I made the same 2500mile trip 3 years apart - Model X vs Model 3

I made the same 2500mile trip 3 years apart - Model X vs Model 3

I returned from a 2.5K trip from Washington DC area to Key West FL. I went along the same route 3 yrs ago in a Model X90D. That's over 48hrs on the road for our family. Here are my thoughts about the trip and some X/3 comparisons.

Let me first share which is a better road trip car for a family of 4 with kids* - It's a tie between X and 3 :)
*Kids aren't in car seats anymore

Superchargers: There are a lot more superchargers along the way, no planning required on I-95. Just get in the car and drive.

Autopilot: EAP with HW2.5 was superb along the 2.5K miles - nothing major to report, just reliable safe driving (usual disclaimers about driver staying alert apply)
Special mention about EAP in Orlando/Miami corridor - EAP was especially solid in that area, EAP just felt better here. Lane merges and exits were flawless, even driving along narrow curved overpasses was nice - I recorded several good maneuvers on my drivecam because I was that impressed. Perhaps I'll find time to post those videos here.
I do not know what kind of tech goes on with EAP/FSD, but the EAP experience in Area X is not the same as experience in Area Y.
I had 3 phantom braking incidents over 2.5K miles, that is a huge improvement from my previous road trip experiences.
I think we are about 90-95% of what EAP can achieve, the room for improvement is truly narrow.
AP1 on the X90D was nice, I know we moved along and the current autopilot has long surpassed AP1 and is awesome. Just giving credit where it's due, AP1 was very good even 3 yrs ago.

Range: The range difference between X90D (285miles) and 3(310miles) is irrelevant when travelling with kids. For perspective, I paid overtime fees at many spots because the car was done charging, and we weren't ready to move on. I also stopped at a lot more charging stops than the route guidance suggested.

Wawa/Sheetz: These guys are really making a difference. Looking back 3yrs, this kind of convenience that combined charging/food/restrooms was very rare. Now it's becoming common place. I appreciate their contribution to the Tesla road trip experience. And, I'm also tired of their food/coffee :))

Drive Comfort - Practical outlook - Road Noise - Lying down flat:
The X (and S) is a far more comfortable car on a road trip, no contest. Which is why I feel that I need to talk about the practical aspects between the cars. It boils down to the 3 costing a fraction of the X - so there's that :))
There are some areas where the road noise on the 3 was horrid - and it's not the car, it's the road. I'm sorry if you live in such an area.
The 3 allows drivers to lie down flat (tesla camping) even if its a for a short duration lying down flat really helps on a longer trip - The X is no match to the 3 in this aspect.
Rear seats on the 3 are Ok for kids on a longer drive, but not so much for adults - Keep in mind we're talking about 10+ hrs drives, they're just fine for a couple of hours.

Travel time + 25%:
Even with faster charging the travel time for our family is about 25% more than what Google Maps would suggest for non-EVs. Things didn't change from 3yrs ago, it's not the cars or the supercharging network - it's about how our family travels. Overall just relax, use Autopilot and the road trip experience is much better (and safer)

Routing algorithm:
I've had lots of time on the road to compare Tesla's routing vs. Waze - and I've come back to the same conclusion each time, It really doesn't make much of a difference.
Tesla's guidance doesn't show every road incident on the map, so I expect drivers to second guess the route vs. Waze where everything is shown on the map. That might help folks trust Waze more. But I didn't think either system has an advantage over the other.
However, I did have Waze open for over 70% of the route - I just felt better knowing about road hazards and speed traps. I hope Tesla includes that kind of feature(or does better)

Temperature control on my car was a downer:
I gave up on automatic temperature control in my 3 after a few hours of driving. It just wasn't doing the job as it is supposed to. Unfortunately I didn't carry my handheld thermometer with me because we were carrying a lot of stuff... And to think I bought it just to record the HVAC problems ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Trash at Superchargers:
Some of the Supercharing sites were littered badly (pictures below). It is one thing to see trash at a site, and its another sad level when you see a trash can just paces away. I'll say this - your vanity plate with a green message means nothing if you do not care enough to keep the charging site clean.

rdh37 | December 2, 2019

Thank you, good post.

kevin_rf | December 2, 2019

Is it just me, but when I see liter at SC's I usually pick it up and put it in a bin.

WW_spb | December 2, 2019

Thank you, very interesting read for someone who have never done it.
On trash there is no telling who threw it. Could be ice folks, could be wind get it out of trash bin or something. I do agree it's upsetting when people litter. I teach my kids to take care of nature bc we got only one planet to live on.

Magic 8 Ball | December 2, 2019

Always leave a clean trail.

vmulla | December 2, 2019

kevin_rf | December 2, 2019
Is it just me, but when I see liter at SC's I usually pick it up and put it in a bin.
No, it's not just you.

I hope Tesla records activity around a supercharger with all available cameras from all vehicles. People generally behave better when they know they're being monitored.

sbeggs | December 2, 2019

Thanks for the very interesting report!

bp | December 2, 2019

Great post!

Anthony J. Parisio | December 2, 2019

Thank you. I was wondering about ride differences between the two cars. Was the X really much nicer, smoother or were they close? What size tires did you have on the 3?

vmulla | December 2, 2019

@Anthony J. Paisio,
They are completely different. Rough analogy (I hate this analogy btw) is something between a Lexus RX350 vs BMW 3 series sedan. Each is good in its own right, but different. Lets come back to Tesla centric terminology shall we ;)

To me, the price difference is too huge to justify the ride comfort comparisons - if you can afford it the X is a much more comfortable road trip car, but there is no way the X can handle like the 3 either. You have 2 very good cars, and the 3 just gives you greater bang for the buck.

Also, both these cars are going to get blown out of the water when the Y shows up. In a sense the X/3 comparison is meaningless because the Y is around the corner. All the advantages of X and 3 are packed into the Y, and the Y does not have any of the big weaknesses. I just hope the Y has a tad softer suspension than the 3, that is enough for me.

SamO | December 2, 2019

Thanks for the detailed report.

How much did you spend in idle fees?

vmulla | December 2, 2019

I do not know yet, haven't really checked. I wouldn't be surprised if it was $15+ dollars.

vmulla | December 2, 2019

What do you know :), the entire trip costed me $133.04. I *should have* paid $153.87 if I use the $0.23 for kW rate because I used 669KW
I'm happy as it is, this discovery made me happier.

Passion2Fly | December 2, 2019

"Also, both these cars are going to get blown out of the water when the Y shows up."

I don't quite agree with that. The Model Y will be shorter range than the Model 3 and not quite as spacious and comfortable as the X. Due to lack of air suspension, less range, ridiculously small 3rd row and same seats as the Model 3.

A very close friend just decided to cancel his Model Y reservation and go for the Model 3 instead. His main reasons were: available now, cheaper, longer range, 7 seats is a joke, still some federal credit left for the 3...
The only thing, in his opinion, in favor of the Y was the hatchback for loading and unloading...

It will be a fraction of the Model X at a fraction of the price of the Model X... $56k versus $90k for similar configurations...

vmulla | December 2, 2019

Here are things that I love about the 3 in this trip
- Less expensive
- Easier parking
- Ablity to lie down flat and rest

Here are the things I loved about the X
- Driving comfort
- Obscene luggage space
- Hatchback design

The back seats in the X were barely usable, they worked for my children but not for adults. So I'm not going to ding the Y for its 3rd row seats.

I agree that the comfort will not match the X, and this is exactly why I hope the Y will have a softer suspension. It should an acceptable tradeoff for cost/comfort/handling.

You said it best yourself "It will be a fraction of the Model X at a fraction of the price of the Model X... $56k versus $90k for similar configurations." - to that I'll add that it has *most* of the advantages of the 3 - This is the reason I think Y will be a far more compelling car for most families - more than any other Tesla.

Daryl | December 2, 2019

@vmulla "I paid overtime fees at many spots because the car was done charging, and we weren't ready to move on."

I hope you only did this when nobody was waiting for a a charger...

The purpose of the overtime fees is not to make money for Tesla or to punish the user; it's to improve charger availability in crowded situations.

vmulla | December 2, 2019

No one was affected :) I'm quite sensitive to that. I also like to travel overnight, so I've avoided the crowds for most part.
The two places where I encountered over 80% occupancy was at Glen Allen VA, and West Melbourne FL. I did 'splash and dash' at both locations. West Melbourne was 100% full on 11/25 afternoon, folks were waiting for a spot - no chance to step away from the vehicle.

rsingh05 | December 2, 2019

I think the Cybertruck will be far more compelling than the Y or the X for families. I love my 3P for its handling and would never consider an SUV, but the Cybertruck is on a different plane entirely.

vmulla | December 2, 2019

I'm just as excited about the CT as others. But then I stopped myself and stood next to a F150. I realized the CT wasn't for me, just would be a beast of a vehicle - not the best fit for my family. I suspect it will be an overkill for most families. I wouldn't have considered that vehicle at all if it weren't for it's cost advantage over the other vehicles.

drrock75k | December 2, 2019

Very useful observations. Thank you.

MTF16 | December 2, 2019

Thanks for the write up.

billstanton | December 2, 2019

Another "thanks", nice write up. Leave No Trace. Not just for the trail, applies to charging stations too!

gballant4570 | December 2, 2019

vmulla, nice post. Surprised to hear about Glen Allen - there are a lot of chargers there. I stopped there returning from OBX last year, and there were perhaps 3-4 cars charging. But your trip was perhaps recent, maybe even on the most traveled holiday of the year? And there have been quite a number of new Model 3's hitting the road since early summer.....

I'm with you on travel time. I am retired, but even so - when traveling for pleasure, we like to travel pleasurably. Its the only way to do it.

But I'll agree with rsingh05 regarding the Cybertruck. I love the sports car driving my Model 3 provides, but I am also looking forward to doing a bit of traveling in my Cybertruck when I finally get it. The when my wife wants to buy deck furniture while in another state, we'll just do it. Maybe the cost of the tires will temper that a little, but somehow I doubt it.

RedShift | December 2, 2019


I’m just about finished with my extensive sound deadening project on my Model 3. It feels more like a BMW inside now, than an Accord.

I insulated the insides of all wheel wells, removing the liner, getting to the bare metal. Double layers. One layer butyl rubber backed aluminum sheet, one layer closed cell foam.

Removed all seats, laid down the same double layers on the floors. Then the trunk, over the hump above the motor, and wheel housings from the trunk side.

The shelf behind the rear seat. Even sealing the big gap, but leaving a small slit to let air pass.

The biggest bang for buck was the rear part of the car.

The front is the hardest to quieten. I had to add another two layers of closed cell foam on the liner itself, to get the quality where I wanted it to be.

Now, my car rides more zen.

I’m at peace now with my 3. You cannot sell me any car at any price in exchange for my quiet, nimble, sports sedan.

Just about the only thing I want to change now, are the horrible Michelin MXM tires to something more sporty and grippy.

If people are interested, I can post some pictures and some instructions for the daring (and you do need a bit of daring!) DIYer.

trimble2 | December 2, 2019

Thanks for the detailed post great information

jebinc | December 3, 2019


Good post. Thank you for sharing!

Bighorn | December 3, 2019

Now you need to test drive the new X suspension.

rsingh05 | December 3, 2019

@vmulla - I agree that it's overkill for a family vehicle (as is any crossover/SUV for my family).

However, it's something you can take on really long road trips as @gballant4570 said, and car camp in more comfortably. I would love to take it to Yukon territory - just need a few superchargers there.

Great writeup btw. You should probably cross post in the X forums as well - I'm sure there's a few people debating new 3 vs used S/X.