The Model Y Vs Model 3 – Which Tesla Beats the Test?

The Model Y Vs Model 3 - Which Tesla Beats the Test?

The Tesla Model Y and Model 3, at first glance, seem rather similar. The two cars share the same exterior style and a minimalist interior. Looking at them from the front, you have to pay attention to the height to determine the two apart.

Deciding between the Model Y and the Model 3 depends on individual car preferences. The Model 3 is a better choice performance-wise when it comes to faster speeds, while the Model Y is an easy pick if spaciousness is considered more important.

All the little nuances between the Model Y and the Model 3 can make a big difference in how satisfied you are with your vehicle purchase. Though each car is very similar, they are not equipped with the same features. A feature here or there might be what makes or breaks your final decision to purchase one of these vehicles or not. Read on to see whether the Model Y or the Model 3 is right for you.

The Model Y Vs Model 3

The Model Y and the Model 3 share around 70% of the same parts and are definitely part of the same family. But there are differences between the two, which can make it a difficult choice as to which to buy.

Here are some important things to consider for the Model Y and the Model 3:

  • The Model 3 is a more affordable EV vehicle
  • The Model 3 is an electric sedan
  • Standard range of the Model 3 with one full charge is 263 miles
  • The Model Y is a small SUV
  • The Model Y is a spacious vehicle that can fit an entire family
  • Standard range of the Model Y with a full charge is 244 miles

Depending on what you are looking for in your vehicle, either vehicle might better serve your needs. Before making a final decision, continue reading to find out more about the unique features and perks of the Model 3 and Model Y.

The Model 3

The Model 3 is Tesla’s electric sedan, and one of the more affordable options on the market. Known for its all glass top, Tesla has been continuously improving this model of car, bringing it to the top of the market.

With a 263 mile Standard Range Plus, which comes standard on the Model 3 can compete with any of the electric vehicles out there. That range will get most people where they want to go with no issues. 

For an extra $9000, you can get the Long Range Package.  It will run the car an impressive 353 miles per charge. The Performance Package is another $8000 above that, but will only get the car 313 miles per charge, so the driver does give up range for performance.

The Track Packages

The Model 3 comes with a Track Package for those of us who would like a little pep in our step. It is created for race track performance so that the car can maximize its lap speed. The Tesla website brags that with the package you get maximum cornering force and braking performance.

For an additional $5500, the Track Package includes:

  • 4 Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires
  • 4 Zero-G Performance wheels
  • Front and rear high-performance brake pads
  • A lug nut cover for each lug nut
  • A Tesla logo center cap for each wheel
  • A tire pressure sensor for each tire
  • 1 brake fluid change

Now this package is only available for those Model 3s that have the All-Wheel-Drive Dual Motor, so you cannot upgrade to it straight from the Standard Package. It does go well with the spatial feel of the car, with little to weigh it down, it increases track time.

The Leg Room

The interior of the car has been described as sparse. The driver’s access to Tesla’s renowned computer system is by a large touch screen in the middle of the dashboard. It has ample storage space with many cubbies and pockets throughout the cabin. 

The driver and passenger seats have plenty of room to stretch your legs, the minimalist design of the cabin giving it a very airy feel. The back seat, however, does not get the benefit of that design. It is cramped and not made for an adult to sit in for long.

The back seats fold flat to increase the trunk space tremendously, fitting enough luggage for a family of five to have three suitcases each. However, the family itself will not fit in the car.

Model 3’s Camera Suite

The Model 3 comes with Tesla’s famous Autopilot driver-assist features. For it to work, the car is equipped with

  • 12 ultrasonic sensors to detect cars nearby
  • 360 degree view from outside onboard cameras
  • 250 meters of distance of detection outside the car
  • An inside onboard camera to make sure the driver is attentive

While not perfect, this onboard set of cameras and sonic detectors inform the software in the neural network of the surrounding area of the car.

It has recently dropped its forward-facing radar detector, which was used to detect cars and obstacles in front of it in favor of what the company calls Tesla Vision. Tesla Vision relies totally on the cameras of the car for its environmental awareness.

Autopilot Safety Features

The standard Autopilot features come with all Teslas now. It can definitely make driving the car less stressful. The ‘nagging’ system, as Tesla drivers like to call it, will keep the driver in the proper lane of traffic, notify them when they are too close to something on either side of the car, or in the front and the back.

Navigate will give the driver options for lane changes to avoid slower cars and exits to get to the destination, then execute those changes for the driver. Summon and Smart Summon will park the car and bring the car to you in a parking lot. Sentry will alert you on your phone if someone has interacted with your parked car.

There have been complaints of Sentry mode going on overdrive with the Model 3s.  The sensors indicate to the owner every time someone passes the car, as opposed to when someone is attempting to break in. This causes the owner to turn off Sentry, rendering the feature useless.

The Model 3 has also been the subject of investigation with Autopilot gone wrong.  Several crashes which have ended in fatalities have been attributed to the system not working correctly. Whether it has been the cameras’/Autopilot’s fault or that of the driver is up for debate.

The Model Y

The Model Y is the Model 3’s big sister. It is a small SUV with a dual electric motor that is actually quite the bang for its buck compared to its more expensive competitors. It boasts a glass top, but unlike the split Model 3, this is a full sheet, giving the driver an uninterrupted view of the sky above.

This crossover comes with a rear-wheel drive option or an all-wheel drive option, depending on what kind of package and driving the owner will be doing. Not all upgrades are available with the rear-wheel drive only, so depending on what you want, you might have to go with the all-wheel drive, even if you will not be using it.

At its base model, the Model Y’s Standard Range is only 244 miles per charge.  However, that is enough for most people to get where they need to go in one driving session. 

The Long Range ability, which unlike the Model 3 comes with the Model Y, increases the range to 326 miles per charge. This is quite a rise in mileage. The Performance Package, which is an extra $9000, gives the car a range of 303 miles per charge, so you are not giving up many miles for performance.

Room for the Family

Unlike the Model 3, the Model Y has the space to put the family in the car and everyone be comfortable. It gives the option of a third row of seats if the driver wishes, for an extra $3000. If not, there is plenty of room in the back for storage of all the things that the family needs when driving away on vacation. Room for luggage is not a problem.

The interior is the same minimalist idea as its younger sister, lacking buttons and levers in favor of the touch screen on the middle of the dashboard. The heavily tinted all glass roof gives the sci-fi look of the cabin a more airy feel, while the larger back, which can fit two car seats, actually does allow for more space than the Model 3.

Even without the third row of seats, the rear seats fold down to increase the trunk space of the crossover.  Allowing for 22 medium suitcases at a maximum of 68 cubic feet of storage.

Model Y’s Camera Suite

The Model Y is equipped with the same camera suite as the Model 3. Tesla has also decided to replace its forward-facing radar with its new Tesla Vision camera system for detecting the environment and cars in front of the vehicle.

Unlike the radar system, the camera can malfunction in a myriad of ways simply by the camera being blocked. A number of items can make the cameras inoperable and cause them not to work with the onboard computer, including:

  • Dirt
  • Leaves
  • Grime
  • Paint
  • Wrap material
  • sunlight

Crashes have occurred when the cameras have been in use. The inside camera is also present in the Model Y and ready to nag you if you decide that you are not going to pay attention when you drive. The beeping and blinking lights will remind you to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

Autopilot Engagement

All Teslas come with Autopilot, the driver-assist feature to make driving easier for the owners of the cars. Model Y owners are no different. You are also able to upgrade to the Full Self Driving package like with the Model 3, giving more options to ease the stress of the driving experience.

The FSD is currently beta-ing its Traffic Stop and Sign Control feature which identifies stop signs and traffic lights and slows and then stops the car as you approach them. Because this feature is in beta, the bugs are still being worked out in the program.

Customers have complained that it only detects that a traffic light is approaching, not whether the traffic light is red or green. It slows down, no matter what color the light is, so your car will still treat a green light like a red light unless you override the system.

The Smart Summon feature of FDS has also been criticized for not being able to see pedestrians as it finds its way through a parking lot or parking deck in order to find its owner. Though no serious injuries have occurred in the Model Y, they have in other vehicles using the FDS Smart Summon feature that the Model Y sports.

Some customers have mentioned that they have had trouble with the high beams on their Tesla Model Ys when engaged in Autopilot at night. The Autopilot, they say, will not stay engaged unless the high beams are on. This drains both precious battery life and obstructs the view of the drivers driving toward you.

Tricking the Camera

Customer Reports has recently lowered the safety rating of the Model Y and Model 3 because of third party tests on the in cabin camera not nagging the driver when they are inattentive.

They and several other agencies have reported that they have been able to, rather easily, trick the interior camera into driving the car without anyone in the driver’s seat. You have seen the YouTube videos, and apparently they are true.

The experiment, run by Jake Fisher of Consumer Reports, states that not only did the camera not indicate that the driver was not paying attention, but that it “couldn’t tell if there was a driver there at all.”

But Is It Just the Y?

The computer system and camera suite is the same for both the Model 3 and the Model Y, along with the Model S and Model X.  So is a test valid in only one model of the vehicles, when all of them have the same system?

The other car models have had issues with the same problem, though Tesla says that the Autopilot and Full Self Driving features are not a substitute for an attentive driver.  And is it the car’s responsibility to notify the driver to keep their attention on the road? 

After all, without paying for the Full Self Driving Upgrade, all Teslas come with Autopilot, which includes:

  • Traffic aware cruise control
  • Autosteer
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Forward collision warning
  • Side collision warning
  • Obstacle aware acceleration
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Lane departure avoidance
  • Emergency lane departure avoidance

This is an impressive list of safety features, so if the camera does not indicate that the driver is not in the seat, it seems of little consequence.

Apples to Oranges

If the driver chooses to get out of the driver’s seat while driving, is that the car’s fault? If we are comparing apples to apples, the answer is no. You would not do it in any other car, so why do it in a Tesla? The above safety features are more than enough to keep a driver safe on the road.

The Autosteer and Blind-spot monitoring are enough to lessen wrecks on the road.  Autosteer alerts the driver with an annoying bing if the car does not drive within the painted lanes of traffic. Even before the age of cell phones when drivers were not paying attention, people were drifting out of their lanes. This not so gentle reminder to put your eyes up is a huge step forward.

The blind-spot monitoring is exactly as its name says; it indicates if there is another vehicle in your blind spot when you are trying to change lanes. While the placement of the mirrors in a car have changed over the years to give the driver more visibility, they still have to look over their shoulder to see their blind spot.

That not only takes their eyes off the road, it gives a greater chance of turning the wheel in the direction that the body is turning the head. Having the car tell you whether a vehicle is there or not when the turn indicator on prevents both of those.  Many a fender bender could be a avoided by these two safety features alone


Tesla is renowned for innovation no matter the model of car. Its Autopilot features are the flashiest of its accomplishments because they are easily seen by the public eye. They are also the easiest to criticize and blame for issues that may not be the software’s fault.

While both cars were able to be tricked into using driver-assist features without a driver in the seat, the Model Y has been involved in fewer accidents and has caused fewer injuries than the Model 3. 

It is important to keep this in mind when deciding which of these models passes the test. The Model Y and Model 3 have the same performance base and the same interior feel. At the end of the day, it is a close race between both of these vehicles.


The articles here on are created by Greg, a Tesla vehicle and Tesla solar expert with nearly half a decade of hands-on experience. The information on this site is fact-checked and tested in-person to ensure the best possible level of accuracy.

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