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After More Than 2 Years and 22,000 Miles, We’ve Said Bye-Bye to Our Tesla Model Y

tesla model y 2021 02 exterior dynamic dragstrip profile scaled jpg 2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Trading in or selling a long-term test car is an almost annual tradition here at Cars.com, and the latest vehicle to get the ax was our 2021 Tesla Model Y, a car we bought all the way back in November 2021. The Model Y continued to deliver enviable efficiency right up until the end of its time in our garage, but after more than two years of living with it, would our staff really miss it?

Related: Our Glitchy Tesla Model Y Window Failed in a Colorful Way

What It Cost Us

Everything? No.

We paid $66,443.56, including destination, taxes and other fees, for our all-wheel-drive Model Y Long Range in July 2021. We decided to forego the (at the time) $10,000 one-time price for Full Self Driving, which is Tesla’s still-hands-on semi-autonomous driving system, in favor of the $199 per month subscription fee. Model Y prices have fluctuated wildly since we placed our order, and a similar version purchased today — seven seats, blue paint, an optional tow hitch and no FSD — would set a buyer back $53,380 not counting taxes and a $250 order fee.

The costs didn’t stop there, however. We purchased the $2,000 Acceleration Boost feature to make our Model Y a bit quicker, and we caved and paid a monthly subscription fee to unlock Full Self Driving — at that time, it was $199 per month before taxes or $219.40 with taxes — and paid $6,801.40 for the features during our ownership, which was still less than the upfront $10,000 price. All told, the SUV and its unlockable optional features set us back $75,244.96 before you factor in charging costs.

We drove 22,437 miles in the Model Y but used a rated 29,405 miles of range, for an efficiency rating of 76.3%. Charging costs can be somewhat difficult to estimate since not all charging sessions cost us money; some, like Volta stations in grocery store parking lots, were entirely free. We added 2,601.92 kilowatt-hours of energy via AC charging (that is, Level 2 equipment and household outlets), which calculates to almost $453 based on the March 2024 national average price per kWh of $0.174. We also spent $2,204.14 at Tesla Superchargers over our ownership period, at an average cost of $17.36 per session, and added 5,231.14 kWh via DC fast charging in total.

Nearly all of our repairs were covered under warranty, though a replacement part for a broken second-row head restraint clip cost $20. All told, that works out to total ownership costs of around $77,922.10.

The best trade-in value we could negotiate with the dealership from which we bought the Model Y’s replacement in our long-term test fleet — a 2024 Kia EV9 — was $26,800. Using the Model Y as a trade-in, however, lowered the overall purchase cost of the EV9, which lowered how much sales tax we paid. The end result was a transaction price that was $29,346 less than if we hadn’t had a trade-in. That amount was still higher than many of the outright purchase offers we received when shopping our Model Y around.

Factoring in the almost $30,000 we saved on our next purchase, we spent roughly $48,000 on the Model Y in exchange for around 22,000 miles of transportation and testing over the course of our ownership. Did we enjoy our time with the Model Y, though?

TL;DR: What Did We Like?

Our staff’s opinion of the Model Y is mixed. Most of what we like is a feature of owning a Tesla, rather than the Model Y specifically. The Tesla Supercharger network drew universal praise for its convenience, availability and uptime, and the built-in route-planning feature within the native navigation system also earned high marks for ease of use and accuracy. Our service experience was also flawless and remains the only app-based service-scheduling feature that has worked without issue. Tesla’s ability to improve vehicle functionality via over-the-air updates was also a highlight. The availability of the third-party TeslaFi data-logging app proved immensely useful during our ownership experience, too.

None of that, however, is unique to the Model Y. Model Y-specific compliments were fewer and farther between, though many on our staff found the Model Y fun and engaging to drive, and the Model Y Long Range’s, well, range — both its total range and the accuracy of its range estimates — remained positives during our ownership even as other manufacturers have caught up. Convenient storage space in the rear cargo area and frunk, as well as the Model Y’s in-cabin storage, were also mentioned.

TL;DR: What Didn’t We Like?

Where the praise was more for Tesla the automaker, the criticisms of our Model Y are more specific to the vehicle itself. No one on staff liked the positioning of all necessary driving information in the central touchscreen, out of the driver’s line of sight, and the ride quality was universally panned (Tesla has updated the suspension in later builds of the Model Y, but we haven’t tested the new setup to see how different it is). Build quality was also an issue, with numerous obvious manufacturing deficiencies when we took delivery and a general rickety feeling in the interior that only got worse as we racked up the miles. The optional and incredibly tiny third row was also disliked, and its minimal utility is probably not worth its added cost.

Staff Opinions in Full

If the TL;DR summaries above aren’t enough, you can read our staff comments on the Model Y as it left our long-term fleet.

Brian Normile, Road Test Editor

I’m not going to miss the Model Y. I said as much in our team’s Slack channel when we traded it in for our 2024 EV9. As impressive as the Model Y was when we first bought it, with significantly more range and power than most competitors at the time and an excellent charging network that was incredibly easy to use, it was also frustrating from the very beginning.

I understand that this is not a vehicle built by a traditional automaker, but doing things differently just to be different rubs me the wrong way, and it feels like the control complexity and layout of the Model Y’s interior are unique to Tesla just because. Windshield wiper controls should not be in a touchscreen. Adjusting mirror positioning is needlessly complex.

The driving experience frustrated me, too. I never found the fun in the Model Y the way that many of my colleagues did, and the ride quality of our Model Y left me feeling exhausted after longer trips — and one trip from Chicago to Franklin, Tenn., took longer than it should have because aside from charging the car, I needed to rest before getting back on the road.

Over our ownership period, more and more competitive EVs entered the market and highlighted the Model Y’s significant flaws and annoyances, leaving Tesla’s charging network as the sole standout aspect of owning a Tesla. And with numerous automakers adopting the North American Charging Standard and gaining access to Superchargers in the coming years — along with the recent uncertainty surrounding the Supercharger network after seemingly every Tesla employee involved in it was laid off — that may not be an advantage for much longer.

I think we got out of our Model Y just in time, and even with the alleged improvements to ride quality and the likely eventual migration of the refreshed Model 3’s updates to the Model Y, I would not buy one again.

Jennifer Geiger, News Editor

The Model Y’s likability dwindled the more time I spent in it as its annoyances multiplied: overcomplicated controls, a firm ride, questionable build quality and a not-so-nice interior, to name a couple. But after living with it for some time, there’s no question that it’s still very competitive in two pretty significant areas: electric range and price. The electric-vehicle market has come a long way since we bought it — there are several compact electrics that offer more comfort in terms of both drivability and usability — but the Model Y’s range and value can’t be overlooked; just know that some compromising is required to get them.

Damon Bell, Senior Research Editor

I appreciate some of the fresh thinking in the Model Y’s overall design, and I’m impressed with how cleverly Tesla was able to pass off futuristic minimalism as “luxury,” but I don’t think I would buy a Model Y again. The biggest deal breakers for me have nothing to do with the Model Y’s electric powertrain, which is about as good as a present-day, sub-six-figure EV gets (and better than most). No, it’s the many different-for-the-sake-of-being-different design choices, like the flush door handles that are prone to freezing shut and the sashless power windows that were frequently on the fritz (and I’m not the only editor who experienced these headaches). Thankfully, none of our windows ever broke, but the sound of tempered glass scraping against metal trim is right up there with fingernails on a chalkboard as a wince-inducer. The biggest advantage of any Tesla vehicle is the company’s superior, relatively hassle-free Supercharger network, but that will likely be less of a selling point as other automakers gain access.

Mike Hanley, Senior Road Test Editor

The Model Y is a study in contrasts. It does some things really well, like its implementation of driver profiles and over-the-air updates, and its seamless integration with Tesla’s network of Superchargers is a key advantage for long-distance travel. It’s also nimble and quick, delivering a relatively fun driving experience.

Experiencing the Model Y’s attributes, however, means putting up with some disappointing characteristics, including poor rear visibility, a brittle ride and some head-scratching user interfaces like its flush-mounted rear-hinged door handles.

Supercharger access is a significant advantage at the moment, but it’s poised to become less of a differentiator in the coming years as Tesla opens its charging network to other automakers. There’ll still be reasons to choose the Model Y when this happens, but there’ll be fewer exclusive ones, and the SUV’s negatives don’t appear to be going anywhere.

Leslie Hilliard, Creative Producer

My husband and I took the Model Y on a road trip to Toronto, and I truly only have two good things to say about this experience — minus the excellent show we went to see! First, the trip-planning and charging experience is still unbeatable at this point. It was so easy to plan our route and charging stops; all we had to do was put in our destination and the car did the rest. I also liked the ability to see how many open spots there were at upcoming stops and to be able to reroute to less busy chargers. The second was being able to switch from miles to kilometers very easily and quickly so I didn’t have to try and do math in my head once we crossed the border.

Did all this make up for the harsh ride? I’d be hard-pressed to say yes. The suspension was so awful — we even questioned whether the car had one as the ride was so uncomfortable the whole way. We were exhausted and stiff after this journey. Have you ever ridden the Matterhorn at Disneyland? Basically the same.

Corinne Vercoe, Copy Editor

I’ll start with what I like. The Model Y is fun to drive; it gets up to speed quickly and can be whipped around corners with ease. Being an always-cold person, I love how hot its seats and steering wheel get. I was rather impressed with the navigation system, especially with how it maps out chargers along a route, and its display of helpful information while charging. I also like how much space is behind the second row when the third row is folded down.

What I dislike about the car: A lot. I really can’t stand that the only screen is in the center of the vehicle with everything lumped into it; I found it distracting to look at while driving. Changing lanes freaked me out in the Model Y, as there are no blind spot monitors on the side mirrors — you must look at the screen. I really don’t like the hidden air vents that aren’t adjustable. And while the Model Y is fun to drive, its suspension is disappointing and makes for a very uncomfortable ride. Oh, and its “third row” is useless unless you’re a very small child or pet.

I wouldn’t buy this car again. There are many other better EVs around these days to choose from.

Joe Bruzek, Managing Editor

I will miss the Model Y. There was so much to like about its EV qualities as far as range, efficiency, charging and the information it gives you to ease range anxiety. I also consistently enjoyed driving it, despite its stiff ride that got harsher over the years/miles. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the Model Y referred to as an appliance by people in my circle of auto enthusiasts, but I push back on that notion because the Model Y absolutely has personality and spunkiness, something many other new cars are lacking. I think a lot of that came from its quick and communicative steering that always told you how the car was moving, whether on the highway or a makeshift cone course in one of our tests. This was especially apparent after recently driving the BMW i4 xDrive40, which wasn’t as engaging or fun to drive as the Model Y, despite similar 0-60 mph times.

I also really enjoyed how much my kids loved driving in the Model Y. They always asked whether I was going to bring home the “blue car” because they thought Santa and fart modes were the coolest parts of dear-ole-dad’s job. Speaking of using the Model Y with kids, I despised installing car seats in the Model Y; it might be one of the hardest set of lower Latch anchors to access because the seat cushion is right on top of the anchor, meaning it takes a lot of force to get the car seat’s buckles in, especially if the seat’s connector is thick.

Despite owning the car for 2.5 years, however, I never “got used to” the speedometer in the touchscreen or how most controls are in the touchscreen. I believe that anything you have to “get used to” is lacking in the user experience, especially in automobiles where you’re often having to use these controls while driving. We subscribed to Full Self Driving the entire time we owned the car, and through all our versions, it never gave me the confidence that, as equipped in our car, it could be any more than a novelty or work well outside of a very limited set of conditions. Other annoyances include how the range indicator on the main touchscreen uses fixed EPA consumption values versus real-time consumption data, meaning you could only have 200 miles of driving range despite the indicator saying 300 miles, and how the touchscreen was a continued point of failure; because, again, most everything is in the touchscreen.

Would I buy one again? Yes, in fact. The Model Y never left us stranded on the side of the road or failed to start when we needed it to. And once you learn where to view accurate energy consumption data on the touchscreen, its range predictions are very accurate. As an SUV, I appreciated its various storage areas like the front trunk and rear cargo tub, as well as the reversible cargo cover that provided either a flat rear cargo floor or a little extra room for taller objects. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed geeking out on all the charging and efficiency data provided by the TeslaFi data logger that was enabled on our car and allowed us to see longest drives, predicted range versus actual range, battery health and so much more. Yes, the Model Y had to be serviced for some annoying issues, but our service experience was so much more convenient than most dealerships because everything was handled through the mobile application, our Tesla service center was communicative and most issues were common enough that a fix was often already identified and available.

Jenni Newman, Editor-in-Chief

There’s a lot to like, or even love, about our long-term Tesla Model Y. I loved how the car would route you to a charging station when on a road trip, and I loved the over-the-air updates, though I didn’t always enjoy the results of them, such as when it buried some functionality deeper into the menus. I also loved the service department’s transparency via Tesla’s app, which allows you to chat with the service tech and approve repairs on the app.

I loathed the unforgiving suspension, especially on Chicago’s pothole-filled streets, as well as the ridiculously small third row.

Jennifer Harrington, Senior News Editor

Before my time with the Model Y, my only other Tesla experience was with a Model S when they first came out. I enjoyed the Model S and actually thought it was cool. But during my couple months with the Model Y a couple winters ago, I grew to dislike Teslas.

I don’t care for all of the controls being in the touchscreen, which was difficult to navigate while driving and trying to pay attention to the road; I found the car positioning thing on the left side of the screen distracting; I disliked having the speedometer not in front of me. I might just be too “old fashioned” for it, though.

I also experienced phantom braking a couple of times, especially while winding through the mountains in West Virginia on the way to visit family outside of Richmond, Va., for the Christmas holiday. The car would brake for no reason or “catch onto” a semi or other vehicle in the next lane over and slow down when nothing was in front of it in my lane. It also freaked out once and sounded warnings for a car that I was passing; that car was off to the side, parked in a parking lot, where it couldn’t hit the Tesla unless it rolled over a curb and through some grass.

Not to mention the stuff that happened during the super cold temperatures during the holidays, which we already documented here.

The ride was harsh, too. My roads and those in Virginia aren’t nearly as rough as Chicago streets, but it wasn’t the most comfortable ride. For a “three-row” SUV, I’d expect something a bit more enjoyable on the road. At least it has that good ol’ EV acceleration, though. Oh, and it was able to haul home a China cabinet and bookshelf from Ikea in Cincinnati.

And there you go. Not a fan. Would never buy one.

Patrick Masterson, Senior Copy Editor

Despite all of the racket surrounding Tesla — and I don’t need to tell you there’s a lot — I went into our ownership of the Model Y with an open mind because at the end of the day, most people are always going to care a lot more about the immediate ownership experience than they are about a car company’s boardroom. I’d never had hands-on experience with a Tesla vehicle before, and I was genuinely curious about every aspect of it, from obvious stuff like build quality and occupant comfort right down to where, exactly, the button was to open the glove box.

So let’s start with that: It’s easy to remember the first time I got in the Model Y even at this remove because I felt so stupid navigating its quirks; I had to look up how to do almost everything in this car, from unlocking the doors to turning it on to discerning which of the driving range figures I more closely needed to study to, again, opening the glove box. Though I appreciate Tesla’s willingness to start with a clean sheet when it came to the interior layout, I mostly found it frustrating in practice; never have I driven a vehicle so difficult to get into and simply go — which if you’re buying a Model Y, the Model X’s affordable alternative and Tesla’s overall volume seller as of this writing, you presumably will want to do. I never really got used to having to stare over at the screen for the speedometer, and the range data is probably more than an average user needs to see; just show what’s left and how far it is to the next charger. Studying that screen to find what I needed probably gets easier once you have your setup dialed all the way in, but I never really got to a point where muscle memory took care of things, and trying to navigate some of the functions required far more reading than should be permitted at speed on a highway. It’s not worth what you gain in forward visibility to streamline the dash so thoroughly.

Far and away the best thing I can say about both the Model Y and Tesla writ large is that this company has figured out charging, the bane of every EV owner’s existence (excepting cold weather, perhaps). If you’re going on a road trip or doing anything more than around-town driving that may require more than a full charge, Tesla’s trip-planning function is easily the best among any EV I’ve used. Superchargers are detailed, routes plotted and fairly accurate timelines given. I never once got lost or confused over where a plug might’ve been, and charges on Tesla’s network were reliably quick in my experience. Its ease of use relative to the rest of the car’s functionality is a refreshing shock to the system and the bar by which all other navigation systems should be measured against.

Ultimately, I’m torn. I love that Tesla has moved the needle so significantly for EV adoption and pushed traditional automakers to do more than pay lip service to the technology behind it, and I found actually driving the thing to be a pretty painless experience once I got going and could just focus my eyes on the road. Getting the Model Y serviced was virtually frictionless the one time I had to take it in. But man, I hated dealing with this car when I first drove it and struggled to get comfortable with its unique user experience in a way that I never have in the plethora of vehicles I’ve driven before or since. If that level of learning curve doesn’t intimidate or annoy you and you’re thinking of a second car for fetching groceries or short hauls, give the Model Y a close look; as for me, though, I think I’d wait for Tesla to unlearn some of its wheel reinventions before I took another look.

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Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Brian Normile
Road Test Editor Brian Normile joined the automotive industry and Cars.com in 2013, and he became part of the Editorial staff in 2014. Brian spent his childhood devouring every car magazine he got his hands on — not literally, eventually — and now reviews and tests vehicles to help consumers make informed choices. Someday, Brian hopes to learn what to do with his hands when he’s reviewing a car on camera. He would daily-drive an Alfa Romeo 4C if he could. Email Brian Normile

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