Buying a Used Tesla Model S: The Ultimate Guide

Jun 1, 2017   

When it was first released in 2012, the Tesla Model S was a game changer. It was more than just a luxury car — it was the world’s first fully electric vehicle designed for the broader market. Unlike hybrids, it doesn’t have a gas engine at all. It runs on electricity, and only electricity.

Its design is sleek and modern, on par with other luxury auto brands. Instead of a trunk in the back, it has a massive hatchback with an option third-row seat — a feature that’s practically unheard of in a luxury sedan. Freed from the burden of a gas engine, the front of the car can function as a trunk with ample storage space.

Its responsive handling and smooth feel are also a big plus for buyers. It’s more than just on par with its fellow luxury brands like Audi and BMW — it manages to surpass them. The Model S also doesn’t compromise when it comes to sheer power. As of December 2016, it’s has the fastest acceleration of any car currently in production.

And yet, in spite of its power and speed, it’s still managed to acquire a perfect 5.0 star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The company recently announced that as of January 2017, new models will have only limited free access to Superchargers. As such, it might make sense to look into buying a used model instead. And, if you’re in the market to sell a used Tesla, you couldn’t ask for a better time.

A Brief History of the Model S

As we’ve mentioned, the Tesla Model S originally made its debut back in 2012. The company first sold versions of the car to investors and executives at top dollar. This initial run consisted of Signature and Signature Performance models, which had 85 kWh battery packs and were rated for a range of 265 miles.

The Signature Performance version, later renamed the P85, came with an extra 88 horsepower, plus acceleration from zero to sixty in just over four seconds. Additionally, they featured higher end interiors and signed placards.

If you’re looking to buy a used Tesla, keep in mind that these early models weren’t perfected the way later Teslas have been, and may be more likely to have problems. Be sure to ask seller if they can purchase the ESA ( extended service agreement) Only original owner can purchase ESA and it stays with the car.

Tesla Goes Mainstream

By 2013, Tesla was marketing the Model S to ordinary buyers, not just billionaire investors. At this time, they also introduced the Model S 60, a version with a smaller 60 kWh battery pack and a shorter range of 139 miles. This was also when the Signature Performance model was renamed the P85+.

The base model was renamed the 85. This second-gen iteration came with 382 horsepower and zero-to-sixty acceleration in 5.5 seconds. Both the 85 and the P85+ remained more or less unchanged through November 2014.

Some of the other options you can look for in used 85 and P85+ models include rear-facing optional third-row seats, air suspension, twin chargers, and sport seats. Some of them even have an electronic sunroof, although these can allow heat and glare to build up inside the car.

Upgrades in 2014 and 2015: All Wheel Drive and More

In late November of 2014, Tesla made some big changes to its model lineup. Foremost among these changes was the addition of all wheel drive — previous models had used rear wheel drive. Along with this, the newer Teslas also had a suite of more advanced safety features, which were termed “Autopilot.”

These new additions were needed to keep the Tesla Model S truly competitive with other, non-electric luxury vehicles. At this time, the 85D became the company’s best seller.

Along with the standard 85D, late 2014 also introduced the P85D, the higher end version. With 691 horsepower and zero-to-sixty in 3.3 seconds, it was a car lover’s dream come true. In August 2015, Tesla introduced a 762-horsepower “Ludicrous” acceleration mode, named after the “Ludicrous Speed” hyperdrive setting in the film Spaceballs.

If you buy a Tesla that features Ludicrous mode or its predecessor, “Insanity mode,” be aware that using it too many times could void the car’s battery warranty.

A Bit About Autopilot

We’ve mentioned the new safety features Tesla introduced, “Autopilot,” but what does this actually entail?

The original Model S lacked quite a few safety features that were standard on other luxury vehicles at the time. This includes forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and lane keeping assistance.

Naturally, the name “Autopilot” isn’t literal. Self-driving cars are coming soon, but they’re not here just yet. Nevertheless, these safety features were critical part of making Tesla competitive with other luxury automakers. As of summer 2016, Autopilot was replaced by a second-generation system with more sensors, better restrictions, and a less potentially misleading name.
The 70 and 70D

Shortly thereafter, Tesla created a new version, the 70/70D, by adding a larger battery pack and all-wheel drive to its smallest model. It also featured an extra thirty miles of range. Subsequently, they also introduced the Model S 70, a new price leader with rear wheel drive and 230 miles of range.
The 70 and 70D were around for a year. In May 2016, Tesla expanded the battery power to 75 kWh, with a 60 kWh version of the Model S available at a lower price. These were called the 60 and 60D.

The 90 and P90D

July 2015 saw the introduction of the new 90 and 90D editions, with an upgraded battery. The 90 offered a range of 294 miles, with the P90D at 270 miles due to its larger, more power-hungry motor. The 90D was capable of going twice as fast as the original Signature Performance model from 2012, equipped with an impressive 518 horsepower.

The P100D

In August 2016, Tesla reached a landmark: they exceeded the 300 miles range barrier, a new step forward for electric vehicles. It started off as a battery upgrade for owners of the P90D, but it soon became its own model, the P100D. With 315 miles of range, it can go farther than any of the previous models. Capable of going from zero to sixty in an astounding 2.5 seconds, it’s the fastest car in the world.

Supercharging the Model S

Any Tesla model that was built before January 2017 is eligible for free access to Tesla’s nationwide network of Superchargers, which can charge the car at impressive speeds — in some cases, a matter of minutes. The vehicles’ built-in touchscreen display provides a map of the Supercharger network, which is designed to minimize the number of time you’ll need to stop when you’re travelling long distances.

Being eligible for free use of the Supercharger network can make a huge difference in the costs associated with owning a Tesla. It could save you thousands of dollars. If you’re buying an early Tesla Model S, you can upgrade it for Supercharging for around $2,000. The upgrade is well worth the money, due to the long-term cost savings.


If you buy a used Tesla Model S directly through the company, you’ll get a four-year or 50,000 mile warranty, whichever comes first. However, this does not apply if you buy your Tesla from a private seller, or if you purchase it through a third party dealer.

The cars’ battery packs have their own eight-year or 125,000 mile warranty, while batteries 85 kWh and above have eight-year warranties that are good for an unlimited number of miles. These warranties transfer to the new owner when the car is sold. If you’re buying a secondhand Tesla Model S, you should be protected.

The warranty is only valid for manufacturing defects, and it specifically states that it does not apply to loss of capacity. According to Plug-in America, a nonprofit advocacy group, an 85 kWh Tesla battery can generally retain about 90% of its total capacity over a total range of about 100,000 miles. The smaller 75 kWh batteries keep that capacity up to about 75,000 miles. For that reason, you may want to consider investing in a used Tesla with a larger battery.


So how much does a used Tesla Model S actually cost? On Tesla’s own website, prices start at around $50,000 for a 60 kWh version with 30,000 miles, or for an 85 kWh version with 40,000 miles. These are generally rear wheel drive models that were traded in for the newer all wheel drive versions with Autopilot safety features.

Because the all wheel drive D models have only been around for a couple of years, it’s hard to find them used. If you’re a seller, having a D model can give you an advantage. If you have your heart set on an all wheel drive Model S, expect to pay handsomely. The price will almost certainly be more than $80,000. If you’re a seller with a D model you want to unload, this is great news for you.
In many cases, you’ll be able to find rear wheel drive 85s for a little over $50,000. These have the advantage of relatively long ranges, though, so they have that going for them.

Buying or Selling a Used Tesla? We Can Hook You Up

Are you trying to sell off your used Tesla? Or are you in the market to buy a Tesla Model S that’s a couple of years old, now that the prices have come down a bit?

Either way, we can help you out. At Only Used Tesla, our name says it all. We’re a website dedicated to connecting sellers and buyers of used Tesla vehicles. If you’re ready to sell, send us an email with your advertisement, and we’ll post it for sale on our website. There, it can be seen by tons of interested potential buyers. While we’re in beta, posting your ad is absolutely free. We partner with a handful of legit dealers, so if your in a rush and need a wholesale cash money offer , then ask.

If you’re looking to buy, email us and let us know what you’re looking for. We’ll help you find the perfect match.

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