A Used Tesla May Actually Be a Great Investment

You may have heard horror stories of high-mileage battery maintenance costing Tesla owners an arm and a leg. But there are still several reasons why a used Tesla may actually be a smart investment–if you buy the right model.

An older Tesla still looks stylish

A row of used Tesla electric vehicles all plugged into Supercharger stations, trees visible in the background.
Tesla electric vehicles | Tesla

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When Tesla first debuted its Model S, this sedan offered an understated yet futuristic design. Its shape and style soon became iconic of the electric vehicle revolution. Unsurprisingly, Tesla has made few external changes to its longest-running model in its ten years in production.

Since Tesla launched its Model S, it has followed it with the Model 3, Model X, and Model Y. They all feature a refined and futuristic aesthetic, similar to the flagship Model S. Other electric car startups and even established manufacturers have attempted to replicate the iconic Tesla style. As a result, even one of Teslas’ used first vehicles looks at home on today’s roads.

When manufacturers resist updating an especially iconic vehicle’s design, older model years hold their value much better. One example is the Jeep Wrangler, which maintains a better resale value than even the Toyota Tacoma. Another is the Porsche 911.

You can inherit a Tesla’s free supercharging

Closeup of the Tesla badge on a Supercharger station hooked up to an electric vehicle, a row of more chargers visible in the background.
Tesla Supercharger stations | Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

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Tesla builds electric vehicles. It also maintains one of the world’s most extensive EV charging networks. To stimulate sales, Tesla once offered a lifetime supply of electricity at its “supercharger” network along with the purchase of a vehicle. Though Tesla does not offer this incentive on any brand-new vehicles, it still applies to certain models of older vehicles. And for select used Tesla vehicles, Supercharging actually transfers even when you sell the car.

Electrek warns that you should always double-check with Tesla that a given used year and model comes with free Supercharging. But used models that may come with transferrable Supercharging include: the 2012-2020 Model S (excluding the S 40), the 2016-2020 Model X, and the Model Y–if purchased in December of 2020. Some 2018-19 performance time Model 3 vehicles included lifetime Supercharger, but only for the original owner.

The price of replacement batteries is coming down

Closeup of the chrome "T" Tesla badge on a red, used electric vehicle.
Tesla vehicle’s logo | Robert Alexander via Getty Images

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You may have heard horror stories of used Tesla buyers paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to replace worn-out battery packs in their EVs. Currently, replacing the batteries in a Tesla at a dealership can be expensive. (Service fees alone can cost over $2,000). But the cost of the replacement batteries may come down.

Researchers at the Wharton School for Business estimate the cost of replacement lithium-ion batteries dropped 16% between 2007 and 2019–according to Reccurent Auto. If improvements in manufacturing and mining continue at this pace, replacing a used Tesla’s battery may get cheaper every year.

Famed car collector Jay Leno daily drives a Tesla. He points out that though the initial cost is higher, the cost of maintaining his old Model S are next to nothing.

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