Tyler Cowen doesn’t think you should test drive cars:
Furthermore you might expect that every plausible new car can in fact survive a test drive from a potential customer. Let others test drive it for you.
And let’s say you didn’t so much like the test drive. Is that a bad sign or a good sign about the car? Does your dislike very well predict you will dislike it a month from now? I doubt that. In fact if you are somewhat typical and others dislike the test drive too, that might mean the car is all the more a bargain. And you are letting a mere mediocre test drive persuade you away from exploiting that bargain.
I readily admit this advice does not apply to very tall people and other outliers.
I say that at a minimum you should consider a test drive when offered 7500 American miles, not to mention 40,000 British Airways miles although I admit that 2000 Starwood points, 1000 Delta miles or $50 may not be enough.
Ron Schnell, whom I used to moderate on Flyertalk with, told me that if I ever test drove a Tesla I’d want to buy one.
This week I got an email from Hyatt promoting Tesla test drives at the Hyatt Regency Austin, which is walkable from downtown.
So I took them up on it, just to be able to see what the fuss was about.
They had a bunch of Teslas lined up in the Hyatt parking lot.
Here’s the one I took for a spin.
I dug the feel of the cabin.
Check it out — no combustion engine!
The drive was… awesome. The thinking that went into this vehicle is amazing, it really is unlike any other car I’ve seen in so many ways. The ability to raise and lower the suspension (and automatically, too, when it knows you’re in a place that you always try to avoid a dip for instance if your driveway is like that). A better backup camera than I’ve seen on any car. More intuitive controls. And amazing power, in my mind an electric vehicle drives like a Prius, not a sports car.
I liked the speed limit warning, the car reads speed limit signs and then tells you when you’re speeding. Fortunately you can set that to electronically warn you only when you’re a predetermined number of miles over that limit. Sort of live the ‘governor’ they used to put on cars, or more like the mechanical device on your dash that would cause a buzzing sound when your speedometer crossed over it. Only tech. Everything’s tech. Even the sun roof controls.
The car is missing some things. The ‘auto pilot’ feature which keeps you in your lane, and essentially drives for you around modest curves in the road (which I have on my car) is apparently at least six months off. It’ll be a software update, and the way they improve the car through automated updates is cool. There’s no cooling seats, I admit I love that feature in hot weather cities and got addicted to it when I’d get Avis upgrades to a Cadillac years ago.
But the test drive was worthwhile, because actually feeling the car’s impressive acceleration is different than reading about it. That may over-sell you on a car and perhaps you’re better off not knowing how much you enjoy it — you have more leverage buying a car when you aren’t emotionally attached to it. At some level you should only buy cars that you don’t really like, that will let you negotiate better and be willing to walk away.
Besides, what car is really worth over $100,000? To me, I can’t imagine it (at least until inflation causes current prices to more than double). I grew up in a family of car dealers. Cars take you from place to place.
I like a reliable car — probably too much. That’s a reaction to being given cars that had been traded in but weren’t ones we could even sell when I was a kid. My first car was a 1984 Renault Alliance with electrical problems. My next car was a 1985 Mercury Topaz with over 100,000 miles and a cracked head. I like not carrying an extra box of fuses in the glove compartment so I can jump out and replace one when the car dies.
But I also see cars as machines with sit down seats, see through windows, push down breaks and spin-around wheels. Those are the key features. So I’m not a real luxury car buyer.
So thanks, Hyatt, for the test drive. I imagine you got paid for my e-mail but that’s cool because I was happy to drive the car and I understand it better now. And sorry if you were looking to see a commission on the sale, because I won’t be buying one any time soon…
What car do u have that has autopilot
Thanks for this post, was fun to read!
Just curious, what car do you drive now?
The price is only aspect of the overall cost of the car. EVs in general, are more reliable and require less maintenance than gas cars. It’s simple because there are fewer moving parts that require maintenance. You also need to factor in the gas savings, for most people that would be around $200/month.
Other than the range, huge size, and performance you can get similar features in other electric cars for much less money than the Tesla, and in some ways the Tesla is catching up with other cars. Adaptive cruise control and automated parallel parking was available on the BMW i3 since launch in 2013, for example and on other cars for many years before that.
Similar to my points and miles collecting hobby, we were able to get the BMW i3 for free on two year leases, after tax incentives, $50,350 MSRP. I combined a BMW $1000 off coupon, $10k off with negotiation, $7,500 federal tax incentive, $5k Georgia state tax incentive. I have met people who are better negotiators who made a small profit after the incentives.
We actually looked at the Tesla Model S for many years since they launched. The quality of the interior is similar to a high end Honda Accord where it should be more like an E-Class, S-class Mercedes or 5-7 series BMW when you are spending around $100k or more.
@ Gary — And, Hyatt didn’t offer points or free nights in exchange for the test drive? Why waste your time?
@Gene because I was curious to drive it and it was walkable.
@JL low tier Acura
That Tyler Cowen article is one of the dumber things I’ve ever read. As someone who rents a lot of cars I am sure I’ve driven a hundred different models. And some are absolutely better than others when controlled for the price/class. To think otherwise is ridiculous. People actually buy Soylent too but only a moron would argue that all food is equal so pick the cheapest stuff no one else wants to save a few bucks.
That said, he’s right about one thing: picking a car no one else wants. If he comes from a car family Gary probably knows this, but the dealer is paying juice on the value of the lot every day. A car that doesn’t turn over is costing that sleazy SOB cash money interest every day and the hole is just getting deeper. So find the car that’s been on the lot the longest (i.e. the one no one wants) and buy it cheap – that’s the best deal you’re going to get.
Did you put it in James Bond mode???
Tummy is right. You have to consider more than just the MSRP. I haven’t been to a gas station since November 2012, and for road trips I don’t even pay for electricity. No oil to change, even no brake pads to replace (due to deceleration regen). Certainly for someone who was already going to spend 90+ it is a no brainer. For less than that it is still worth it
Well I wasn’t going to spend even half that so the gas savings doesn’t work out. But if you are calculating gas savings over time remember to discount to present value.
@Charles yes I drove it in Bond mode
The plus side is that a Tesla is really a piece of technology. The fact that it is a car is almost incidental. So, like any other technology, the Tesla three years from now will be twice as good and half the price.
Was this test drive offer (Gold Passport) pointless?
I drove a former work colleague’s 2-year old Tesla this past week. It was fun. He loves it — still — after driving 26k miles. There are not a lot of cars out there where the owners will say that.
I have a deposit down on the Model X (and have for about 18 months now). We’ll see how that model turns out.
@Tummy – Yes, you’re not buying gas, but you are using electricity to charge the sucker up and that has a cost that you did not mention. Depending on where you live you could be saving more or less money over gas, and there’s always the price of the car itself. They’re just not ready for the masses yet, and neither is our power grid.