If you’ve ever purchased a car, the chances are you’ll be familiar with the concept of trade-ins: giving the dealer your old car-- and the equity contained within it--as a down-payment on a newer model.

Now electric automaker Tesla Motors is offering a similar trade-in deal for owners of its first electric car: the Tesla Roadster. 

Sell Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA} your old two-seat roadster, and it will give you a substantial discount on a brand new 2012 Tesla Model S. 

Traditionally, although trade-in deals offer car buyers a convenient way to get rid of their old car, trade-in values are much less than private sale prices. 

After trade in, unless your old car is still relatively new or in demand, the dealer then sells your car on for profit at a used car auction. 

From there, it makes its way to a used car lot. 

At face value, Tesla’s trade-in deal seems to operate like any other, but there’s a few twists which make it very different. 

First, there’s no dealer. Tesla customers ordering a 2012 Model S can opt to sell their car back to Tesla. 

Thanks to extensive service records and remote diagnostics, Tesla can accurately value a traded-in Roadster before it even arrives. 

And rather than go onto a used car lot, Tesla is planning to sell traded-in Roadsters at its stores, ensuring used Tesla customers get the same level of service it offers it new car customers. 

Second, thanks to a limited production run of around 2,600 cars, Tesla Roadsters have kept their value. 

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Tesla expects a 4-year-old Tesla Roadster with 31,000 miles to sell for around $73,300. 

Even assuming a lower trade-in value, Tesla Roadster owners with cars in good condition could end up buying a brand-new top-spec Model S--which costs upwards of $100,000, depending on options-- for less than $30,000.

In order to do that, they will have to trade their old Roadster in, of course. 

With the base level Model S costing $57,400 before incentives, and a good-condition 2010 Roadster selling for much more, some owners may find that Tesla has to cut them a check for the difference. 

Third, because Tesla still offers upgrade packages for Roadster owners, allowing them to upgrade a 1.5 or 2.0 Roadster to the same specification as the last Roadster to roll off the production line, almost any age Tesla can be given a new lease of life. 

This means that instead of waiting for the right spec Tesla Roadster to come along, those looking to buy a used Tesla can simply ask the automaker to upgrade their car to the right specifications. 

Finally, by starting a trade-in program for its iconic Roadster, Tesla gets an extra model of car to sell alongside the 2012 Model S. 

And of course, for those who couldn’t afford the Tesla Roadster first time around, there’s just a slim chance that maybe, just maybe, they can grab a used one at a more sensible price.


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