The new wave of electric cars is taking a big step forward in two meaningful ways: more driving range and a lower purchase price. It can’t come fast enough for many eager EV shoppers who are waiting for cars like the Tesla Model 3, the Audi E-Tron Quattro and the second-generation LEAF. Here’s the good news: The price of a used Tesla Model S—a big, gorgeous, fast, long-range EV that has been on the market since late 2012—is dropping to what new-car buyers will pay for upcoming models with less range and space. Should EV shoppers consider a used Model S?
In a word: yes. To get a sense of the price for a used Model S, we looked at the 2013 model year—the first full year of sales (when nearly 18,000 units were put on US roads). There are several hundred 2013 Model Ss now available on websites such as Autotrader, eBay, Craigslist, Cars.com and Cargurus. The preowned section of Tesla’s website  has listings as well, but it’s easier to sort and refine your search on EV CPO Consolidator , a third-party site accessing vehicles in Tesla’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program. It’s also handy that EV CPO Consolidator has historical data to see past prices for the Model S.
Our search revealed these prices for the 2013 Tesla Model S:
Tesla Model S60
Tesla Model S85
Tesla Model S85 Performance
These are ballpark figures but are within striking distance of a new fully loaded Chevy Bolt or Model 3, which at higher trim levels will likely sell nearly at $50,000. Of course, new models benefit from a $7,500 federal tax credit.
The Tesla CPO warranty, while not the best in the industry, is still worthwhile. It offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for four years or 50,000 miles, starting from the purchase of the used car. CPO buyers also benefit from the remainder of the vehicle’s eight-year powertrain warranty. There are no deductibles for warranty repairs, and the warranty is fully transferable to the next owner.
You can save a few thousand dollars by buying directly from the owner via a third-party website, but buying from Tesla’s pre-owned program brings all the benefits of the warranty. If you find cars at significantly lower prices, you can expect that they either have a lot more miles on the odometer or have been in an accident. Photos on the Tesla website are stock images, while individual sellers post photos of the actual car being offered.
The use of Superchargers: Tesla’s policy changed at the beginning of this year. New models purchased in 2017 are limited to 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) every year. Beyond that, there is a small fee. Many early buyers of 85-kWh models were granted unlimited use of Superchargers—a perk that stays with the car for life.
Specific features make a difference: To determine if you’re getting a good deal, it’s important to evaluate the size of the battery; the motor size (with P designating faster models); the tech package; and two generations of AutoPilot features. Obviously, the goal is to compare apples to apples.
Quality issues early on: The residual value of Model Ss has generally been low according to some media reports, due to stories about minor quality problems in the early Tesla years. Reliability issues have affected the air suspension system, door handles, and accessory batteries. Replacement parts have not always been readily available and repairs can be expensive.
Low miles and battery condition: Tesla models often have fewer miles of use than gas-powered vehicles. That means less wear and tear. However, batteries do degrade over time. It’s not nearly as critical an issue for an EV with 250 miles of range as an 80-mile car. But it’s smart to find out how much range the current owner is getting; if the owner regularly charges the Model S to 100 percent, which reduces battery life; and if the car operated in very hot weather conditions, which can also have a minor impact a battery over time.
Have you been coveting the remarkable Model S, but it’s been beyond your reach? Well, with more used Teslas becoming available, this could be the time to get serious about putting one in your garage.