The Truth About Model 3 Reliability


The Truth About Model 3 Reliability

When it comes to buying a vehicle, the Tesla brand is known far and wide for its amazing features and advanced technology that make driving easier. And with the price tag that is attached to owning a Tesla, you should expect nothing less than the best. But what happens when you begin to have questions about the reliability of your Tesla Model 3?

The Tesla Model 3 overall is a very reliable vehicle. The early 2018-2019 Tesla Model 3’s has been known to have numerous minor reliability issues, like uneven panel gaps, software glitches, paint blemishes, and interior plastic fitment gaps. However these issues have been resolved in newer model year vehicles.

If you own a Tesla Model 3 or are thinking about purchasing one, you should read this article before you do. That way, you will know what to expect from your new vehicle, and there won’t be any surprises when it comes to the reliability of your Tesla Model 3. And if you already own a Model 3, keep reading to find out how you can remedy your reliability issues.

How Reliable Are Tesla Vehicles?

Since rolling out their first vehicle in 2011, Tesla has long been known for its high-reliability rating. Much of this has to do with the fact that their vehicles are electrically powered instead of running on diesel, so there are fewer moving parts to damage or issues that could arise.

Everything changed in 2019, however, mostly because of the Tesla Model 3. These cars were so riddled with small issues. They raised the company’s issues per 100 vehicles rating (which is how vehicle brands are measured against each other). While Tesla’s main competitor, Lexus, only has 81 issues per the 100 vehicles that were tested, Tesla had a whopping 176. That’s almost two problems per vehicle.

One thing that should be noted, however, is that Tesla problems tend to fall into one of two categories, hardware issues or software issues. And software issues in Tesla run rampant—but Tesla vehicles also have almost twice the software as comparable vehicles, so this could be skewing Tesla’s reliability rating.

Additionally, Tesla simply hasn’t been around as long as other car manufacturers, like Ford, which has been around since the early 1900s, so there is simply fewer data available when it comes to compiling a history of the brand, and thus a poor data point, like the Tesla Model 3 issues could quickly damage results.

How Reliable is the Tesla Model 3?

As mentioned above, Tesla vehicles as a whole used to be reliable until the early Model 3’s increased the number of issues per car from the factory. This may leave you wondering just what could possibly be wrong with the Tesla Model 3.

Below are some of the most common problems experienced by Tesla Model 3 owners that have contributed to Tesla’s lowered reliability rankings.

Poor Body Panel Fit

This next issue is just embarrassing for Tesla, but apparently, one of the issues reported by owners of the Model 3 is that the body panels on the vehicle weren’t always installed securely or properly. And this led to several issues cosmetically.

Luckily Tesla has since fixed this on their 2020 model, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t an issue for those who purchased the earlier models.

Autopilot Software Issues

One of the main reasons people buy a Tesla is because they want to enjoy sitting back and relaxing as their car drives them to work. Of course, you still have to keep your hands on the wheel, but at least your brain can relax while your Tesla does the hard part of your commute!

Some theorize that the vehicle software was released before it was ready, meaning that this is a mistake on Tesla’s end and not a user error.

As of 2021, autopilot is now more advanced than it’s previous versions. Autopilot is now 2x-4x more safe, than human driving.

Accidents Per Mile Driven – Gasoline VehiclesAccidents Per Mile Driven – Tesla Vehicles
According to data provided by Tesla’s studies, gasoline vehicles experience an accident per every 978k miles.According to Tesla’s study, their Autopilot vehicles experience an accident every 2.05 million miles, and their vehicles with the Full Self-Driving capabilities are said to experience an accident for every 4.19 million miles driven.

Blurry Backup Camera

Maybe the reason the signature autopilot has been having issues is that it relies on cameras to function, and the backup camera image has been reported on some Tesla Model 3 vehicles to be blurry.

It is unclear why they are blurry and what the fix is, but it is likely an issue with the camera that is installed over the rear plate being focused incorrectly or maybe getting knocked around when the car is in motion. Either way, it’s definitely annoying.

This seems to be an issue that Tesla has resolved with an over-the-air update to all Model 3’s, so if you are purchasing one you are not likely to encounter it.

Paint Issues

If you were lucky enough to skirt the poor body panel fitting issues, this doesn’t mean that you will be able to skirt the paint issues. Apparently in early stages of the Model 3, several Teslas left the factory with an incomplete paint job or a vehicle that had paint in the wrong areas. Even though this is an easy fix, it is a bit embarrassing for Tesla the number of Model 3’s that have experienced this issue.

Currently, this seems to be a very rare issue because Tesla has fixed this problem at the factory level. Further, if you notice a paint blemish at delivery, Tesla will fix it at their paint shop for free.

Touchscreen Freezing Up

You know how you are only buying that Tesla for the cool technology and autopilot? Well, one of the most common issues experienced by Tesla Model 3 owners is touchscreen freezing due to software issues.

I’ve personally experienced this one a few times, however similarly to a laptop, a simple reset of the screen seems fix it every time. Holding the two steering wheel buttons in for 10 seconds will initiate a screen reset. The screen will go black for about a minute, and then come back on unfrozen.

Are The Tesla Model 3 Reliability Issues User Error Issues?

Frequently, when a company has issues with their products, people wonder if these issues are due to user error, as in the consumer isn’t using the product properly. Unfortunately, with the issues experienced by Tesla Model 3 owners, most of them are not user issues but rather developmental issues.

This is because the software issues (such as the car shutting down while driving) is something that a user can’t even get into to damage. And when it comes to needing to touch the touchscreen frequently while driving, this is a design error that consumers had nothing to do with.

Also, keep in mind that consumers don’t have any control over the paint job or the way the panels are installed. Of course, rough driving could damage panels, but in the Tesla Model 3, they are known to just fall off, and this is not a common problem in vehicles.

Tesla Model 3 Recalls

If you’ve made it this far, you are probably wondering if Tesla has issued any official recalls. And here’s the deal about recalls, they have to be issued for safety issues, not cosmetic issues like the paint job. This means that several of the aforementioned issues are no recalls on the vehicle, and the consumer may have to pay to fix the issue themselves. An important note is that all of these recalls were on “some” Tesla Model 3’s, and when looking further into the numbers, they were very small batches of cars from the factory.

Sun Visor Recall

In 2019 it was discovered that several of the first released vehicles were missing an airbag warning on the sun visor. Seems dumb, but this warning is needed for a vehicle to be street legal.

Seatbelts

This is never something you want to see on a recall list, considering the seatbelts are supposed to save your life in a crash! But in May 2021, Tesla issued a recall for some of the seatbelts in their Model 3 vehicles. And this is because some of the front seatbelts weren’t attaching properly.

Brakes

Another recall to see when it comes to your vehicle, but luckily this is another one that only affects some Model 3 Teslas. This recall has to do with the brake calipers that could become loose and separate from the wheel rim.

Do Tesla Model 3’s Break Down a Lot?

When it comes to reliability, many people want to know about how often the car breaks down. This is because even though all of the issues above are annoying if you can still drive the car, consumers are usually still willing to give the car a chance. This is because they know the car can still get them from point a to point b even if some features are temporarily broken.

The truth is, besides the small issues above, Tesla’s don’t tend to break down and leave you stranded. This is why many online forums believe that most of the complaints when it comes to the Model 3 are more because consumers want to help Tesla to improve, not because they have been left stranded.

Was The Tesla Model 3 Worth the Wait?

Maybe the issues the Tesla Model 3 faced seem trivial to you, but you need to remember that Tesla is notoriously late on delivering the vehicles they promise. This means that many people waited over a year for their Tesla Model 3 to be delivered, only to find that it had a poor paint job.

This is the main reason that people are so upset about some of the seemingly minor problems, as you would likely be too if you waited such a long time for what was supposed to be a luxury vehicle. However, these issues seem to be fixed now, so current buyers will not feel the same way that pre-order buyers did a few years ago.

Does the Reliability of the Model 3 Go Down When You Drive it More?

Everyone knows that the more you drive a car, and the more miles you accumulate, the less reliable the vehicle gets. And the Tesla Model 3 is no exception. Most people report that after driving their car for a few years, and over 12,000 miles, that the quality of their battery begins to degrade. With that said, this is no secret and even Tesla educates buyers about this.

Personally, my Tesla Model 3 went from holding 300 miles of charge when I first bought it, to 275 miles of charge 2 years and 33,000 miles later. Do I notice a difference in daily use? No. Do I get why buyers could get upset about this? Yes.

According to Model 3 owners with many 60,000+ miles, the battery tends to degrade from about 300, to about 275, and then stays at that range without dropping any further.

Of course, if you experience a drastic drop in range, Tesla will cover it under warranty without any questions for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

But this brings up another trend, in the US, people don’t tend to keep vehicles for more than a couple of years anyway. This means that you may be ready to trade out for a new vehicle or a new Tesla right about the time the battery begins to degrade—meaning this reliability issue may not bother you as much.

Who Measures the Reliability of the Tesla Model 3?

In the auto industry world, there are several companies that rate the reliability of cars. The most famous and the first to criticize Tesla on their Model 3 was Consumer Reports. But a company known as JD Power, which also rates cars, has also been one of the companies that have marked the vehicle as unreliable in it’s early years.

The way Consumer Reports works is that they have several testers around the globe. When Consumer Reports purchases a product, it then issues them to its product testers. These testers then report back to Consumer Reports with frequent reviews regarding how they feel about the vehicle.

JD Power, unlike Consumer Reports, is a car rating website only. And besides just taking consumer reviews into account, they also release their scores based on expert ratings of the vehicle. Their ratings also contain more vehicle-specific information rather than brands because it is a car rating website by trade.

Both Consumer Reports and JD Power released ratings of the Tesla Model 3. And while Consumer Reports issued theirs first, both found that the car did not live up to expectations and was generally considered unreliable by consumers and experts alike. Keep in mind, these ratings were for the early year Model 3’s.

A lot of this had to do with the fact that the autopilot, again, the main reason you would buy a Tesla, was just not delivered to the caliber that it should be. This left most buyers disappointed and unsure where to turn when their car began to have problems.

What Should I Do If My Tesla Model 3 Has Reliability Issues?

If you came to this article because your Tesla Model 3 is having issues, then know that the warranty is likely going to cover the issue. Simply scheduling a service appointment on the Tesla App is all you need to do.

Tesla claims that 80% of service issues can be fixed in the owners driveway. That’s right, Tesla comes to your home and fixes your car for you in your driveway free of charge! There’s the luxury we have been talking about!

Does the Tesla Model 3 Come With A Warranty?

The good news is if your vehicle is experiencing reliability issues, all Tesla’s that are purchased new come with a fantastic warranty. And even if you bought used, there is still a warranty in place that could cover your repair.

Every new Tesla comes with a Basic Vehicle Limited Warranty that covers the car for 4 years, or when you drive it for 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. You can also choose to add a supplemental warranty for an extra cost, and this will cover your vehicle until 60,000 miles or 5 years.

This warranty covers any parts in the vehicle that are supplied by Tesla and are damaged due to normal use.

Beyond the basic warranty, certain parts of Tesla are covered by their own warranty. This includes the battery and drives unit in the vehicle. This warranty depends on the type of Model 3 Tesla you have. See the chart below.

Model 3 Standard Range8 Years or 100,000 Miles
Model 3 Long Range8 Years or 120,000 Miles
Model 3 Performance8 Years or 120,000 Miles

When you purchase a used Tesla, this doesn’t mean you don’t have any warranty. This warranty is only intact, however, if you purchase your used vehicle direct from Tesla. Whatever used Tesla your purchase will be covered by the remainder of its original warranty. This means if you buy it with 20,000 miles when it is two years old, you will have a two-year or 30,000-mile warranty, whichever comes first.

If you buy a used vehicle that has already surpassed its original warranty amount, you will receive a specially used car warranty provided by Tesla that covers you for one year, or 10,000 miles, whichever you hit first.

There is also a separate warranty for every exterior part of the vehicle, from paint to the body, even the wall connectors and touchscreen unit. All of the information about these individual warranties can be found on Tesla’s website as they may be individual for your specific vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Whether you already own a Tesla Model 3 or are looking to buy one, hopefully, this article was a good resource for you so that you know what kinds of problems to expect from the vehicle.

If you are currently experiencing reliability issues with your Tesla, it’s important that you get them checked out and reported to Tesla right away. And who knows, maybe Tesla will offer to fix the problem you are having, or even replace your car with a new one, for free!

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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