Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: What’s the difference?

tesla model 3 vs tesla model y
(Image credit: Tesla/Tom's Guide)

The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y might not be quite as desirable as they were a few years back, but they're still two of the major players in the EV market. They're not entry-level-priced EVs by any stretch, but hasn't stopped them from being the two most popular electric cars in the United States.

Tesla are designed to offer a feeling of luxury, even in its cheapest models. For Model 3 and Model Y owners, it means an upscale driving atmosphere that doesn't have a six-figure price tag. Granted neither car is as flashy as the Model S or Model X, but you still get a lot of great features for your money.

Deciding between the two can be a little difficult, though, and whether you want long range, performance, or a luxury-feeling interior, the Model 3 and Model Y have something to offer. But as similar as both cars are, there are just as many key differences that will make your job easier — least of all the price. So when it's a case of Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y, which car is right for you?

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Specs

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Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y
Header Cell - Column 0 Tesla Model 3Tesla Model Y
PriceFrom $38,990From $43,990
Range341 miles310 miles
Top Speed162 mph155mph
0-60mph3.1 seconds3.5 seconds
Extra featuresAutopilot, Sentry mode, App control, wireless charger, tinted glass roofAutopilot, Sentry mode, App control, wireless charger, flat folding seats, tinted glass roof

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Price

Tesla model y render on the road

(Image credit: Tesla)

The Tesla Model 3 is the cheapest car in Tesla’s portfolio, despite all the price increase. It did look like the single-motor Cybertruck might have usurped its position, but with news the electric truck will be more expensive than originally promised the title of "cheapest Tesla" falls back to the RWD Model 3.

The latest price changes means the RWD Tesla Model 3 now starts at $38,990. That's the entry-level model that's pretty bare bones compared to other cars in the Tesla line-up. A high-speed Performance model previously started at $50,990, but is currently unavailable, and while the Long Range model starts at $42,990.

The Model Y is a little bit more expensive. The standard range model costs $43,990, while the Long Range model jumps up to $48,990. The Performance model costs $52,490. Those prices can be lowered to a respective $36,490, $41,490 and $44,990 thanks to the federal EV tax credit.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Design and interior

Tesla model 3 interior

(Image credit: Tesla)

The Tesla Model 3 is a sedan, while the Model Y is a hatchback SUV. Naturally that comes with a few differences in the overall look of the car and what you get on the inside.

Being a sedan means the Model 3 has a much sleeker and sportier profile than the Model Y. It’s closer to the ground, and has a much flatter hood. However, that design comes with some drawbacks, as you’ll only find 15 cubic feet of rear trunk space. 

The Model Y comes with 36 cubic feet, on account of the noticeably larger SUV design. It’s two inches longer and wider than the Model 3, as a whopping seven inches taller. While you can squeeze five people into a Model 3, the Model Y’s spacious iterior means they’re going to be a lot more comfortable on long drives.

tesla model y's flat fold seats

Tesla Model Y's flat-fold seats (Image credit: Tesla)

You also have the option for a third row in the Model Y, which means you can get seven people in there. The Model Y also has an optional tow hitch, which the Model 3 lacks, though it will cost you an extra $1,000

As for the rest of the design, there isn’t much more to differentiate the two EVs. The dash is nearly identical, and you'll get the same glass roof, 15-inch touchscreen control panel, wireless charger, cup holders, power-adjustable seats and vegan-friendly “softer than leather” interior.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Power

Tesla Model 3 on the road

(Image credit: TeslA)

The power you get with the Tesla Model 3 all depends on which version of the car you purchase. All of them pack in two motors, but the cheapest model only comes with rear-wheel drive. Long Range and Performance models come with all wheel drive, and that offers a little bit more oomph.

So the RWD Model 3 will go from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds, and has a top speed of 140mph. Long Range and Performance manage to get to 60mph in a respective 4.2 and 3.1 seconds, and each have top speeds of 145mph and 162mph.

The Model Y isn’t quite as good in this respect. While both models have all wheel drive and beat the standard Model 3, its acceleration and top speed are lower than the equivalent Model 3. Long Range manages 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, while the Performance manages it in 3.5 seconds. Both models have a respective 135mph and 155 mph top speed.

The Model Y is only a fraction of a second slower than Model 3, and chances are you won’t even get close to that top speed on a public road. But for those obsessed with the highest numbers, or who want to take part in some drag racing, the Model 3 has the edge.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Battery and range

Tesla model 3 render on the road

(Image credit: Tesla)

Once again the range you can expect is all dependent on which model of car you purchase. And there’s a very obvious correlation with bigger batteries making your car last longer.

If you pick up a RWD Model 3, you can expect to get 272 miles out of the battery. The Long Range offers a larger battery, and comes with 341 miles of range.

The Tesla Model Y can offer 260 miles with the standard range model, 310 from the Long Range model and 285 miles out of the Performance model. That difference in range will be down to the smaller battery, as well as the Model Y’s larger design. That’s the sacrifice you have to make for having room to put more stuff (and people) inside your car.

The Model 3 recharges faster, with Tesla claiming it can regain 175 miles of range in 15 minutes, while the Model Y can only get 162 miles in the same time. Though all variants of the cars can now enjoy the full force of Tesla's V3 250kW Supercharging network

So if you want to maximize range and optimize recharge time, the Model 3 is the car to pick.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Autopilot and other tech 

tesla autopilot illustration

(Image credit: Tesla)

In terms of special features, both cars have the standard Tesla suite. That includes basic Autopilot, that comes with basic autonomous steering, acceleration and braking, lane assist, collision warnings and blind-spot alarms. 

The “Full Self-Driving package” is also available on both for cars, either as a one time purchase of $15,000, or it can be accessed with Tesla's $199 a month FSD subscription service. Both the Model 3 and Model Y included Tesla's Full Self Driving Computer 3.0 from day one. So you shouldn't have to pay an additional $1,000 to have your computer upgraded, which has happened to owners of some older Model S and Model Xs.

It's worth reminding people that this isn’t complete Level 5 autonomous driving. Instead this lets you navigate on freeways, change lanes automatically, automatically park, a summon option, as well as light and stop sign recognition.

If Full Self Driving is too pricey for you, there's always the Enhanced Autopilot option. Costing $6,000, this version of Autopilot comes with Navigate on Autopilot (for highways), auto-lane change, Autopark, Summon and Smart Summon. However it's not likely to get upgrades as readily as FSD, and isn't eligible to take part in the FSD beta. The feature suite on both cars is identical.

Both cars also come with a sentry mode that monitors the surrounding area when the car is unattended, a glass roof shielded from UV and infra-red light, over the air updates and mobile app support. Inside they have the same 15-inch touchscreen control panel, a wireless charging pad, and “advanced climate control”. 

That last one is Tesla's fancy HVAC control system, which lets you control what air flows where by dragging simulated air flow across a touchscreen — which you can see below.

Tesla Model 3 HVAC control menu

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

All car models get complimentary access to Tesla’s Standard Connectivity, which offers simple navigation, for eight years.

If you want data-heavy features, such as live traffic visualizations, satellite-view maps, video and music streaming, you'll need to subscribe to Premium Connectivity. That will cost $10, or $99 a year, a month — no matter which car you have. Neither car supports Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Outlook 

tesla model 3 app control

(Image credit: Tesla)

Which Tesla you buy is completely dependent on what you want to get out of your car. The Model 3 easily wins on both range and performance, if you’re only looking at the numbers. But you have to sacrifice interior space as a result.

The Model Y isn’t far behind in terms of both range and power, though the benefit of owning one is that you can fit a lot more stuff inside. You can still hold a lot in the Model 3’s trunk, but you might want to be mindful of its limitations before you try and fill it with Ikea furniture — even with the back seats folded down.

But the reality is that both cars are very similar. The price difference between comparable models isn’t huge, and honestly, both are  going to look very similar to the untrained eye. When it comes down to it, it all just depends on what you need your car for.

Families and other people who can take advantage of the size of an SUV will want the Model Y. If you want a Tesla on the cheap, or you want to maximize the amount of range or power your car has, then the Model 3 is for you. There’s no wrong answer, and you’ll get a pretty similar Tesla experience regardless of choice.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.

  • Willemvd
    “Both the Model 3 and Model Y included Tesla's Full Self Driving Computer 3.0 from day one.”

    Wrong. Hardware 3.0 was introduced mid production of the model 3. The first model 3 was produced in July 2017. Hardware 3.0 was added in March 2019. So there are a lot of Model 3 cars for which an upgrade is necessary parallel tot Model X and S to enable FSD.