This 2018 Tesla Model S 100D had already burned through 103,999 miles of Georgia backroads before finding itself in the frozen tarmac of a CarMax auction lot.
This Uber level of daily driving was just barely past the 100,000-mile limit for selling this unit on CarMax’s front line. With absolutely no accidents in the Carfax history and only one owner, it would have probably sold for a stiff price premium to a Tesla enthusiast. But there was a problem.
This Tesla Model S was a top-of-the-line model, but it also had no warranty from the manufacturer, since the 8 year/100,000-mile factory warranty had already been invalidated by the odometer reading. Any buyer of this vehicle would wonder about the battery life and the longevity of the car. What was the battery depletion level? How long would the battery last? Electric vehicles are often seen as rolling time bombs that become worthless once their batteries need to be replaced.
At auctions where football-field–sized parking lots often store thousands of cars for just a few days, figuring all this out can be close to impossible, especially for a company like CarMax that sells 15,000 vehicles nationwide weekly. Every wholesale auction, where millions of trade-ins and off-lease vehicles are sold every year, has been glacially slow with providing these EV battery basics to thousands of dealers who want to buy these cars. That risk can lower the price the seller gets at auction once the hammer falls.
Risk can be downright brutal with EVs. Sometimes you can end up bidding on a peach of a car. Other times you’re stuck with a three-ton paperweight that will cost thousands to fix.
Electric vehicles like this Tesla end up with junk-bond levels of risk to them when they really should be blue-chip stocks. Teslas currently hold their value better than many of the cars out there, but the pre-sale inspections at the auctions have trouble providing that same level of value.
Nevertheless, I was shocked that this one ended up selling for $50,500 plus a $650 buy fee. That’s big money to me. Just over the cost of a double-wide mobile home that I bought on 5 acres on the Alabama border way back in 2016. I now rent that property for $1300 a month. But maybe I could get an even better return listing this high-end Tesla on Turo.
To call this a great deal would be a tough call. On one hand, that price is nearly $35,000 less than the wholesale version of this particular model (just north of $83,000, on average). That sounds apocalyptically bad for the seller until you figure out this uber-mileage Tesla actually has about 80,000 more miles than the typical 2018 Model S (with an odometer reading in the mid-20s).
My personal choice would be my palatial double-wide on 5 acres – a purchase that also involved some risk on my part, as all choices do. I would have loved to have bought this car and rolled the dice if I knew more about it, but for me, the risk was just too much.