Edmunds: The 5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying Your First Used Tesla

By Staff
6 Min Read

It’s a good time to be in the market for a used Tesla. Tesla’s significant price cuts over the past year on its new cars have caused the prices of used Teslas to drop significantly. But buying a used Tesla isn’t as straightforward as buying a used Toyota, especially if you’ve never owned one. The car experts at Edmunds outline five general tips for car shoppers who are in the market for a used Tesla.


Most shoppers looking for a used Tesla choose between the brand’s two sedans and two SUVs. The Model 3 is Tesla’s smallest and most affordable model. It’s a small sedan that’s about the size of a Honda Civic. The Model Y, Tesla’s most popular model, is a small SUV based on the Model 3 that’s comparable in size to a Toyota RAV4.

If the 3 and the Y are too small, or if you want a longer driving range and more power, consider the Model S or Model X. The Model S, which has been on sale the longest, is a sedan roughly the size of a BMW 5 Series. The final model to consider is Tesla’s most expensive, the Model X. If you need an SUV with seating for more than five and like its cool falcon-wing doors, then the X is the Tesla for you.


Tesla frequently tinkers with the trim level names, driving ranges, power and features for its vehicles. That makes used Tesla shopping a particular challenge because it can be hard to figure out exactly what you’re getting.

For the Model 3 and Y, the base single-motor model is usually called Standard Range or Rear-Wheel Drive. It offers the least range and power. In the middle is the Long Range model, which typically has dual motors for all-wheel drive, more power and the longest range. The top Performance model also has two motors and boasts the most power, but it has less range.

In the Model S’ earliest years, they were single-motor models named after the battery pack size, for example, the Model S 60. Tesla later introduced dual-motor all-wheel-drive versions and identified them with a D in the name. Performance versions had a P in the name. Later models were simply called Long Range or Performance. The Plaid is the current performance model, and long-range models are now called All-Wheel Drive. The Model X follows a very similar nomenclature.

What happens when you’re looking at a used Tesla and you’re not sure what configuration it is? There’s a menu you can bring up in the vehicle’s touchscreen that will tell you. If you can’t see the vehicle in person, you can input the vehicle’s VIN into the government’s VIN decoder to look up the vehicle’s basic specs, such as its model year and whether it’s a single- or dual-motor.


All Teslas come with a four-year/50,000-mile factory warranty. The battery pack and drive unit warranty is the most important and what most Tesla shoppers care about because of the high cost to replace a battery pack. All models come with an eight-year warranty, but depending on the model, the mileage coverage ranges from 100,000 miles to 150,000 miles. Check out Tesla’s vehicle warranty site for full details.


An electric vehicle’s battery capacity diminishes slightly with use. That means less driving range over time. It’s not something to be overly worried about; Tesla claims its batteries degrade on average just 12% after 200,000 miles. However, if you’re trying to decide between a few otherwise identical Tesla vehicles, go for the one with the least mileage.


There are three ways to buy a used Tesla: directly from Tesla, from a used car dealership, or from a private seller. Buying from Tesla is the best route because the automaker performs a 102-point vehicle inspection and adds a one-year/10,000-mile warranty to the existing factory warranty. And because it’s from Tesla, the listed features are accurate. On the downside, Tesla’s used models can only be purchased online and you can’t test-drive the one you want before purchase.

If you go to a used car dealership, you can test-drive the vehicle, but the dealership might not be familiar with Teslas and could inaccurately list its features. Dealerships could also be unfamiliar with Tesla’s electric powertrains, which might affect the accuracy of the inspection they perform. Buying from a private seller might get you a good deal as well as potential insight into how the vehicle was driven and maintained. But buying a vehicle this way can be a hassle.


Navigating the used Tesla market can be tricky, but following these tips will help you land the Tesla you want.

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