Are Pre-Owned Teslas Worth Buying? (We Checked)

Are you currently on the market for a Tesla, but are having trouble getting your hands on a new model?

If you’re considering buying a used Tesla, you probably already know that the brand isn’t exactly famous for its reliability. More here on Tesla and reliability.

But can it be worth it to purchase a used Tesla anyway?

In this article, we’ll go more in-depth on this issue, and help you decide whether a pre-owned Tesla is a good option for you.

How Much Do Used Teslas Cost?

Teslas typically depreciate at a fairly high rate, considering the quickly evolving nature of EV technology. After 5 years, Teslas usually sell for about half of their original price.

In some recent cases, however, pre-owned Teslas have actually sold for a higher price than the brand’s newer models. As you can see in the chart below, average prices for all Tesla models have increased compared to last year, sometimes by as much as $20,000.

So what’s the reason for this backwards price trend?

The primary cause is that Tesla has not yet increased their output to match the demand of the market, and the demand has been growing quickly.

Between being a relatively new car brand and dealing with recent supply chain shortages, Tesla has had trouble producing as many new cars as they’d like to be able to supply.

The result is that buying a new Tesla can be a long process, and drivers are turning to used models in the meantime. This in turn has driven up the prices for used Teslas.

The chart below shows the average prices of used Teslas each year since 2014 – for more detailed such as the prices by age of the cars and model features, you can find comprehensive charts at Car Gurus.

Model S Model X Model 3 Model Y
2014 $92,616
2015 $87,950
2016 $68,670 $125,000
2017 $61,079 $117,951
2018 $58,189 $87,922 $64,201
2019 $50,383 $82,262 $52,900
2020 $48,713 $73,926 $45,034 $85,000
2021 $44,796 $68,694 $41,953 $58,907
2022 $67,405 $84,702 $51,061 $66,857

How Much Do Teslas Cost in Maintenance Each Year?

Common maintenance costs for Teslas include:

  • tire rotations and alignments,
  • cabin air filter
  • and HEPA replacements,
  • brake fluid tests,
  • and brake caliper lubrication in cold-weather regions.

All of this adds up to an average yearly cost of $832 over 12 years.

This is more expensive than the average repair cost of all car brands, which is about $200 less.

Most of this higher average shows itself in the later years of a Tesla’s driving time.

The average cost of maintaining a Tesla tends to increase each year its on the road, and not by an insignificant amount. The chart below shows the upward trend of maintaining your Tesla over a period of ten years:

Cost per year at 2 years Cost per year at 4 years Cost per year at 6 years Cost per year at 8 years Cost per year at 10 years
Model S $284 $354 $445 $604 $708
Model 3 $186 $256 $347 $506 $610
Model Y $240 $334 $458 $672 $813
Model X $339 $443 $557 $771 $912

Keep in mind, these are only average costs to keep your car running in good condition.

Here’s how your average chance of a major repair problem increases with time for each model:

  • Model S and Model 3: From about 0.89% to 16.64% in 12 years
  • Model X and Model Y: From about 1.20% to 22.51% in 12 years

This is also not including the costs of new tires, which tend to need replaced every 30,000 to 40,000 miles.

Is it Better to Buy a Used Tesla Directly from Tesla?

Just like many other brands, the used cars that Tesla sells at its dealerships have been examined and found to meet certain resale standards, meaning that they are Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles.

With CPOs, you can get greater peace of mind and the certainty that your car has no major mechanical defects.

CPO Teslas also come with a resale warranty, the status of which depends on the age of the vehicle.

Buying your vehicle from Tesla also guarantees that you’ll have access to perks and software such as Tesla’s Autopilot and the Supercharger network. On some used cars that have been auctioned, these features are disabled, and you may not realize this if you buy from a private dealer or car owner.

However, if you trust the person you’re buying from, you may be able to get a better price by looking outside of Tesla dealerships for your new-to-you car.

How Do Older Tesla Batteries Perform?

Some aging in batteries is to be expected; but how significantly does this affect a Tesla battery’s performance?

The good news is that Tesla batteries can last up to an estimated 20-25 years, and real-world data shows them losing less than 10% of their capacity in the first 160,000 miles.

However, this does depend on the care and maintenance put into the battery, such as whether the previous owner(s) often charged it to full capacity, how quickly they charged it, and what temperatures they drove in.

Because of this, you may want to check out the exact range of the battery if you’re considering buying a used model.

If you buy a used Tesla before its 8-year battery warranty is up, you inherit the warranty, and Tesla will replace the battery pack for free if it drops below 75% of its original capacity.

When Should You Replace the Battery on a Tesla?

You really only need to replace your Tesla’s battery once its battery capacity has degraded by 20% or more.

According to Tesla’s founder Elon Musk, Tesla batteries can typically last 300,000 to 500,000 miles before this become necessary.

This means the battery will likely not need to be replaced frequently, and may even last longer than the car itself.

If you do need to replace your battery, it could run you between $5,000 and $7,000 – make sure to take good care of your battery to avoid these costs!

Check out our article about the cost of replacing Model X batteries.

How Many Miles Does the Motor Typically Last on a Tesla?

What about Tesla’s motors? This is another part that you likely won’t have to worry about too much.

The electric motors on Tesla’s have been estimated to last as much as 1 million miles – a distance that hasn’t yet been proven, because so few Teslas have been on the road for long enough to reach it.

However, problems with Teslas electric motors that are major enough to require a replacement are fairly rare, and are also covered under Tesla’s warranty for the first 10 years of driving.

What Problems Are Most Common for Older Teslas?

The biggest problems of older Teslas will depend primarily on the model and the year, since different improvements and updates have been added with each new release.

If you’re considering buying a used Tesla, make sure to do your research on your potential model.

However, some of the more serious issues that may give used Tesla owners trouble include:

  • Faulty transmission (particularly for 2019 & 2020 Model S)
  • Autopilot failure (particularly for 2017 & 2019 Model X)
  • Faulty steering system (particularly for 2017 & 2019 Model X)
  • Faulty touchscreen (particularly for 2017, 2018 & 2019 Model 3)
  • Faulty seatbelt retention system (particularly for 2020 & 2021 Model Y)

Here’s a breakdown of the most common problem for each Tesla model:

Problems with Tesla Model 3

Problems with Tesla Model S

Problems with Tesla Model X

Problems with Tesla Model Y

What’s the Verdict?

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you decide to buy a pre-owned Tesla.

As things stand right now, it probably wouldn’t be the smartest financial choice. Considering Tesla’s increasing maintenance costs for older models and the inflated prices of used Teslas, you’d be paying more for an older car, one which would also cost you more to maintain.

However, if owning a Tesla is high in your priorities and you don’t want to wait for a new model, it may be worth it to you. Pre-owned Teslas can still perform very well on battery capacity and other important features, particularly if they’re only a few years old.

Past the ten-year mark or 100,000 miles, you’ll probably get significantly decreasing returns on buying a used Tesla.

Particularly since EV technology is changing and advancing so quickly, we wouldn’t recommend buying a Tesla model of that age at this point in time.
Tesla is still a new company and is changing quickly, but they do have a solid track record for long-lasting essential parts such as motors and batteries.

It’s definitely possible that in the near future Teslas will frequently last their owners 20 years or more. 


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