Shopping for a used car comes with a lot of uncertainty. Used Tesla electric cars are no different. But if you are shopping for a used Tesla, this video guide is a good place to start.
Rich Benoit is one of the foremost experts on Teslas. He's an independent Tesla mechanic who has rebuilt many of these cars—some from salvaged wrecks bought at insurance auctions.
Benoit's YouTube channel, Rich Rebuilds, is full of videos offering a frank look at Tesla ownership, and he runs a shop that specializes in Tesla service.
The first piece of advice is to avoid buying a used car directly from Tesla.
The Tesla website doesn't offer much information on used cars. It doesn't even show photos of specific cars, Benoit noted. To see what a car actually looks like, you need to contact Tesla and hope a representative gets back to you, Benoit said.
That's because Tesla no longer runs a certified pre-owned car program, as most other automakers do. It just keeps an inventory of used cars that are given a cursory inspection before being put on sale.
That leaves buying a car with a salvage title, or buying a car that (presumably) runs and drives from a private party. Which, in turn, means inspecting the car yourself—or having it inspected by a qualified shop.
2019 Tesla Model S
Panel gaps and misaligned trim are generally a bad sign but, Benoit pointed out, many Teslas come from the factory this way, so these defects are not the most important things to look for.
Instead, it's best to start by looking for cracks in the roof, as this can be very expensive to repair, and underneath for dents in the battery pack, Benoit said.
A long list of other items to look for, from groaning rear-hatch actuators to bubbles in the main touchscreen, are covered in the video as well.
It's also not a good idea to trust exterior badging, Benoit said. A seller could apply P100D badging to a Model X 75D, for example. Instrument cluster displays will always show what variant a car really is, Benoit said.
Similarly, Autopilot may not be transferable to a new owner. That feature is tied to the owner who purchased the car when new, and may be deactivated by Tesla when the car is sold.
As with used cars of any brand, a test drive is vital to check for any issues. If possible, that should include taking the car to a Supercharger station and recharging to 100%, Benoit said. This will indicate the level of battery degradation.
And if you're planning to put these tips into action, the Model 3 is currently the best used Tesla deal, according to Benoit.
Watch the video above or below, and then tell us: Would you buy a used Tesla? Have you? If so, please share your experiences and lessons!