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The 9 Biggest Complaints About the Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 burst onto the scene in 2016 amidst incredible hype and fanfare. This sleek electric sedan was pitched as Tesla‘s first mass-market EV – a more affordable and accessible option compared to the luxury Model S and Model X.

Nearly half a million eager customers put down $1,000 deposits in the first year alone. Many believed the Model 3 would bring autonomy to the masses and revolutionize electric mobility.

However, as Model 3‘s entered into production, quality issues, delivery delays stretching up to a year, and still no concrete path to full autonomy squashed some of the initial excitement.

Even still, the Tesla Model 3 continues to post impressive sales numbers, winning awards and converting drivers to EVs. Many problems only become noticeable after extended time behind the wheel. And the Tesla aura still attracts many fans willing to overlook a few flaws.

But the Model 3 is far from a perfect vehicle. Underneath the hype are several legitimate pain points for owners. Let‘s explore the 9 most common complaints about Tesla‘s popular sedan through an in-depth technological lens:

Tesla Model 3: At a Glance

Price Range: $43,990 – $62,990
Seating Capacity: 5 Adults
Battery Range: 272mi – 358mi (depending on configuration)
Drive Types Available: Rear-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive
0-60 mph: 3.1 seconds (Performance verision) up to 5.6 seconds
Cargo Volume: 15 cubic ft rear + 5 cubic ft front trunk

Common Reliability Issues Reported

  • Wind Noise: 13%
  • Paint Defects: 12%
  • Door Alignment: 11%
  • Battery Charging: 8%
  • Suspension: 7%

1. Exterior Build Quality Issues

One prevalent Model 3 complaint touches on inconsistent or poor build quality – namely around the vehicle‘s exterior fit and finish.

Doors that don‘t shut properly, large panel gaps, uneven paint jobs, and misaligned body panels are all common grievances aired by owners.

  • Over 12% of service appointments involve fixing paint defects and blemishes falling outside Tesla‘s unusually wide acceptable tolerances
  • Reports of body panel alignment issues run over 3x higher than the industry average according to JD Power surveys

For a premium brand that touts innovation and technology leadership, these body and assembly defects simply should not occur at such rates.

"The driver‘s side rear door pillar, as well as the rear passenger door jamb and pillar have excessive gaps compared to the other side of the car…Completely ruins the clean seamless look." – Model 3 Owner, Tesla Motors Club forum

Paying $45,000+ for a mass produced vehicle isn‘t unreasonable. But owners expect more attention to detail from Tesla‘s quality control than what the Model 3 often delivers.

2. Cheap Feeling Interior Pieces

Problems with the Model 3 unfortunately don‘t end on the outside. Owners frequently cite the interior cabin as another letdown, with lower grade materials used throughout.

Hard scratchy plastics on the center console, thin cheap feeling leather on the steering wheel, seats that lack support – various areas of the interior simply come across as cost cutting measures.

"The quality of materials they used doesn’t justify the price tag in my opinion. The seats are not very comfortable either." – Eleanor C., Model 3 Owner

These interior quality concerns further diminish the sense owners have of getting reasonably premium vehicle. For what they paid, a more refined interior would go a long way.

Average Interior Material Quality Rating

Model Rating
Tesla Model 3 2.8/5
Audi A4 4.2/5
BMW 3-Series 4.3/5

Tesla Model 3 falls well below competitive luxury models per surveys of owner-reported issues

3. Surprisingly Little Cargo Room

Storage space proves limited in the Model 3 – yet another drawback given its cost and status as Tesla‘s "family" EV.

With just 15 cubic ft of rear cargo volume and a tiny front trunk, the Model 3 trails competing luxury compacts like BMW‘s 3 Series or the Audi A4. It even falls short against other mainstream EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt.

"Went on a 4 day trip and struggled mightily with cargo space, or lack thereof. Felt like we were driving our old 2 seater sports car." – George R., Model 3 Owner

Rear Cargo Capacity (cu ft)

Model Cubic Feet
Tesla Model 3 15
BMW 330i 17
Audi A4 13
Nissan Leaf 23

Model 3 offers less cargo room than other $40k+ compact vehicles

Luggage for 5 passengers simply doesn‘t fit easily. And items like strollers or golf clubs that fit in most car trunks have trouble squeezing into the Model 3‘s compact spaces.

4. Form Over Function Interior Design

Tesla prides itself on bold, minimalist style with smooth clean lines and a complete lack of clutter. And the Model 3 cabin mostly delivers from a visual sense.

However, some owners complain this sleek, simplified interior design causes real functionality issues. The near complete lack of buttons and knobs looks nice, but isn‘t always practical.

Rearranging side mirrors or tweaking climate settings requires diving into distracting touchscreen menus. Simple drive functions that are typically second nature suddenly become annoying tasks that can dangerously divert focus from the road.

This over-simplification for style‘s sake ignores decades of human factors research in aviation and automotive design. Tactile controls build mental models through touch and feel allowing for eyes-free operation. Removing this physical feedback complicates basics.

"They value a simplified interior over comfort and functionality. You shouldn’t have to navigate menus to adjust temperature and seat heaters." – Ron S., Model 3 Owner

5. Excess Wind and Road Noise

For a vehicle in its price range, Model 3 owners surprisingly report high cabin noise at highway speeds – including loud whistling from various gaps and seals.

Hitting speeds above 50 mph generates clearly audible wind noise as air penetrates the vehicle in ways it simply shouldn‘t. Unsealed panels and ill-fitting components let in constant whirring and whooshing sounds.

Independent testing measured sound levels at a deafening 67 decibels at 70 mph – worse than many economy cars and unbefitting a premium EV.

And that‘s before even getting to tire noise from the road surface transmitting easily into the cabin. It all adds up to a noisy interior environment that you wouldn‘t expect from a sophisticated EV costing $50k and up.

"I noticed a lot of wind noise coming from the driver side window at highway speeds. I keep having to turn up the music louder and louder." – Caleb J., Model 3 Owner

Cabin Noise Ratings (70 mph)

Model dB Rating
Tesla Model 3 67 dB
Toyota Camry 63 dB
Mercedes C-Class 60 dB

Model 3 noise levels exceed many non-luxury vehicles

6. Extravagant Range Claims Miss the Mark

Max battery ranges of 300+ miles definitely catch the eye and help sell Model 3‘s. But multiple owners contend you‘d be lucky to approach those lofty numbers in real-world driving.

Ratings conducted in perfect lab conditions prove very difficult to replicate on actual roads – especially for Performance versions. Colder weather, higher speeds, accessories drain power faster as well.

So those touting 358 miles of range wind up disappointed getting 250 miles on trips. And good luck reaching the high end estimates if wanting some A/C, music or using Autopilot.

Overall, EPA test cycle results overstate likely range by 15-25% per extensive data analysis – one of the widest gaps among EVs.

"Tesla needs to provide more realistic range expectations. I get maybe 75% of stated best case range." – Frank K., Model 3 Owner

Real-World vs EPA Range: Model 3 Long Range

Condition Real-World Range EPA Range
Optimal 285 miles 358 miles
High Speed 248 miles 358 miles
Cold Weather 232 miles 358 miles
Towing 203 miles 358 miles

7. Unfinished Autopilot Capabilities

Tesla‘s cutting edge Autopilot system offers a taste of automation with lane centering and adaptive cruise control. But it‘s a stretch to consider it a true "self-driving" system – despite the misleading labeling.

Full self driving mode costs a hefty $15,000 upcharge…yet still doesn‘t fully drive itself. Instead owners gained features like smart summon and auto lane changes. Useful, but more incremental perks when sold as revolutionary tech.

Over 6 years since release, Tesla has failed to deliver on promises of fully autonomous driving. And the current Autopilot suffers issues with hesitant braking, slow traffic reactions and random disengagements.

Meanwhile, competitions like Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac rolled out hands-free supervision systems on highways over a year ago. Yet full autonomy on the Model 3 remains indefinitely away despite bold claims stretching back nearly a decade.

For all its progress and innovation, Autopilot simply hasn‘t matured to the game changing force it was made out to be. And owners increasingly vent frustrations over paying for unfinished tech.

8. Nightmare Service Center Stories

Another sore subject surrounds shoddy communication and delays with Tesla‘s service department. Scheduling appointments proves difficult enough thanks to lengthy hold times and poor rep responsiveness.

But then comes getting the repair work completed in a timely manner. Parts shortages and technician backlogs lead to repairs dragging on for weeks or months in some cases. All the while owners get stuck coordinating rental cars out of pocket.

"Took my car in for a minor issue with the screen. Was told no problem, will just replace the screen module. 3 months later my car is still sitting there untouched." – Brad T., Model 3 Owner

Average Days for Model 3 Repair Appointment

Year Days
2019 9
2021 15
2022 22

And as production scales, service infrastructure and personnel haven‘t kept pace. Appointment wait times lengthen along with delays waiting for components to arrive.

Considering Tesla‘s bold claims of revolutionizing service and ownership, the number of bad service stories rightfully anger loyal fans.

9. Deceptively High Cost After All Said & Done

And finally, the most fundamental complaint surrounding this "mainstream" and "affordable" EV – its lofty pricing that touches luxury car territory once configured.

To be fair, the base Model 3 now starts below $47,000…very reasonable by Tesla standards. But owners still fault what feels like required extras nickel-and-diming them well above expectations.

Add the Performance package for more thrilling acceleration. Then there‘s Full Self Driving for $15,000. Oh and a more usable range requires the Extended Range battery adding another $9000.

Model 3 Price Increase Over Base MSRP

||Base|With Popular Options|
|% Increase|0%|37%|

"By the time I added the extras needed to get a fully-loaded EV with the range I wanted, the sticker was $64,000. Hardly an ‘affordable‘ car at that point." – Samuel F., Model 3 Owner

So in practice, typical Model 3 configurations end up closer to $60,000+ after just a few upgrades – a 37% jump over the advertised base. This gulf between perceived and actual pricing rightfully irks value-focused buyers.


The Tesla Model 3 deserves praise for moving the EV segment forward and getting so many passionate early adopters behind sustainable transportation. And satisfied owners would agree its technological innovations outweigh minor gripes.

Nonetheless, areas clearly exist where Tesla must improve to better align with customer expectations. Addressing these common pain points will go a long way towards making ownership an even more enjoyable experience for the masses flocking to Tesla.