Is Tesla Model 3 Or Model S A Better Choice For Road Trips?

FEB 21 2019 BY EVANNEX 21


Guest Contributor: Steve Sasman*; Editor’s Note: Driving both an older Model S and new Model 3, Steve went on an epic 48 state road trip visiting 107 Tesla stores, meeting over 500 Tesla employees, and uncovering some helpful Tesla road trip hacks. Here, Steve compares both Tesla sedans, Model S vs. Model 3, during his remarkable road trip adventures.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Posted by Matt Pressman. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: Activating “Camper Mode” with moon rising and horses grazing on a farm in Oregon 2000+ miles from home (Twitter: Steve Sasman)

On August 1, 2018, I set out to be the first human to drive a Tesla to every single USA Tesla Store in the lower 48 States. I drove my 2012 Model S P85 for the first 12,100 miles and 42 States east of Arizona. After that, I took my brand new Model 3 Performance for the last 6 States. The Model 3 started with 25 miles on the odometer and ended the trip with 4,370 miles just two flawless weeks later.

Above: Tesla Model S alongside an old school camper (Instagram: Steve Sasman)

Let’s just say, Tesla has come a long way in 6 years. My 2012 Model S is still an incredible car and it’s still years ahead of any non-Tesla on the road, but the Model 3 is the shiny new object…

So, which one is the better road trip car?


My old 2012 Model S doesn’t have Autopilot. So, I actually had to drive all 12,000 miles myself. Oh, the horror!

Those who say Autopilot is a game changer are not kidding. It really makes road trips a breeze since most of your trip is highway miles where Autopilot shines.


As far as Supercharging, the 3 is fantastic. Since it’s smaller and more efficient, it charges faster than the S, which means less charging time to go the same distance. Also, since the Long Range battery has a range over 300 miles it also has a bigger sweet spot of faster charging compared to my P85 S which has a range of 240 miles now. FYI, batteries charge much faster the first 3/4 of the charge than the final 1/4 to top it off. This is why I always suggest getting the biggest battery you can afford if road trips are in your future.

Above: Supercharging the Model 3 (Twitter: Steve Sasman)


The old Model S still has a few benefits over the newer Model 3. First: Size. The frunk is bigger, and the back/trunk is as well. This comes in handy for luggage/supplies as well as sleeping in the car.

Car Camping

Obviously, a huge percentage of people will have zero desire to try this, but you would be surprised how many Tesla owners actually do camp in their car. Believe it or not, I’m 6’3″ and can still sleep fully stretched out in the Model 3, but it’s certainly tighter [than the Model S] with an additional annoyance of the shelf that isn’t removable which does limit your range of motion when turning over.

Above: The larger Model S with its hatchback is preferable in “Camper Mode” along with twin air mattress and comforter (Photo: Steve Sasman*)

Road Trip Champion?

It depends…

Model 3: if you are not sleeping in the car, or for a shorter trip.

Model S: if you are car camping or on a week or longer trip.

Either way, you can’t go wrong road tripping in a Tesla. It’s such a more enjoyable and less expensive way to travel. The myth is Supercharging adds tons of time to your trip. Not true. Most of your stops are 20–40 minutes and you are doing stuff you would be doing anyway like eating, restroom stops, or catching up on work. Be assured that buying a Tesla will be the best car buying decision you’ve ever made. It certainly has been for me.


*Steve Sasman is a Tesla experimenter and 48 state road tripper at; he’s also a sharing economy enabler at

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here.

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21 Comments on "Is Tesla Model 3 Or Model S A Better Choice For Road Trips?"

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I agree with the article… I’ve done long distance trips in both Model S & 3. The Model S hatch to this day amazes me what you can fit in the back with the 2nd row seats folded down… it’s like a magic trick.

The one add I’d put out there is that having tinted windows helps greatly keeping the car cooler for long distance driving especially during summer driving. Also cuts down interior sun glare. I’ve over the years tried different types of window tints… the tops by a long shot is Spectra PhotoSync… more expensive and harder to find an installer but worth it IMHO. I did SPH75 (clear) on front windshield & SPH45 on sides and back… did not do top glass.

Well, if you actually have to work to pay for your car, you’d be forgoing vacations for several more years to pay for the Model S. Since most folks don’t ever actually pay anything off anymore, I guess it doesn’t matter. 🙂

A friend was looking at SUV the other day. Something like a loaded Explorer is in the mid-50,000$ range (there is a reason why Ford doesn’t want to make cars anymore), so I see no reason to complain about the price of the Model 3.

I wasn’t complaining about the price of the Model 3. I wasn’t complaining about the price of the Model S either. I was pointing out that the Model S is much more expensive. And that for most folks, the price of the Model S should be much more of a consideration than whether you have more room for a mattress.

I believe the saying goes “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.” I’m unlikely to be able to afford a Tesla for at least a decade, if not ever, but it’s still fun to read about them from folks who have more money than me. 🙂

You’ll probably be able to afford a used Model 3 in 3 years.

Buy used, there’s a ton of options in the used market now.

Well, technically this is comparing a 2012 Model S to a 2018 Model 3 – used/certified prices on older Model S examples seem to be similar/lower than a new Model 3. So it’s a good comparison in that sense.

While Tesla road trips are still in my future (had a Model 3 since Oct last year) and I have yet to try the EAP, I can still say buying the Tesla was the best auto buying decision I have made in my time buying cars, which is a bit over 40 years. I almost made the used S decision based on touring, but went with the newest tech, and likely longest range when comparing to a used S. The 3 is more a sport model than the S as well, great for daily driving in an awesome machine.

Range is king, especially on a break-out 48 state romp. All it takes is a couple points in a journey where “plan B” has you at a Level 2 charger, or you find yourself going 50-55 for an hour+ without climate control on a highway, and you’ll quickly contemplate how much nicer not worrying about these fundamentals is.

Fair review. It’s a long time ago, but I don’t think there were more than about 1,000 2012 Model S cars. They were the “first batch”, in every way.

For someone who stretches his budget to buy a Tesla car, then sleeps in the car because (apparently) he can’t afford to stay overnight at even a cheap hotel…

I respectfully suggest he needs to re-think his priorities.

Yep, I don’t understand people that spend that much money on a Tesla and sleeps in the car on a road trip. Especially people with unlimited free supercharging. Savings in gas can easily pay for motel/hotel.

OMG. Don’t go tenting then, the HORROR.

Where does he say or allude that he can’t afford a hotel? Like people who waste away their lives getting free charging even when tapered to hell, he’s probably just cheap. People who can afford to buy $100K car sleeping like a homeless person is the power of free.

I rode my bike across the US and camped out the whole two months it had its ups and downs, but it camping can be quite pleasant and relaxing. Cheap motels often are kind of awful, but a nice campsite or even pulled off a quiet road in a scenic countryside can be a great experience. So even with money no object, I would consider camping an option.

I have both cars at my disposal and about every other month drive to Philadelphia (~300 miles away).
I prefer the 3 because it is better to maneuver on tight city streets…but when taking more than 1 passenger we take the S for passenger comfort…

Air suspension?

Yes, the S has air suspension…

We drove home (2 hours) a Model S loaner (75D) after dropping the 3 off at the service center this week. I have to say we both like the 3 better for the following reasons:

1) The Model S is a bit of tank…. it’s like driving “Your fathers Oldsmobile”
2) The cupholder location is annoying. If you have a drink in it, you are constantly hitting it with your elbow
3) Steering wheel controls are kludgy compared to the 3
4) Visibility out the back window is like those old Mustang Fastbacks of the 60s! It’s about 1/3 of the height of the rear view mirror!
5) The B column seems too far forward, It is in the way as we enter/exit (even for my 115 pound wife), and it’s at my shoulder when I’m sitting in the car. Very odd.

Otherwise, it’s a great car. I’d be more interested in one after the update it to match the 3 interior.

I’ve only driven a minor road trip so far. I went from Raleigh to Charlotte for an overnight trip (165 miles each way). I charged up to 92% (my home charging is temporarily stuck at 120V) and got there with 38% remaining. I had cruise set to speed limit +5MPH and had heat at 70F, weather was clear and around 45F. Luckily downtown Charlotte as at least 100 L2 charging stations which made it easy to charge up overnight for the trip back. If I had to do the round trip in one day, it would have been a 20 minute stop at the supercharger on the way back.

Having effortlessly criss-crossed this country and Canada in the last couple of years for over 60,000 miles in my MS85 and its frunk full of 240vac adapters, the distinguishing feature IMO is the ability to charge my Model S using the CHAdeMO adapter, which, at present, is not possible with the Model 3. Especially useful in Canada.