Electric cars still represent the great unknown when it comes to their longevity. Will they become largely useless, like older computers? Or will the market spring up with replacement batteries and upgraded software to keep them relevant for decades?
One thing we do know is that the Tesla Model S holds its value well. The first Model S sedans went on sale in 2012, so they’ve been on the road for nearly eight years. Those earliest versions offered as little as 139 miles of range from their 40-kWh batteries, though the 60-kWh battery bumped that to a far more usable 208 miles.
The earliest Model S electric cars can easily be found for less than $30,000, with some higher-mile versions hovering at around $25,000. That’s actually quite a strong resale value, given that they were priced about the same as a Mercedes-Benz E350 when new. Today, a $30,000-plus 2013 E350 is a rarity, while the presence of a sub-$30,000 Model S is worth this blog post that you’re currently reading.
For instance, here’s a white 2014 Model S in Milwaukee for just $24,997. It’s a one-owner example with higher miles and an accident on its Carfax report, which helps explain its low price. The ad doesn’t make it clear what its battery life is, but if driven to near depletion on a regular basis, it has been charged at least 600 times.
Still, that used Tesla Model S costs less than a new Nissan Leaf with just a 150-mile range. The Tesla’s new car smell is long gone, but it still looks like a brand-new model to casual observers, and its interior boasts the huge vertical touchscreen that still looks like almost nothing else on the market. (Well, short of a Subaru Outback or Ram pickup, that is.) If you’re set on a Tesla, a new Model 3 costs about $40,000 before any government incentives, and its interior is nowhere near as nice as that of the Model S.
As Tesla thinks of itself as a consumer electronics manufacturer and not a carmaker, updates to its cars have been incremental and don’t always follow conventional model years. Earlier cars lacked AutoPilot, the company’s suite of constantly upgraded semiautonomous tech. Early cars — those with the black mustache front fascia — have AutoPilot 1 at best, which is the original system and will eventually become obsolete.
Given that limitation, I might be more tempted to go for this earlier 2013 Model S in a sharp dark green for $27,500. Or I’d hunt out one of the ultra-rare cloth seat models. If any Tesla is ever going to appeal to collectors in the long run, it’s going to be an unusual one. Find a Tesla Model S for sale