Buying a used Tesla

Tesla have been selling cars for a number of years now and there is a steadily growing used car market. The earliest cars are now starting to fall outside warranty based on time and not just mileage in most countries although the battery and drive train is still covered on the MS.

Buying used from Tesla is an option and they will reset the 4 year/50k mile warranty if the car is under 4 years and 50k miles, and above 50k miles the warranty is 2 years up to a maximum 100k miles. Tesla are not overly enthusiastic over selling used cars and do not have a typically used car or CPO operation. Their inventory counts are generally low and their part ex prices are such that most sellers try and sell privately. Their used cars are therefore generally lease returns.

Buying used from a non Tesla dealer requires you to do your home work as many dealers simply do not understand the cars and options. We've been tracking the used car market in the for a number of years and the adverts are sometimes so wrong its a worry. Common things to look out for are: whether stated options are actually on the car, confused and mismatched descriptions such as 21' wheels with 19' tyres, and the inclusion of unlimited super charging on cars when it is not transferable. You also need to be careful about the quoted range of the cars, and the stated performance. We have seen 75Ds advertised with P100D performance statistics. But these things are the same when buying any used car from a dealer, the primary difference is dealers and buyers are less aware of how to check.

You can find car listings for many countries from our menu bar, we cover US, Canada, most of Europe including Norway and the UK, Australia and New Zealand etc. You can also sign up for email notifications for most countries.

What about the price changes in March 2019

This really caused some noise in the media and amongst owners. The cars that suffered the most were the P100D cars with approx. £40k/€50k taken off the list price, slight less in the US. Great for buyers, not so good if you're looking to sell. The changes have rippled down to the older and lower specification cars, and as a result there is more compression in the pricing spread. The launch of the Model 3 in most countries has now resulted in the older cars falling in price as the entry level to Tesla cars is now from £40k/€45k/$40k for a new car. The advantage the older cars have varies by country, anything from before April 2017 will generally have unlimited free supercharging (except when purchased from Tesla) and other benefits such as zero VED in the UK.

What options does the car have?

We've created an easy way for you to find out what options a car has, so long as the seller has the log in details for the car/the car is linked to their Mytesla account. Simply get them to go to this page, and either login using their Tesla credentials or their Tesla token and we'll list all the options the car has:

Car information

They can alternatively cut and paste the configuration string from the MyTesla account as described in on the page. If you don't have access to mytesla for the car, then these pages will hopefully help.

Tesla model history

As well as the main option changes we list below, we've also compiled a more detailed list of all the changes that have occurred by year:

Tesla Model History

We're tried to capture all the important and smaller changes there, although the exact date of a given change can be variable by country.

Which model?

Tesla currently have 4 used models available to buy. We list each car and give you some basic details and how they've changed:

Model S

Ignoring the Roadster, the Model S is the first production Tesla to reach any production volumes. The car has gone through many updates, tweaks, enhancements and problems since its inception and a car you order today will be considerably different to the early cars. The design is similar, but items such as batteries, autopilot hardware, quality of trim, even tyre sizes have changed over time, and sometimes changed back. This guide is based on the versions since AP was introduced so just check if you're buying a used car that it has anything that's important to you.

Exterior

The exterior looks have remained pretty much unchanged since introduction with just one major Facelift

This happened in late 2016 and the change is noticeable from the front. There were a few other changes that came with it, painted sills, new headlights, a bio-grade hepa filter (if premium pack was also selected) and other largely cosmetic stuff. Whether its worth holding out for the face lift car is personal choice, it looks fresher and is more in keeping with the Model X and model 3 and so we'd recommend it. The car is also more likely to still have a valid Tesla warranty (on non Battery and drive train components which will still be covered).

Interior

While the basic interior has changed little, the introduction of the next gen seats in 2015 gave a lot more lateral support to drivers although the rear is still pretty much a bench. There were a few P85D cars delivered with a more profiled rear seat but these seats didn't fold very flat. All cars since mid 2017 come with another version of seats which are more like the next generation seats but with a few tweaks. The material is pretty varied too, there have been various leather, fake leather, 'vegan' and cloth seats over the years.

The various cabin components have all been tweaked over time to give a better finish, there is now a centre console (introduced during 2016) and rear cup holders, but it's no premium German car although some like its more minimalist styling. The rear is great and 3 can sit comfortably in the back. It's also available as a 7 seater with 2 small seats in the boot but these are limited to small people (ie children) but the absence of heating or ventilation can make them a bit uncomfortable. The next gen seats were replaced in early 2017 to a new design which is still more or less the same.

Current changes to the new car configuration means there are fewer variations and some of the options like panoramic sunroof is only be available on used cars. Anyone considering a roof box will need the panoramic roof making this option attractive for some.

Model X

The car with the Falcon doors and the size of, well, the millennium falcon. It's the Tesla SUV and its huge. Built on pretty much the same platform as the Model S it shares many of the same good and bad points.

Exterior

The exterior hasn't changed since launch although there have been a constant stream of small incremental tweaks to the way things are connected, sensors. etc.

Interior

It's big and spacious and various seating options to suit all tastes including a third row and combinations of individual seats and a bench. Regarding the seat options there are 5, 6 and 7 seat combinations and the rear bench also changed to become folding. It's worth checking what it can do on any particular car before buying and do not assume that all the seats can fold floor for a cavernous cargo bay. On 5 and 7 seat cars with 3 individual second row sears, these are comfortable but do not fold. Also check 6 seat cars with a centre console.

Model 3

The car that is destined to change the world. Its certainly making a big impact and is not appearing as used cars in most countries.

Exterior

The exterior is still the same, the only real differences are between the model variants of the car

Interior

The same can be said for the interior, its slowly become more vegan over time but the design is pretty much unchanged.

Roadster

The car that started it all.

Production finished a long time ago and this could be destined for collectors status. There are plenty of Left hand drive cars around, but right hand cars are very rare and carry a premium.

The cars do have issues, the version 3 battery suffers from degradation issues and the PEM is an expensive item that fails, and parts can be on a long back order. We've heard of a bricked battery taking the best part of a year to replace. They also need modifications and adaptors to use on T2 and Chademo chargers. They're not for the feint hearted to buy and we suggest that anyone considering them either needs to have deep pockets or be technically very astute.

The majority of this page refers to the MS and MX. There are a few Roadster options, primarily which version you get as there were a number of tweaks and upgrades done to the car during its life. We're not going to go into too much detail as the market is tiny and the information very detailed.

Technology

We've drawn all the technology together into one section although its worth noting that the Roadster is fairly unique and so the following doesnt apply.

The fabled high tech cars are actually a mixture of actually quite old immature tech and fantastic innovation. The sat nav used to be a relatively standard, cheap affair that was superimposed onto a google map. It looked a lot better than it was. Its now been replaced with a Tesla version (in software 8.1) and while better, that too is not great. It's steadily improving and V9 is said to bring further enhancements.

DAB and Spotify are both poorly implemented with everything from tuning in not working half the time to displaying DAB text missing, its a frustration. Spotify can often hang and its a feature of the frequent software updates that things get worse and then better and then worse again.

Autopilot boils down to 4 choices; cars too early to get it, AP1 from 2015, the Mobileye developed capability that is pretty rock solid in terms of what it does, EAP on cars from the end of 2016 which to all intents and purposes does similar things to AP1, and Full Self Driving which doesn't exist yet. The hardware is either none existent, HW1 for AP1, HW2 for EAP and FSD, and an upgraded HW called HW2.5 with a few extra processes and redundancy. There is little benefit of HW2.5 over HW2 other than with respect to FSD as its widely expected that HW2 will no longer support FSD. If the car has the FSD option, it does guarantee you free hardware upgrades as required, and as its widely expected that HW2.5 is also insufficient then there's little to justify looking for the later hardware car. The only exception is in V9, its understood that the cameras can be used as some form of dash cam with HW2.5

Tesla has changed whats included in the various versions of Autopilot and new cars from March 2019 have a lower feature suite with Autopilot than the previous EAP, the option is slightly cheaper, and the missing features seem to be confined to advanced summon and autopilot on navigate, both of relatively marginal benefit in the UK.

Battery

There have been a number of batteries over the years on the MS, and to a lesser extent the MX. These include the 60, 70, 75, 85, 90 and 100, and indeed some batteries like the 60 have been in two different incarnations, the original pre face lift battery and then a later software locked 75 battery on the facelift. The naming convention generally reflects the kwh capacity of the battery although the 85 and 90 are especially poor with capacities being several kwh below the expectation. A modern 75 has almost the same capacity as an old 85, although it does charge slightly slower on a super charger.

It's worth mentioning the P car batteries. Before the dual motor cars, the P cars had an 85 battery and that came in P85 and P85+ trim. The P85D became the new performance car, and this was tweaked to become the P90D, both with Insane performance level. They then introduced a higher current fuse releasing more power from the battery, an option called Ludicrous. This was available as a retrofit to the P85D and on the P90D. It was also an option on P100D for a short while before becoming standard. It temporarily became an option again after the P100D name changed to Performance and the easiest way to tell if a car has it is to look for the underline on the model name.

The output of the battery varies by each model, in fact there are essentially 5 different power levels, the P85DL, 3 at the P90DL and the P100D, the gap between them is noticeable.

When looking at P90DL cars it can be difficult to know which battery you have, as a general rule the later cars always have the later batteries, but some of the earlier cars have them too due to battery replacements etc.

Tesla have now made the battery situation quite concerning. There had been some discussion around the 90 battery back and some early degradation of range which quickly levelled off, and there were also stories of the maximum supercharging performance being reduced by about 10%. However this seemed a bit patchy and only the early 90 cars were affected. From Aug 2019 however Tesla have been reducing the range of the 85 battery packs, possibly all early battery packs to protect them from fire or premature failure. This has resulted in a loss of range of up to 15%. We suggest you check the range of any car before buying to ensure its fit for your purpose.

In 2019, a new issue appeared with the original 85 battery (and other batteries from that era) and as a result of a number of fires, Tesla have changed the battery monitoring system and it is now extra cautious on the max level of charge. This has resulted in some, but not all cars, having the maximum charge level reduced and thereby reducing the range. This can result in as high as 30% loss in range compared to new, each car being unique, and Tesla have neither been very public about whats happening or being sympathetic to warranty discussions. When buying an older car it is worth checking the miles range displayed and extrapolating to see how this compares to new and see if this meets your needs, remembering that Rated economy is very optimistic in Europe and a little optimistic in the USA (the rated miles are calculated using a different standard back when these cars were made). It is also worth checking the software version in the car (this is expressed as something like 2019.32.xxxx meaning 32 week of 2019. Make sure the software is reasonably up to date as a software update could reduce the range further.

Options

Options on a Tesla can be expensive. Everyone has a view on their “must haves” so I'll not try to convince you otherwise, but here are the good and bad about them.

Option List

What to look out for when buying

When buying check out the following things. Obviously if under Tesla warranty most things will be fixed and all you're really concerned about it the paperwork and accident damage:

Other considerations

Supercharging

All Teslas except a very small number of MS60s from 2014 had super charging enabled. This was unlimited for the life of the car until the end of March 2017 where it became limited to a set amount per year, after which you would pay. Owners from April 2017 could use a referral code to get unlimited charging for their own purposes although this is not transferable to the next owner and the limit will be applied. Many used car garages fail to recognise this or advertise accordingly.

Matters have changed again in July 2019 where cars which previously had supercharging for the life of the car ie pre March 2017 delivered, have had that supercharging benefit revoked if resold by Tesla, ie taken in as part exchange, or returned at the end of a finance agreement. You now need to check the car regardless as the car may have been sold by Tesla as a used car in the past and had this happen to it.

Vehicle recalls

Not buying a car because of a recall simply means you'd never buy that model of car, but you may want to check if there are outstanding recalls not performed so you can arrange to get these done. You can check a cars recall status using the Tesla recall vin search.

UK specific advantages

VED in the UK

The government changed the VED payments for cars from April 2017. Cars registered before then were zero rated, however the post April 17 cars, because of their purchase price, are subject to the luxury car tax element of £450 a year for 5 years.

Company car tax.

Tesla being a full EV escaped the change in BIK where benefits were taxed at the cost price and not a % of the purchase price. The bad news is that the BIK rates are very high for 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 but falling in 2020 to only 0%. If you can weather the storm then its worth doing so, or just switch it to a company car at that point if you have the flexibility.

The other much touted benefit is the 100% FYA - effectively the Tax man pays for much of the car as you can offset it against tax. The bad news is that when you sell, you pay tax on the proceeds of the sale. You can of course also claim the expenses of running the car like servicing, tyres etc before tax.

Vehicle check

Before buying a used car, especially if buying privately, then its worth checking the car for finance, accident reports, and even whether its been stolen. There are a number of ways to do this, but one is to use a site like Total Car Check.

What would we buy used?

With the Model S, because the preface lift cars are starting to look a little old, and cars with EAP seem to command a premium in the hope that one day FSD will arrive (which we suspect will be some years away), we would head towards an early facelift car. They look like today's cars, at least on the exterior, they have unlimited super charging if bought privately, zero VED and still have some warranty left if below 50k miles.

The Model X has less choice although we'd steer clear of all of them except the 100D which also means we'd avoid the early cars. The P100D is an option now the prices have come down although often have the 22 wheels which are prone to curbing. The 75 and 90 batteries are too small really for the MX. We'd also suggest the 6 or 7 seat arrangement although if looking at 7 seat cars, decide whether you want the middle row as a folding bench or fixed captains chairs, the design changed on the early cars. You may also want to check for a tow hook which was optional on the early cars.

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