Buying a used Tesla

Tesla have been selling cars for a number of years now and there is a steadily growing used car market. Cars are now starting to fall outside warranty based on time and not just mileage in most countries, although the battery and drive train warranty is still covered until the cars are 8 years old. Only a few cars are now outside all Tesla warranty, typically cars over 8 years old or cars that have exceeded the mileage limits Tesla have on the battery and motor on the Model 3 and Y and the Model S and X first delivered in 2020.

Buying used from Tesla is an option and they will add 1 year/10k miles of warranty to whatever the car has left from the new car general warranty. The battery and motor warranty is left unchanged. Tesla are not overly enthusiastic over selling used cars and do not have a typical used car or CPO operation. Their inventory counts are generally low and their part exchange prices are such that most sellers try and sell privately. Their used cars are therefore generally lease returns or cars that were covered by a buy back guarantee they used to offer.

Buying used from a non Tesla dealer requires you to do your homework as many dealers simply do not understand the cars and options. We've been tracking the used car market for a number of years and the adverts are often wrong. Common mistakes to look out for are: ludicrous mentioned on cars without it, claims of free supercharging, ambiguous wording over "full self driving capable" without clarifying if the option has been bought or whether it's just the hardware has been installed, and understanding on the Tesla warranties. You also need to be careful about the quoted range of the cars, and the stated performance as dealers often quote the latest spec on older cars which can be considerably different.

You can find comprehensive car listings covering just about every country Tesla sell cars in to make your search easier, we even include more cars for sale at Tesla than Tesla advertise, but for independent sellers, follow our guides on how to confirm the options a car has and get things in writing from the seller if they are important to you when buying and can be hard to determine, such as free supercharging.

Buying a used Tesla from Tesla themselves, a dealer or privately.

Traditionally the best quality cars came from the manufacturer's dealerships and 'CPO' or Certified Pre Owned cars. The manufacturer will have a minimum standard the car must meet including mechanical and cosmetic standards before selling the car, and the car would come with a good warranty. Tesla is no different with the exception that their cosmetic standards are fairly minimal and the inspection is now largely mechanical. We have created a guide to buying a used car from Tesla to cover the various considerations on a purchase from Tesla.

Buying from an independent dealer is a half-way house, they should ensure the car is mechanically sound and they will typically address cosmetic issues to make the car as attractive as possible. They will also typically include a limited warranty, often by law, and may offer to provide an extended warranty for a fee. The cars can generally be inspected before purchase (unlike Tesla who only offer photographs) and even driven. A potential risk is if the car was bought at auction from Tesla as Tesla may have removed options such as unlimited supercharging, premium connectivity and autopilot but these changes have not yet been reflected in the car. It can be very hard to tell, so any such promises made by the dealer that these are still in force should be in writing to protect the buyer.

The final option is to buy from a private seller. Where cars are under the original warranty this approach is relatively risk free aside from the exchange of money and other guidance on buying any car privately such as checking there is no finance on the car, whether it is accident damaged etc. You can usually also see the owners MyTesla account to check on supercharging status etc.

Resources to find more information about a specific car

We've identified a number of ways for you to find out what options a car has:

Tesla have now added the ability to see the service record for a car via the app. Dealer sales may not be easy to show you the data as it is unlikely they will have access, but private sellers should be able to. While seeing the service record is reassuring, it is worth remembering that Tesla say the cars do not need routine servicing and so little to no servicing is possible. It's also possible that buyers have used independent dealers to service the car as these are cheaper than Tesla , sometimes more local as service centres can be some distance away and because Tesla don't mandate using them, in fact it can be hard to get a service appointment. These services will not show up on the app. We suggest that you see a service history on the app as a bonus and not a requirement.

And finally, using the year the car was built, you can see the what changes were made before and after a given year by checking our Tesla Model History guide. Any changes made in the year of a specific car need to be checked with the seller as changes have historically occurred at different times of the year and cars are not built in strict vin order. We would recommend that any feature that is important to your buying decision is confirmed with the seller.

Which model?

Tesla now 5 used models available to buy. We're created some model specific buyers guides:

Our thoughts on the other models in the range are below:

Model Y

The Model Y was introduced in 2020 and numbers are still relatively few but some will be appearing on the used market in countries where they are sold. As the car is so new there is nothing to comment on regarding the model history.

While the Model Y superficially shares many characteristics with the Model 3, there have been a number of significant changes to the car design for build efficiency. These have generally been taken favourably by the industry. Some of the proposed changes to areas such as the wiring loom which had been tabled as being massively reduced with a revolutionary design simply haven't materialised.

Original Roadster

The car that started it all.

Production finished a long time ago and this could be destined for collector's 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.

If you are considering buying an original roadster we suggest you do some serious research and talk to specialists before doing so as we have heard of a number of cars being off the road for significant periods of time (measured in years) waiting for replacement parts as they are simply not available.

New Roadster

The new roadster has been promised for some time and has been delayed a number of times. We strongly suspect this model is effectively a new shape Model S Plaid+ in coupe form and will be launched at or around the same time as the MS Plaid+. Current time-scales suggest that will be early 2022 but it is dependant on a new battery pack and Tesla being able to deliver the performance figures they have promised. Whether the Roadster will offer significantly more than the MS Plaid+ is unknown, but if they do make it, you can expect YouTube to overrun with drag racing videos of the car. We just hope that the changes allow for a more complete sports car than straight line acceleration and make it a genuine drivers car.

Technology

We've drawn all the technology together into one section although it's worth noting that the Roadster is fairly unique and so the following does not apply.

The fabled high tech is a mixture of actually quite traditional tech with some fantastic innovation. The navigation system is now a home brew system without many options for instance you cannot set way points, with the route superimposed onto a google map.

DAB and Spotify are both relatively poorly implemented and often fail all together after software updates and require patch fixes.

Autopilot boils down to a number of choices and in each case the cars may have the supporting hardware but not necessarily have the software enabled.

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The hardware is either none existent, referred to as HW1 for AP1, HW2 for EAP and FSD, which has subsequently had 2 upgrades called HW2.5 with a few extra processes and redundancy and HW3 which has much greater processing power. We have produced a guide to the differences features due to the different hardware versions to help explain what each does and does not give.

Battery

We've provided detail battery information in each of the buyers guides. The general rule we would follow is that larger batteries are the preference as in general they have better performance, charger quicker, and with the M3 and MY are higher specification cars. The only exception to this is with a significant facelift where we would option a smaller battery facelift car than a larger battery prefacelift car, for instance a MS 75D facelift would be our preference over a MS 90D pre facelift.

What to look out for when buying

For each model we have now created a buyers guide which includes the common issues with the cars and these should be checked. Obviously if under Tesla warranty most things will be fixed although Tesla are increasingly reisitant to changes you might expect to be warranty items. A list of the basic checks is below:

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