The Cost of Selling Your Tesla and Buying a Newer Model

With Tesla constantly releasing new updates, it’s inevitable that your newly purchased Tesla will one day feel outdated. A prime example would be the flood of RWD Model S’ that hit the second hand market after Tesla announced that it would release the dual motor “D” variant. And now with the Model X available, Model S owners are thinking about trading in their beloved electric sedan for the newest shiny Tesla with falcon wing doors.  I would be one that falls into this category. Here’s my analysis on what it would cost to upgrade to a newer Tesla.

A short while ago I configured a Model X and a Model S to specifications that I would buy in present day. This came out to $103,200 and $88,450 respectively after available tax credits. For reference my current Model S cost me $92,443 after tax credits.

Understandably, Tesla does not offer a retrofit for the autopilot hardware though we calculated a hypothetical $67,000 cost to upgrade if it were available. Maybe one day Tesla will offer upgradeable hardware but for now having recurring firmware updates that refreshes functionality on the car isn’t so bad.

Trade Ins

If I were to use Tesla’s math to compute trade in value for my 21 month old Model S with 55,000 miles, it would theoretically have a value somewhere along these lines:

Trade in calculation

This math is clearly not accurate, and since I was seriously considering the Model X or a newer Model S, I asked Tesla for a true trade in value.

Tesla came back with a trade in value of $49,200. Their resale price as a CPO vehicle would be $55,100:

Trade In Value

This is a heck of a lot better than the original formula, but I’ve still used 48% of the original value in less than 2 years. At this trade in value, the effective cost of trading up to new X or S would be $54,000 and $39,250, respectively.

CPO Comparisons

My trade in value made me curious on what other CPOs sold for so I hit up the excellent EV-CPO Consolidator which provides a great deal of information about Tesla CPO cars.

Browsing that site you’ll be hard pressed to find a 2014 Model S with anything close to my mileage. The closest I found was a 2014 Model S in Los Angeles with 48K miles listed for sale at $55,600, just a bit above the quote I got. I don’t know if that car is in as good a shape as mine (I’ve seen some really beat up CPO cars), but the pricing, age and configuration are at least consistent with my quote.

As you’d expect mileage and available features make the most difference in the CPO price. 2014 S85 model CPO prices can range from a low of $55,600 to $79,200 for a low mileage, late 2014 loaded Model S. Within New England the range is only from $56,200 to $67,400.

Kelly Blue Book

KBB Trade inNext stop was Kelly Blue Book. Their trade in value came in between $49,305 and $57,740 with an average of $53,549. My Model S, before taxes, was $93,970. So the trade in price per Kelly Blue Book is 57% of the original price.

If you believe the KBB quote, Tesla is on the low end of the trade in values. This seems to be consistent with some posts I’ve seen on TMC and the Tesla forum. If you find your own dealer and trade directly with them you can potentially increase your trade in value by up to $5,000. If you sell privately you may be able to get up to $10,000 more over Tesla’s offer.

Selling privately however can bring its own set of problems, especially in states like Massachusetts where there are strong Lemon Aid Laws that allow individuals to buy a car, drive it for 7 days and then bring it back for a 100% refund if for some reason there’s an issue with state inspection. Selling privately also comes with a huge commitment to arrange for test drives and educate your driver on how to operate an EV. Here in New England EVs aren’t everywhere yet and the Tesla is still a rare car to see.

Competitive Comparisons

To see how other cars “in the same class” compare to the Model S in terms of trade in value, I picked the Porsche Panamera S. E-hybrid to benchmark against. The average trade in value for that car is $53,746 which is very comparable to my Model S. Configuring a Panamera will drive you crazy but it seems that a new one similarly configured would go for $95,270 before taxes. So the trade in price per Kelly Blue Book is 56.4% of the original price, which is about the same as the Model S.

According to EVObsession, the Mercedes S-Class was #1 in the Large Car Luxury Market in 2014, but the Model S blew past that in 2015. I came up with a new price of $91,328 and an average trade in value (same mileage/year as mine) of $57,782 or 63.2% of the original price — the Mercedes seems to retain a bit more value although they’re still in the same range.


That very first mile you put on your new car has a huge effective cost whether it’s on a Tesla or any other car from a different manufacturer. Trade in values for Model S’ are in line with other cars in its class, although Tesla’s trade in value tends to be on the lower end of the spectrum.

If you’re looking to get top dollar for your used Model S, consider trading it in to a company other than Tesla or selling your Model S privately. Both bring additional levels of hassle but that extra lift can be worth the additional value.

Even if I were to receive $5,000 over Tesla’s trade in value, I’d still be looking at an upgrade cost of over $30,000 to trade up from my Model S (which is less than 2 years old) to a new dual motor Model S with  autopilot, upgraded seats, and all of the other improvements and tweaks Tesla made over the last couple years. Is it worth it?

If the gap was closer perhaps the decision would be a lot easier, but in this range for me, and with the recent news that Tesla will be adding more autopilot hardware in the future, I think keeping my Model S and enjoying it is the right way to go.

Besides, with more Model Xs hitting the streets every day, the all wheel drive “D” Model S will inevitably start appearing as CPO inventory. This will open up a whole new world of options. Wait and see is probably still the best choice for those looking to trade up from an earlier Model S.


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