The Used Car Lot, Tesla Style

Tesla has launched a pre-owned sales web site which gives consumers the first ever centralized hub to shop for a used Model S. Mine is closing in on two years and there have been a number of updates and new features added over that time. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about upgrading. Some owners are trading for the D while others will be coming to the end of their three year lease. It’s a smart move for Tesla.

Their web site is beautiful as one would expect, with the cars neatly displayed in a grid with the key data including miles and price right up front. They are however, not photos of the actual cars. When you click in you see the exterior and interior choices that match the vehicle (presumably), but they are studio shots of new cars.

You don’t get to see the character that cars acquire over time. You get the marketing copy and feature set that is seen when one orders new, but nothing about the condition of that specific car. Clearly I wouldn’t expect Tesla to actually open a used car lot, but what happens if you are not satisfied with your choice?

Preowned Model S

Each car comes with a 4 year, 50,000 limited warranty and 24 hour roadside assistance, but also requires an immediate down payment that varies based on, well, something. Cars require a $1,500 transportation fee to get it to the nearest service center, and the prices are not a bargain.

I assume you won’t be able to apply for the Federal tax break of $7,500, or for your State rebate program if they have one. Most of the cars in the Chicago area which was nicely filtered when I arrived at the site, were 85kWh or P85kWh models. Only two 60kWh were available when I looked, which is what I have. One was listed at $66,950 plus the $1,500 transportation fee = $68,450. My Model S all in with almost exactly the same options (I don’t have supercharging) was $81,020. Subtract the $11,750 in breaks and rebates and you get $69,270. The listed car has 9,204 miles, mine now has 9,978. Not really a bargain for me, but the options and prices have significantly changed since I ordered mine in 2013.

This, along with the lack of PR at launch, tells me Tesla is testing the waters a bit, which is smart. A car manufacturer (also the dealer) is in a unique position. The owner typically wants to move on but the product is still very much viable. They should look to monetize this and I applaud this important step.

But if you are in the market for a Model S, I recommend you order a new one. It’s a keeper.

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