The Model 3, introduced in 2017, is Tesla’s most affordable sedan. But what years are the best, and why?
The best year for the Tesla Model 3 overall is 2021. The new model is sleek and more powerful than the originals. The most affordable Tesla Model 3 is the 2017 model, and the most reliable is the 2019 model and up.
In this article, we’ll go over which Tesla Model 3 year is the best and why. We’ll break up the car’s features into categories and compare the benefits and drawbacks of each generation. Additionally, we’ll determine which Model 3 year is the best overall.
We sourced the technical information used in this article directly from Tesla when possible and performed a careful analysis of the used market to determine prices.
Tesla Model 3 Generations
The Tesla Model 3 is one of the company’s most popular models. It was designed to be an affordable alternative to the Model S and priced along the lines of a mid-tier conventionally powered sedan. The Model 3 is still a relatively new addition to the Tesla lineup, and it hasn’t gone through many major changes since its introduction.
First Generation Tesla Model 3
The first generation Tesla Model 3 was introduced about halfway through 2017 and retailed as an affordable electric car with all of Tesla’s standard features. The Model 3 came with Tesla’s self-driving sensors, which offered an optional upgrade for full self-driving capabilities when they became available.
The standard-range version has a battery capacity of 220 miles, and the extended-range model can travel up to 310 miles. The base price was around $35,000 new, and it could be outfitted to $59,500 at the factory with an extended range and additional upgrades.
The first-generation Tesla Model 3 came with either single-motor rear-wheel drive (RWD) or dual-motor all-wheel-drive (AWD).
Second Generation Tesla Model 3
As of the 2022 model year, the Tesla Model 3 has undergone one major facelift and body change. The latest model is essentially the same car with body modifications that give it a sleek and sporty look. There’s also a new Standard Range Plus model, which will be available in January of 2022.
The new Tesla Model 3 starts at around $39,000, which is a few grand pricier than the original MSRP in 2017. The Model 3 itself is basically the same, but the standard range model now has 263 miles of range, and the extended range model can travel up to 353 miles without recharging.
According to Tesla, the new 2021 Model 3 is available with both RWD and dual-motor AWD. The AWD system is standard on all models except the entry-level base model.
Best Tesla Model 3 For Range
So, what’s the best year Model 3 for range? The first generation Model 3 extended range can travel 310 miles without recharging, which is impressive but still about 43 miles less than the latest model. The 2021 extended-range Model 3 has an 82 kWh 350-volt lithium-ion battery, which is better and more efficient than the original.
If you’re looking for a Model 3 with a superior base range, the 2021 model is still superior. It has a larger and more modern battery, along with the latest software developments that help extend the range and reduce charge times. The 2021 (2nd Generation) Model 3 is the superior choice for range on all fronts.
Best Tesla Model 3 for Design
Design is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer the smooth, rounded, and futuristic lines of the original Model 3. The vehicle is distinctly Tesla, both because of its engineering and somewhat unconventional body lines.
The new 2nd-generation Model 3 is sportier and features sharp lines that are more in line with today’s styling. It makes it a bit more difficult to distinguish the Model 3 from other high-end cars, which is a plus for some but a downside for others.
As far as design and styling are concerned, it’s a tie between the first and second generations. Both have design features that people like, and there’s no functional difference between the two when it comes to exterior styling.
But what about the interior design? Did it change, and if so, which is better? Not much has changed in the Model 3’s interior, aside from minor details that go unnoticed by many. The 2017 model started with the landscape-oriented touch screen, unlike the Model S, which only switched to the more user-friendly design recently.
Best Tesla Model 3 for Safety
Tesla vehicles are remarkably safe, regardless of the year and model. What makes them so safe is the lack of an engine, which allows additional effort to be taken towards strengthening and weakening the front clip in strategic locations.
All Tesla Model 3s ever built have a 5-star crash safety rating from the NHTSA. In fact, the Model 3 is ranked among the safest cars on the road in the United States. There’s no appreciable safety difference between the 2017 Model 3 and the 2021 Model 3.
Best Model 3 for Reliability
The best Tesla Model 3 for reliability is the brand new second-generation model. A new Tesla will be more reliable than a used one, though the used Model 3s on the market are remarkably reliable as it is. The second best choice would be the model year 2019 and up, as Tesla had time to work out all the bugs by the second production year.
Most Powerful Tesla Model 3
Teslas are known for power, though the Model 3 is on the low end of the horsepower spectrum. The 2017 base Tesla Model 3 produces 258 horsepower, and the higher-trim models produce 271 horsepower. This is plenty for a car the size of the Model 3.
However, the new Tesla Model 3 is a completely different animal. The 2021 Model 3 produces 450 horsepower and 471 lb-ft of torque, which is nearly double what the first generation produced. This puts it in line with the Model S and ranks it among some of the fastest production cars on the road.
Clearly, the new Model 3 is a winner when it comes to power. Performance stats aside, even the original Model 3 will put you back in the seat compared to any conventionally powered car. Teslas have access to 100% torque across the powerband, which is why electric cars feel so jumpy even when they don’t have a whole lot of power on the dyno.
The second-generation Model 3 has a 0-60 mph time of 3.1 seconds, which is remarkably fast. Additionally, the available dual-motor AWD system is highly refined and offers excellent acceleration and wet weather safety.
Most Affordable Tesla Model 3
The most affordable Tesla Model 3 on the market is the used 2017 standard range model. As far as Teslas go, it wasn’t too expensive to begin with. In fact, it retailed for the lowest price of any Tesla yet. Teslas don’t depreciate much, so you’re not likely to find one for the price of a used Camry, but they can be purchased for $25,000 to $30,000.
The 2017 Tesla Model 3 extended-range model is a bit pricier, and you still won’t find too many for less than the price of a brand new standard range Model 3. The average retail price for a used extended range model is $40,000 to $46,000, with some models breaching the $50,000 mark if they’re in especially good condition.
The interesting part of it is that, for just a few thousand more than a used model, you can buy a brand new one. The retail price is still under $40,000, and the vast majority of used mid-level and high-level Model 3s sell for more than that. Thus, the most affordable Model 3 may just be a brand new one.
Best Tesla Model 3 Overall
The best year for the Model 3 overall is 2021 (and 2022, as the vehicles are essentially the same). The 2021 Tesla Model 3 retails for around $39,000, which is still highly affordable for a Tesla. Additionally, the brand new Model 3 has more power, a longer driving range, and a more modern body style.
When combined with a manufacturer’s warranty, the latest software updates and self-driving technology, and high-value retention, the reliable 2021 Model 3 is the best choice overall on all fronts.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding