It was time to let her go.
She is my 2013 Tesla Model S, serial number 003662, in dark green, now with 76,000 memorable miles. The best car I’ve ever owned, by far.
She had taken me to 33 states and roughly 100 Superchargers, through deserts, mountains, and tropics, with total reliability, and always with style and flair.
Not once in four-plus years did I look out my windshield and say to myself, “I’d rather be driving that car instead of this one."
Until the Tesla Model S 100D was introduced, that is: all-wheel drive, 335 miles of range, and the sensor hardware for eventual fully autonomous driving.
When I pulled the trigger and ordered my new 100D back in May, my hope was to simply trade in the old car. Clean, simple, keep her in the Tesla family. (And I'd save a bit on sales tax too.)
Lowball trade-in offer
But I was disappointed at what I considered an almost insultingly low trade-in offer from Tesla: just $28,000. This despite the car being in excellent condition inside and out, including a brand-new drive unit (motor, inverter and gearbox) that seemed to perform better than new.
Kelley Blue Book put the private-sale value at $40,000 to $42,000. Sure, selling it privately would be a hassle, but for a difference of $12,000 to $14,000, I could put up with a bit of hassle.
As a first step, I decided to post the car on Tesla Motor Club (TMC), the online forum for Tesla owners and fans. That too would keep it in the family, so to speak.
GO WAY BACK: My 2013 Tesla Model S Electric Sport Sedan: Delivery at Last! (Feb 2013)
With 76,000 miles, air suspension, heated leather seats, and the new drive unit, I set an initial asking price of $42,000.
If a buyer wanted the last two years and 24,000 miles of my extended service agreement, that would be an extra $2,000. (If not, I would get a $2,000 refund from Tesla for the unused portion of the agreement.)
Certified Previously Owned Tesla Model S 85s were then starting in the high $40Ks to low $50Ks. At the time, CPO cars were limited to 60,000 or fewer miles, so my car carried a penalty of a few thousand more miles.
But mine was also priced $5,000 to $10,000 less than otherwise comparable CPO cars.
The day after I listed on TMC, I got a call from a fellow named Adam Qureshi, who offered me a free listing on his new website, OnlyUsedTesla.com.
I accepted, sent him photos and a detailed description, and watched my car appear on his site the next day. Same price: $42K, plus optional ESA.
With these two Tesla-focused listings, I figured I was in good shape.
I was wrong. In the first few days, the TMC listing got several hundred views, but no serious inquiries. And the other listing didn’t turn up anything, either.
I soon found out why.
On virtually the same day I listed my car, Tesla had knocked the bottom right out of the used Model S marketplace.
In an apparent attempt to “downsell” Model 3 customers to a used Model S, Tesla suddenly expanded its CPO program to encompass high-mileage cars like mine.
And the prices were shockingly low.
Virtually overnight, roughly a dozen high-mileage CPO 85s appeared on Tesla’s website at less than $40,000—and they all included an extended service agreement that would be good through 100,000 total miles (my $2,000 add-on).
The one I remember most clearly was a 2013 Model S 85, roughly comparable to mine, with about the same mileage—for a price of only $33,000.
Holy crap. I was totally screwed.
Most of those sub-$40K cars were gone within hours. A few lasted into the next day. Oddly, almost no cars appeared to replace them at prices under $40,000.
Was this a just one-day fire sale, designed to get our attention? Or a real long-term adjustment to the used-Model S marketplace?
At the time, I had no way of knowing.
I concluded that I had to slash my price. I reduced it to $39,000, including the ESA—in effect, a $4,000 reduction.
Still no serious inquiries.
Then Adam from OnlyUsedTesla called, saying he’d gotten some interest from a wholesaler who might offer me something in the $34,000 range.
This was barely more than the net value to me of Tesla's own trade-in offer ($28K trade-in, plus $2K sales tax savings, plus $2K ESA refund).
The “wholesaler” turned out to be an Internet car-buying service called Vroom. I sent them my specs and some photos, and they came back with an offer of $33,250.
The small premium over the net trade-in value hardly seemed worth the effort. But after talking further with the Vroom guy, I had learned two things.
First, their offer did not include the ESA, so I could still get my $2K refund. OK, that was good.
Second, Vroom had an arrangement with Tesla that any official valuation from Vroom, including the one I had just received, would be honored by Tesla as a trade-in. (Vroom would presumably then buy the car from Tesla at the stated value.)
Whoa! That seemed too good to be true. A $33,250 trade-in value had a total value to me of over $37,000, including the reduction in sales taxes.
Suspicious, I called the Tesla guy who’d been handling my 100D purchase, who’d given me the initial $28K trade-in offer. He confirmed that, yes, Tesla indeed had such a deal with Vroom.
That was a no-brainer. With no other serious inquiries, I decided to take the Vroom offer as a trade-in to Tesla. All I had to do was take my official Vroom voucher to Tesla when I picked up the new car.
Not so fast….
But the next day, I got a call from the Tesla sales guy. “I’ve got bad news and good news,” he said. Uh-oh.
“The bad news is that our arrangement with Vroom only applies to non-Tesla trade-ins.” Oh, no!
“The good news is that, even though what I told you yesterday was wrong, we have decided to honor the Vroom valuation anyway," he continued. "The $33,250 trade-in offer is still good.” Oh, YES!
And so I drove Old 3662—freshly polished and vacuumed, looking better than she’d looked in years—down to Tesla’s delivery center in Mount Kisco, New York.
I drove away in my brand-new, Midnight Silver 2017 Tesla Model S 100D.
As I write this a couple of weeks later, the cheapest CPO Model S 85 listed on the Tesla website—roughly comparable to mine, with 65,371 miles—is priced at $45,000.
Last month’s fire sale was apparently just that—a one-time shot across the bow of the used-Tesla marketplace. Prices seem to be returning to roughly what they had been before Tesla slashed its prices.
Could my timing have been any worse? It's hard to imagine how.
But never mind. Every day I check the Tesla “used inventory listings,” looking for a green 2013 with air suspension, heated leather seats, and 76,000 miles.
I wonder what they’ll be asking for her?