Why I Bought a Tesla Model Y

In the depths of the pandemic, I needed a new car. It seemed to be the perfect time to try life with an EV, and I bought a Tesla Model Y.

Tesla Model Y
Tesla Model Y. Photo: Sara Lacey Credit: Sara Lacey

I’m Often Asked What I Own and Drive When I’m Not Testing Cars.

And people always have a reaction when I tell them I drive a Tesla Model Y.

It was the fall of 2020, and my trusty family car that I’d had since 2009 needed to be replaced. It was a fabulous family SUV filled with all the bells and whistles I wanted. I was excited to consider all the options a new car would give me, and I was really excited at the idea of an EV.

My choices in 2020 were slim,  there just weren’t that many EV’s in production to choose from. To top it off, the pandemic made it almost impossible to determine when I could have a new car in my possession. Except Tesla. But how did Tesla even get on my radar?

My dear friends had a first-generation Tesla Model S with home charging and I loved the idea of never going to a gas station again. I also loved the idea of almost no maintenance. My beloved SUV had indeed started to need a lot more attention, it had over 150,000 miles on it, after all. But I was having some pretty serious maintenance fatigue, with minor and major items needing attention on an exceedingly regular basis.

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A Girls Guide To Cars | Why I Bought A Tesla Model Y - Whbought The Tesla Model Y I

Why I bought the Tesla Model Y. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Model Y Feels Abundant in Tech, yet Sparse in Creature Comforts

The downside to the Tesla was an overly minimal interior, and a car that was operated by a big screen. I have never been a fan of touchscreens in cars, and the Tesla’s screen was a red flag for me. I need to also disclose that I don’t like most driver-assist systems, even plain ol’ cruise control. I wasn’t interested in the Tesla for all the driver assist systems it had and claimed to be developing. I was interested in putting my money towards an alternative-fuel car, and though I wasn’t an early-adopter by Tesla standards in general, I was an early-ish adopter in a broader sense, and I wanted to show carmakers that I wanted more options by illustrating that with my purchasing decision.

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Tesla Model Y Profile

Tesla Model Y Profile

I Wasn’t Worried About Charging the Tesla Model Y

I also liked that Tesla had a great charging network that I knew was effective (I had friends who had used it regularly). There are superchargers close to where I live and do local travel and errands, so that was compelling as well. I would be charging from home, so I wasn’t as worried about the network but I was happy it got good reviews.

So I decided to try the car out. My husband and I went for a test drive, which was unconventional. We made an appointment online, and when the time arrived, went to our shopping mall that had a Tesla “store.” We met with an associate who gave us the overview on the car. As we walked back outside to the car, he let us know he couldn’t ride with us (remember, we were in COVID protocol) so he sent us on our own to drive the Model Y.

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Tesla Model Y

Tesla doesn’t like big bottles. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Tesla Model Y Was Easy to Learn, But Tricky to Remember

No key, just a key card you touch to the surface of the center console. No ignition or even a power button. It’s a little unsettling. But just put the car in gear and drive it. It’s uses one-pedal technology to capture energy created by braking. Think of it like this, press the accelerator down to go faster, and lift up to go slower. Yes, it has a brake pedal but you can drive without it as the car will come to a stop if you lift all the way up. And yes, you can adjust the degree of the one-pedal driving so that it drives more like a gas-powered car, though it’s less efficient. I had fun playing with that system on the streets around the shopping mall, and got used to it pretty quickly. 

And as we got out on some open road, I tested the storied acceleration Tesla and EV’s are known for. And it was then and there that I was dazzled. The only time I’d experienced acceleration like that was on a roller coaster. It was compelling, and though the ride quality was on the stiff side and the interior sparse, I was quickly coming around to the idea of buying one.

At the end of the test drive, we returned the key card to the store. We asked what we needed to do if we decided we wanted to buy the Model Y. I’m not kidding when the associate said, “Just go to the website, select the model you want, the color and wheels, regular or long range or performance. You’ll also decide if you want degrees of self-driving. Then put in your credit card for a deposit. We will let you know when your car is ready.” That was it. We wound up deciding to buy the car and it was the easiest purchase I’ve ever made. It was the lowest-pressure car-buying experience I’ve ever had.

Tesla Model Y

The Tesla Model Y allows Apple Music. Photo Sara Lacey

But…that Screen

There are knobs on the steering wheel to operate the adaptive cruise control, and control the stereo volume. You can press the knobs to activate the voice-command system and ask it standard commands and it will do them. There is a stalk for gear selection, and another for turn signals and wipers that will wash and wipe the window, or do one pass. You can press the icon on the screen, and a menu pops up for you to select the speed of the wipers, or to turn them off, or you can select “auto” mode for the wipers and they will operate that way. 

Climate (including vent angles), seat heat, and many other options can be selected and customized in the climate control screen. But it’s a lot of mental work that seems much less efficient than just reaching for a button or a knob. Let me be clear, the air vents can’t be adjusted by hand. You need to press the climate control icon on the screen, then touch the screen to adjust the vents. It’s frustrating.

I miss the buttons, toggles, and switches of a traditional interior. I miss the character they add to a car. And no, I don’t need a button for everything, but I’d like more than what my Tesla offers me. 

And while I’m on a rant, let’s talk about the cupholders. They literally are two wells in the center console. No grippers, just a thin rubber pad at the bottom of the holder. Cups rattle around and coffee spills through the lid regularly if you don’t have a stopper. Lastly, I dislike how often the doors do not open on the first try if I’ve been parked away from home. Unless I have the app actually open on my phone and my phone in my hand in order to have the door open immediately. Even if my app is open on my phone, if my phone is asleep in my purse, I cannot open the door on the first try. 

Tesla Model Y

I don’t use the frunk that often in the Tesla Model Y. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Tesla Model Y is Not All Bad, Though

I love charging my car at home and never needing to go to the gas station. I love opening the app and turning on the seat heat and heat when it’s cold out (or air conditioning when it’s hot out) when I’m getting ready to leave. When I get to my car it’s all warm (or cool) and comfortable. I do appreciate the adaptive cruise control for when I’m in traffic, and the sound system is good. 

I don’t use the games and novelty features or Netflix streaming in the car like I thought I would, but I imagine if I were spending time charging at chargers out in the world, I may be more inclined to do so. It’s been easy to use the native system to do hands-free calling and messaging. Using voice commands to do things in the car works well and I use it most often to navigate places. 

The novelty of the instantaneous speed has worn off a little, but still love the braking and acceleration the Tesla gives me. I have only needed to replace tires and add washer fluid. I have loved learning about EV’s and charging by owning one, and am glad I bought the Tesla Model Y. I even got an adapter for my home charger to plug in test cars I get and it’s been fun to see how they’re all different. And I do like to think that by buying a Tesla, it was a vote of support in exploring other ways of fueling cars. Would I buy another one? I would definitely enjoy looking at the many, many other options I have now.

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Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey