Used Tesla Model S long-term test

With used Teslas starting to become more affordable, what’s it like to actually own one? We've bagged ourselves a 2016 example to find out...

Used Tesla Model S composite image

The car: 2016 Tesla Model S 75D Dual Motor
Run by: Alex Robbins, special contributor and Claire Evans, consumer editor
Why it’s here: It’s one of our favourite new electric cars, but does saving your money and buying a used Tesla instead make more sense?
Needs to: Prove that an electric luxury car makes sense both day to day and on longer weekend trips – and show us that there’s nothing to fear from buying one used

Price when new £70,235 Value on arrival £50,600 Value now £44,100 Mileage on arrival 23,335 Mileage now 26,711 Real-world range 200 miles

Price when new does not include optional extras

25 January 2019 – Preaching to the converted? 

The Tesla Model S spent its first few months with Alex and its last six weeks with me. It’s a 2016 Model S 75 Dual Motor, finished in Pearl White paint with a black fabric interior, and it has the Subzero Weather Package – making all five seats, the steering wheel and the windscreen heated – as well as Autopilot Hardware 1 that can steer, accelerate and brake the car autonomously. 

Alex and I were both electric car novices before our time with the Tesla. So, when the time came to part company with it, would we have become electric car converts, craving our next EV hit? 

Tesla Model S long termer loading up

Alex started his guardianship of the Model S with a baptism of fire – a weekend trip from London to Cornwall. Although the Tesla couldn’t match rival big limos for ride quality and road noise, its advanced driver assistance systems really took the strain out of long-distance driving. 

“These adaptive cruise control and automatic steering systems really are Tesla’s trump card. No manufacturer out there has a more reliable or confidence-inspiring set-up, in my experience,” commented Alex. “The automated steering is great, it keeps the car centred in its lane at all times and changes lanes when an indicator is activated. Meanwhile, the adaptive cruise control reads the road ahead without a hitch, slowing the car smoothly and gently whenever traffic builds up ahead.”

What about the range? “When you plug your destination into the Tesla’s sat-nav, it works out where you’ll need to charge in order to make it to your destination, and routes you via a Supercharger – Tesla’s super-high-speed charger – if necessary,” explained Alex.  

Unfortunately, there were no Superchargers where Alex wanted to stop for food on his way to Cornwall. So he used a Chargemaster Polar charger instead, which worked perfectly. He’d also planned on stopping at Tesla’s Exeter Supercharger, but made a rookie mistake – it was in a shopping centre that was closed when he got there at 10.30pm. 

Alex also soon discovered one of the other ‘mindset changes’ he’d need for electric cars. He’d given the car enough juice to get to his friend’s house in Saltash and back to the Exeter Supercharger, but not enough for sightseeing while he was there. Consequently, with no chargers nearby, he had to plug in at his friends’ house. 

Used Tesla Model S

For everyday use, Alex had a Chargemaster charging point installed on his drive. Having it removed all his concerns about charging up the car’s batteries; a few hours on charge each evening was enough to replenish the energy used up during his 80-mile daily commute. 

I had a longer commute of close to 100 miles, much of it on the motorway, but the Model S could easily get me to work and back between charges, too. I opted for either a few hours’ charge at home each night or 4-5 hours plugged into the company’s rapid charger in the basement of our office block. 

Like Alex, I had no range concerns at all with the Model S, even when I took it on a three-day jaunt from London to Swansea so visit my son at university. I stopped twice on the way there and back to recharge the car’s batteries at points where I would have stopped for a driving break anyway. 

Used Tesla Model S long termer

In fact, doing the 400-mile trip in the Model S saved me at least £50 in fuel because the 2016 model is entitled to use Tesla’s Supercharger network for free (unlike newer cars); if I’d taken a conventional-engined car, I would have spent at least £50 on fuel. Even if I’d have had to pay for charging, I’d still be quids in because using the Supercharger network would have cost £29.  

The Model S was the epitome of reliability initially, but a month in it developed an electrical issue that prevented the driver assistance systems and data connection from working. So Alex took the car to Tesla’s West Drayton service centre on his way to work. Tesla offers owners a service where they can drop their car off and drive away in another vehicle while theirs is being worked on. He was given a P100D. The car was fixed the same day, and hasn’t suffered any other problems since. 

During our time with the Model S, Alex and I both experienced a unique Tesla function: over-the-air updates. Instead of having to take the car to a dealer to get the latest software installed, you simply park it up at the end of the day and accept the invitation on the centre console screen to have the update done. When we got back in the car the following morning, it has all the same technology that’s on the latest models. Pretty impressive to be able to do this on a 2016 model. 

Alex had the new PIN to Drive security feature installed remotely. It’s aimed at combating keyless car relay theft and it allows you to set a PIN number that has to be entered on the car’s screen before it can be driven. It’s a simple yet effective way of preventing thieves from driving away in your car if they’ve managed to get into it. 

Tesla Model S long termer interior

I had the latest Software Version 9 installed – the most substantial Tesla over-the-air update so far giving owners of older cars an improved, simpler user interface and lots of new features including a new app launcher and updated climate controls that make it easier to change the temperature and access things like the heated seats. These may sound like little things, but being able to access, for example, the steering wheel heating controls without having to open the full climate control menu makes it easier and less distracting for the driver to do this. 

So, did the Model S end up turning us into EV converts? 

Alex had only a couple of small gripes about the car. First, that the car doesn’t have a parking brake switch; instead, it activates automatically when you put the car in Park. “This means at traffic lights, you’re forced to choose between doing just that – which effectively turns the car off and brings on the interior lights – or holding the car on the footbrake and, consequently, dazzling the person behind you,” he explained.

“And while the Spotify integration in the infotainment system is a great idea, it never loads my music library when I’m signed in. I still get to listen to music – but I have to search for and select albums individually, rather than listen to my own playlists,” he added. 

Used Tesla Model S long termer

As for me, at first I struggled to get used to the car’s energetic regenerative braking that cuts in forcefully and slows the car down as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator. But a week or so later, I didn’t notice this any more. One thing I did notice was the hefty reduction in my fuel bill – I’d normally spend around £200 a month on petrol, but this dropped to less than £50 on electricity for charging the Model S. 

The only thing that would make Tesla ownership even more appealing to me is the installation of more Superchargers in Kent and around the M25 where I travel most frequently. On the rare occasions that I have to go on a long journey two days in a row, that would give me a swifter way of recharging the car’s batteries more fully at the end of the first day. 

Test data: Model S 75 Dual Motor

Mileage on arrival 23,335 Mileage now 26,711 Options* Pearl White paint £1300, Autopilot Hardware 1 with Convenience Features £2500, Subzero Weather Package £850 Private price now £44,100 Trade-in price £42,700 Real world range 200 miles Official range 240 miles Total running cost n/a Insurance £1195

*Option prices at time of purchase

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