Home » Here’s How Cheap A Used Tesla Model S Has Become Thanks To Government Incentives

Here’s How Cheap A Used Tesla Model S Has Become Thanks To Government Incentives

Cheap Teslas Used Ev Tax Credit Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

For better or worse, the Tesla Model S is a car that changed the world. It changed people’s perception of electric cars, brought about the first truly reliable charging network in North America, and signaled the dawn of a new era. Because Tesla’s kept it on sale forever, early examples are surprisingly cheap, and some of them just got cheaper thanks to Uncle Sam.

White 2013 Tesla Model S P85 Profil E

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

 

It’s January, which means that the federal used EV rebate is now in effect, offering fortunate aspiring EV buyers a tax rebate for 30 percent of the sale price of a used EV bought from a dealer, up to a maximum of $4,000.

So what’s the fine print? Well, on the ownership front, you can’t be a dependent on someone else’s tax return, you can’t have “claimed another used clean vehicle credit in the 3 years before the purchase date,” you need to be buying used from a dealership for personal use, and you can’t be the car’s original owner. Are there income caps? Absolutely. According to the IRS, incomes caps are based on modified adjusted gross income, and they go as follows:

ADVERTISEMENT
  • $150,000 for married filing jointly or a surviving spouse
  • $112,500 for heads of households
  • $75,000 for all other filers

As for the car, as per the IRS, it must:

  • Have a sale price of $25,000 or less. Sale price includes all dealer-imposed costs or fees not required by law. It doesn’t include costs or fees required by law, such as taxes or title and registration fees.
  • Have a model year at least 2 years earlier than the calendar year when you buy it. For example, a vehicle purchased in 2023 would need a model year of 2021 or older.
  • Not have already been transferred after August 16, 2022, to a qualified buyer.
  • Have a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 14,000 pounds
  • Be an eligible FCV or plug-in EV with a battery capacity of least 7 kilowatt hours
  • Be for use primarily in the United States

You know what this means? The mack-daddy of revolutionary EVs, the Tesla Model S, is now in seriously cheap territory, depending on who you buy it from.

White 2013 Model S P85 1

 

Take this 2013 Tesla Model S P85, which has reportedly received a new battery pack and a desirable eMMC upgrade. It was sold by a dealership on Cars & Bids a few days ago for $18,500. Since that figure maxes out the $4,000 cap, subtracting four grand from the price leaves us with a net price of $14,500. That’s $14,500 for a big, fast luxury sedan with 50,400 miles on the clock and history of a new battery pack in 2021.

ADVERTISEMENT

White 2013 Model S P85 Interior

Sure, it might need tires, and it does have a hit on its vehicle history report. The seats look remarkably baggy and the steering wheel rather worn for a vehicle with such low mileage, but do you know what? This is a ton of car for less than $15,000.

2012 Tesla Model S

Alright, so maybe you’re looking for something a little less cosmetically grubby. Well, here’s a 2012 Tesla Model S P85 with the turbine wheels and just 38,000 miles on the clock, sold on Bring A Trailer by a dealership late last year. While this doesn’t qualify for the used electric vehicle tax credit due to the time it was sold, it hammered for $23,000. If prices stay fairly level, chopping four grand off that price would put it under $20,000.

Autotrader 2014 Tesla Model S White

ADVERTISEMENT

Things get even better when you look beyond the auctions, towards the brace of cheap options on the private market. This 2014 Tesla Model S P85 may have 123,250 miles on the clock, but it’s also listed up for sale on Autotrader for $14,977. Subtract the tax credit, and you end up with $10,977 for a car that, albeit heavily tweaked, is still in production as a flagship EV.

Tesla Model S P90d

Oh, and if you have a serious penchant for acceleration, going from zero-to-60 mph in less than three seconds on four wheels has never been cheaper. Here’s a 2016 Model S P90D, the dawn of Ludicrous Mode, listed for $23,995 at a dealership in New Jersey. Subtract the $4,000 rebate, and you get a car that goes from zero-to-60 mph in less than three seconds for $19,995. Is that mildly terrifying or what?

White 2013 Model S P85 Rear

Sure, the Tesla Model S might not have the best image of all performance cars out there, its door handles seem to pack up with alarming regularity, its air suspension is indeed air suspension, and aged high-voltage components are lingering question marks, but where else are you getting this blend of comfort, performance, and modernity for this little money? I, for one, welcome our shitbox Tesla future, because I can only begin to imagine the tuning community that can come from this. With the IRS tossing a few bones to buyers of these old EVs, it might just be worth trying one out.

ADVERTISEMENT

(Photo credits: Cars & Bids, Bring A Trailer, Autotrader Sellers)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
83 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mark Kress
Mark Kress
21 days ago

Replace the front bumper cover with the new style, put “TESLA” letters on your trunk, buy the CCS adapter upgrade kit, and you have a Model S that looks like new.

And if you can avoid a Tesla service center, you’ll keep the free lifetime supercharging.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
22 days ago

I thought you wrote required purchase from a dealer. Those private market Teslas do not meet that requirement.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
16 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Honestly, there are advantages to buying private in that you get to talk to someone who actually knows the vehicle history. And you can assess who has actually owned/driven the vehicle.

With a dealer, they will never admit to knowing about any issues or any causes of concern.

But yeah, it sucks that the rebate is only available if you buy through a dealer.

Mind you, that’s not applicable in my area where there is no used BEV rebate.

Last edited 16 days ago by Manwich Sandwich
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
16 days ago

Oh given the choice I buy from the owner. Hopefully not as skilled at lying, you see how they care for other items, and it is cheaper than the dealer after Mark up. Although new I prefer dealer over manufacturers because the competition.

Flinched
Flinched
23 days ago

In the long term I think incentivizing an EV for 75k and under incomes will prove to be a financial shortfall for that owner. It’s too early for conclusions, but it starting to look like battery lifespan doesn’t compare to ICE longevity. The average car age in the U.S. is over 12 years and well over 100k miles and can go to 200k and beyond. Think about the demographics of 3rd, 4th and beyond owners. After taxes, health insurance, and a modest 401k contribution you’re lucky to net 4k per month with a 75k income.. Now subtract rent, groceries, heat, etc. and there ain’t much left, definitely not enough to buy a new battery for that 12 year old EV.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
16 days ago
Reply to  Flinched

I’ve been saying this longer than this site has been around going back to the dark sight. I have been ridiculed and told I am a moron. Although moron is the more polite version and the names were never used by the staff.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
23 days ago

Yup… but even without an incentive like that, a used Tesla Model S is a performance and efficiency bargain.

Parts/service will be expensive. But that is offset by the fact that you don’t have to buy gasoline anymore and you don’t have to do a lot if ICE-specific service/repairs/maintenance anymore.

William Getz
William Getz
16 days ago

Insurance prices are a bit crazy on them though. At least here in Texas.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
16 days ago

Ì say it’s a hit or miss. You get one who you don’t even get a fender bender and not built on a MWF and lucky enough the battery has no bugs you are gold. Like DT with a cheap I3 and a free new battery. But a minor accident written off and you still owe. Battery malfunction as 2nd owner you are stick your dick in a 220v light socket screwed, or a simple repair and you have a $5,000 tow job before anything gets fixed. I’ll risk acouple grand on an ICE car but not $30,000 on a used EV.

StalePhish
StalePhish
23 days ago

And with plenty of used Model 3s hitting that price range, those would be a good buy too!

Not have already been transferred after August 16, 2022, to a qualified buyer.

This is the fine print that sucks though. It’s SO hard from a consumer perspective to know if you’re buying a car that some previous owner didn’t already claim the credit on. Maybe there needs to be some publicly available database where you can type in the VIN and it tells you if it would qualify or not.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
16 days ago
Reply to  StalePhish

Well hopefully the dealer requirement allows for search before purchase to check.

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
23 days ago

I think Tesla Model 3s are going to be super affordable in another couple years. I plan to get one with an aged battery and use as a local runabout. Hopefully at golf cart pricing.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
23 days ago

Just keep in mind that the market is all-knowing in its assessment of resale value.

There is always a reason why stuff is cheap..

Jj
Jj
23 days ago

“…on the private market. This 2014 Tesla Model S P85 may have 123,250 miles on the clock, but it’s also listed up for sale on Autotrader for $14,977. Subtract the tax credit, and you end up with $10,977″

There is no $4000 credit on private sale. Has to be from a dealer.

Last edited 23 days ago by Jj
TheNewt
TheNewt
23 days ago
Reply to  Jj

It looks like this listed by a dealer….

Jj
Jj
23 days ago
Reply to  TheNewt

You are correct. Autotrader doesn’t work through my VPN so I was just going on context.

My Bad.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
23 days ago

“Subtract the $4,000 rebate, and you get a car that goes from zero-to-60 mph in less than three seconds for $19,995. Is that mildly terrifying or what?”

In the hands of Florida Man, its original owner? Absofrickinlutely!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
15 days ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I have lived all across the country, there are many more states whose drivers terrify me more than FL. AAMF most bad Florida drivers are transferred in from other states. Florida has flat land, no hills, no potholes due to ice. Frankly the roads being great is the problem. But except for other states old retired folks I’ll take FL. over snow states and especially over snow every couple of years. It’s interesting that most bad FL drivers are old people from other states. The roads are perfect, no snow, mountains, ice, or potholes.

Last edited 15 days ago by Mr Sarcastic
Mthew_M
Mthew_M
23 days ago

There was recently a Model X for sale from a dealer for $20,000. Was a screaming deal – I guess they improved a few things quickly, because the interior (cloth!) looked nearly new. All the more impressive with 250k miles on the clock. Not a huge Tesla fan, but, the mileage put in by some of the Tesloop (and similar) shuttles is really impressive.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
15 days ago
Reply to  Mthew_M

Without a new battery I wouldn’t touch that deal.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
23 days ago

battery goes tits up you are still on the hook for $20,000 big yikes.

Mthew_M
Mthew_M
23 days ago
Reply to  Bassracerx

There are so many options for replacing/repairing batteries. And they rarely go ‘tits up’.

Jj
Jj
23 days ago
Reply to  Bassracerx

What’s the replacement cost for an out-of-warranty German luxury sedan’s engine?

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
23 days ago
Reply to  Jj

This isn’t a great comparison because a used engine is a much more reasonable proposition than a used battery.

Jj
Jj
23 days ago

Agreed, but in the case of something like an AMG variant of a Mercedes vehicle, there is almost no availability of used engines. I didn’t find an engine for sale in a quick search. The closest I found was someone selling a rebuild service on ebay for $14,995.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
23 days ago
Reply to  Jj

That’s fair. The engine in one of mine is a little spicy but it seems to “only” cost $5k.

What AMG were you looking at?

Jj
Jj
23 days ago

I was just using the CLA45 from the example below. Lots of normal engines for other CLAs bur I didn’t see any AMGs.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
23 days ago
Reply to  Jj

Ah I see that now. I was thinking about stuff that’s 10ish years old like the Teslas in the article.

Obviously fresh out of warranty German cars are going to be expensive af but once you get 10+ years old it’s less crazy.

Jj
Jj
23 days ago
Reply to  Bassracerx

“CLA45. 155,000kms. Rear diff and clutch went 6 weeks out of warranty had 96,000kms on the clock at the time. $15k to replace…”

Mark Kress
Mark Kress
21 days ago
Reply to  Bassracerx

Used and reconditioned are 10-12k installed and falling, worth it if the car has free supercharging. Replacing an engine in an average German car of the same year will cost you nearly as much.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
15 days ago
Reply to  Mark Kress

Nothing has free charging anymore, heck you are more likely to have to pay new prices for all the options already paid for.

Last edited 15 days ago by Mr Sarcastic
JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
23 days ago

Even as a Tesla fan a Model S of that vintage is a terrible purchase.

RoRoTheGreat
RoRoTheGreat
23 days ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

For those that don’t know, could you please explain why.

Eric Matthews
Eric Matthews
23 days ago
Reply to  RoRoTheGreat

The oldest 85kwh packs have a really big failure rate. The pre-2016 performance motors were also in the same boat. The big screen had issues until 2017. The door handles had issues until 2016. Among others.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
23 days ago
Reply to  RoRoTheGreat

I can tell you why… the early Model S vehicles (2012-2015) had a lot of design issues. The Model S was actually the first vehicle that Tesla design and built 100% themselves.

However, if you want a vehicle to depend on, you’re much better off spending more on a 2016+ Model S… by which time a lot of issues were worked out and had MANY improvements made.

In my view, it’s only worth getting an early Model S if you can get it for at least $20,000 less than a 2016+ Model S.

As for trouble areas the early ones had that the later ones didn’t have (or to the same degree)… door handle issues, leaky sunroofs, MCU Issues – particularly the memory card, no autopilot hardware (if you care about that), center screen issues with them dying in hot weather and/or getting faded along the edges, battery pack durability issues, high voltage pack pyro fuse failures, rear large motor failures and at least a few other things I’m forgetting.

Now having said that, if you’re buying an early Model S today, it’s likely a lot of that stuff was fixed. But it’s important to check IF it was fixed.

And I’m saying this as someone who is seriously thinking of getting a Model S as my next car.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
23 days ago

Exactly, it can be death by a thousand cuts on the old cars if the work was not performed. MCU, hardware 2 upgrades, suspension, door handle failures.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
15 days ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

Actually with that logical and common sense approach I don’t think Tesla allows you to be classified as a fan. They might not even allow you to buy a certified used Tesla.

Is Travis
Is Travis
23 days ago

But then you have the stigma of owning a Tesla. Amazing a guy could be so toxic and polarizing as to make people that are into electric cars to begin with be turned off and people who hate the very whisper of the word Prius go nuts.
As has been pointed out most recently by John Oliver for a good round, the guy is pretty awful.

Eslader
Eslader
23 days ago
Reply to  Is Travis

It’s not even about the stigma. I don’t automatically assume anyone I see in a Tesla is an asshole like Musk any more than I think anyone driving a Volkswagen likes Hitler. Especially in today’s vertical-supply-chain world, it’s almost impossible to own a product that isn’t linked to unethical practices somewhere along the line.

The problem with buying a used Tesla is that Tesla has a long history of removing features you thought you owned via remote because “they were bought by the previous owner, not you.” Even ones sold used by Tesla and advertised with certain features then had them yanked after purchase because “well you didn’t pay for it!” That kind of fraudulent malfeasance isn’t something I care to deal with.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
23 days ago
Reply to  Is Travis

The Model Y is the best-selling car worldwide now, so it doesn’t seem that many people care.

Jj
Jj
23 days ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

They are one of the only auto manufacturers with a rational product lineup.

Every other manufacturer would be splitting Model Y – class vehicles (and their sales) into a half dozen very similar but separately-reported models.

Is Travis
Is Travis
22 days ago
Reply to  Jj

Rational Lineup
Cybertruck

Pick one.

Jj
Jj
22 days ago
Reply to  Is Travis

Yes, but at least they only have one in their lineup.

Is Travis
Is Travis
21 days ago
Reply to  Jj

But it is 1/5th of their lineup.

Is Travis
Is Travis
22 days ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

It is a popular product, doesn’t make the guy less of a clown. I’m happy for any electric vehicle success, of course, I just won’t support anything that lines that pricks pockets first or second hand myself. There are better options that don’t come with the cringe baggage.

Last edited 22 days ago by Is Travis
JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
14 days ago
Reply to  Is Travis

There are currently no better options in the EV market from a total ownership experience. Relying on the CCS network is terrible in the US.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
15 days ago
Reply to  Is Travis

Of all things Tesla I don’t think Elon is that close to the bottom on reasons it is stupid to buy one.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
23 days ago

It’s not a bad deal, however it’s a bit like buying a cheap Jaguar. It’s great until you break something.

Greensoul
Greensoul
23 days ago

The one car shown needed a new battery pack at 50,400 miles? Does age degrade the batteries that much? What is up with that I wonder.

D-dub
D-dub
23 days ago
Reply to  Greensoul

Maybe the battery replacement was related to the accident it was in.

Greensoul
Greensoul
23 days ago
Reply to  D-dub

I do wonder if that may be a cause. I would still clear of this Tesla though. A battery replacement is a big red flag for me at 50k miles no matter what the cause.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
23 days ago
Reply to  D-dub

Somehow the idea of an accident bad enough to warrant a battery replacement isn’t making me feel better about the deal.

Jj
Jj
23 days ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I remember a story of someone who ran over something on the highway, doing slight underside damage. One of the things that broke was a forward-facing plumbing connection for the battery pack’s cooling system.

Tesla’s only approved repair for this damage was a full battery replacement. I think the guy found someone to repair the fitting for a few hundred dollars.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
23 days ago
Reply to  Jj

I recall that story. IIRC some folks were commenting they’d have just fixed it with a few bucks of JB Weld.

Torque
Torque
20 days ago
Reply to  Jj

This story happened to a guy that had a Tesla M 3. He took it to Electrified Garage in Mass. and (uncle) Rich (Rich Rebuilds youtuber), who owns Electrified Garage dis a video on it.

The fix was indeed to epoxy (It might have in fact been JBWeld) the coolant pipe on the front of the battery pack.

This strikes me as a design volunerability. If that coolant pipe needs to be there there should be better shielding around it. At least that’s what I would look to proactively do if I had a M 3

https://youtu.be/vVSw3KSevEc?si=Eeds7jxSBxO66c2b

Last edited 20 days ago by Torque
Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
23 days ago
Reply to  Greensoul

Early Teslas ate battery packs and drive units for breakfast. They didn’t get their stuff together until 2014-2015

Mthew_M
Mthew_M
23 days ago
Reply to  Dinklesmith

Yeah really common to see the early cars – especially the P85 – with a string of drive motor replacements. Later cars with the smaller motors seem to do much better.

Eric Matthews
Eric Matthews
23 days ago
Reply to  Dinklesmith

All the 85 packs had high failure rates. Most reliable early Model S is 2017 and later. They fixed a lot of stuff with the late 2016 “facelift”.

Eric Matthews
Eric Matthews
23 days ago
Reply to  Greensoul

The 85kw battery from 2012-2015 had serious problems with failure. Up to 15% of the 2012 had to be replaced. Other packs are much better.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
23 days ago
Reply to  Greensoul

The combo of age and usage causes wear on Lithium batteries. But another thing that can kill a battery is discharging it to the point that even its reserve gets depleted.

Cerberus
Cerberus
23 days ago

Wow, that trash design interior doesn’t hold up well. Even with that cheap-ass adherence to minimalism, they couldn’t get the few pieces to last. Scandinavian inspired design, sure, with IKEA build quality.

Is Travis
Is Travis
23 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

But… I put the IKEA together… Ohhhhh

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
23 days ago

“The seats look remarkably baggy and the steering wheel rather worn for a vehicle with such low mileage”

As owner of a similar Model S, I can report that they all pretty much came from factory already like that.

Last edited 23 days ago by Vicente Perez
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago

Can Tesla remove options? This story needs more information. If afterwards I will buy one

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
23 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

There have been instances of Tesla removing features from newer cars, but it is unusual and in any case, never for vehicles this old.

These cars even have unlimited free charging at Tesla Superchargers that lasts for the life of the vehicle and stays with the car.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago
Reply to  Vicente Perez

Au contraire Tesla has been doing things to cars old and new based on doing what they want. Been happening for manly years.

Huja Shaw
Huja Shaw
23 days ago

Still no.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago

Is there a minimum battery acceptable value?

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
23 days ago

And if you get really specific, you can get a Model S that still has free supercharging. I’d imagine Tesla will eventually block it, but as of now, it’s still supposed to transfer with certain vehicles. https://electrek.co/2021/07/21/how-to-tell-if-your-tesla-qualifies-for-free-supercharging/

Last edited 23 days ago by Spartanjohn113
Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
23 days ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

Contractually they can’t block it. What they are trying (rather desperately) is to get owners of the pre 2016 Model S to trade in their vehicles by giving all sorts of incentives.

D-dub
D-dub
23 days ago
Reply to  Vicente Perez

If the free charging transfers to the next owner, how does that help them? Do they send the traded-in cars to the crusher?

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
23 days ago
Reply to  D-dub

Some probably go to the crusher. Some they even refurbish to use as service vehicles.

https://www.wheelsjoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/tesla-ranger-mobile-service-2-768×430.jpg

Mthew_M
Mthew_M
23 days ago
Reply to  D-dub

If the car comes back to Tesla, they can do pretty much whatever they want to it – remove Supercharging, remove options, etc. While they own it, they can make changes. But if it doesn’t ever get sold back to them, the courts have decided that they cannot remove features, including free unlimited supercharging (unless the vehicle was branded with a salvage title).

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
23 days ago

“Not have already been transferred after August 16, 2022, to a qualified buyer.”

Whose responsibility is it to determine this, the seller or the buyer? If it is the seller, what are the legal ramifications of lying about it?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

Please post this in english

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
23 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Is it they buyer’s responsibility or the sellers responsibility to determine if the car was or was not “already been transferred after August 16, 2022, to a qualified buyer.”?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

Thanks now I get it

TheWombatQueen
TheWombatQueen
23 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Would have been more efficient to just say “wordsalad”

Ted Fort
Ted Fort
23 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Their post was perfectly clear to begin with.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
23 days ago

Those interiors do not hold up well…

mtnJeep
mtnJeep
23 days ago

I remember growing up with low-priced land yachts that I could fill up with my hooligan friends and get into trouble with. This future isn’t all bad… Now I just need to get the band back together.

MegaVan
MegaVan
23 days ago
Reply to  mtnJeep

I was trying to think what 12 year old large cars were available when I was buying my first car.

Late 90’s Buicks, Oldsmobiles, etc.

My first was a 14 year old Caddy, 108k miles for $1,200.

DadBod
DadBod
23 days ago
Reply to  MegaVan

For me it was a constellation of early 80s barges, we got to enjoy the golden age of station wagons

83
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x