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Tesla CPO: How to Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Tesla

by Nick Versaw Updated February 1st, 2022

Tesla CPO: man holding his phone while charging his EV

There are good reasons to consider buying a used Tesla: You won’t have to put up with the incredibly long wait times for a new Tesla model, and you won’t have to worry so much about its resale value dropping after you take it home.

But buying a used electric car raises different questions, such as: How well has it been maintained, and how many more miles can you expect from it? On the whole, electric vehicles have a good track record when it comes to reliability and battery life, but not every buyer wants to do their own research into a car’s vehicle history.

That’s why buying a Tesla CPO, or Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, can be an appealing solution. Here’s what you need to know about how Tesla’s CPO program works, and how it compares to other methods of buying a new or used car.

What is a Tesla CPO?

A Certified Pre-Owned vehicle is essentially a used car that meets certain standards set by the manufacturer or dealership. Tesla isn’t the only automaker with a CPO program — you can buy EV CPO cars from Toyota, Nissan, and other major EV brands too.

The main benefit of a CPO program is that you can count on the manufacturer to do a thorough inspection and give the car its stamp of approval and (usually) a CPO warranty. In Tesla’s case, that takes the form of a 145-point inspection and a Used Vehicle Limited Warranty that adds one year or 10,000 miles to the basic warranty.

Buying a CPO vehicle may cost more than buying a used car from a private party, but for some drivers, the peace of mind may be worth it. In places like Los Angeles, you’ll be protected by the Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, which sets criteria for CPO vehicles.

That said, a Tesla CPO is likely to be several years old, so drivers expecting a Tesla with the longest range and the latest Autopilot technology may be disappointed.

Let’s take a look at how the Tesla CPO program works, and what factors to consider before choosing the right EV for you.

How the Tesla CPO Program Works

Tesla’s CPO program is relatively straightforward to navigate: You can head directly to the Tesla website and type in your ZIP code to see what’s available in your area.

For example, you can filter by model, trim, and even paint color so you can see every used Model S available in Los Angeles that meets your criteria. You’ll also see the total price of the car, your estimated monthly payments if you finance the vehicle, and the number of miles on the odometer.

When you’re ready to buy, you’ll put down a $500 deposit and can pick up your car at a nearby Tesla location or have it shipped to your region for an additional fee.

There’s no return policy, though, so you won’t be able to change your mind if you decide you want a Model X instead of a Model Y. Be sure to do your research and learn about the best Tesla models and the differences between them before deciding which Tesla vehicle to drive home. 

5 Things to Know About the Tesla CPO Program

Woman using a tablet while waiting for her car to finish charging

Tesla Motors’ CPO program has changed a lot over the years, so it’s important to read the fine print. Everything from the vehicle inspection process to the CPO warranty can have a big impact on the quality and reliability of your vehicle.

Here are five key things to know about the Tesla CPO program — some positive, some negative, and some that are just worth keeping in mind.

Vehicle Inspection

Until recently, Tesla advertised a 214-point inspection that took a total of seven hours to complete. However, its current terms and conditions describe a 145-point inspection. It claims that all of its used cars have “no evidence of structural repairs” but may “have cosmetic wear consistent with a used vehicle.”

Whether or not that matters to you depends on what you expect from a used EV. Some Tesla owners argue that this doesn’t qualify as a true CPO program, and that it’s really just an inventory of used Tesla vehicles.

On the other hand, you can be confident that the powertrain, steering wheel, braking system, and Autopilot have all been checked.

Warranty

When you buy a Tesla CPO, you’ll get a one-year/10,000-mile warranty in addition to any other warranty remaining on the vehicle. This means if the previous owner of the vehicle only drove it for a year, the Basic Vehicle Limited Warranty will still be good for another three years or up to 50,000 miles. Then, the CPO warranty will kick in.

The Battery and Drive Unit Limited Warranty is also transferable. This lasts for eight years and up to 150,000 miles (depending on the model), and it guarantees that the battery pack will retain at least 70% capacity during that time

Financing Options

Tesla vehicles retain their resale value surprisingly well, so if you’re looking for a bargain on a used Tesla, you’re not likely to find it on the Tesla website. You also won’t find any leases on used vehicles. If you want to lease a Tesla Model S, X, Y, or 3, then you’ll need to lease a new car.

That said, Tesla does offer financing options, so you can take out a car loan directly from Tesla if you buy a CPO.

Test Drives

One of the biggest downsides of the Tesla CPO program is that you may not get to test drive your used car before you buy it — or even see a picture on the website. Tesla has gotten some criticism for only showing generic images of each vehicle type in its used inventory, not a photo of the actual vehicle.

That doesn’t mean you can’t go for a test drive at all, and you should definitely take the time to visit a Tesla showroom and try out different models. But it does mean that you may not be aware of any cosmetic damage or imperfections until it’s too late.

If your car’s appearance is especially important to you, then you may want to search for a used electric car from a seller near you; that way you can inspect it yourself.


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Technology

Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that a CPO vehicle may not have all the functionality that you’ve come to expect from a Tesla car. For example, some versions of Autopilot can’t be upgraded to Full Self-Driving mode regardless of the model year.

You’ll get access to any software upgrades that are delivered wirelessly, and a 30-day free trial of Premium Connectivity. Some features, like the Infotainment Upgrade, cost extra, and free Supercharging is no longer transferable to new Tesla owners.

Find the Right Tesla EV for You

Tesla CPO: couple using a tablet while inside their car

Buying a used EV involves some moving parts, and Tesla’s CPO program offers some degree of convenience: You can browse used inventory on the Tesla website and have your car delivered to a Tesla location near you. You’ll also get an extra one-year/10,000-mile CPO warranty on top of any warranty remaining on the vehicle.

However, Tesla’s 145-point vehicle inspection may not be sufficient for all drivers, and you won’t get to inspect the car for cosmetic damage before you take it home.

If you’re willing to do a little research, then buying a used EV from a private seller may be a better option. That way, you can take it for a test drive before you buy it.

Learn more about electric cars here, or start searching for used EVs near you!


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