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Considering older S, what to look for?

I am considering trading my Lincoln MKZ hybrid for an older (2013 or 2014) Tesla S. I've found 2 for around $25k, both have around 70k miles. What should I be looking for as far as potential problems? I assume the battery packs don't really ever go bad? Are the AC units reliable? What about the pano sunroof, do they leak? Also I'm trying to figure out what standard options are on these cars. I assumed they would have heated and cooled seats, but I don't think that's true. What about auto high beam headlights? Or adaptive cruise?
 

ucmndd

Well-Known Member
Mar 10, 2016
8,390
16,361
California
What should I be looking for
The 50 other threads in the first 5-10 pages of this forum section asking the same questions. ;)

Welcome to the forums. There’s a LOT of information here and a lot of folks in your shoes looking to buy their first Tesla. Most/many of these questions have been answered in detail in the last few months. Suggest you settle in, do a little reading, then refine your questions a bit once you get a bit farther along in terms of what you think you might want.

Older cars have some reliability sore spots, including some of the areas you mention above. But many of them have had those issues sorted with newer parts. Batteries do fail sometimes. Early cars have 8 year unlimited mile warranties as a backstop, but the earliest cars are past that milestone now.

Welcome and good luck. 👍🏻
 
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jeremymc7

Active Member
Feb 3, 2013
2,077
1,149
U.S.
Personally I wouldn’t be looking for anything prior to say 2016 or so. The first car that came with the full camera and sensor suite. Even if you’re not thinking you’ll use it now you might want it down the road. Early cars also have MCU, windshield, and other problems. Even if they’re been replaced they’re still likely older versions which again limits things. Additionally the battery and motors come with an 8 year warranty so if an early car isn’t out of warranty it will be shorty; again even they might have already been replaced.

Best of luck.
 
On a personal level, I won't consider anything older than 2017 for the Model S line and even at that year I would only consider Model S's built in 2017 in the 2nd half of the year. I just gave up my 2017 Model S lease and while I loved the car I had a constantly breaking driver seat to deal with. Hoping the 2018 used Model S I just put a deposit on is a little better.
 
I have a July 2014 Model S. I've been pretty lucky with reliability but I have had a few relatively hefty bills over the 3 years I have owned it:

Original TPMS system died - it happened just before the annual MOT test (I don't think you have this in the US, it's a test you have to get done every year to check roadworthiness and TPMS failure is a fail) so I had to get Tesla to fix it on the quick, which was an upgrade to the newer Continental system. £1000 ($1400) - given a bit more time I could have swapped out the dead antenna for a salvage one for £70 ($100) probably but I just didn't have time to sort it.

Right hand headlight got full of water and failed £1000 ($1400) - in retrospect I would have done it myself, but the part is still £750 ($1000);

And a couple of smaller things:

Front left upper control arm bearing started knocking. Tesla said it was in tolerance still but it sounded awful going over bumps so I just bought the part and swapped it myself £250 for the part, probably would have been £500 with labour ($700 ish)

front left anti-roll bar drop link boot failed - again I got the part and swapped it out (just a case of taking the wheel off and undoing 2 nuts) - not expensive but shouldn't really happen on a car of this age, but given the same side as the control arm I suspect it may have taken a hit perhaps.

Wiper mechanism bushing wore to the point the driver side arm came up and was touching/wearing away the bonnet (hood). - a couple of hundred £ for the mechanism and a new arm and I swapped them myself.

Also my MCU screen has bubbles (common issue on the oldest ones - newer ones have a problem where a yellow band comes around them, which can be fixed with a UV treatment). Bubbles are caused by the adhsive holding the screen on melting in very high temperatures (which cars get on hot days in the sun) and there is a layer of liquid which is part of the touchscreen leaking out. when it gets bad the touch function doesn't work where the liquid is lost, plus the liquid which has dripped out is super sticky and makes a right mess I have heard. luckily mine is very limited but we don't have that many hot days here). the new screen/MCU is £1000 ($1400) and then there is the EMMC issue, which is a free fix if not already done. Older cars including mine probably only have 3G rather than LTE, which is about £500 to upgrade. If like me you are looking at screen bubbles and a LTE upgrade then the better bet is to upgrade to MCU2 which should fix both for £1500 ($1500 wierdly) and improve everything else.

If you have time, facilities and the ability to do work yourself you can save a lot of money, but parts can be pretty expensive too. The service manual can be found online, and the electronic parts catalogue as well, these are your friend if you have any problems.

my car is pre-AutoPilot, which some people wouldn't go for, but personally, having driven AP1, AP2 and AP3 loaners and testdrives I'm not that bothered, it's useful at times (on the highway) but super annoying at other times (I use cruise control for all speed limits and AP goes nuts and phantom brakes all the time on busy streets with parked cars to the point where it is unusable. The AP cars don't have a "speed limit" mode where you can set e.g. 20 and it not let you exceed that, or an old fashioned cruise control to do the same, without using AP which does all the mad braking).

I think back in 2014 you could have "tech package" which gave you puddle lights, a powered liftgate and a few others, but not really sure. in my experience everyone got this as you wouldn't really consider spending £70k+ on a car without these things.

I was careful when I bought mine (by private purchase) to get it with 6 months or so of full warranty remaining and I took it in before the warranty was up with a huge list of everything possibly wrong so I could get the whole car up to scratch before it expired. You may not have that luxury but it is worth considering, or getting one from Tesla with at least some warranty (if you do that though you'll lose free premium connectivity and free supercharging, but those things are peanuts in comparison to a significant non-battery or drive related failure in your first few months of ownership. Also to note is that back then the service experience was really good and they fixed everything straight up with no queries, I suspect nowadays its a different story but being out of warranty now (excl battery/drive which I have had no problems with) I can't confirm.

Note that the older batteries have been significantly throttled in terms of supercharger speed. it depends what sort of driving you do, but if you can't charge at home or you do lots of >200mile journeys then I would say it's a no for one of these (60, 70 or 85 batteries).
 
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whitex

Well-Known Member
Sep 30, 2015
6,922
8,832
Seattle area, WA
On a personal level, I won't consider anything older than 2017 for the Model S line and even at that year I would only consider Model S's built in 2017 in the 2nd half of the year. I just gave up my 2017 Model S lease and while I loved the car I had a constantly breaking driver seat to deal with. Hoping the 2018 used Model S I just put a deposit on is a little better.
As I read this threads, I notice there is an interesting trend. A lot of people would not recommend an older Tesla than their first one. Heck, I noticed a while back that I was guilty of that myself (in my case, 2013 Model S with VIN 25xxx). When a friend asked long time ago, I suggested "any Model S after VIN 25xxx, it has folding mirrors you know". But you know, thinking objectively back over my history with Tesla, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 Model S, the 2013 had the least problems. So realistically, it really depends on what you want.. Not everyone cares about FSD. For example, if I was buying a new Plaid+, I would happily take a $20K discount in return for no cameras, but a simple BSM blind spot monitor and adaptive laser cruise control. I buy my cars to drive them myself, and even though I have one which is FSD capable, I don't even use its EAP functions (heck, I use them less than AP1 I have on another car, as the EAP annoys me with all the phantom braking).

So, bottom line OP, figure out what you care about, then look for a car with those features. Do consider warranty and the quality of Tesla service in your area, no matter which vintage of Tesla you buy though.
 
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I am considering trading my Lincoln MKZ hybrid for an older (2013 or 2014) Tesla S. I've found 2 for around $25k, both have around 70k miles. What should I be looking for as far as potential problems? I assume the battery packs don't really ever go bad? Are the AC units reliable? What about the pano sunroof, do they leak? Also I'm trying to figure out what standard options are on these cars. I assumed they would have heated and cooled seats, but I don't think that's true. What about auto high beam headlights? Or adaptive cruise?

Make sure you check the actual range of the car and not just what the quoted range was when it was new.
 
My experience with a 2016 AP1 S is pretty good. Look out for the door handles and the little LED strips above the headlights. These sometimes fail. My sunroof works perfectly and has never leaked a drop. AC good, battery good (charge rate has not throttled) AP1 is very well-behaved, I have heard stories that it took AP2 years to catch up. The dreaded eMMC failure in the main display has not happened to me (yet) but Tesla will replace those as a recall when they fail. You should not have any problems with battery life or mechanicals unless the car has been used as a taxi (high miles) but you're not going to go near those.

Basically my advice would be as with any other car - get something with as low mileage as you can and a bit of warranty left on it, and get things fixed when they break. But if all that goes wrong for you is little things like door handles you have a great car. Enjoy the car!
 

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