Finding the best deal on a Tesla Model S

Guest Blog Post: Jorge Sierra is a fellow member of the Florida Tesla Owners, and has been a Tesla Model S owner since June of 2014. Jorge loves driving electric, and has been averaging about 30,000 emission free miles per year since having first taken delivery. He hopes to some day find a steal on a Tesla Roadster.

About 2 ½ years ago, I decided to purchase a Tesla Model S. My hope was to try to find one for around $60K, and it proved to be quite difficult. I learned a lot in the process, and I’d like to share my experience with you. 

Third-Party Used Vehicles

The first option I considered was finding a used Tesla Model S from a third-party private seller or dealer. I tried a few different sources, including vehicles for sale in the Tesla Motors Club forum. There’s also the Tesla Motors Club Panjo site, which provides the listings in a more organized fashion than just the forum posts, and even has a handful of filtering options.

At the time I was in the market, Tesla Model S production volume was quite low, delivery times were long, and demand was quite high. Many of the used listings I saw in the forums and dealers were often priced the same or even higher than new. Things have improved since then, with production volumes having increased significantly and the advent of the Tesla Certified Pre-Owned program.

Salvaged Tesla Model S

One option I briefly considered was getting a salvaged Tesla Model S. There were a handful of vehicles that had been in accidents, that were either repaired or unrepaired. There are two major issues with purchasing a salvaged Model S:

  1. The Model S is made of aluminum, and aluminum body damage is expensive to repair. Damage to the drivetrain and battery would be extremely difficult and very expensive to repair
  2. When you need to take the vehicle in for service with a Tesla service center, if the repairs were not made by an authorized service provider and inspected by Tesla, they may refuse to service the vehicle.
I read some horror stories about people purchasing salvage titles, and decided against pursuing that route.


Inventory Vehicles

As I continued my research, I came to learn that Tesla does offer discounts on inventory/showroom/service loaner vehicles. There are three major advantages for purchasing an inventory vehicle:

  1. You receive a discount from the original configuration price. The discount is based on the age of the vehicle, as well as the mileage. The older and more mileage it has, the steeper the discount.
  2. You get a new vehicle warranty. It’s very similar to purchasing refurbished or open box items, where the warranty is just the same as it is with new vehicles.
  3. You are still eligible for the federal tax credit. Because the vehicle has never been registered by anyone other than Tesla, inventory vehicles are still eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit.

I decided that an inventory car was the way to go. I worked with an excellent Tesla Owner Advisor, who kept an eye on inventory cars for me, and would periodically send me listings as new inventory vehicles were made available for purchase.

I knew of someone that managed to get an inventory car for under $60,000, but unfortunately, it seemed no inventory cars were coming up in that price range for me. In the end, I ended up pulling the trigger on a 6-month old 2014 60 kWh inventory car and paid about $82,000 for it before the federal tax credit.

The original configuration price was $91,000, so the inventory discount was about $9,000. I missed the mark on my budget considerably (by about $15,000 if you account for the federal tax credit), but I was very happy to have my “new” (slightly previously driven) Model S.

Above: Picking up my S60 inventory from Tesla (Source: Author)

Certified Pre-Owned

A little less than a year after I bought the 60, Tesla’s Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program went live. Had I been a little more patient, I would have saved thousands of dollars. CPO vehicles from Tesla are a great option, because they provide you with a like-new warranty of 4 years/50,000 miles.

I started looking at some of the CPO listings, and found there were some 85 kWh vehicles going for my original target price of around $60,000. It made me a bit sick to my stomach, knowing I had paid $15K more for mine. Out of curiosity, I decided to contact Tesla and ask them for a quote on a trade on my 60. Much to my surprise, they came back with a trade-in of about $61,000!

I watched the EV CPO Consolidator with dogged interest, and one day a 2012 P85 was listed for about $63,000. It was built in December of 2012 and my 60 was built in January of 2014, so the P85 was only a year older than my current car. The P85 only had about 2,000 miles more than my 60. So for about a $2,000 difference, I was able to upgrade my 60 to a P85. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Above: "Shadow" my CPO 85 (Source: Author)

Words of Advice to Others Seeking a Deal on a Tesla Model S

Exercise Patience

If you’re really looking for a steal, above everything else, be patient. The number of available pre-owned Model S vehicles is increasing all the time. If you’re patient, you will eventually find the right one for you at the right price.

Purchase a CPO/Inventory Vehicle

Without a doubt, I would recommend anyone in the market for a used Tesla Model S to seriously consider purchasing a CPO or inventory vehicle. The new-car warranty makes it a more attractive option than purchasing from a third party. If you purchase from a third party, your warranty will only cover the remaining time/mileage from the original purchase (if it’s even still under warranty).

Warranty Considerations

No matter whether you purchase your car as a CPO or from a third party, the battery/drivetrain warranty will only cover you from the original manufacture date. For vehicles with batteries larger than 60 kWh, the warranty is 8 years with unlimited miles (my 2012 P85 will be covered until Dec of 2020, regardless of mileage).

For 60 kWh vehicles, the term of the battery/drivetrain warranty is still 8 years, but it also has a mileage limit of 100K miles. This was part of the reason I wanted to get an 85 kWh vehicle, because I drive a lot. In a year, I drove about 25K miles. At that rate of driving, I was going to burn through the battery/drivetrain warranty well before 8 years passed. If you drive well over 12,000 miles a year, you should consider getting an 85 kWh car.

Consider Forgoing Autopilot

Autopilot is a remarkable feature available in newer Model S vehicles. However, the majority of pre-owned vehicles currently on the market do not have autopilot. If you ask me, I think autopilot is a bit overrated.

Don’t get me wrong, autopilot is an amazing feature. However, I do not think it is worth paying tens of thousands of dollars for it. In reviewing the current CPO/inventory listings, there are non-autopilot cars available for about $20,000 less than those with autopilot.

If you’re hellbent on autopilot but you still want to get a Tesla for slightly less than the sticker price, then an inventory car is for you. If you want a steep discount and autopilot, you’ll need to be patient and wait for more pre-owned autopilot vehicles to become available.

CPO and Inventory Finder for Tesla Model S

I still continue to be strangely obsessed with the CPO listings. Being a programming hobbyist, I decided to roll out my own CPO tracking site, to make some improvements upon some of the other tracking sites. I’m pleased to announce FindMyEV - The CPO and Inventory Finder for Tesla Model S.

Being fellow members of the Florida Tesla Owners club, I connected with the EVANNEX family and decided to make a special “lite” version of FindMyEV as an added feature here on the EVANNEX website. This lite version of the app will provide you with all of the current listings for CPO and Inventory vehicles that Tesla has for sale. You can filter on a variety of different options to find just the Tesla Model S you’re looking for... if you'd like to check it out, click the button below.

CPO and Inventory Finder