Buying a used Tesla

Last updated 02-Aug-2022

Tesla have been selling cars for a number of years now and there is a steadily growing used car market. Cars are now increasingly falling out of warranty, either because they are over 8 years old for the battery and motor warranty or 4 years for the general car warranty. Cars may also be out of either warranty based on mileage with only the earliest cars have an unlimited mileage Battery and motor warranty. The mileage limits vary from model to model.

Buying used from Tesla is an option and they will give a minimum of 1 year/10k miles of general warranty. The remaining 8 years and potentially limited mileage battery and motor warranty are left unchanged. Tesla are known to remove features from cars such as downgrade autopilot and remove both free supercharging and free premium connectivity.

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 transferable supercharging which is not always the case,
  • ambiguous wording over "full self-driving capable" without clarifying if the option has been bought or whether it's just the hardware,
  • understanding the Tesla warranties and whether the car is still covered,
  • not understanding the range or performance of the cars and quoting it for different models.

Some dealers also write articles or post videos on Youtube and sadly this exposes their lack of detailed knowledge even more, citing the wrong batteries in models or feature mistakes. Remember, car dealers are sales people first and foremost.

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 by Tesla than Tesla advertise. 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 although 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 often, at best, 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. We cover this in our guides

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 or whether it is accident damaged or stolen. 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?

There are now 5 used Tesla models available to buy. The Roadster is fairly unique and we have not attmepted to cover that model, for the others we have created model specific buyers guides:

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

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 2021 Model S Plaid in coupe form but there is no confirmed data for production and any dates that Tesla do talk about have so far always been missed. Tesla have also dropped the Model S Plaid+ which was our previous best guess to the underpinnings and as a result the car may never be made.

Cybertruck

The cybertruck has been revealed and a factory is being built but it still feels a long way from becoming reality. It's also likely to be only the America market (including Canada and possibly Mexico) model to start with.

Technology

We've drawn all the technology together into one section although it's worth noting that the original 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 with the route superimposed onto a google map.

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.

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.

Compared to other premium cars, features like head up display, 360 parking view, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, reliable speed camera reading at all speeds, augmented reality sat nav etc are all missing. We've produced a video that runs through the tech and compares it to a fairly modern BMW.

Battery

We've provided detail battery information in each of the buyer's 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 pre-facelift car, for instance a MS 75D facelift would be our preference over a MS 90D pre facelift.

What to look out for when buying

In the buyer's guide for each model we include the common issues with the cars and these should be checked. Obviously, if under Tesla warranty most things will be fixed although Tesla have been resistant to things you might expect to be warranty items. A list of the basic checks is below:

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