My used Tesla story: From dream to reality in five short years

tesla model s

by Cory Bonney

When Consumer Reports gave Tesla Model S its highest car rating ever… at 100%, and designated it the safest automobile ever made, I was completely hooked. All I needed to do was to figure out a way to own one.

I started driving during the gas crisis of the 1970s, taking my place in mile-long lines on hot, humid August days in Northern Virginia. The whole experience must have had a huge impact on me in that I never truly recognized nor did I ever really recover from it.

The first relatively high-production electric car to come out in my lifetime was the Nissan Leaf. My wife, daughter, and I participated in an agonizing appointment that was put on nationwide by Nissan. Most people at the time, and those in the crowd who accompanied us during this particular test drive, were really concerned about running out of battery… charge anxiety, we were all calling it. After all, the first Leaf only carried a 100 mile charge. But there was an interesting exchange during the build-up to actually getting behind the wheel of that Leaf.

The Nissan representative, standing in front of a pretty good sized group of interested electric car drivers, asked for a show of hands as he asked, “How many people commute more than 50 miles to work?” Quite literally and quite honestly, two hands out of about 40 people went up. It was a great marketing approach, and the hook for going electric was set. This would be the kind of car that I would be excited to drive in the very near future.

Other all electrics, higher mileage hybrids, gas charging hybrids, and plug-in hybrids started coming on the scene, and among them, of course, was the all-electric Tesla. Soon after came the Consumer Reports ratings… and then, rather shockingly, the price tag. Model S was first, and with the base price of $75 to $85 thousand; but that was before installing any seats. Joking.

Once you added just a few things, a new Tesla was $90 to over $100 thousand. It was so far out of my league; and quite frankly, to my way of thinking, a ridiculous amount to pay for any kind of personal transportation, even considering how much I absolutely came to love the car.

Early in their history of car sales, Tesla Corporate had a program of allowing trade-ins of Tesla cars on a new purchase. Even as I am recording my experience, the company does a horrible job of promoting the fact that these high quality, much lower cost products are available. I do not exactly remember how I found out about resale cars that are put through a 70-point computer evaluation. And if necessary, they recondition their own vehicles. However, somewhere along my path, which included hanging out with my friend Elvia Thompson (our number one green guru here in Annapolis), I started going to electric car events, installed three Tesla brand chargers at my business and hosted Tesla car owners on site. Conversations led me to the fact that these used Teslas existed. I wondered if this could be the path to ownership for me.

A few years ago, there were websites that were not affiliated with Tesla that had dozens and dozens of used models available; but research revealed that while some of these vehicles could be “as advertised,” they did not carry the same 70-point inspection nor the extended warranties. Additionally, any one of these non-Tesla certified cars could have been in an accident and may have been astutely repaired, masking a host of electronic problems that could surface down the road.

Tesla was only beginning to web host its own well maintained and certified used cars when I began seriously thinking that I could and would want to afford one. I was seeing great looking cars with significant mileage and fewer upgrades in the $40,000 range. After watching the inventory come and go from the site, I strategized my own way of evaluating what features I had to have and which were unnecessary. I also was heavily focused on mileage. Interestingly, most of the cars had less than 50,000 miles. So consumers were buying the new cars, and fairly quickly turning them in for the next best new thing… a Tesla with a longer range battery and more features.

I don’t know how much has changed in over two years since we bought our Model S, but initially, you were buying a virtual car. Ours was in Connecticut where we found this silver car with less than 20,000 miles. There were dozens of photos of the car, taken in some sort of show room. Every angle was covered, and they showed everything, door dings, wheel cover curb scrapes, a scratch here or there (if applicable). And the customer put down a deposit based on never actually having seen and touched the car. It was a 2015 model year, two years old and was as exciting as… well, many other firsts.

man with Tesla
Cory Bonney with his Tesla Model S, charging at his Bed & Breakfast

Taking possession of your new (or used) Tesla is akin to what it must be like to walk the “red carpet” in Hollywood. The new owner is the star of the show, and the anticipation builds until the proverbial curtain is pulled back to premiere your vehicle. More than two years later, our car is the best, most exciting, trouble free automobile we have ever owned.

We now have 40,000 miles on the car, doubling the miles that our car started with. With no tune ups required, no oil to change, no topping off of the radiator, no timing belt to wear out, no water pump to replace… well, you get the basic idea. Virtually and literally it is trouble free. Nothing is perfect of course. We have had four minor repairs (free, because the car is still under full warranty).

For three of the repairs, a mobile unit comes to the house and completes the work in your driveway or garage. On the in-shop repair, which included new tires (we paid for the tires), we were given a $250 Uber voucher to use at our discretion. The repair went longer than planned (tires out of stock) and without so much as a minor hassle, they automatically added another $200 to the voucher to cover any other inconvenience.

We love this car, and there is no going back. Electric is simply the future. Whether you want to afford a new version or save a few dollars and purchase one used like ours, embrace the future of nearly perfect transportation.

Editor’s note: Read more about driving electric here.


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