Both new and used Tesla vehicles are capturing the imaginations of many car buyers today, especially those who have been interested in electric vehicles (EVs), but had not yet found one that appealed to them from the standpoint of design and driving range. The driving experience reviews of Teslas by auto journalists have been by and large excellent from magazines like Car and Driver and Consumer Reports. Finding and choosing to buy a used Tesla, though, is a bit different than buying other used vehicles. Follow this ultimate guide to all aspects of buying a used Tesla. And for more information check out our comprehensive guide to certified pre-owned cars.
What you need to know about Teslas
- Teslas are electric vehicles (EVs) powered by batteries only.
- There is no internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline to power a Tesla when the batteries run out. They are not hybrids like a Toyota Prius where the car is powered by a combination of gas and battery power, nor are they extended-range electric vehicles like a Chevy Volt where a gas engine backs up the battery.
- Teslas can be charged at home with a NEMA 14-50 charger that comes with each car, and takes 10 hours to charge from a 240-volt wall outlet similar to one used by an electric clothes dryer. They can also be charged at a Tesla fast-charging station, which takes about 20 minutes to put a 50% charge on the car, 40 minutes to charge 80% and 75 minutes to charge 100%.
- Most used Tesla models can charge up at Tesla fast-charging stations for free.
- Tesla vehicles are eligible for driving alone in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.
What to know about owning a used Tesla
- Repairs on Teslas are carried out by shops that are chosen by Tesla. Tesla has company-owned stores through which cars are sold, but they do not have a network of independent dealers with their own repair facilities.
- Owner support is managed through regional service offices. There is generally more support from Tesla stores following a new-car purchase than a used car purchase.
- Used Tesla models have varying driving ranges on a 100% charged battery of between 208 miles and 295. Make sure you buy the range you need for your daily driving needs.
- A certified pre-owned (CPO) Tesla comes with a 70-point inspection, and Tesla’sCPO warranty offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for 4 years or 50,000 miles from the CPO purchase date, along with the remainder of its original 8-year or unlimited-mileage powertrain warranty.
- Many Teslas are equipped with a feature called Autopilot driver-assist system, which provides a “semi-autonomous” driving experience. That means the vehicle is equipped with a system of sensors that could potentially allow the car to drive itself, as in slow stop-and-go traffic, though the current standard is to keep hands on the wheel at all times. This system is designed to reduce accidents as the sensors can react faster than humans to potential collision situations. There have been, however, instances of accidents with Teslas equipped with this feature, so a complete and thorough understanding of this feature is highly recommended before using it.
What are the benefits of a Tesla electric vehicle?
Electric vehicles are on the rise. As vehicle manufacturers like Tesla, Chevrolet, Nissan, Audi, and Volkswagen introduce new EVs with longer driving ranges, more consumers show interest. Here are the benefits.
- Emission-free driving that is cleaner than driving internal combustion and diesel vehicles.
- Wonderful performance and acceleration. A 0-60 acceleration time of between 3.8 seconds and 5.5 seconds is the norm for the Model S sedan, Model X and Model 3 crossovers.
- Fewer repairs and lower maintenance costs because an EV does not have the complexity or upkeep of an internal combustion engine.
- Electricity is cheaper than gasoline, and there are opportunities beyond free charging at Tesla fast-charging stations, such as free charging in municipal parking garages and at some employers, for no-cost or low-cost charging.
- Charging an EV overnight at home provides the cheapest energy available.
- Scaling up EV usage is good for energy security because all U.S. electricity is produced from domestic sources, including coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable sources.
- An EV is not only cheaper to operate than a gasoline-powered vehicle now, but it is a hedge against rising oil prices since an EV owner has control over sources of electricity.
- Tesla offers the best driving range of any EV today.
- Tesla has a network of fast-charging stations that offer free charging for Model S, Model X and some Model 3s.
How do you know if an EV is right for you?
- The ranges of Teslas range from around 200 to 300 miles. Will your daily driving habits allow you to drive within that range if fast-charging is not convenient to you?
- Do you frequently take trips of a few hundred miles that could make driving an EV such as a Tesla inconvenient?
- Unlike gas-powered vehicles, there are not re-fueling stations on every corner or every few miles. Are you willing to frequently plan your day around the ability to charge your vehicle?
- Does your place of work have EV charging spaces to charge up while working?
- Are Tesla’s safe? Tesla’s crash ratings from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a perfect 5-Star score, demonstrating they are among the safest vehicles in America.
- Do you live in a rural area where re-charging options are limited.
- Can you live with the cargo space of Teslas?
- Tesla’s AutoPilot option has received much publicity, but you must know that hands-free driving is not an acceptable standard of driving anywhere in the U.S.
- Teslas are more expensive, even used Teslas, than other EVs and fuel-efficient gas-powered cars. Is a Tesla really in your budget?
Where can I find a used Tesla for sale?
- Start with a search on line and at your local dealerships
- You can also search for CPO Teslas on the Tesla website. These vehicles will be located all over the country. When a customer agrees to buy one, Tesla arranges to have the vehicle transported to the nearest Tesla store.
- Many buyers of used Teslas find their vehicles through an internet marketplace website like only used tesla or the Tesla Motors Club where sellers list their vehicles and would-be buyers state the vehicle they are looking to buy.
- There are other online Tesla forums on which owners list their cars for sale. If you are considering buying a Tesla from a private seller, it is a good idea to have a local shop with EV experience inspect the car. The Tesla owners community is a tight-knit bunch, and stories abound on forums of Tesla owners checking out and test driving a used vehicle for a would-be buyer living in another part of the country.
- Buying an EV, especially a premium EV like a Tesla, at a dedicated used-car lot/dealer is not recommended, as these vehicles are typically purchased at auction, and the sellers are typically not very knowledgeable about handling and assessing EVs.
What is the MSRP of a 2017 Tesla Model S?
The MSRP of a 2017 Tesla Model S starts at $68,000 and tops out at $134,000 depending on the battery range and option package.
What to know about buying a used Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3
- Every CPO Tesla through Tesla’s website comes with a 70-point inspection performed by an official Tesla maintenance/service center, and either a 4-year/50,000 mile warranty or 2-year warranty with up to 100,000 mile warranty.
- Tesla requires you to commit to a CPO car before they transport it to you. But do a thorough inspection of the vehicle’s condition, going over as many of the 70 points yourself as possible before signing for delivery. Inspect both the exterior of the car for dents and dings, as well as the interior surfaces and materials for scratches, stains and tears. Deficiencies should be taken up immediately with Tesla customer service before taking possession of the car.
- You should check the CarFax and the other usual details on a Tesla as with any other car before buying it. Review the steps in our article, CarFax vs AutoCheck: 10 Steps Before Buying a Used Car.
- There is free charging at Tesla supercharging stations as long as you buy it as a CPO through Tesla’s approved referral link. As of this writing, free charging for a Model 3, though, only extends to the performance version of the Model 3. For others, you pay a fee based on how much power you use. The rate paid varies by geography.
- Most of the used Teslas available these days are Model S’s. There are some Model X’s, and there are even fewer Model 3’s as the Model 3 began deliveries to customers in 2018.
The Tesla brand has been the most effective so far in the US in attracting new customers for electric vehicles. Between the cost of the top-of-the-line Model S, though, and the wait-times for the Model 3, a customer’s best bet for owning and enjoying a Tesla may be to buy a used Tesla. With the warranty protections available, a buyer of a used Tesla could have peace-of-mind while they drive a premium vehicle and pay zero for gas.