September 30, 2023: Whole 9 Yards

Over 151,000 miles and scrolling

When I committed to buying a Model S almost a decade ago it was a contract to myself to keep it for at least 10 years to justify the high initial acquisition cost. Tesla was a very different company back then under constant speculation as to whether they would still exist next year.

Big Blue still runs. Well. And although all the Model 3/Ys around me are superior vehicles in virtually every respect, I'm quite satisfied with keeping what I have for many more years. Getting a Plaid may be an upgrade, but not that much of an upgrade.

I recently spent over a month mitigating almost all of the interior rattles and noises that come with an aging car and after many, many trial-and-error iterations I've finally gotten my new car back. It feels smooth as ever and the original spaceship-on-land experience is something I get joy out of from this daily driver.

Fortunately there have been practically no maintenance issues for a while now. No door handles becoming inoperable or 12V battery issues causing another tow to the nearest Service Center. Although anything can happen I don't foresee any issues in the near-term as everything seems to be in proper working order. No dramas, fingers crossed.

The paint has been kept quite pristine due to the paint protection film coverage. Although the film itself has become a bit hazy on the hood, I'm happy overall with the condition of the panels where the original darker blue metallic color has virtually no permanent scratches or chips in the clear coat and so it's still in better-than-factory condition. Big Blue's due for a PPF replacement strictly due to age but overall it's not like the edges of the film are noticeably peeling away. I worry that in time it'll get too brittle making replacing it more difficult.

The original metallic blue paint is a rare sight around these parts now. It used to be a very common color (paired with the tan interior) but it looks like my color combination variant is a near-extinct species. On the upside it keeps Big Blue relatively unique.

Cost of Ownership

I wrote about my accumulated service visits back in early 2022 and broke down the costs of each type of repair/replacement. Some of those were standard wear-and-tear items like tires. The big ones are regarding the MCU, door handles, 12V battery, or brake-related issues. Much of it was covered by warranty since Tesla was still refining their stuff back then.

Since taking delivery I've spent $6,314 in maintenance costs, not including $4,127 in tires (although I did buy a couple of extra sets for my Turbines which I've hardly used), insurance, registration fees. Back in the day Tesla also offered an extended service agreement which I paid $4,000 for. It probably wasn't worth it but at the time the peace of mind helped considering there were so many questions around the company and the technology with associated unknowns. That averages out to $1,600/year for maintenance, tires, and that extended service agreement. Without the service agreement it comes to about $1,160/year. Keep in mind that includes extremely rare issues like the MCU2 upgrade which itself was $2,700. If you only look at maintenance costs without tire changes then it comes to $702/year. Back then I qualified for the $7,500 Federal tax credit and the $2,500 state rebate which, while it isn't an instant discount at the time of purchase, it helped alleviate some of the up-front financial burdens off the $90,870 purchase price (not including California sales tax).

In respect to Service Center visits, the amount of "wasted time" has been relatively minimized due to the availability of loaners back in the early days and later the issuance of Uber credits which eliminated inconveniences of arranging other transportation (and at my expense) while Big Blue got some work done. Mobile Service has also been a game changer making many minor issues virtually hassle-free.

What's more difficult to carve metrics for are the emotional experiences and convenience/inconvenience costs relative to some other car I could've bought instead. The EV experience has the added benefit of driving comfort with no combustion engine noise and resulting cabin vibrations, gear shifting with the associated staggered speed changes, or exhaust fume smells. For me it's a much superior experience.

In the grand scheme of things one would have to account for economic factors like inflation changes, etc. to more accurately measure specifics, but at a glance this has worked out well. The only thing worrying me is a battery replacement due to sudden death. There are Reddit threads mentioning issues with the older packs and a replacement from Tesla would apparently be in the 20k - 25k range, and that's probably assuming a refurbished pack. I don't think I'd opt to spend 35k - 40k for a used Model 3/Y if I can get a replacement pack for Big Blue at half that, but it's a lingering thought in the back of my mind.

AI Driving Envy

I've had the privilege of experiencing the Autopilot revolution when the 6.0 software update was released in 2015. The HW2/3/4 cars and the excitement around FSD is something I've had to watch from the sidelines but given the still-beta status of FSD I'm not too worried. Elon's out there tweeting "any day now" but we know the drill. Or maybe he's given one of those Optimus bots the task of just repeating that periodically.

For what it is, the OG Autopilot suits me fine. It's relatively simple, predictable, and while I sometimes have to take over control when the car doesn't switch lanes quick enough to conform with my patience, it ticks basic driving automation functions good enough.


Almost all of my charging is still done at Superchargers and I tend to not let the battery drain below 20% and not exceed 80 - 90%. In the SF Bay Area there are so many convenient Supercharger spots that I just take advantage of if I'm stopping by Target or other places close to home. I avoid ChargePoints due their reliability. During my initial years of ownership all that was available was the Tesla Fremont factory, the Mountain View site next to the Computer History Museum, and eventually the first one in San Mateo next to the Whole Foods off the Hillsdale exit. Since then Supercharger sites have sprouted up like hotcakes and I never worry about whether I'm going to accidentally end up with a drained battery because I didn't plan ahead.

Big Blue's charging speeds top out at maybe low-100 kW if my state of charge is 5 - 10%. I'm often at the urban Superchargers which max at 72 kW but the charging curve hovers around there for a while so I assume this is easier on the battery. The rate is nowhere near what the newer Teslas get but that's the price of being an early adopter (and having free lifetime Supercharging). Not worrying about fuel costs (at the slight expense of battery longevity) is an amazing benefit so the risk of purchasing a Model S all those years ago paid off handsomely.

I haven't checked recently what a 100% charge yields in terms of estimated miles of range but I suspect my degradation is around 11 - 12%.

Software Updates

The occasional updates are still rolling in although there's not much noticeable enhancements that I can see. "Minor fixes" is rather a vague description but at least I get the feeling that I'm getting a digital breath mint every now and then. In 2023 alone I've gotten 18 updates so far:

Date Software Version Odometer at Update
01/20/2023 2022.44.30 143,363
01/30/2023 2023.2.10 143,596
02/14/2023 2023.2.11 143,970
02/23/2023 2023.2.12 144,243
03/21/2023 2023.6.8 144,822
04/05/2023 2023.6.11 145,214
04/19/2023 2023.12.1 145,722
04/25/2023 2023.12.11 145,867
05/04/2023 2023.12.5 146,108
05/19/2023 2023.12.9 146,745
06/12/2023 2023.20.4.1 147,897
07/03/2023 2023.20.7 148,461
07/30/2023 2023.20.9 149,279
08/11/2023 2023.26.7 149,790
08/15/2023 2023.26.8 149,860
09/08/2023 2023.26.9 150,781
09/18/2023 2023.32.4 151,176
09/25/2023 2023.32.6 151,451

If there's one thing I wished these "fixes" addressed it's the media player's inability to remember where I left off when playing tracks off a flash drive. I don't stream music and wish the media player incorporated some modern improvements. Bluetooth is not something I prefer to do either.

Future Plans

The non-premium audio system has always been enough for my needs. Admittedly I have low standards because the car doesn't have great sound insulation to begin with and being a snobby audiophile isn't quite practical for me here. The idea of upgrading to the Light Harmonic system or the Infinity Kappa 62IX for the front speakers (with some 3D-printed mounts) is something I've been entertaining for a while but it's never been that important. I keep wondering what I'm missing out on so perhaps I'll take the dive one day. After spending a lot of time removing the door panels to reduce the interior rattles I think it'd be a piece of cake to do a quick upgrade.

Like the PPF I'm also overdue for a ceramic coat re-application. Back in 2017 I had Opti-Coat Pro+ installed and it has made washing and keeping the exterior clean a relative ease. I see many newer Teslas around me and compare their paint condition against mine ... definitely an ego boost there. I could apply consumer-grade ceramic coating myself but for Big Blue I'm down to pay a professional to do it properly with longer-duration coatings, especially with the limited time I have these days.

In the interior the only thing that seems worn is the driver's seat. All other seats still look relatively new since I rarely have passengers. I wonder if there's a service that could restore my driver's seat with new padding, etc. as the comfort between it and the passenger's seat is noticeable. Part of me wishes I had originally opted for the non-leather ("textile") option since those seem to wear a lot better over the long term. Leather is nice but it's not that special to me.

Over the past few weeks I switched to Chill mode and never looked back. The roll from complete stop is a bit smoother and I prefer it that way. It's extremely rare that I stomp on the pedal nowadays. Perhaps I'm just getting old. It reinforces the fact that even a mid-range Model 3 or Y would be plenty more than what I need in performance if I had to buy a new car.

Assuming nothing catastrophic occurs with the high voltage pack or rear motor, I'm hoping the only cost concerns in the foreseeable future are tire changes. The door handles should all be more reliable now and the MCU was upgraded a while back. Here's to hoping Big Blue will stay beautiful beyond the decade mark as a daily driver.