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[NEWS] Nearly new buying guide: Tesla Model 3

Nearly new buying guide: Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Quick, high-spec EV has a long range and now starts at £37k

Despite sparking public interest with the large Model S and even larger Model X, Tesla’s intent to democratise electric motoring charged up a notch with this executive car-sized Model 3, launched in 2019. It’s been a runaway worldwide sales success, offering all the high-tech, drama, range and modernism of the larger cars in a smaller and more affordable package.

Three flavours of Model 3 are available: Standard Range Plus, Long Range and the flagship Performance version. On the road, it’s very good, with even the entry-level, rear-wheel-drive Standard Range Plus managing 0-60mph in 6.1sec. However, the Long Range and Performance models have four-wheel drive and not one but two electric motors.

At low speeds, the two lower-spec models jostle you around quite a bit. Oddly, the Performance version on its sports suspension and massive 20in wheels is the most comfortable Model 3 on motorways.

Click here to buy your next used Model 3 from Autocar

It certainly handles well in Performance guise. The Long Range version is tidy, too, just with a bit more body lean and a little less grip. However, the Standard Range Plus feels altogether less balanced and less confidence-inspiring.

Being a pure-electric car, the Model 3 is, unsurprisingly, whisper quiet at town speeds. However, there’s quite a lot of tyre noise on faster roads, when you can also hear the wind around its frameless doors, despite double-glazed side windows.

You get essentially the same touchscreen infotainment system that features in Tesla’s larger models, although the Model 3’s screen is slightly smaller (15.0in) and a landscape rather than portrait format. The layout of the screen is intuitive, and while some of the smaller icons can be distracting to hit accurately while you’re driving, at least the system is quick and responsive once you’ve made your selection.

Front-seat occupants are unlikely to complain about space. There’s similar leg and head room in the back of the Model 3 to the BMW 3 Series – comfortably enough for a six-footer to sit behind a driver of a similar height. The boot isn’t huge, but there’s actually more space for luggage than in conventional executive rivals, thanks to a massive well under the main boot floor and the extra storage under the bonnet.

Prices for the Model 3 Standard Range Plus start at £37,000 for a 2019 car. Expect to pay more for the two higher-spec models, between £40,000 and £45,000, which is the same budget for a 2020 version of the standard car. You’ll need upwards of £45,000 for a Long Range or Performance car from 2020.



Battery pack Look under the car and inspect the condition of the battery pack whose exterior case is made of thinner metal than larger Teslas and is prone to damage. While doing this, check all the securing bolts are present.

Charging Take the car to a Supercharger and check its recharge rate and 100% range reading.  

Driving Check all driver assist features work as they should.

Tyres Wheels can suffer camber issues so check the shoulders of the tyres and not just the centres.

Brakes These are used less than other cars so check they're in good condition and that the brake pads, for example, aren't delaminating from their backing. Have someone take the car from Park to Drive multiple times to check the brakes are engaging and releasing.

Body Unless they're chasm-like or accident-related, ignore any wayward panel gaps or irregular trim because that's just how some Teslas leave the factory. If it has a glass roof check for cracks and, if fitted, that the sunroof operates (it stick or become noisy if infrequently used). On early Model 3s check the front foglights for fogging and water penetration. Make sure the LED head and tail lights are working properly and not burned out. Activate the hatch lid and check there are no noises as it operates. Make sure the spec badge agrees with the car's true specification – 'upgrading' Teslas by changing boot badges is not unknown.

Interior The faux-leather upholstery isn't the best quality and can wear and crack. On early cars, be sure the gloss black finish on the lower central part of the dashboard isn't too badly marked (it was replaced as part of the mid-life update). Operate the windows listening for noises and looking for marks that may suggest the regulators need adjusting. Feel the carpets for damp and check the undersides of the floor mats for water staining. Scrutinise the display screens for dead pixels and yellowing. From the display you should be able to check if the car has the most recent software update – this is important. Make sure all comfort features work since body control module issues are not unknown.


Need to know

The Standard Range Plus is WLTP-certified for 254 miles, the Long Range 348 miles and the Performance 329 miles. A 2020 facelift upped the Standard Range Plus to 267 miles, the Long Range to 360 miles and the Performance to 352 miles.

Tesla has had a poor reputation for build quality and reliability but there are signs that this is changing. The Model 3 finished in first place in the electric car class in the recent reliability survey carried out by our sibling title What Car?, with an overall score of 99.4%. Tesla as a brand finished in a disappointing 29th place out of 31 manufacturers in the same survey.

Our pick

Tesla Model 3 Long Range: Pick the Long Range and you’ll get a huge potential range of 360 miles (WLTP) in the later versions. It’s well-equipped, too, including a 15in infotainment screen with Google Maps, Netflix and web browsing.

Wild card

Tesla Model 3 Performance: If you have the extra dosh, take a long, hard look at the Performance. It’s ridiculously fast – we’ve timed it dispatching 0-60mph in just 3.3sec – and it still has a great range.

Ones we found

2019 Model 3 Standard Range Plus, 8000 miles, £37,995

2019 Model 3 Performance, 10,000 miles, £49,950

2020 Model 3 Long Range, 2000 miles, £46,500

2020 Model 3 Performance, 1000 miles, £54,995


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