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Comparing older Model S with newer Model 3 (kinda similar $$$ value cars)

How do older Model S stack up to similar value ($40-50K range) newer Model 3 cars, in terms of these factors?
- ride comfort
- road/tire/driving noise insulation
- build quality and longevity
- battery tech
- charging speeds at home/SC

(any other dimensions that are different)
I am okay with not having FSD (in near future), or not worrying about cold weather (in California). Desired range should be at least 250-ish range (like 2022 M3 SR+) for weekly commutes

Appreciate any inputs and experiences since Model S had such a long history and diverse model numbers.


May 3, 2021
Warranty is the biggest difference. Do you have a EV service shop nearby if you buy without a warranty? If you can charge overnight or at work then range is less of an issue. If you drive all day then range is key. Have you sat in a Tesla? After 7 months in my 14 MS85 I appreciate the roominess, though haven't been in a M3. Looking forward to installing cameras for diy sentry mode, will be challenging to match the factory setup.
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Not sure how the US market prices the cars as I live in the UK. Over here, I think the 2018 Model S is a great bargain as it's still under warranty to flush out problems and has MCU2 (so Netflix and latest updates).

In relation to your questions. MS will have better sound insulation and comfort (as well as size advantage, a hatchback trunk, faster, extra binacles and stalks).

Newer Model 3 will have a longer warranty and faster charging. Depending on the year, they may also have one foot driving. Only latest Tesla models have Ryzen chip, live view and boom box.
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I went through the same decision making process when I bought my 3.

Could have had a used P85D for about the same price, but the lower-quality interior (yes, really), older technology, and slower charging were enough to push me towards the 3.

S would be quieter and has more and more practical luggage space with the hatchback, but the passenger space is similar.
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Jun 15, 2019
Make sure you test drive them both. They feel very different. I wanted a 2nd Tesla and faced the same decision a new 3/Y or a used S. Test drove new M3P and MYP multiple times and ultimately bought a '15 P85D with 28K mi. and battery warranty through 6/2023 for $38K on craigslist. This was before used car prices skyrocketed and I definitely got lucky. Now I'm seeing the same specs for ~$58K which would have swayed my decision the other way.

I personally prefer the boat-like ride quality of the S/X over the go-kart feeling of the 3/Y. People talk about the 3 as if it's a Miata when it weighs over 4,000 lbs. The single screen and steering wheel feel cheap to me. Also I find 3's ugly from most angles. I'm not convinced there will be major improvements to battery longevity or charging performance in the long run either. We just haven't seen the data yet. Before owning any Tesla out of warranty I would look into your local 3rd party repair options and consider the 057 battery extended service as a safety net.

If I were in your shoes today it would take a pretty amazing deal on a 2016-2020 Model S P100D/Performance to be worth it.
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Active Member
Supporting Member
Apr 30, 2021
Park Cities, TX
Simple choice. I'll take the one that has a warranty with the longest period. Model S's seem to have pretty common headlight issues. A replacement is over 3k per side. I have a refreshed S and that is one of my biggest concerns about the car (other than hating the yoke and lack of stalks). I think the 3 will likely have better range than the S's you could buy in the price range.

The 3 is a much more fun car to drive if you prefer flickability. If you drive in the cold, the new heat pump system is more efficient so less of a hit in the winter. A new 3 will be probably as quick as an older S. As mentioned it will charge faster.

With the crazy used car market, I'd definitely buy a new 3 rather than over pay for a used S. We ordered a 3 in very late Jan and picking it up in a few days. So not too long of a wait and new used car price gouging. We went with the LR and will add acceleration boost after delivery. If Tesla rolls out track mode like it seems he might in response to a tweet, it will make it even more fun.
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Longer bumper to bumper warranty, unless you're comfortable ripping into expensive cars.

I love my MS but the onboard charger started dropped to 50% charge rate on L2 charging (3 months out of warranty). Tesla wanted $3.2k to replace it. I replaced it for $350 with a used charger on Ebay. It took a couple days but I learned a lot and am now a lot more comfortable working on the car, myself.

If you're patient you can save a lot of money swapping for used parts.
I had the same decision, went with 2017 Model S, very happy with my choice. I was buying from a dealer (vroom) so came with 90 day warranty, which I used as soon as I got it. It came with problems like the main screen not working. Thought it was a headache at first, and my car was in the shop for a good month or so when I first got it, I essentially got a free MCU2 upgrade thanks to the 90 day warranty, and Tesla gave me a loaner throughout the process so it was no big deal.

Since then a few small maintenance issues, nothing expensive, and each time Tesla gave me a loaner so it was no problem at all. I bought an extended warranty through XCare for just under $4k. I factored that in to the price going in when comparing to a model 3.

Ultimately your choice, but if I were you, and I was considering a used S, I would factor in the cost of an extended warranty for piece of mind.
I made the decision in 2018.

I ended up going with a used 2016 MS75 with about 18K miles. What did it for me was the warranty (I got a 4 year, 50K bumper to bumper warranty) and free supercharging for life. Also at that time the M3 were more difficult to get and were more expensive as they only had the long range available.

Eventually I got a M3 Standard range in 2020... very good decision too.


Active Member
Oct 18, 2021
@kwhguzzler S and 3 are such different cars to drive, and their sizes + cargo hauling capabilities are vastly different too. Ignoring new vs used, you should have a clear preference of your own, and I encourage you to follow your preference, whether it leads to the used car (S) or new one (3).

I have an old S (2013 P85) and still-new-feeling 3 (2021 M3P). I love driving the M3P way way more. On the flip side, our S has been an amazing family car and only car for many years, and the 3 could never replace the S for us. Nor would I trade our M3P for any S....they're just very different cars to me.

I will say if you're at all into sporty-feeling, responsive cars then the used S to get is a P85+ or an early P85D with the Plus suspension. The Plus suspension was actually quite good, it really transformed the car into something with much sharper handling. It felt like even the bushings were stiffened up in a good way, not just different spring and damper tuning. Earlier and later Model S drive like boats in comparison (yes including mine). But a Model 3 is still more nimble-feeling, tossable, and fun than even a P85+.

Edit: 😁
I think the big downside of Model S is MCU1 which does not benefit from software updates and is too slow.

If you get MCU2 (by way of the upgrade or a 2018 model), an old facelift Model S is a real bargain compared to the price one would pay for a 2021 Tesla Model S.

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