Selling a Tesla
Last updated 02-Mar-2022
Mainstream Tesla's have been around now for several years and more and more owners will now be looking to sell their Tesla, even if that is just so they can buy a new model. Tesla are not known for generous part exchange prices on their cars and so owners are increasingly looking for alternative ways to sell their existing car. Selling a car differs from country to country, however there are some general rules that are useful when it comes to selling a Tesla, how to communicate clearly the options the car has, and how to remove your details from the car when you finally wave it goodbye.
Some of the things we suggest are just the sellers equivalent of what to look for when buying a car, and covered in our guide to buying a used Tesla.
Where to sell
There are a number of ways you can sell your car, the most typical methods are:
- Part exchange the car when buying the replacement car. This is by far the simplest method as the change over from one car to the next is coordinated and the value of the car is automatically put against the purchase price of your new car. The downside however is this will typically yield the lowest price for the car.
- Selling to a brokerage type company that claim to buy any car. These companies are typically the public facing arm of auction companies and the cars will be sold into the trade within a few days via an auction house. They often offer online valuations and then on presenting the car they reduce the price for any cosmetic damage or missing service history. They are useful if you want to separate the sale of the car from the purchase of a new car, but they also typically offer fairly low prices.
- A variation of the above would be to use a trade brokering service where the cars are listed and dealers offer money directly to you. For cars in demand this can be a quite successful route and typically offers more than the above options for popular cars. If for some reason the car is not in demand, maybe because it has an odd colour or is missing an essential option, it may not receive any offers, or the offered price is not as high as you would like. Some dealers will also offer below the market value in the hope they simply get lucky.
- You can always sell directly to a dealer. Some independent dealers may buy stock, but rather than approach dealers hoping to get find that is interested, you trade brokering service is likely to be more successful.
- The alternative way to use dealers is to sell your car on a sale or return basis. Essentially you are asking a dealer to sell the car as if they owned the car with all the dealer facilities they have to hand. The eventual buyer gets the peace of mind of a dealer sale, the dealer takes care of viewings and finances, the car will also be prepared for sale by them, and in return you either agree a fixed fee or percentage commission of the sale price which the dealer keeps. This can yield a much better price for your car as the dealer has little capital expenditure invested in the car, however it can take a while to sell the car and you will still have to pay for any remedial work and servicing the dealer feels is needed even of the car does not sell, however these should always be agreed in advance. You really need to be prepared to leave your car with the dealer though otherwise the dealer will be arranging for potential buyers to visit and inspect the car, this however leaves you without a vehicle for a period of time.
- Specialist Tesla on-line listing services. These sites specialise on advertising Teslas and format the data in a specific way that reflects Tesla options like autopilot which generic 3rd party listing sites do not do. These seem popular but essentially if you list privately on one of these sites it is the same as selling directly with all the advantages and disadvantages.
- Sell directly. As there are no 3rd parties other than the feels associated with advertising this superficially looks likely to be the best way to get a good price and indeed it often is, especially when the car is still covered by a manufacturers warranty. For cars out of warranty the buyer typically has no protection if there are problems with the car when buying privately. Dealer sales are usually legally bound to provide a limited warranty which some buyers would prefer. The downside for the seller is having to deal with viewings and handling the transfer of funds, although as banking systems tend to transfer funds instantly via online tools makes the exchange of funds a relatively easy process.
We will focus on these last options. The earlier options regarding selling into the trade simply require you to follow their procedures. We would however advise against selling to any trader who you feel uncomfortable with or seems to know little about the cars.
Sale or return
When looking for a dealer to operate on a sale or return basis we suggest looking at the dealers who have a lot of inventory of a similar type. A number of dealers have set up specialising in Tesla or EVs and these will appreciate the value of the car better and be able to advise any potential buyer easing the sales process.
We have however come across a number of so called dealers who simply operate from their driveway and the service they offer is no more than writing a good advert for you and taking the initial phone calls. Some get a following on owners groups but in practice they offer no increased value to the buyer or the seller, and charge a commission for doing so. Tesla cars are popular and when priced correctly they sell well. They will claim to get more money than selling to an auction house, but they rarely achieve more money after fees are deducted than if you sold directly to the public with a well written advert.
We would therefore recommend a dealer with a forecourt, service facilities so they can prepare the car professionally and are approved to offer credit. Buyers will pay a premium on a $30k+ purchase for a true dealers facilities compared to buying from a driveway. Check the website of the dealer and look for reviews on their trading activities for help in establishing how reputable they are. We would also use Google maps street view to see their premises. If you would not buy a car from them, why would you trust them to sell your car?
Fees are typically $2-3k, sometimes less on cheaper cars, but remember older cars may need more preparation and some form of warranty to give buyers confidence, all of which will also be deducted from the sale price but should still result in a higher sale price.
When selling privately there are a few key steps to remember:
- Determine a realistic price for the car. Our inventory listings give a vast amount of information on the market price and how it changes with mileage for each car we list, simply find a car similar to yours and check the detail. Some options increase the price but generally not as much as you might imagine. Full self driving for instance, while a $6-10k option only adds approximately $2-3k to the resale value.
- Determine where you will advertise. Each country has a range of used car web sites which charge different amounts. Look to see where most of the similar cars are advertised as this is likely to get the most exposure. Some websites offer better value for money and it may be worth trying the second or third most popular website if you have some time. There are some dedicated Tesla selling websites, our experience of these is they just take your money, you do most of the work filling in a form and many of the adverts become stale.
- Create a great advert. The key things to communicate are the features the car has and what is left of the warranty. We have a guide to determine what features a Tesla has and we would recommend including the pictures of the two main screens in the listing as well as including the specification in the text.
- We see a lot of adverts that are badly written or miss key features including full self driving, worse try and make it sound like the car has full self driving when it doesn't, and sometimes these are by car dealers. We suggest the following are the key features that if you have them should be included:
- The CORRECT model. We are amazed how many adverts fail to mention whether the car is a 75D or 100D etc and leave the potential buyer guessing. If the car has ludicrous, then this should be mentioned as part of the model name.
- Level of autopilot, eg Autopilot v1, Autopilot, EAP or enhanced autopilot or Full self driving
- If you have an older Model S or Model X, supercharging and whether it is transferable, and please read our guide on this as many get it wrong
- If you have an older Model S or Model X, the version of the MCU especially if you have paid to get it upgraded.
- If you have an older Model S or Model X, whether the car has the premium pack, cold weather pack, air suspension and/or upgraded hifi. While these became standard later on, they were options on earlier cars.
- If you have an new Model S or Model X, whether it s a Raven model
- Any model but especially the Model 3, mention the model year and whether it has the heat pump and heated steering wheel.
- If there is a tow hook/bar, then mention it.
- List an extras and ancilliary items including the portable charger and any specific connections it may have and any public charging cables.
- The interior and exterior colour
- We recommend mentioning tyre tread depth, any servicing, and how many previous owners. In some countries you are required to include the VIN in the advert and this will help some owners.
- Some adverts seem to be littered with irrelevant features such as electric windows which we think detracts from the listing and are often simply wrong.
- Take good pictures of the car including the front, rear, sides, wheels, and interior especially the drivers seat. While trying to hide wear seems like a good idea, it is likely to just result in a negotiation point later on. It is far better to be upfront on these things from the star.
What is it worth?
The price of the car is what somebody is willing to pay. You may see adverts for cars similar to yours for more than you thought but that price may not be achieved, and they may have benefits that you don't offer, such as warranty, part exchange, finance, or features such as full self driving.
To work out a rough figure you can use our guide to Tesla depreciation and current value. Simply find the nearest comparable car model to the one you have and you will see the current valuation and market. Then apply some simple adjustments based on condition, features etc. These are advertised figures so expect to sell for slightly less to a dealer.
If you have agreed a sale then there are a few steps we'd recommend on top of any best practice for selling cars in your country. This list is to be seen in addition to general best practice when selling a car where you live:
- Get the buyers details and some form of proof of ID. Accept a small deposit at the time
- Be clear about any finance that may be attached to the car. A buyer is likely to run a check against the car and it is better for you to tell them than them finding out. Agree a settlement figure with the finance company and be open and transparent with the buyer about this communication.
- Before handing over the car, do a reset in the car to clear out all settings in the car. This will remove previous locations you have visited, etc.
- From my Tesla disassociate the car from your account. We would suggest agreeing with the buyer exactly when you do this. They may have a long journey home and wish to supercharge and removing the car from your account may result in supercharging being prevented as Tesla are increasingly insisting on a credit card being lodged on an active account even if the car has free supercharging. But we would not extend this courtesy for more than a day or two after collection.
- When they collect the car, get a timed receipt to say when they took the car away.
- Do not let the car leave until the payment is cleared in your back account and any finance has been settled.
- Complete any local obligations and registration transfer documents relevant to your are.
We also suggest following our guide to resetting your Tesla and removing it from your account.