It Sells Itself - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: It Sells Itself

July 23, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

This may come as a disappointment to some, but we've sold our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S. A number of readers wanted us to keep the car for reasons ranging from "I want to see what else happens" to "the Model S is the only car worth reading about on this blog."

There was never a dull moment with our Model S, and while it wasn't my decision to sell it, I can understand why it had to go. First, we've already learned the lessons from this car. It is an impressive technological achievement, but Tesla needs to iron out its quality problems.

Second, we've already set our sights on buying two other vehicles: a 2015 Ford Mustang and a 2015 Ford F-150. Selling the Model S will make it possible for us to add two cars to the fleet and provide twice the content for our readers.

And third, we received not one but two offers for the Tesla and that was too good to pass up. Here's how it happened.

Sometime before Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing, went on his cross country road trip, I received an e-mail from a reader in Texas. He had seen the CarMax post and offered us $82,500 to buy our Model S. It was a solid offer, but I wasn't ready to sell yet. A couple weeks passed, and I took the car in for the milling sound I discussed in another post.

During that time, Edmunds Automotive Editor Mark Takahashi told us that Allan, a relative of his, was also interested in the Model S. Allan and his wife were already EV converts, having owned a Nissan Leaf. They didn't want to pay full price for a new Model S, or have to wait months for one to be built. He was fully aware of our car's repair history and was still interested. After all, the car's been sorted out and is still under warranty. That said, I recommended he purchase an extended warranty, just in case.

We told Allan that we already had an offer for $82,500, but we'd sell it to him for $83,000. He was OK with that. The Texas buyer, meanwhile, wasn't willing to counter Allan's offer, citing the added miles on the car and the recent drive unit replacement. Let me be clear: He was still interested in buying it, just not willing to go over his initial offer.

And so the Model S went to Allan and his wife for $83,000. The price was a $4,000 improvement over CarMax's offer of $79,000. Also keep in mind that CarMax made that offer before we added 7,778 miles to the car. You have to imagine CarMax's reappraisal would probably be about $1,000 less than the initial one.

There are two ways of looking at the depreciation on this car. If you factor in the cost of a High Powered Wall Connector ($1,200 plus $35 for shipping), we paid $105,005 for the Model S brand new. In that case, the used sale price of $83,000 represents 21-percent depreciation.

If you deduct the price of the HPWC — and, after all, we're keeping ours and we can imagine a Tesla owner doing the same — the retail price of our Model S would have been $103,770. Depreciation in that case would drop slightly, to 20 percent.

This car is a year-and-a-half old and has 30,000 miles on it, so in either case the car has impressive resale value. For reference, our fleet average is about 22-percent depreciation after one year. Maybe Tesla was onto something when it promised to have the highest resale value of the luxury brands.

I'm going to miss our Model S. It wasn't perfect, but it was like nothing else out there. Take heart, Tesla fans: Sometime in early 2015, we will be one of the first to buy a Model X.

Final Odometer: 30,251 miles

Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor


  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    Good luck to the new owners, but now they have to add the cost of an extended warranty to their $83k car - ouch. Good deal or not, I never would have purchased such a lemon. And why did I read about the sale of this vehicle on InsideEVs before it was posted here? I still think you should have kept the Model S. The Mustang will be boring, and all anyone wants to hear about the F150 is whether the aluminum panels fall off, which they won't.

  • phildriver phildriver Posts:

    We sold a game changer for two generic models. Great job guys.

  • Why get another pickup? Get something fun, or something that has some sort of new technology! Aluminum is new to pickups, but it's been around for decades in other cars!

  • meckser meckser Posts:

    Do the depreciation numbers take into account the $7500 fed tax credit? +1 on this being the only interesting model on the blog. I can't wait till Aug1st rolls around to see another 50 posts on the gas mileage!

  • kirkhilles1 kirkhilles1 Posts:

    Noooo! That was really a mistake. Couldn't you have waited until at least you purchased the Model X??? I think you guys are really going to lose some readers on this. You can find endless blogs and articles on the Mustang and F-150, but not the Tesla. You're really doing yourselves a disservice here.

  • cjasis cjasis Posts:

    Really disappointed with this decision. A lot of readers, myself included, are far more interested to learn how a class leading/game changing vehicle like the Model S does over a longer run than how yet another pick up or pony car does (albeit important models in the US marketplace too).

  • chrisb12 chrisb12 Posts:

    Q: how does the Model S depreciation compare to a luxury competitor -- say a Mercedes or Audi? A rough view would seem to indicate that a Mercedes S550 would depreciate about 40k in year 1 (off of 95k price) for a total of 38% or so depreciation. As a matter of fact most cars in this segment come up on internet searches as HUGE depreciation hits in the first year let alone 18 months. If that's the competitive group the Model S is in it beat the competition handily.

  • benson2175 benson2175 Posts:

    Mustang and 150 are warm milktoast compared to the Tesla. There's still the CL to be exciting.

  • chrisb12 chrisb12 Posts:

    ps: I know it's only a fraction of the marketplace but right now electric cars (BEV) are the most interesting segment. I look forward to the Model X and later the Model III

  • angioman1 angioman1 Posts:

    That's it, I am done with Edmunds. They don't listen to the most loyal readers who have taken the time to post comments on their blog. All the other long term car posts are so uneventful and boring. The only unique thing they had going was this Tesla S long term review.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    Well that is too bad, despite owning a Model S it was still fun to come on here and read your impressions. I can understand why you sold it, though. What else were you going to learn? In another year's time the only new things you would have to say would be that the car remained a blast to drive, but also really unreliable. @chrisb12, I'm not sure how 12-month residuals look, but an S550 loses about 44% of its value in 2 years while the A8 and 7er lose 51-53% of theirs in 2 years.

  • chrisb12 chrisb12 Posts:

    @mercedesfan -- the numbers seem to have a very sharp decrease in year one and then a leveling out which still seems to put the Model S as a huge value in the depreciation department (regardless of tax rebate). I would say that their is a major difference between a gas fired car and a BEV for the drive train replacement as well - gas fired is complicated and the minute you touched it and replaced the motor I'd bet you'd have a depreciation hit in the mind of the buyer that could be another 10-20%. That's just my opinion but the major work in this case was much less major become of the way it is broken in to components and the time it took to replace those components (1 day for full drive replacement -- doesn't happen on most any gas car).

  • stever stever Posts:

    [Long term tests]( "Long term tests") are set up for one year. There's what, 500 plus make/models out there? Not everyone is in the market for a Tesla, but those people who are really into the brand, there's plenty of forums around, at Tesla and even here. [Is Tesla A Game Changer?]( "Is Tesla A Game Changer?") is my favorite.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    Although I did want the car to stay longer, I'm actually going to echo the sentiments of @mercedesfan and @stever, and understand why you're letting it go. We've learned most of what we need to know, and the biggest question about Tesla for me now isn't the continued reliability of the Model S, but what they'll do differently in the coming model(s). If they keep thinking outside of the box while also improving with experience, then they'll continue to hold my interest. Also, despite many of the above comments, the coming Mustang and F-150 **ARE** very important models that deserve attention. I completely agree with the decision to sell the Model S and pick up those vehicles.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    @chrisb12, That is pretty standard for luxury cars. The first year always generates a massive depreciation hit because no one would buy a used one if it was just a few thousand dollars difference between old and new. Affluent buyers can easily cover the difference. Therefore, since no one is willing to pay nearly-new prices for a 1-year old car the values drop like rocks. I personally think Tesla will eventually end up here as well. Right now they are supply constrained and the "it" item of the automotive world. People are willing to pay whatever they have to just to get a Model S. Once supply meets demand I would expect the Model S to start seeing more typical luxury-car depreciation.

  • djwdjw djwdjw Posts:

    The Tesla was the only thing interesting on this site. Alas.

  • kcai kcai Posts:

    Should have kept this car longer since it's new to the market, and everyone wants to see how it runs in a long term. Sad to see it go.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    Which version of the Mustang I wonder? There are two significant changes: the IRS and the EcoBoost engine. The power bump in the Coyote V8 is nice, but in terms of an interesting LT model if you can only have one Mustang in the fleet, I think it should be the one that represents the biggest combination of change, which would be an EcoBoost model. The same is true for the F150. A LT test of the 3.6EB F150 will be an interesting comparison to the diesel Ram.

  • rock2155 rock2155 Posts:

    My bookmark for was Lets see if I can find something else in the long term test fleet... Or maybe I'll just wait for the Model X. Glad you made this long term test, very informative and useful. I really enjoyed and the final cross country journey was more than awesome to follow. Very inspiring. Thank you guys!

  • My WAG is 30,000 miles in an S550 would have cost $5000-$6000 more in fuel than driving the Model S equivalent miles. That too can't be ignored in the cost of ownership equation.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    > After all, the car's been sorted out and is still under warranty Sorted? Could you really say that when it's on its 4th drivetrain? I say good luck to the next owners.

  • teslafan teslafan Posts:

    Why don't you ask your good friend Allan and his wife to keep this going? They can get a nifty sum from the ads you show to us. Poor chap can recoup some of his future losses that way. But I agree, there is nothing more to see here. Every year, install new drivetrain and buy new tires.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    "After all, the car's been sorted out and is still under warranty." Love it. Um, Ron...since you seem to be using the term incorrectly, let me clue you in - a car that has been "sorted out" has had its weak spots identified and remedied. Tell us what has been done to this Tesla that makes you think it is less likely to experience again the issues it's had to date. See, this is why you've been called an apologist for Tesla - yeah, you say it's a good idea to buy the extended warranty, but then you claim the chronic issues have been taken care of, when there's no reason any of us are aware of to think that's the case. And this is why people call into question your position as a consumer advice editor - you don't seem equipped to differentiate between a scenario in which, for example, Toyota admitted that my 2007 Sienna was built with a spare-tire carrier cable that would corrode and that they were replacing that that with one that was corrosion-resistant, and the drivetrain scenario with Tesla, in which they have never even stated yes, there is a problem with such-and-such a part/assembly and we've done X to remedy it.

  • teslafan teslafan Posts:

    Quite frankly, I think if you contacted Tesla and mentioned lemon law, they would have gladly taken this car off your hands and refunded you more than the price you paid, so they could avoid these issues spilling out. When you buy your model X, you must place your order as an ordinary purchaser, so you don't get the VIP treatment and a VIP car, and you can test out a random car from the line.

  • elgac elgac Posts:

    I don't know why anyone is complaining. You clearly state with each long term purchase that you will keep a vehicle for one year and roughly 20,000 miles. Sometimes you extend that a few months for special cases like the Model S. It was time to move on. Now go buy an old MR2, Datsun 240Z, or something.

  • 3ch0 3ch0 Posts:

    I'm out then. I was an Inside Line guy, then a Model S guy.

  • I'm with fordson1. "Sorted out" means that the cause of issues has been found and corrected. Four new drive units does not indicate that the problem causing the drive unit failures has been found. Granted the problem seems to be with the drive units and not the car but I'm not sure that helps the situation. Sometimes buying a slightly used car means that the first owner got the rattles fixed and any of the early recalls performed, this doesn't seem to be a case like that.

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    I can understand why you guys sold the Tesla it was time. I really do look forward to the Mustang, but as always I have all but given up on you guys getting a honest to god truck considering that you have gotten the same config of pickup since I think your 03 or 05 Chevy Silverado (Its missing from the past LT test list btw). Snowballs chance or Peace in the Middle East or whatever term you would like to use maybe you will change it up but I'm not holding much of my breath.

  • mcheath mcheath Posts:

    For anyone to buy this car is the triumph of hope over experience. Let's hope the new owners have low expectations. I agree with the comments about the writers misunderstanding of the term sorted out. That means fixed. To take only the example of the drive train, nothing has been fixed, they just keep changing the part and it keeps failing. Mechanics who do that lose customers. But somehow because Tesla is exempt from the normal rules and standards. I guess that's because they are cooler, or richer, or more worthy by some intrinsic goodness. This car is not a "game changer". It's an interesting experiment, some clever ideas, and a lot of unearned hype from a fawning and uncritical press too easily wowed by the intersection of money, tech and a charismatic venture capitalist.

  • carchatter1 carchatter1 Posts:

    Dear Edmunds, I LOVED reading about this car. I learned a lot about Tesla. As a Nissan Leaf driver I already know a good bit about EV ownership, but the Tesla is unique in many ways. That said, it's time to move on. As for the Mustang, there's a far larger market of owners out there who will want to read about the all new model with IRS and turbocharging. Myself for one. I can't wait. The F-150 is an absolute game changer, with an all aluminum body and 700 lb weight loss on the #1 selling vehicle in the USA. It's astonishing that Ford is going that route in manufacturing. Should be very interesting to see how that improves every aspect of the vehicle. I would actually consider an F-150 purchase now that they've gone aluminum. Last but not least. Edmunds, thank god you changed the commenting system. The last one was absolute garbage. Sincerely, Carchatter

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