Why wait? Buy a Tesla Model S for less than a Model 3

The $35,000 base price for the Tesla Model 3 has helped Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] to accumulate ~400,000 reservations for the much-anticipated electric vehicle. However, Tesla told Bloomberg that, "We still plan to begin Model 3 deliveries in late 2017." But, this is only for the earliest reservation holders. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that, "the first 12 months of production are sold out." So, if you're the impatient type, waiting one to two years for your Tesla might be a bit too long if you're really aching for one. Don't fret — there are other options available today that could get you into a Tesla Model S for a price point even better than a Model 3.

Above: Tesla Model S pre-owned options might be worth considering if you're too impatient to wait for the Model 3 (Instagram: mmberrow)


In order to check out the pre-owned (code word for: used) market, I decided to glance through Autotrader. To my surprise, I found quite a few Model S used vehicles listing around $42,000. Why is that number significant? Elon Musk tweeted that, "Selling price w avg option mix prob $42k" — so he's expecting most Model 3 vehicles to be sold around that price. Okay, you're probably thinking that it's unfair to pit Model S vehicles versus the Model 3 average selling price. What about the Model 3 base price? To my shock, I found a used 60kWh 2013 Model S with about 50,000 miles listing for $34,400. I took a screenshot (see below) because I doubt this listing will last too long.

Above: A 2013 Tesla Model S for $34,400 with 49,500 miles (Source: Autotrader)

Certified Pre-Owned

Alright, I can already hear some of you griping. Those are used cars, you should really define pre-owned as part of Tesla's official Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. Learn Bonds* reports that, "affordable Teslas have been around for some time now. They are featured on the company CPO page for as low as $47,000 right now." Admittedly, this is higher than the average selling price of the Model 3 (~$42,000) but it's very close. It's reported that, "The CPO program basically accepts traded-in Teslas and puts them up for resale. However, though buyers would be acquiring a used car, CPO Teslas are evidently sold as good as new."

Above: A black "pre-refresh" Tesla Model S (Instagram: costadds)

Furthermore, "Another advantage is that, due to the nature of Tesla buyers, most Teslas tend to have traveled less than 25,000 miles before they are traded in. It’s not uncommon to stumble onto a Tesla with less than 10,000 miles either... [and] CPO vehicles purchases are much quicker than new buys. Those who use the option normally find themselves behind the wheel of their Tesla within a week." Most of the lower-priced options on the CPO site are 60kWh models, but, there are some great deals if you hunt around.

New Tesla Model S 60 

Okay, one distinct advantage of buying new is that you qualify for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit. You can't get that with a either a pre-owned or certified pre-owned Tesla. Sure, some early Model 3 registration holders will also qualify but this tax credit phases out once Tesla sells 200,000 cumulative electric vehicles (soon). So if you bought a base Model S 60kWh (rear wheel drive) now, Tesla's cost after estimated savings would be $55,000 (according to their website). That's likely equivalent to a fully-loaded Model 3. Yeah, Tesla's estimated cost includes gas savings so we'd have to back that out. But, we'd also have to "back in" the savings for free Tesla Supercharger use for life. Note: you'd have to order this year though, as that incentive ends on December 31st.


Above: Autotrader talks benefits of buying a Tesla Model S 60 (Youtube: Autotrader)

In any event, the Tesla Model S 60kWh option is fantastic — whether it's new, certified pre-owned, or pre-owned. It's so good that Autotrader practically made a commercial for it (see above). And Top Gear raved about the Model S 60, explaining: "there’s all the performance we could realistically need, sensible and accurate range, an overall deeper sense of quality and what many EV [electric vehicle] curious folk have been crying out for: a more competitive, accessible finance option." They even go so far as concluding that: "it’s the best all-round Model S yet." 


*Source: Learn Bonds