Tesla Model 3 vs. Model Y: Which EV is Right for You?

Woman drives a Tesla

2021 Tesla Model 3* 2021 Tesla Model Y*
Starting price $45,799 $48,950
Range 353 miles 326 miles
MPGe 124 city / 126 highway 131 city / 117 highway
0-60 mph 4.2 seconds 4.8 seconds
Cargo room 15 cubic feet 68 cubic feet

* = Long Range AWD trims; Source: Tesla

Tesla’s unmistakable style, performance, and onboard technology have been lauded by critics and drivers alike, and made Elon Musk‘s company the undisputed king of the luxury EV class. As of 2021, Tesla is the fastest-growing automaker in the world. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Tesla Model 3 and the Tesla Model Y are among the best-selling and most popular all-electric vehicles on the market today.

But once you slice through the hype, which Tesla model is right for you? Despite their many similarities in stance, color ranges, interior features, and technology, there are quite a few key differences between the Tesla Model 3 and the Tesla Model Y

Let’s hash out the specs and see which of these Tesla models is best suited for your driving needs.

Tesla Model 3 vs. Tesla Model Y: Trim Levels

Tesla Model 3

Which Tesla vehicle is right for you all depends on what you’re looking for from your electric vehicle. While all Teslas come with snappy features like limited self-driving capability, touchscreen navigation, and premium audio, there is some variability in the performance capabilities of each trim. 

2021 Tesla Model 3 Trim Levels

The 2021 Tesla Model 3 is available in three different trim levels: Standard Plus, Performance, and Long Range AWD. The primary differences between the three trims are range and drive type. The Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus, the entry-level trim, has a range of 263 miles and is a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. 

The Tesla Model 3 Performance places a priority on achieving top speeds. It’s powered by a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system with an acceleration capability of 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. It also has 315 miles of range

Finally, the Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD places a priority on range, with its EPA estimated 353 miles of range surpassing both lower trim levels.

2021 Tesla Model Y Trim Levels

Tesla Model Y

The 2021 Tesla Model Y comes in two trim levels: Performance and Long Range AWD. The Tesla Model Y Performance offers seating for up to five passengers and is capable of a top speed of 155 mph. 

The larger Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD has a range of 326 miles, seats up to seven passengers, and reaches top speeds of 135 mph. Both versions of the Tesla Model Y are powered by a dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain.

Tesla Model 3 vs. Tesla Model Y: Performance

The Tesla Model 3 is classified as a four-door fastback mid-size luxury sedan. The Tesla Model Y is classified as a compact crossover utility vehicle, or CUV. Tesla Model 3 holds a slight edge compared to the Tesla Model Y for performance. But that isn’t to say the Model Y is a slouch.

Blue Tesla Model 3

The Model 3 weighs approximately 300 pounds less than the Model Y, so it’s no surprise that its 3.1-second 0 to 60 mph time is superior (but not by much). The Tesla Model Y Performance trim can travel from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.

The Tesla Model 3 Performance can reach a top speed of 162 mph, while the Model Y Performance has a top speed of 155 mph.

Interior and Cargo Capability

If you’re a driver with a family or just looking for an electric car that provides a great deal of cargo space, there’s no question the Tesla Model Y is the choice compared to the Model 3.

Interior of a Tesla Model Y

The Tesla Model Y is extremely versatile. Not only can the Model Y seat up to seven passengers, it also offers 68 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats folded, pictured above. 

By comparison, the Tesla Model 3 offers just 15 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. If you’re in need of maximum cargo space for groceries, work, or long trips, the Tesla Model Y is the superior choice, as is usually the case when comparing crossovers with sedans.

In terms of interior features, the Model 3 and the Model Y are quite similar, with all the trademark Tesla features throughout. 

These include a low dashboard, elevated seated position, and minimalist, clean-looking driver and passenger surroundings. Both models feature a large, all-glass roof that gives passengers an uninterrupted view of the sky as well as additional headroom.

Safety

Both the Model 3 and the Model Y come with Tesla Autopilot, a suite of driver-assistance systems that control safety features including self-parking, lane centering, and intelligent cruise control.

All Teslas boast a low center of gravity, rigid body structures constructed of a blend of steel and aluminum, and large crumple zones in the vehicle’s frame to better absorb crash impacts.

Both the Tesla Model 3 and the Tesla Model Y have received the highest 5-star safety rating in every category from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Technology

Tesla Model 3 interior

The Model 3 (pictured above) and Model Y are identical in terms of technological features. 

Both the Model 3 and Model Y’s driving features, navigation, and onboard audio are controlled via a 15-inch touchscreen, similar to all Tesla vehicles. Tesla EVs do not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That’s because Tesla offers the use of its own audio and navigation software.

Pricing

If you’re looking for the more affordable option between the 2021 Tesla Model 3 and the 2021 Tesla Model Y, there’s not much difference in each vehicle’s price. 

The Model 3 starting price point is $45,799 while the Model Y base price starts at $48,950, a difference of $3,151. The price for each vehicle includes a Tesla Mobile Connector, which is considered standard equipment. 

The Mobile Connector is a charging unit with a 20-foot long cable that can charge your Tesla at slower charging rates. It comes with an adaptor to make it compatible with standard 120-volt home outlets.

Warranty

Regardless of which trim level you choose to purchase, the Model 3 and Model Y have identical warranty coverage. The Basic Vehicle Warranty is good for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever is reached first. The battery pack and drive unit in both the Model 3 and the Model Y come with an eight-year, 120,000-mile warranty. 

Tesla’s warranties are impressive, particularly considering EVs require less maintenance and age better on the whole compared to gas-powered vehicles. 

Affordable Tesla Buying Options

Those looking for a more affordable Tesla option should explore the pre-owned Tesla market in their region. 

Over 758,000 Teslas have been sold since the brand’s debut in 2014, 235,000 of which were sold in the year 2020 alone. That means there’s a considerably large pool of pre-owned Teslas, including previous year Model 3’s and Model Y’s on the used market today.

A pre-owned Tesla is likely to have much more life ahead of it than a pre-owned gas-powered vehicle. That’s because Tesla vehicles don’t lose 10% of their total battery power until they reach about 160,000 miles. With that in mind, even a Tesla with 200,000 miles on it at purchase still has well over half its total battery life ahead of it. If a new Model 3 or Model Y is a bit too out of your price range, going the pre-owned route is a much more affordable option.  

Tesla Model 3 vs. Tesla Model Y: Making the Choice

The biggest difference between the Model 3 and Model Y is cargo space. The Tesla Model 3 is a luxury sedan that’s ideally suited to commuters and long-distance travelers who can work with the car’s small cargo space

The Tesla Model Y is far better suited to families with multiple children who require room for both more passengers and more cargo. 

In terms of performance, technology, and cost, the vehicles are remarkably similar. It’s always a good idea to take cars for test drives to get a feel for a vehicle in real-life situations.

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