I drove a Tesla for the first time and was shocked by how much I liked it. Here's everything that surprised me.

·6 min read
A dark grey Tesla parked at a campsite in Montana.
I got to drive a Tesla Model 3 for the first time this week — and loved it.Jordan Erb/Insider
  • Using the car-sharing service Turo, I rented a Tesla for the first time for a road trip in Montana.

  • It was my first time driving an electric vehicle after a decade of driving big, gas-powered SUVs.

  • It felt like driving a spaceship at first, but once I got used to the high-tech features, I loved it.

This week, I rented a Tesla for a trip through my home state of Montana. After a decade of driving bulky, gas-guzzling cars, it was my first time driving an electric vehicle.

The front of a Tesla.
For my first time driving an EV, I rented a Tesla in MontanaJordan Erb/Insider

I rented the car — a brand-new Model 3 — through Turo, a car-sharing app that lets people rent cars directly from other people, instead of going through traditional companies like Hertz or Enterprise.

The Tesla Model 3 at the airport in Bozeman
I picked up the Tesla at the Bozeman airport.Jordan Erb/Insider

After a flight from New York to Bozeman, Montana, I headed to a parking garage to pick up the car.

The author holds a Tesla key.
I picked up the car in the parking garage at the Bozeman airport.Jordan Erb/Insider

I had never driven an EV before, so I was nervous to drive a Tesla. I watched videos beforehand to learn how to use the car (including how to even open the doors).

An up-close photo of a Tesla door handle.
I had to watch a few videos on how to open a Tesla's doors.Jordan Erb/Insider

But the person renting me the car offered to show me how to use it, and spent a good 20 minutes giving me a tour, which was met with lots of "oohs" and "aahs."

The Turo host showing the author how to set up a user profile.
The Turo host showing me how to set up a user profile.Jordan Erb/Insider

I was glad he showed me how to put the car into drive. It doesn't have a gear shift like I'm used to (instead, it's behind the wheel), and I don't think I would have been able to find it otherwise.

An up-close photo of Tesla's gear shift, which is located behind the steering wheel.
Tesla doesn’t have a traditional gear shift — instead, it’s behind the steering wheel.Jordan Erb/Insider

He gave me the key card that comes with the Tesla, but also gave me access to the car through the Tesla app, so I could lock and unlock it from my phone.

The Tesla app is shown on an iPhone.
I had access to the Tesla through the app, so I never had to use the key.Jordan Erb/Insider

After our brief introduction, the owner wished me a safe trip, and I was off. I was amazed at how someone could so nonchalantly send off their luxury vehicle with a stranger — but that's the magic of Turo.

The author driving the Tesla.
I started my Tesla journey by driving from Bozeman to Helena, about 90 miles.Jordan Erb/Insider

I left the Bozeman airport and started the 90-mile journey to my hometown, Helena.

The Tesla's screen and dashboard.
The drive took about an hour and a half.Jordan Erb/Insider

The Tesla had the option for autopilot, but I was way too nervous to try it.

The Tesla is shown driving on a highway in Montana
Tesla's autopilot function scares me a bit, so I didn't try it.Jordan Erb/Insider

I was struck by the car's speed — but had a hard time regulating it. Because the car is so quiet and doesn't have to shift through gears, I could speed up without really noticing. Even with Montana's generous 80-mile-per-hour speed limit, I found myself way above the legal limit a few times.

The speed limit is displayed on a Tesla's screen.
The speed limit is displayed on a Tesla's screen while you drive.Jordan Erb/Insider

The screen was gorgeous, but it also felt deeply unsafe. Spotify was right at my fingertips, but because I'm used to regular knobs and buttons on a car's dashboard, I kept fumbling around looking for the volume and other commands.

The Tesla's screen
I kept getting distracted by the Tesla's gigantic screen.Jordan Erb/Insider

And while the Model 3 boasts a range of 358 miles, a sense of range anxiety crept in. This was exacerbated by Montana's lack of electric-vehicle infrastructure: most gas stations don't offer EV charging, and there's only one Supercharger in Helena.

The Tesla parked in front of a gas station.
Most of Montana’s gas stations don’t offer EV charging, especially in rural parts of the state.Jordan Erb/Insider

There are two "destination chargers" in Helena, but they typically take longer to charge, and one, at a local restaurant, is only available to patrons.

 

The day after arriving in Helena, I took the Tesla for a spin to see how the car fared in the mountains. I drove it to a campsite near the Continental Divide, and was impressed with how it handled the bumpy dirt roads.

A dark grey Tesla parked at a campsite in Montana.
I got to drive a Tesla Model 3 for the first time this week — and loved it.Jordan Erb/Insider

I also found the car had some really thoughtful details, like a spot to wirelessly charge your phone…

A Samsung phone being charged on the Tesla's charging pad.
The Tesla had two spots to wirelessly charge your cell phones.Jordan Erb/Insider

High beams that automatically turn off if you pass a car…

An image showing Tesla's high beams at night.
Tesla's high beams automatically turn off if you pass another car.Jordan Erb/Insider

And that the touch screen automatically shifts to dark mode when the sun goes down.

A Tesla driving after sunset.
Teslas' screens turn to dark mode after the sun sets.Jordan Erb/Insider

I was stunned that you don't actually have to turn the car off — you just park it and walk away.

The Tesla Model 3 parked in a neighborhood in Helena, Montana
You don't actually have to turn Teslas off — a fact I found shocking.Jordan Erb/Insider

After about 48 hours with the car, I had to return it to Bozeman's airport, and was sad to see it go.

The author driving the Tesla on a highway in Montana.
I was sad to return the Tesla, and surprised by how much I enjoyed driving it.Jordan Erb/Insider

Turo's return process is easy: I simply charged the car and dropped it off right where I picked it up. Because I could lock the car with the app, I just left the key in the glove box and messaged the owner to tell him where it was located.

Tesla Model 3 at a Supercharger in Montana
Before returning the car, I charged it, then dropped it off at the airport.Jordan Erb/Insider

Overall, I loved driving the Tesla. And while I'd love to rent one again someday, I wouldn't buy one if I lived in Montana. Given the lack of chargers in the state, I think it'd be too inconvenient to drive until the infrastructure improves.

The Tesla Model 3 on a backroad in Montana
I loved driving the Tesla, but don't know if it makes sense to own one in Montana.Jordan Erb/Insider

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