Last updated 05-Jan-2023
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, but also because they understand the cars better than anyone else. Tesla, like many things, don't quite follow the traditional logic and are reluctant to call used cars sold by themselves as CPO. Some claim they do not even have a CPO programme as Musk does not like the term, but on the basis that Tesla do actually sell used cars, they do provide warrant on those cars, and they do have a formal checklist, we believe the generic CPO term for a manufacturer sold used cars is still a valid one and differentiates such sales from those from a 3rd party.
If is however worth understanding how they differ. What Tesla do not do is make the cars like new, and they are even prepared to sell cars with some minor accident damage, although this is made clear. This guide helps explain what potential buyers need to know. Please see our other guide to buying a used Tesla for more general advice on buying a used Tesla, especially with regard to the continuing changes to car features.
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 leaves room for quite a few cosmetic defects and issues, one scratch may not be too bad, but the cumulation of small damage by a previous owner will be hard to judge. We know cars may be sold following bodyshop work, one of our own purchases came with a replacement rear bumper/fender, however the paint match was not great in certain light, a common issue with modern paints especially visible where metal and plastic surfaces meet such as a fender/wing as the paint seems to reflect light differently.
Tesla generally don't let you inspect the car before purchasing, although we're increasingly hearing that cars can sometimes be found at service/sales centres and an unofficial look around is possible. It's worth noting that Tesla may use CPO cars for loan cars while waiting to sell them. Tesla periodically provide images of the car although this seems to be inconsistent. We do not know what triggers the pictures to be taken, and they rarely appear in some countries whereas other countries often have them. We make it clear where pictures exist and provide access to them through our listings. Otherwise, the cars are often sold unseen.
Until Oct 2020 Tesla used to supply a very generous 4 years/50k miles up to an overall maximum of 8 years/100k miles on CPO cars. You effectively got a fresh 4 year warranty on the car.
This has changed to a simple 1 year/10k mile although the this sometimes appears to be an extension to the existing factory warranty, and sometimes it replaces the factory warranty. We have not found any hard and fast rule so check carefully the wording. This warranty is however the best warranty you can get on a ysed Tesla.
The 8-year battery and motor warranty remain unchanged together with any mileage limits that may apply.
For many, this warranty is well 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 it from used cars and no used car sold by Tesla will have unlimited free supercharging irrespective of the cars age.
In a similar manner, some cars 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 lifetime premium connectivity and most will only offer a 30 day free trial.
Tesla have also announced that standard connectivity may be limited to the cars 8th birthday. We strongly suspect Tesla will start removing lifetime standard connectivity to used/CPO cars like they have with other features, but only when these cars are traded by or via Tesla.
While there is much debate about Tesla removing autopilot or free supercharging, when buying a car from Tesla the description on the website will be accurate. Tesla may have removed FSD that was purchased by a previous owner from the car, but they may equally have added it to the car to increase the cars value in the market.
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.
Cars listed by Tesla directly will have a detailed and correct specification.
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.
Our listings are unique in that we allow you to see New, CPO and Used side by side so you can see the relative price differences.
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.
A typical scenario to explain why this is important the comparison between a new/recent Model 3 RWD and a 3 year old Model 3 LR. Many will have decided they want the extra range of the Long Range, but 3 years ago these cars had a 75kwh battery, no heat pump, and a number of efficiencies have been introduced since. A recent Model 3 RWD has those new features, if it uses the LFP battery can be happily charged to 100%, and other than straight line acceleration is a very credible option for similar money. We'd recommend a 2022 RWD over a 2019 LR every time if they were similarly priced.
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.
Ways you can support tesla-info