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Should I Buy a Used Tesla?: A Complete Guide

BY: Alex Perrone
Electric car charging station for Teslas

The allure of Tesla’s innovative technology, exhilarating electric performance, and commitment to sustainability have fueled a massive market for pre-owned and new Teslas alike. This ultimate guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate the exciting world of shopping for used Teslas by addressing crucial considerations such as battery health, software updates, extended warranty coverage, and the overall ownership costs to consider.

Why Consider a Used Tesla?

First and foremost, it’s worth looking at why a potential vehicle owner would even consider the used market for a Tesla in the first place. In short, Tesla vehicles have captured the attention and imagination of drivers around the world. Their sleek and cutting-edge design, coupled with features such as Autopilot and instant electric torque like no other, provides anyone with a unique driving experience. Also, owning a Tesla allows you to contribute to a cleaner environment by reducing your overall carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels.

When it comes to the value of a used Tesla itself, there are significant advantages. Compared to new models, pre-owned Teslas boast substantial savings while also retaining remarkable value. Depreciation always hits new cars the hardest, starting from the minute they’re driven off the dealerships’ lot, meaning you can opt for a gently used Tesla to experience the brand’s magic at a more accessible price point.

Specifically, there are four standout reasons, primarily financial benefits, which should be considered:

  1. Lower Purchase Point: Perhaps the most significant benefit of purchasing a used Tesla is the upfront savings associated with the lower purchase price. Depending on the model, year, and mileage, you could even save thousands of dollars.
  2. Tax Credits: An often overlooked financial benefit of owning a Tesla, depending on your location, is that you may still be eligible for federal or state tax credits when purchasing a used car.
  3. Slower Depreciation: Tesla models tend to hold their value for longer than other vehicles, meaning less depreciation over time. This means that after the initial drop that occurs when driving the car off the lot, the rate will slow.
  4. Fuel Savings: Naturally, owning an electric vehicle means you don’t need to pay for gas, which can be a substantial expense depending on your driving habits.

Battery Health and Longevity

Diving into some specific details, the battery health and longevity are standout features of a used Tesla. A healthy battery directly impacts your driving range and overall performance. Here’s what you need to know about this in greater detail:

  • Understanding Battery Degradation: Lithium-ion batteries, the technology used in Teslas, degrade slightly over time and with use. This degradation directly reduces the overall capacity of the battery, meaning the car won’t be able to travel as far on a single charge as it can when it’s new.
  • Factors Affecting Battery Health: Several factors can impact the battery health of your used Tesla, including extreme temperature, frequent rapid recharging, and deep discharges. Ideally, you want to find a used Tesla that has been primarily charged at home using a Level 2 charger and one that hasn’t been subjected to extreme heat or cold.
  • Tesla’s Battery Warning: Tesla offers a warranty on the battery and drivetrain for new vehicles, typically covering a specific percentage of degradation (around 70%) over a set timeframe (8 years or 100,000 miles; subject to change). A portion of this warranty may transfer to the new owner when purchasing a used Tesla.

Software Updates and Technology Features

Tesla vehicles are constantly evolving with software updates that are released on a regular basis. These updates enhance performance, introduce new features, and improve overall safety functionalities. When considering purchasing a used Tesla, ensure it has the latest software installed. To do this, make note of the following tips:

  • Understand the Benefit of Software Updates: Tesla software updates can bring a variety of improvements, including increased driving range, enhanced Autopilot capabilities, new entertainment features, and bug fixes. By staying up-to-date with the latest software, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your Tesla ownership experience.
  • Check for Update Availability: To determine if there is a software update that you’re missing out on, navigate to the “Software” section of your Tesla’s touchscreen. You will be able to see the current software version installed on the car, along with any indication of whether there’s a new update.
  • Future Proof Your Used Tesla: Generally, it’s worth knowing that newer Tesla models receive software updates for a longer period of time than older models. Consider this fact if you prioritize having access to the latest features, as purchasing a newer used Tesla may be the better choice.

Warranty Transferability and Coverage

One of the standout features of Tesla is the fact that they offer a warranty for new vehicles, but certain aspects of this warranty may transfer to new owners when purchasing a used Tesla. The New Vehicle Limited Warranty that comes on a Tesla typically covers the powertrain (including the electrical motor and drivetrain components) and battery for a specific period or mileage, such as four years or 50,000 miles. A portion of this warranty, which typically relates to the battery and drivetrain, may transfer to the new owner when purchasing a used vehicle.

This is why it’s crucial to confirm the remaining transferable warranty coverage with Tesla before finalizing your purchase. You can do this by providing Tesla’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to its service center or through its online portal. Additionally, be aware that the New Vehicle Limited Warranty typically excludes wear-and-tear items such as tires, brake pads, and wiper blades. Consider acquiring an extended warranty specifically designed for used Teslas, which can provide valuable protection beyond the transferable portion of the original warranty.

Tesla offers its own extended service agreement for certain model years, typically extending coverage for the powertrain and battery for an additional 2-4 years. When thinking about adding an extended warranty to your used Tesla, consider some of the following factors:

  1. Consider Your Needs: Evaluate your current risk tolerance and budget when choosing an extended warranty for your used Tesla. If you prioritize peace of mind and comprehensive coverage, a robust warranty plan may be better.
  2. Consider the Coverage Details: You should meticulously review the specific terms and conditions of any extended car warranty you’re considering adding to your potentially used Tesla.
  3. Consider Customer Reviews: Finally, research online reviews and customer experiences with different extended warranty providers, offering valuable insights into the quality of service and claim processing offered by various companies.

Cost of Ownership

It’s impossible to consider purchasing a used Tesla without considering the total cost of ownership. Here is a breakdown of the key factors to think about when calculating the total cost of ownership:

  • Charging Expenses: There are a large number of charging expenses associated with owning a Tesla, including electricity rates in your area, your personal charging habits and frequency, and the cost of public charging when you’re out and about.
  • Maintenance Costs: Electric vehicles require less maintenance in the long run than traditional gasoline cars. Teslas have regenerative braking that reduces wear and tear on traditional brakes, and electric motors require less servicing. However, regular maintenance such as tire rotations and cabin air filter replacements are still necessary and can add up cost-wise over time.
  • Insurance: The cost of insurance for your Tesla will vary depending on factors such as your driving history, location, age, and the specific Tesla you choose (whether it’s a used Tesla Model X, Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model Y, and so on). Generally, Teslas will fall into a higher insurance category compared to some gasoline cars due to their higher repair costs.

Inspecting a Used Tesla

Going out and shopping for a used Tesla can be extremely exciting, but it’s important to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before driving. Specifically, you should start with a physical inspection by meticulously examining the car’s exterior and interior for any signs of damage, dents, scratches, or excessive wear and tear. Pay close attention to the panel gaps and paint, looking for inconsistencies between body panels or perhaps uneven paint.

Be sure to also inspect the windshield and glass for any cracks, chips, or scratches which may require replacement. The wheels and tires should be examined, and the tread depth confirmed to be reasonable. Don’t neglect an inspection of the interior of the Tesla as well, looking at the seats, upholstery, carpets, dashboards, and more. Test all the interior features as well, like the sunroof, air conditioning, and heating system, to ensure everything is in working order.

Once your physical inspection of the used Tesla you’re considering is complete, it’s important to take the vehicle on a test drive. Pay close attention to the acceleration and handling of the vehicle, along with any advanced features such as regenerative braking or the autopilot feature (if equipped). After all of the above, consider taking the extra step and getting a professional inspection conducted by a certified Tesla technician or using Tesla’s pre-purchase inspection services.

Last but not least, get a pre-purchase vehicle history report conducted, which outlines information about the car’s past, including any accidents, repairs, ownership history, and mileage verification.

Making an Informed Decision

Buying a used Tesla is a very exciting prospect, but it’s vital to do your due diligence before signing on the dotted line. There are some key steps to ensure you make an informed decision, with additional considerations:

  • Research the Model: Take the time to thoroughly research the specific Tesla model you are looking at buying. Learn more about the common issues that impact that particular model by reading owners’ reviews in order to understand potential maintenance costs. Take the time to visit Tesla forums and online communities, as well as consumer reports, to accomplish this.
  • Evaluate Your Current Needs: Think about how you drive your current vehicle on a daily basis and the places you travel to, specifically the distance. If you live in an area with limited access to home charging or public charging stations, a Tesla may not be a practical choice. Additionally, if you have major cargo needs, then certain Tesla models may not be the right choice for you.
  • Test Drive Different Models: No purchase decision should be made without test-driving different Tesla models. By understanding the driving experience, you will be better suited to pick which vehicle is right for you.
  • Consider Your Budget: Factor in the total cost of ownership for the vehicle, including the purchase price, potential financing costs, charging expenses, insurance, any extended warranty costs, and maintenance costs. Create a realistic budget for yourself to ensure a Tesla ownership experience aligns with your financial situation.

Using Endurance to Protect Your Vehicle

Owning a Tesla can be a thrilling and environmentally conscious choice. However, it’s important to approach used Tesla purchases with a well-informed and cautious perspective. Ongoing costs associated with owning a vehicle, even one that is used, can quickly add up. Having an extended warranty contract associated with your vehicle can potentially reduce those costs.

Endurance Warranty offers EV coverage on Teslas, including the battery pack, which means you can have total peace of mind on the road knowing that if something breaks down, you’re covered. Additionally, with an Endurance auto protection plan, you get standard perks like 24/7 roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement, and trip interruption coverage.

New customers can take advantage of the Elite Benefits package, which includes bonuses such as reimbursements for up to four tires due to road hazards, up to $1,000 in total loss protection, up to $500 in collision coverage, and more. A small activation fee applies.

To learn more about how an Endurance vehicle service contract can protect your Tesla, call our award-winning customer service team at (800) 253-8203 to request a FREE quote. You can also shop online to see your price right away.

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