Last updated 04-May-2022
Not everyone is in the market to buy a new car and buying a used car is their only option. Historically the next best thing to a New car would be buying a 'certified pre owned' or CPO car. These are used cars sold by the manufacturer but with a degree of security only the manufacturer can give, in part due to the integrity of their reputation. Tesla, like many things, don't quite follow the same logic and are reluctant to call used cars sold by themselves as CPO and some claim they do not have a CPO programme. We beg to differ on the basis that Tesla do sell used cars, do warrant those cars, and do inspect the cars for various issues. What they don't do is make the cars like new. This guide helps explain both what they do, don't do and changes they may make to the car including the cars specification.
This guide is around the specifics of buying from Tesla, please see our guide to buying a used Tesla for more general advice on buying a used Tesla.
Tesla don't just sell cars without checking they are roadworthy; this would be illegal in most countries. Tesla perform a multipoint mechanical and cosmetic inspection and list the following:
This leave room for quite a few cosmetic defects and issues, one scratch may not be too bad bit the cumulation of small damage by a previous owner will be hard to judge.
Tesla don't let you inspect the car before purchasing, and while some listings have images of the car, Tesla have stopped doing this for all cars. Effectively you are buying the car unseen.
Tesla changed their used car warranty in Oct 2020 from the previously very generous 4 years/50k miles up to an overall maximum of 8 years/100k miles to a simple 1 year/10k mile extension over any existing warranty the car may still have from the factor. As an example, if the car still has 6 months of the new car warranty left, buying it as a used car from Tesla will extend it to 18 months. The same goes for mileage, if the car has 8k miles left, it will extend to 18k miles. The warranty will be the first of those two metrics to be reached. The 8-year battery and motor warranty remain unchanged.
For many, this warranty is worth having as Tesla's are susceptible to a number of issues especially as they get older.
It's been known for some time that cars delivered after April 2017 did not have transferable free supercharging, but prior to this date cars were thought to have lifetime free supercharging. Tesla have now started to remove that from used cars and no used car sold by Tesla will have unlimited free supercharging irrespective of the cars age.
In a similar manner, until recently all MS and MX had lifetime premium connectivity. Tesla have changed this for new cars and are retrospectively applying the same rules to used cars they sell. You can no longer buy a Tesla with premium connectivity and most will only offer a 30 day free trial.
The cars also have a number of software options, most notably Autopilot. Tesla can either take away or add Autopilot features as they choose depending on their sales strategy. The most common change we see is Tesla removing EAP from cars that previously had it, changing them to only Autopilot which removes a number of features such as Summon even when Autopilot wasn't a valid option when the car was first registered. In other cases, often the performance models, Tesla may add EAP or FSD.
Tesla make the changes to cars they sell directly AND to cars they put through auction. As a result cars bought at independent dealers may have the changes applied to the car.
Tesla sometimes take a while for the changes to be reflected in the actual car. This can make buying from a dealer especially hazardous as the car can appear to have features it does not have and will, in the fullness of time, be taken away. If buying from a dealer, always check the history of the car and get any required feature a condition of the sale.
It is well worth looking at new and ex demo cars and not just CPO cars unless you are looking at fairly early Tesla's. The difference in price between a year old CPO and New car can often be fairly small and due to the continual changes Tesla make, including improvements to efficiency, changes to battery size and changes to the technology including the main screen processor, buying a latest specification car may be a wise choice for a relatively small increase in price.
It would be easy to think that the car's don't change much from one month to the next, and any changes are just software changes which get rolled out to all cars. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Even changes introduced at the end of a year may not happen all at the same time and so cars can have a mixture of updates.
Our Tesla listings all breakdown the various codes to tell you exactly what you're getting. This is fairly unique and tells you much more about the car than even Tesla do.
Buying a used car from Tesla is not easy, you cannot physically see the car or have any high expectations on the quality of the car they are selling. The specification of the car may also be different from that of the previous owner, and even the detailed specification of the car can be hard to see.
Even when buying away from Tesla at a 3rd party, while there are benefits as most dealers will correct cosmetic issues or be prepared to negotiate over them, the specification downgrades may still apply if they purchased from Tesla via auction.