First hand experience with Tesla’s new used car business – alternative to waiting for Model 3

At Tesla’s annual shareholders meeting earlier this month, CEO Elon Musk said that the company is placing more importance on its pre-owned used car business. He even presented it as a valid alternative for people waiting for the less expensive Model 3.

I was already frequently looking at used Model S sedans for quite some time, but I finally decided to pull the trigger after the new program was announced earlier this month. Here’s a quick report on my experience…

Tesla introduced a new kind of warranty for certified pre-owned cars (CPO), a term the company abandoned for simply ‘used cars’.

The company used to not offer a warranty or “recertification process” for their 4 year old Model S vehicles, but the new program includes them with a new updated version of its used car warranty.

Instead of 4 years and 50,000 more miles for the more recent used vehicles, they get “a two-year, 100,000 miles (160,000 km in Canada) maximum odometer pre-owned limited warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance” and they also receive “a full inspection, remaining battery and drive warranty”, like more recent cars.

Depending on their current mileage and price point, they can represent a good deal.

How do you buy those cars?

First, you have to find one. You can look at the used section on Tesla’s website or you can go to your local Tesla store. Either way, you are likely going to want to talk to your local Tesla “remarketing specialist”, the company’s sales staff in charge of used cars.

All the used cars available to be sold are not necessarily listed on the website and therefore, Tesla’s remarketing people can help you find one.

In my case, I found one that I liked listed on the website:

But if you are looking to buy a used Tesla, you better be serious about it. Like we recently reported, the new batches of used Teslas are selling ludicrously fast so the company implemented a $1,000 non-refundable deposit in order to make sure the vehicles are not unnecessarily locked by customers.

Like me, if you really want the car, you might end up placing a deposit without even seeing it in person.

In my case, the vehicle had been loaned to a Tesla owner. If I didn’t want someone else to swoop in and buy it, I had to place a $1,000 deposit online, which I did. It takes only a minute.

There could also be other reasons why you cannot see the vehicle. For example, it could be at another Tesla location since the company can move the vehicles around for a fee.

While the deposit is not refundable, it’s transferable to another used Tesla and you are not bound to buy the vehicle until you take delivery so you can still change your mind. In short, you need to be serious about buying a used Tesla, maybe just not the one you place a deposit on.

Now that’s not something that Tesla arranged, but after placing the deposit, I had the opportunity to find out about the original owner of the vehicle and discuss its history with him, which was reassuring when buying a used vehicle that I had never seen in person before.

It turns out that this Signature Model S was the very first Model S delivered in Canada. It was bought by Doug George, an entrepreneur based in Ottawa and known in the Tesla community as a lead moderator of the Tesla Motors Club. Doug is what you could describe as an early adopter when it comes to Tesla.

He also owned a Roadster and last month, he exchanged both his Roadster and his Signature Model S P85 for a brand new Model S 100D.

His Signature Model S (VIN2006) was built in December 2012, among the very first Model S sedans ever built. It was the very beginning on Tesla’s volume production of electric vehicles and they were known to have several issues. Doug confirmed that Tesla upgraded the door handles, touchscreen, drive unit, and several smaller items, but it still has its original battery pack almost 5 years later.

As long as it was in good condition, I was happy with that and Tesla was now going to “recertify” it and make sure of it.

Once you have placed the deposit, Tesla brings back to the vehicle to its service center and starts the 200-point recertification process in order to give it the new limited warranty.

This step takes the bulk of the buying process and of course, it varies between vehicles – especially if there are body imperfections beyond Tesla’s threshold of acceptability since they have to send it to the body shop. On the website, they guide that it can take as many as 6 weeks, but before having the car in their possession (again, it was being loaned) and knowing its history, my sales advisor at Tesla Montreal was confident it would take no more than 4 weeks.

A few days later, they got the vehicle and told me it would be ready the following week. It took no more than two weeks from placing the deposit to being able to take delivery of the vehicle.

As soon as the vehicle is reserved, it shows up in your ‘MyTesla’ account on Tesla’s website:

From there, you can add your payment option, driver’s license, and insurance information in order for Tesla to arrange your registration and pickup. You also have access to all the documentation and videos about the vehicle in order to familiarize yourself with it ahead of the delivery.

After inspecting the vehicle, technically, you have 2 documents to sign, give your check, pay your license plates and you can be in and out in less than 10 minutes when picking up the vehicle.

But I took my time and met with the staff, among whom I was happy to learn there are several Electrek readers, and Renaud-Pierre Bérubé, the store manager, offered to personally give me a walkthrough of the vehicle, which I couldn’t refuse knowing that he is one of the most senior salespeople and knows the vehicle inside out.

Of course, I already was quite familiar with the Model S, but he was still able to give me several tips to configure the settings and have a better experience right from the start.

The vehicle itself was fairly pristine aside from some wear on the fabric around the driver’s door and on the seats – something to be expected after almost 5 years and over 76,000 km (47,000 miles). Overall, I was satisfied with the condition of the vehicle:

They told me that their goal with the new program is just to get the vehicles in the hands of more customers quickly and that they end up reinvesting most of their profit margin on the car for the recertification and giving it the new warranty.

While we would need more information to confirm it, it’s not unbelievable considering the condition of the car, and the fact that they bought it back from the original owner for around $10,000 ($7,000 USD) less than I paid for it.

If you want to get into a Tesla soon at a relatively good price, I would recommend going CPO. You just need to be on the look out for a good opportunity.

Tesla is currently in the process of updating its fleet of loaner vehicles to deploy fully-loaded P100Ds in all service centers. It is resulting in more vehicles used as loaners coming into Tesla’s used car inventory. You can add to that more 3-year-old vehicles coming off of their leases, which also result in the inventory constantly growing.

There’s also the fact that Tesla recently added a deadline to its ‘free Supercharging’ on future car purchases by owners. It encourages current owners to upgrade by the end of the year in order to keep their free access to the Supercharger network, which is one of the best perks of the current Tesla vehicles.

Let me know in the comment section below if there’s any interest for a more in-depth review of the car itself, instead of the buying process, to see how it holds up after almost 5 years. Hint: pretty well.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Stay up to date with the latest content by subscribing to Electrek on Google News. You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Tesla, electric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.



Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

Fred is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Electrek.

You can send tips on Twitter (DMs open) or via email:

Through, you can check out Fred’s portfolio and get monthly green stock investment ideas.