. I couldn’t find my title, so I went to get a replacement. In doing that, I discovered that Toyota Financial had never officially released the lien back in 2018 when the final payment was made, so I had to get them to send me a letter to release that, which would then get submitted to the IL secretary of state people. Since all that would take a while, I didn’t wanna delay delivery of the Tesla. So, after I took delivery of the Tesla, I went about selling off the Prius. Given how close it probably was to lighting up the check engine light, I didn’t wanna drive it around much. I used Kelly Blue Book to schedule a few visits to local dealers to get offers from them. They all offered me around $3,000. I filled out the online stuff for places like Carvana, Car Max and a couple others, with the best being around $3,500. On a Saturday night, I needed to run a couple errands near where the local Car Max was, so I checked and saw they were open until 9:00. So, I used the Prius and dropped by around 8:00. They took it for a test drive and checked it out and offered $4,000. Since that was the best offer I’d gotten, and it was just a matter of time before it would finally light up that check engine light, I accepted the offer on the spot. Just before 9:00, it was done and I was waiting for an Uber to take me home.

The order process for a Tesla is kinda fascinating. Everything is done via the app. Don’t really need to interact with a human. Anything that you need proof of documentation for, like proof of insurance and license and all that, you just take photos of it in the app and submit. Even the financing is all done via the app in about as simple a manner as possible. The entire process was about as painless a process as ordering a new car can be. It was quite refreshing. No “I’ll talk to my manager” haggling or any of that traditional salesman stuff. No pressuring me into this or that. You just select what you want and then step through the required info and you’re done. After a week or so, I was assigned a VIN for the car as it came out of manufacturing (via the Austin, Texas plant). Then a week later, I got a notification to set up my delivery date and time. I set it for the first day I was given the option for, which was the next Monday around lunch time. Unfortunately, that Monday ended up a totally chaotic work day. Fortunately, the process with Tesla was super simple. They let you check out the car and make sure nothing’s obviously wrong with it, then you accept delivery of the vehicle via the app and it is instantly paired with the vehicle, app and your account, and you’re good to go. I only had to sign a couple pieces of paper, and those were only necessary because of my IL license plate transfer. Overall, the order and delivery process was refreshingly easy and modern.

Thoughts About The Car

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed driving the car for this first year. I kinda knew that getting into the world of EVs, and Tesla in particular, it would be something of a “beta test” kind of experience, but I don’t mind that kind of thing. If there’s one thing about Tesla that’s true, it’s that the company, products and software are a constantly changing and moving target. While they do have model years for their cars, software updates roll out somewhat frequently that add features and capabilities, so the car and the experience is an evolving process.

One of my favorite things about driving the car is the great performance and handling, particularly for highway driving, which is 80+ percent of my driving. I actually have a version of the Model Y that was only available for a rather limited window of time, from April to September of 2023 (my delivery date was May 7, 2023). Currently, as of this writing, the standard range version of the Model Y is a single motor, real wheel drive car. Mine is a dual motor, all wheel drive version that was only available during the time window I got it. At the time, it was about a $4,000 difference between the standard and long range versions of the car, and with both being dual motor, all wheel drive, the range was pretty much the ONLY difference between the two. I didn’t consider the range difference (of 40-50 miles) worth the difference at the time. If it were a bit closer in price, I would have gone with the long range. While I haven’t really had any range problems, it can be handy to have a bit more range on long drives to give a bit more flexibility to charging options. Still, over time, there will be more charging options available, so it’ll make less of a difference over time.

One of the most fun things to do when I have a passenger in the car is to freak them out with the insane acceleration the car has. It’s truly wild, and I don’t even have one of the performance models. The sweet spot is to get it up to about 15 miles an hour casually and THEN stomp on the pedal and the car takes off like a bat out of hell. Overall, the car has fantastic performance. Obviously, much more than my previous Prius, and even a lot more than my old Pontiac Grand Prix GTP. I’ve loved the performance so far.

One of the single most common things people ask me about is the whole charging experience stuff. Honestly, it hasn’t been a problem for me so far. Most people don’t know that as long as you put all your destinations in for a long drive, it’ll figure out the charging stops and locations you need to make automatically. I’m somebody who likes to get out of the car every couple hours and take a break to get out of the car and walk around, and this lines up well with doing charges on the car. A common follow up question is “how long does it take to charge?” Well, that’s a variable kind of thing, so there’s not a great universal answer. For instance, it charges much faster at lower battery percentages. So, when you’re on a long trip, the system will prefer to make an extra stop or two along the way if they’re not far off the route to do quicker charges at lower percentages. So, for instance, it would rather make 2 stops to go from like 10% to 50% than one stop to go from 10% to 90%, as the two stops will be much faster. You can manually enter the charging stops if you want, of course. So, a full charge is typically about a half hour, or a bit more if it’s cold or you’re going from like near-0% all the way up to 100% (you only charge all the way to 100% every once in a while when you REALLY need the range for a long drive). For a quick top off at a low percentage, it’s more like 15 minutes, which is enough to get out, walk around a bit, go over to something near the charge point and grab a bite or snacks or whatever.

As for charging at home, I’m still working on dealing with getting a proper high amp outlet in my garage, which I’ll hopefully be able to finally get taken car of soon. So far, I’ve literally been plugging into a standard 15amp power outlet, which is super slow at charging, but has done OK for me so far. I have a long daily commute, so I can’t quite use ONLY that standard wall outlet. I get about 20% charge a night that way and I use about 35% to 40% for my daily commute. So, I top off at the supercharger location by the office once a week or so for typical driving weeks. Overall, while it’s a different experience than just pulling up to random gas stations, the whole charging thing hasn’t really been any kind of problem. I did make a rookie mistake or two in the early days of using the car, like forgetting to put in all the stops for the trip into the nav, which in my case was when I was driving around in southern IL and forgot to put in the last step of actually ending the trip back at home. So it had to take me 15 minutes off my route to go over to another town to top off an extra time. Not a big deal, but a lesson learned kind of thing.

Even compared to my efficient Prius, the charging costs of the Tesla have been about 60%-65% of what those Prius gas costs were. And once I can get a proper high amp outlet in my garage and switch over to time of day or hourly rate stuff with ComED, I can push that down quite a bit more. There’s also another big difference in costs for maintenance. I have about 24,000 miles on the car and the only maintenance I’ve done on it is tire rotation a couple times, which Discount Tire does for free. There’s no oil change, etc. There are only a small handful of maintenance items, and they’re on a yearly every few years kind of periodicity. Here’s a screenshot below of those items as tracked in the Tessie app. I am due now to get the calipers checked, but otherwise, I haven’t spent a cent on maintenance yet. Even the brake pads don’t need much attention, as the brakes aren’t used much thanks to regenerative braking where the motors slow the car as they take the kinetic energy of slowing the car down and putting that back into the batteries.

There are a number of other points of fascination that are common when showing others the car and how it works. Here’s a list of those things:

  • The fact that so much is done through the screen is something that fascinated people. I adjusted to it quickly and smoothly. It’s amusing that things right down to opening the glovebox is done via the screen (which gives you the advantage of putting a PIN code option in to do that.
  • One thing that I thought would take a while to adjust to is the single pedal driving. When you let off the pedal, the motors start slowing the car down quickly and using that to put energy back into the batteries. So, the only time I touch the brakes is when I need to stop extra fast, which is rare. On a majority of my drives, I never actually touch the brake pedal. I learned that I adjusted to that pretty quickly when I first drove the rental Tesla Model 3 cars in Atlanta and Phoenix shortly before getting mine. So when I got mine, I was actually already used to it.
  • Thanks to some excellent third part platforms like Tessie, TeslaFi and a handful of others, you can get an insane amount of stats and details of all the stuff you do with the car, from charges to battery health to driving sessions, etc. The nerd side of me has fun poking around various graphs and stats.
  • I haven’t gotten to play with the Full Self Driving feature as yet. There’s an update that’ll hopefully roll soon for the new version 12 of FSD, which would also give me a free one month trial. I’ll play with it at that time.
  • The standard, free Autopilot feature, which keeps you in the lane you are in and paces traffic in front of you, works pretty well. I use it all the time on the highway and let it do most of my highway driving. It has a couple things you have to keep in mind, like getting a bit confused with merging lanes where it moves around to center you in the lane as the two lanes combine and then go down to a single lane. It’s not dangerous or anything like that, just a bit goofy. As such, I tend to prefer to be in the center lane when Autopilot is driving. The biggest glitch is when it gets over paranoid and slows down when it doesn’t really need to, at which point I just disengage and take over simply. Overall, I’ve very much enjoyed getting to use Autopilot, mainly when I’m on the highway. My only main complaint about it is that Tesla has to be super pushy about you keeping your hand(s) on the wheel. I always pay attention to what it’s doing and am always ready to quickly take over, but I wish it didn’t have to be so pushy about not having a hand on the wheel. But oh well, it is what it is, and I’ve gotten used to it.
  • I’ve loved the premium audio speaker system in the car, which sounds great. Most of the Tesla models include this. The dual motor Model 3 I had as a rental in Atlanta had it, but the single motor one I had in Phoenix didn’t, so I was able to tell the big difference when driving those 2 rentals back to back. Was good to know the difference ahead of time. It was a big factor in which model I ended up going with. Thankfully, the standard range Model Y I got (which was the rare dual motor one that was only available during that window of time I already mentioned), included it. I believe earlier single motor versions of it did not. Not sure if the new single motor version of it does or not currently. If you’re looking to get a Tesla, I recommend putting the premium sound system on the list of items to check to make sure you get a model that does.
  • The “toys” kind of stuff that Tesla likes to do can be fun. I still need to get around to playing with the light show stuff more. You can see cool videos of that here. A tiny feature I have had enabled since pretty much my start of driving the car is the “Rainbow Road” option, which lights up the lane you’re driving in with a bright rainbow coloring when Autopilot is engaged. I like it cause it makes it super easy to tell when Autopilot is engaged. I’ve also tweaked other silly settings such as changing the sounds for things. For instance, at the moment, when my car locks, it does a rubber ducky squeak.
  • I also find it amusing how almost nobody that rides in my car notices that the entire roof is (tinted) glass. After a while driving in the car, I’ll point it out to them and they’ll look up and be astonished that they didn’t notice.

Like I said, overall, I’ve been super happy with my Tesla. There are little quirks to deal with, but nothing major worth complaining about. Honestly, the most frustrating thing is stuff like having to wait for certain software version updates to show up on my car to get to play with new stuff as it rolls out, like I’m stuck doing right now waiting for the software version branch my car is on to get an update that includes the new version 12 of full self driving so that I can play with it. It’s fun to get new features showing up over time.


I also spent the first couple weeks installing a bunch of accessories. There’s a big third party market for all sorts of Tesla accessories, which is its own rabbit hole to go down. Here are some of ’em (with links to the ones I got)…

The Must Haves

  • Screen Protector
    This is a highly recommended addition because, well, the screen is insanely important to the car. I can’t recommend this specific brand’s protector. It is totally unnoticeable visually, feels fantastically smooth and couldn’t possibly be easier to perfectly install on the screen. This one is a 10 out of 10 on the recommended scale.
  • Proper Floor Mats
    The best-liked brand of mats for Teslas seem to be 3D MAXpider. I would have gotten those, but got a great sale deal at the time on the Basenor set, which I’ve liked. Those didn’t come with covers for the back of the back seats (for when they’re folded down), so I got a Basenor brand set of those, which are also fine.
  • Mud Flaps
    The Model Y’s design is known to throw rocks and such from the tires up against the bottom of the sides of the car, so adding some mudflaps are heavily advised. The ones I got were pretty easy to put on and seem to work great.
  • Console Cup Holders Liner
    Serves multiple purposes. The first is to be able to easily clean the crap that gets into the cup holders. The second is that the cup holders are rather large by default and this keeps drinks and such from moving around in them and splashing, etc. I’ve liked the one I got that’s linked here.
  • Car Door Organizer Covers
    Nice covers to protect the pockets on the inside of the doors and make them much easier to clean, etc.

Nice To Have

  • Groovy Tesla Logo Puddle Lights
    This is a totally superficial upgrade, but it’s cheap and simple to install and works very well. They really do look quite nice at night.
  • Secondary Display
    There are a number of secondary displays you can get and install, typically over the steering wheel. I got Hansshow’s “Switchback Dash” model unit, which seems to have disappeared from their site, so maybe they stopped making it. So, here’s a YouTube video about it. It took a bit of effort to install, but I think it was worth it. Amusingly, I rarely use the actual display and almost always have it rotated around to use for the smartphone clamp/charger function. That makes it so I have my phone in landscape mode and lined up perfectly to view through the steering wheel while it also wirelessly charges. I usually have my media playback app (podcast, music, etc) on screen on the phone as I drive. It works really well for that. Anyway, there are quite a few options when it comes to a secondary screen for over the steering wheel. It’s definitely not important to have a secondary screen, as the big center one is easily visible for everything. But, if it’s something you’d want, and you don’t mind the cost/effort of adding it, then might as well. I’ve quite liked my Switchback Dash. Wonder if it’s permanently discontinued.
  • Ambient LED Lighting
    There are a few options for this kind of thing. The linked Nestour branded kit is fairly well liked, and I generally like mine. The biggest problem is that there’s no perfect way to hide and run the wiring. I did mine in an alternate way from the recommended method and it worked kinda well. It looks very cool at night and is fun when you have others riding along in the car. Here’s a general video of mine I shot at night. And here it is in a bit more fun of a mode.
  • Center Console Arm Rest Cover
    This serves a few purposes. One is to protect the center console. The other is to make it more comfortable to rest your arm/elbow on. And the last is that this one also doubles as a compartment cover for the inner part of the center console lid. You can buy holders to put on the inside of the lid for secret storage of stuff, but this particular console cover’s elastic bands also accomplish the same thing. I actually really like this one, as it looks great and feels really comfortable (considerably more than the console itself).
  • Console Organizer Tray
    Speaking of the center console, the front of it has a big, open area for storage. It has so much space that adding a sliding organizer tray is a great addition while still leaving a decent amount of space under it as well. I’m very happy with the linked one that I got and highly recommend it.
  • Console USB Power & Data Upgrade
    And speaking of that front open area, it has 2 USB ports inside it. Unfortunately, at least as of the time I got my Model Y, those ports had been hindered by becoming power only. It’s possible that’s no longer true at the time you’re reading this, as it was supposedly done due to a part shortage (amusingly, the cable for the data hookup is still there, it’s just that there’s no connector to hook it up to). Anyway, the linked item is great for multiple purposes. First, it gives data capabilities back to the ports. But second, and even cooler, it adds not only 2 more regular USB ports (going from 2 to 4), but it ALSO adds 2 USB-C ports, one of which even goes all the way up to 65w, so you could even fully power the average laptop from it. It takes a bit of effort to deal with the cabling to do the install, but it’s worth it, IMO. If you’re gonna do this, make sure to do some research first to make sure there’s still data cable capabilities and/or they might have restored the data capabilities by default, which would mean this would only benefit you by adding a couple more regular USB ports and adding in the USB-C ones (which is still a good upgrade).
  • Center Console Carbon Fiber Protective Cover
    The sliding door over the storage compartment and the area around the cup holders can be covered to protect things as well as make it look fancier. While I really like how this linked one that I got looks, it was challenging to get it lined up while installing it.
  • Front Seat Vent Covers
    There is a vent under each of the front seats, but they are a completely open hole, which makes it easy for stuff that wander under the seats to get into them. They really should have covers as a default thing, but they don’t. While I recommend getting covers for them, I do NOT recommended the linked ones I got. The fit on them isn’t great and I couldn’t really get them to line up perfectly. But since they are out of sight and I got them in place well enough, I kept these. So yeah, do a little research and find another brand one that is surely better.
  • Upgraded Cam Storage
    The car comes with a 128gb USB stick for the USB port in the glove box. If you wanna upgrade it to more storage, the linked Samsung model is good and holds up in extreme weather. Just know that (as of this writing), the car only stores 1 hour of footage, dropping the oldest as it ads new. What upgraded storage gets you is a lot more storage for it to archive sentry and incident clips.
  • Garbage Bag
    A simple but nice little addition. Not too much space in it, but good for small garbage stuff. Looks nice, hooks onto the back of the front seats super easily, uses little plastic liners and magnetically closes well, etc.
  • Trunk Corner Bins
    The corners of the trunk are big, open pits. These help protect them and cover them, etc. Various builds of the car have slight variations of the shape of those openings, so make sure you pick ones that are going to fit your exact model.
  • Portable Tire Inflator
    Not Tesla-specific, but this Fanttik brand unit is a very nice and I highly recommend.
  • Portable Vacuum
    Speaking of nice portable units from Fanttik, I also got this vacuum which is also a very nice unit. Even more off topic, this brand makes some nice, compact, portable USB-C charged power screwdrivers. I have a couple different models and really like them.

Other Stuff

  • Carbon Fiber Dash Replacement/Cover
    A pricier upgrade is to replace or cover the woodgrain panel that goes across the dash and the top edge of the inside of the front doors. This is something I definitely want to do, but haven’t come up with the right option that doesn’t cost a ton. There are companies like the linked one that sent you an entirely new dash cover with actual carbon fiber panel replacements pre-installed, then you get some refunded when you send yours back to them. My problem was that my particular car model has a SLIGHTLY different mounting, so they hadn’t started offering ones that would fit mine, but have finally started to do so very recently. So, make SURE that what they offer will fit your exact model vehicle. There are other, cheaper options, but the only other option I’m considering is The Hills’ carbon fiber covers you can put over the woodgrain that seem to work well and look good, but still ain’t exactly cheap. Not sure if I’ll get around to talking myself into this upgrade in some form eventually. I really dislike the woodgrain panels and would MUCH prefer them to be carbon fiber.
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