How to buy a pre-owned Tesla Model S [Video]

Guest Blog Post: Alex Guberman runs two popular Tesla Facebook groups, Tesla Model S Owners Club and Tesla Model 3 Owners Club, totaling over 12,000 members. He's an early adopter of the Model S and he's now on his third Tesla. Be sure to check out Alex's Tesla News in 60 seconds weekly segment on his Everything Tesla YouTube channel.

It's been over four years since Tesla Motors delivered its first Model S. Since then, many Tesla owners have decided to part with their old Model S in order to upgrade to a newer configuration. It turns out that this serves to benefit two groups of potential Tesla owners. The first group consists of those who've been aching to own a Model S but haven't pulled the trigger due to its high price. The second group consists of impatient Model 3 reservation holders ready to drive a Tesla now.


With more pre-owned Teslas making their way onto the used car market, more Tesla fans can find the Model S of their dreams at a reasonable price point. Nevertheless, for many first-time buyers, purchasing a Tesla might have a bit of a learning curve, and it's easy to make mistakes. That said, here are my top five things to consider when buying a pre-owned Tesla Model S.

1. Determining the Price

As the Tesla Model S has only been around a few years, it's difficult to calculate precisely what a “fair” price would be for any given vehicle configuration. However, you can check around to get a better sense of current market pricing. To discover the upper limit of this range, visit Tesla’s own website and browse through their certified pre-owned inventory. These cars often have the highest markup, but they'll also come with perks like thorough inspections, extended warranty options, in-house financing, and more. On the opposite end of the spectrum there's the Craigslist “For sale by owner” section, online auctions like eBay Motors, and other websites like Autotrader that you could reference to get a more complete picture. 

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2. Understanding the Features

Tesla has unique features that distinguish it from a regular gas-powered car. For instance, the most vital part of the Tesla Model S is (arguably) its battery. It's critical to check out the “range” of the battery. Oftentimes, the longer the range, the more the Model S is going to cost you. Another option you should become familiar with is Autopilot. You'll need to decide if you want Autopilot. Also, do you depend on your navigation system? If so, you’ll probably want to invest in a Model S that's been upgraded with the tech package.

Image: BMW Blog

3. Charging

Using electricity rather than a gas pump as your vehicle power source will likely be a radical departure when getting your first Tesla. That said, you'll do most of your charging at home. This means you'll want a home charger installed. These aren't cheap, and the total price includes both the cost of the charging unit and the installation fee. You'll also need to decide if you want to purchase a Tesla charger (see image below) or a more generic EV charger. In some cases, owners choose to simply install a 240V outlet and use the cable that comes with their Tesla to plug directly into it. Some Model S configurations have a dual charging package, which means that you'll be able to charge your battery about twice as fast, but for that you’ll need to purchase a charger that can support an 80A current.

Image: Gas2

4. Transferable Options

It's important to find out what's transferable in your future Model S. Tesla's manufacturer warranty should always be transferrable with rare exceptions. However, there are optional extended warranties that a seller may have purchased, and you want to make sure they're also transferrable. Furthermore, you want to investigate if the car comes with an unlimited supercharging plan or not, and if that plan is transferrable. This is time sensitive: any Tesla made before 2017 should have unlimited supercharging, while cars made after the new year will only have a limited number of miles that you can supercharge for free each year. 

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5. Battery Health

It's helpful to take into consideration the health of the battery. Compare the current range at full charge with the original spec for that same battery model and size. The numbers should be similar, and if they're not, it means the battery has degraded — limiting you to shorter range. A good rule of thumb: check if the battery charging limit is set to no more than 90% of the full capacity. This is a good indicator that the seller has been mindful of the battery’s health. I'd strongly recommend spending a few extra bucks on an inspection of the battery at a Tesla-certified facility to make sure that the battery remains in decent shape.

Image: Tesla

Bonus: Video

These are, in my opinion, the most important things to consider when buying a pre-owned Tesla Model S. I'd also suggest that you do additional research and follow other common sense practices when buying a pre-owned car. For a more comprehensive overview, check out my video below. Good luck, and I’ll see you on the road!