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How to Get a Used Tesla Model 3 For Less

Looking to buy a used Tesla Model 3? Check out this comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know to get the best deal.

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Peter Glenn

If you've had your eye on a Tesla Model 3, you’re not alone. The compact and stylish all-electric sedan delivers an impressive combination of performance, cutting-edge technology, and zero emissions, making it one of the best-selling EVs on the market.

However, while the Model 3 represents the cheapest model in Tesla’s fleet of premium electric vehicles, the price tag of a brand new Tesla Model 3 can still be enough to make many drivers hesitate. If this sounds familiar, you might consider going the pre-owned route for your first Tesla. With proper research and due diligence, you can find an excellent used Tesla Model 3, and with the clean vehicle tax credit and other incentives, you can save even more.

Researching Your Options

The first step toward your used Tesla vehicle is researching your options to find the right used Model 3 for your needs and budget. Thanks to Tesla's online inventory and third-party sites, you can browse listings across the country.

When perusing used Teslas, be sure to compare prices based on features, mileage, and location. Don't just look at the sticker price—factor in any additional taxes, registration fees, and transportation costs if purchasing from another state.

Inspecting a Used Tesla: What to Look For

Once you've narrowed down your search to a few promising candidates, you'll want to inspect each vehicle thoroughly, either in person or through a third-party service if buying remotely.

On the exterior, check for any dents, scratches, or other cosmetic damages. Examine the tires for adequate tread depth and uneven wear patterns. Open and close all doors, trunk, and frunk to ensure proper operation.

In the interior, look for any stains, rips, or cracks in the upholstery, misaligned trim pieces, or malfunctioning accessories. Note any odors that could indicate past water damage.

Take the car for a comprehensive test drive on various roads and at multiple speeds. Listen for any abnormal noises from the steering wheel, drivetrain, suspension, or brake pads. The drive should feel smooth with precise steering and braking.

Pro tip: Don't forget to inspect the charging ports and cables for any damage or corrosion.

Identifying the Model

It can be difficult to identify a Tesla model’s year, as the automaker doesn’t follow the traditional structure of formal model years. Because it uses over-the-air (OTA) technology to update its software, many changes don’t need to wait until Tesla comes out with a new model-year version. This can make it tricky for drivers looking to buy used to nail down the model year of a particular Tesla they are looking at. Here’s how to do it.

Every Tesla, like any other car, truck, or SUV on the road, has a unique 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Much like a social security number, the VIN provides key details about the life and makeup of the car and can be used to order a vehicle history report, which we’ll talk about later. The VIN can typically be found on the vehicle in multiple places, but it is always on the dashboard where it meets the windshield on the driver’s side.

In true Tesla fashion, the VIN is used slightly differently than most car manufacturers, so you may want to consult a VIN decoder to interpret what the characters mean.

Use a VIN decoder to reveal information such as:

  • Year, make, and model
  • Trim level and battery pack
  • Production location
  • Build date

Be sure to decode the VIN for any used Tesla you're considering to verify it matches the listing details.

Checking the Battery Capacity

While most experts believe the majority of EV batteries can last between 100,000 and 200,000 miles, Tesla claims theirs will last anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 miles. And they may be right. However, while these claims have yet to be proven true, we do know that lithium-ion EV batteries start to degrade (however slowly) from the moment they are first charged. It’s just how lithium-ion batteries work. That deterioration can affect an EV’s range and eventually require an expensive battery replacement.

Because of this, battery degradation is a major concern for used electric vehicles. A tool like Recurrent, which basically serves as a Carfax for used EV batteries, can give you a detailed report of the battery’s current maximum state of charge and degradation percentage. Generally, less than 10% degradation is considered good for a used Model 3. More than 20% may end up requiring a battery replacement down the road.

Determining the Warranty Status

Find out if any of Tesla's original warranties still apply to the used Model 3. The battery and drive unit are covered for eight years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Other warranties that may still be active include the 4-year/50,000-mile basic vehicle limited warranty and supplementary restraint system limited warranty. Be sure to consult Tesla warranty information and the seller to determine the car’s warranty status, as that could affect how you negotiate its price.

Vehicle History Report

One of the most recommended steps when purchasing any pre-owned car, truck, or SUV is obtaining a comprehensive vehicle history report. For your used Tesla Model 3, always request a report from a reputable third-party provider like Carfax or AutoCheck before making your decision.

A vehicle history report will reveal vital details about the car's past that aren't always evident from looking at it or taking it for a test drive. Some of the key items it will uncover include:

  • Previous Accidents and Damage
  • Flood/Water Damage
  • Odometer Rollback
  • Any open, unresolved recalls from Tesla or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Number of Previous Owners
  • Service and Registration History

Once you obtain the vehicle history report, carefully look through all the details. Note any issues and ask the seller about them. If there are any major concerns or large gaps in the vehicle's history, you may want to reconsider that particular Tesla or negotiate the price accordingly.

Reputable vehicle history report providers can give you invaluable peace of mind when considering a used vehicle purchase. For a purchase as significant as a Tesla, this small investment is well worth avoiding potentially costly surprises down the road.

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What to Consider Before Buying a Used Tesla Model 3

Beyond the car itself, there are some additional factors to mull over before purchasing a pre-owned Tesla Model 3.

Home Charging

One of the biggest advantages of owning an EV like the Tesla Model 3 is the ability to save money by charging at home. However, your home will need the proper electrical setup.

At a minimum, you'll need a 120V household outlet, known as a Level 1 charger. While convenient, this adds only 3-5 miles of range per hour—not ideal for daily charging.

For faster Level 2 charging speeds of 20-30 miles of range per hour, you'll need to install a 240V outlet or hardwired Wall Connector in your garage or driveway, which can cost as much as $500-$2,000 for the equipment and installation.

Repair Options

Out-of-warranty repair costs are another consideration when buying a used Tesla Model 3. Labor rates at Tesla Service Centers can be quite high, often $100+ per hour.

Your options are taking it to an independent repair shop experienced with Teslas or attempting some repairs yourself using guides and parts from third-party suppliers.

Have a game plan for maintenance and any major repairs once the original warranties expire.

How to Save Big on Your Used Tesla Model 3

So you've done your research, taken care of the necessary inspections, and decided that a pre-owned Tesla Model 3 is the right choice. Now, how can you maximize your savings?

The 2024 Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

Starting January 1, 2024, you can now receive a Clean Vehicle Tax Credit of up to $4,000 when you buy an eligible used electric car from a participating dealership, regardless of your tax liability.

When buying an eligible used EV or fuel cell car from an enrolled dealer, the clean vehicle credit gives you a point-of-sale rebate covering up to 30% of the purchase price, with a cap of $4,000. So, if you were to find a $20,000 Tesla Model 3 on the used market, you could immediately knock off 20% of the price. That's a pretty good deal, right?

Note: In order to qualify for the credit, the sale must be completed through a licensed dealer participating in the program.

Income Limits for the Used EV Tax Credit

To qualify for the used EV tax credit rebate, buyers must fall under the following modified adjusted gross income (AGI) limits based on their latest tax return:

  • Single: under $75,000
  • Head of household: under $112,500
  • Married filing jointly: under $150,000

The IRS also stipulates that the used Tesla Model 3 must be purchased solely for personal use rather than business purposes. The buyer cannot have claimed the credit in the previous three years or intend to resell the car.

Used EV Tax Credit Qualifications

Beyond the income restrictions, used Teslas are only eligible if sold from a participating dealer for $25,000 or less and meet the following criteria:

  • The Model 3 must be at least two model years old
  • The Model 3 cannot have been transferred to a private party after August 16, 2022
  • The Model 3 cannot have previously been used to claim the used EV tax credit

Maximize Your Savings With EV Life

Found the Tesla Model 3 of your dreams? The EV Climate Loan from EV Life can provide you with attractive rates and affordable payments tailored to your budget.

EV Life offers competitive financing terms and ensures you receive the full benefit of all eligible tax credits and rebates. Our EV financing experts will help you get every available incentive you qualify for so you can maximize your savings.

Here’s how it works:

  • Pre-qualify for more than financing. When you pre-qualify for a loan on your used EV, we help you maximize your federal and state tax credits and other incentives you’re eligible for. We then help you apply for all the paperwork with our easy-to-use “Turbo Tax-style” incentive filing tools.
  • Bundle charging. EV Life can also help you get an instant quote for EV charging equipment installation and bundle it into your auto financing—all with one lower monthly payment.
  • One low payment. Once we’ve determined every available dollar you’re eligible for, EV Life will gather all your savings and apply them directly to your loan, significantly reducing the monthly payment on your Tesla Model 3 from the moment you drive off the dealer lot.

Between the $4,000 federal tax credit, other state and local rebates, and smart financing options, there's never been a better time to buy a used Model 3. Get behind the wheel of your pre-owned Tesla while taking full advantage of the money-saving incentives with EV Life—saving the planet while saving your pocketbook.

Get pre-qualified today to discover how much you could save on your used Tesla Model 3.

Maximize your savings with hassle-free EV financing

We're on a mission to make buying an EV easier and more affordable than a gas car

Maximize your savings with hassle-free EV financing

We're on a mission to make buying an EV easier and more affordable than a gas car

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