Should I buy a cheap Tesla?

Last updated 18-Sep-2023

Buying a cheap Tesla might seem a great way to get the car of your dreams for minimal outlay, but finding one is not necessarily easy.

Cheap is also a relative term, and one persons idea of cheap may not be anothers. We look at a few options and explaing the pro's and con's. The categories we'll look at are:

We have extensive inventory listings covering bith Tesla driect sales, and 3rd party sales, which gives is great insight into the market. You can browse our inventory listings to see the relative price points and ages of cars.

How cheap is the cheapest car overall?

This depends on where you are in the world, but in general the cheapest cars are the first Model S cars to arrive in that country. In the US you can find 2013 cars for $20k, in the UK a 2014 can be had for under £28k. In Norway a 2014 car will cost you as low as Kr 200k, and in Holland they start around €25k. But while cars at these prices exist, they are not common and will usually be high mileage or possibly accident damaged. They will almost certainly come with no warranty and probably have some issues. You may be able to buy cheap, but that does not mean the cost of ownership will be low.

That said, if you're handy with car DIY and are prepared to shop around for spare parts, there can be some good buys to be had. At present though, unless you can deal with a large bill should it occur, we would recommend being cautious about buying any Tesla without a Battery warranty. Not because failures are high, but because a failure is expensive to fix.

These early cars are likely to have a small battery, and even when new the useable range would struggle to break 200 miles. Taking into account degradation, they are likely to have a working range of approx 170 miles today for an 85, and less in winter. While any car delivered before April 2017 originally had free supercharging for life, this may have been taken away by Tesla at some point. Even if the car can supercharge, it's worth noting that they do not charge very quickly which can make for a frustrating experience.

Cheapest car that supports FSD?

In theory any Model S or Model Y car built after late 2016 could have the hardware required for FSD. If the car was purchased with FSD, then Tesla will have updated certain element of the hardware to help support this, although the notable excpetion is the Media screen which can be upgraded for a further $1500-$2000.

But if you want the cheapest, you will probably find an early Model 3 is the way to go. In the US an early Model 3 will cost from $25k. However, if you want the cheapest way of buying a car for FSD, then buy a car with FSD. These can start as low as $33k, and when you consider FSD as an option is $15k, you're effectively paying as low as $18k for the car. This is a reflect of the used market value of FSD.

Cheapest car under bumper to bumper warranty?

The Tesla bumper to bumber warranty runs for 4 years or 50k miles, whichever finishes sooner. Cars thart still qualify are again typically early Model 3s with lowish mileage. Cars can start from around $28k with a years warranty remaining.

The other option is to look at Tesla CPO cars which will give you a years warranty if the initial warranty has run out. Tesla aren't so keen on selling these cars so it may be hard to find one, but we've seen cars down at £30k in the UK compared to a starting point of £28k for similar cars without any real warranty provision. As such, it's well worth checking Tesla if warranty and peace of mind is important to you.

Top tips when buying an older Tesla

If you're buying a Tesla on a budget it's worth being aware of a few things. Our tops tips are:

  • Tesla make continual changes to the car design, and rarely with a defined date or VIN number when the cutover occurs. It can also vary by country. As a result, any youtube video or review that you might watch may not be to the same spec as the car you're looking to buy, even if the car looks the same and was made int he same year.
  • Quoted range, espcially in Europe, used an older system which resulted in very optomistic figures. Later cars are more realistic. Don't think a car with 270 miles range on the old system will go as far as a newer car with a 250 mile range using the new system.
  • Continual improvement in batteries tech and specification can often mean a later car but of a lower model is a better buy than an older model of a supposedly higher spec. e.g. a later MS75D is a better but than an early MS85D, and a later M3 RWD is a better buy than an earlier M3 LR.
  • Junk adverts exist all over the place by dealers who are looking to show they have stock to then try and up sell you when you speak to them. Be ruthless. Also watch out for scam adverts with cheap cars.
  • Mistakes in adverts are also common. The most common mistakes relate to transferable free supercharging, the autopilot version and other options, but the specification is also listed incorrectly with regard to numbers of speakers, 0-60 times etc. Even Tesla can make this mistake.

Starting prices by model

You can easily see the cheapest car by visiting our listings, and then filtering by model, but as a guide, in July 2022 the starting prices are below. It's worth noting the UK model lX, this is sold at Tesla with 1 year warranty and is the cheapest for sale in the country. Don't believe 3rd party dealers and resellers like findmyelectric when they say Tesla CPO inventory is too expensive.

The following prices are from Sept 2023. There have been some significant price drops over 2023 which these prices now reflect.

Model S

  • In the US you can find an early car for under $20k.
  • In the UK a 2014 can be had for under £18k.
  • In Norway a 2014 car will cost you Kr 210k.
  • In Holland they start around €23k.

Model X

  • In the US you can find 2016 car for $34k.
  • In the UK a 2017 can be had for under £32k.
  • In Norway a 2017 car will cost you Kr 300k.
  • In Holland a 2016 car will start around €40k.

Model 3

  • In the US you can find 2018 car for $24k.
  • In the UK a 2019 can be had for under £21k.
  • In Norway a 2019 car will cost you Kr 270k.
  • In Holland a 2019 car will start around €28k.

Model Y

  • In the US you can find 2020 car for $34k.
  • In the UK a 2022 can be had for under £40k.
  • In Norway a 2021 car will cost you Kr 450k.
  • In Holland a 2021 car start around €48k.

Where to Buy?

We talk about the different buying options in our general buyers guide, but at the cheapest end of the market we would look everywhere and buy the car purely based on condition and warranty.

Some will argue against buying from dealers who do not specialise in EVs. While there is some validity in that argument, to buy cheaply you need to know what you are buying, you will need to do your own research, and the less the dealer knows aboutt he car the more likely they will have priced it cheaply, sometimes just to get rid of it. In such a case, do not expect gold standard dealer facilities and insight and pay bottom dollar for the car.

What are the main things to wach out for?

For each model we have produced a buyers guide that covers the main issues with the model. We'd suggest starting there. Other things to look out for are:

Is a cheap Tesla like a modern one?

In a word, no. Over the years Tesla have made significant changes to the cars and an 7 year old car will be very different to one coming out of the factory today. Even the more recent cars like the Model 3 have had significant changes over the years including bigger batteries, the addition of the heat pump and an upgrade to the MCU.

An old Tesla does not have the technology a newer car does, and can also feel like an old car.

Other ways to save money buying a Tesla.

There are other ways to save money buying a Tesla. Our guide to saving money when buying a Tesla talks through some of the other options, buying inventory cars and when the best time to buy might be.

A word on depreciation

Buying an older car does not necessarily reduce the depreciation as it might with an ICE car. Buying a 1 year old Model Y for the same money as a 5 year old Model X may give rise to the same depreciation over a few years. We've seen some significant depreciation on older cars in the last 12 months, although depreciation on all Tesla is currently pretty high. A 2018 Model S 100D retailed on average for $63k in Oct 2022, a year later that car is retailing at $43k, a fall of approx 30%, and a cost per month of $1,600, just on depreciation. The car is also out of general warranty and any issues would need to be paid for. A 2020 Model Y LR has fallen by a little more but would have been cov ered by warranty.

At the moment, the depreciation on Teslas is sadly far too high, not helped with frequent price cuts on new inventory to stimulate sales.

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