TL;DR: It depends.
If you ever take a management class in college, that is the answer to every essay question on the test. The instructor expects you to justify the reasons for the different cases. Maybe that is where I learned to be able to argue any side of any issue. Or maybe it was my involvement in politics. Regardless, the used Model 3’s are either a great deal or a horrible one and I will present both cases and they are both potentially true. I depends on your situation.
First, though, I’d like to give my Twitter friend, Steve Jobs (@tesla_truth), credit for letting me know these cars are now available.
I wasn’t able to find used Model 3’s anywhere but in San Francisco, but over time, they should show up around the country. If you really want one, you can have it shipped to you for $2,000 if you are outside of California, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You wouldn’t be able to inspect the car and it just makes the deal more complicated and expensive.
Example Used Vehicle
This early Model 3 has the classic Long Range Rear Wheel Drive that all the first cars came with, and also has the optional 19″ sport wheels and red paint.
Comparable New 3
You can’t order the same car new online today. You can just order the Long Range with All Wheel Drive and Autopilot. Don’t worry, I’ll adjust for that and discuss later.
So, first, the case for the used Model 3.
If this is your dream configuration, it allows you to get the car you want for more than $10,000 less than a new Model 3 — that could be a couple hundred bucks a month and the difference between the car being affordable or being out of reach!
Clearly, you have to like the configuration, because if you start changing the wheels or color, you are going to just be spending extra money that you won’t get back. If you can’t find a configuration you love, it is better to buy new. So, if you love the red, long-range, rear-wheel-drive Model 3 with sport wheels, this might be a good deal for you. It would be a good choice for people who have the money to buy the car, but don’t have enough taxable to take the tax credit on the new car. [Editor’s note: This car is now actually gone, with all used Model 3 options now blue.]
For people who love driving the Model 3 (and it is EXTREMELY fun to drive) and don’t care about Autopilot (which I also love for longer trips), why pay for it? The warranty Tesla is offering on used cars is very good and overlaps with the new warranty. This means, in our example, if you bought the car on June 17, 2019, it would cover bumper to bumper till June 16, 2023 or until 78,201 miles on the odometer, whichever comes first. The battery and drive warranty is only 5 years and 92,000 miles from today, but frankly, there have been no reported problems with either of those (and you can bet any problems would be highly publicized by those who want Tesla to fail), so I’m not too worried about them. If you are keeping the car for a while, you don’t care too much about the miles on the car, since over time the condition of the car matters more than the miles.
Now, how about the case against the used car?
The first downside is that only people in California can consider this and really save any money. Another is that you may not like the configuration — you would rather spend your money on Autopilot instead of the red paint and sport wheels, for example.
Most people can use the tax credit and enjoy having the car from day one. There is a special bond many people feel when they buy a car new, to some degree or another (my wife feels this bond quite strongly, I don’t feel it as strongly).
If you are going to resell the car in a few years (possibly to buy a Model Y), I think getting the new one might be better since you will have fewer miles on it and it will be a one-owner trade-in, which may be better. I played around with Kelley Blue Book’s What’s My Car Worth site, and it appears that 15 cents a mile is a pretty good assumption for how much you will be docked for extra miles, but I didn’t adjust for it being one model year older — it seems that would be worth about $3,000 if you trade it in soon (if you keep the car 10 years, nobody cares if it is a 2018 or 2019).
For many, they would prefer to give up a little range and a few other minor features and go with the Standard Range or the Standard Range Plus rather than going used if they have trouble affording the Long Range car.
As I said, I tried to present a compelling case for buying the used vehicle and also a compelling case for why the new vehicle could be a much better deal. I think it is a great option for those who are looking for that specific vehicle and plan to keep it long enough that the miles and model year don’t matter. Which situation resonates with you? Let me know in the comments if you thought I was fair in my comparison.
If you want to take advantage of my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, here’s the link: https://ts.la/paul92237 (but if someone else helped you more, please use their code instead of mine).
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