What would you say if I told you that you could buy a 2018 Tesla Model 3 with 6516 miles on it for $16,500? Would you call me liar? Would you beat me up and take my lunch money? Well you can, (and I would certainly hope you wouldn’t try and assault me). The practice of buying and restoring a salvage Tesla has gained some traction in the past few years. If you’re brave enough to try, here’s what you need to know about the process.

What Makes Tesla Different

Tesla’s business model differs from other car companies’ in that they have integrated all services surrounding their vehicles. For example, I can have my Ford worked on by an independent mechanic and I can fill it up with gas at a gas station. Tesla owners (in most situations) are required to have their vehicles fixed at a Tesla service center. With the proliferation of the Supercharger network, Tesla owners don’t necessarily have to rely on third-party charging systems to travel.

In order to ensure that this model is successful, Tesla (for the most part) does not publish service information about its vehicles. This means that independent repair shops have to rely on their own expertise to attempt repairs. This is often only achieved after a a great deal of trial and error, not to mention money spent. Tesla also does not offer battery upgrades at this time, as we discussed here.

Salvage Cowboys 

Only a few brave souls have dared to take on the task of repairing salvage Teslas. Rich Benoit, a Youtube sensation with almost 600K followers, makes videos detailing his exploits in re-building salvage Tesla vehicles. I encourage everyone to check out the cool stuff he is doing on his channel.

Phil Shadow (who goes by the moniker Ingineer), has been fixing salvaged Teslas since 2015. In a 2018 interview with cleantechnica.com, Shadow was quoted as saying:

“When a car is totaled they deny parts, [and] they don’t in any way give service information, the service tools like all the electronics and computer stuff needed to work on the cars … except where they’re required to by law. And even then they don’t do that.”

According to Shadow, Tesla has good reason for this practice:

“Tesla’s trying to protect their stock price and their mission by eliminating some of this. If I buy a salvage car and fix it improperly and it kills someone or burns a house down … it’s not going to be ‘Man fixes Tesla improperly and hurts someone.’ It’s going to be ‘Tesla kills someone,” he explained.

He’s got a point…

Insurance Insecurities

Media concerns aside, Tesla’s business model may actually be inflating insurance costs on their vehicles. Under normal circumstances, a totaled vehicle can be sold at auction to a mechanic who either repairs it or sells it for parts. This allows insurance companies to recover a decent amount of what they pay out to the policy holder to replace the vehicle. Because of Tesla’s secretive repair policies, insurance companies have started to raise premiums, especially on their more expensive Model S and Model X lines.

As far as general rules about purchasing insurance on a salvaged title go, liability coverage is no more expensive than for a traditional title. After all, just driving a salvaged vehicle doesn’t make you more likely to hit another driver. If you’re looking for full coverage on your car, that’s a different story. Many insurance companies will not offer full coverage on a salvaged car. If they do, they will only reimburse you 80% of its salvage value. There goes my plan to buy a salvaged vehicle, total it, and collect on the insurance.

Just kidding of course, that would be a felony.

Making the Buy

So you’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and buy a Tesla with a salvaged title? Awesome! I applaud your bravery! What is the best way to go about doing so?

Our friends on the Tesla Motors Club forum seem to prefer to purchase their salvage vehicles from Copart.com. According to Copart’s website:

“Copart is a global leader in online car auctions, and a premier destination for the resale and remarketing of vehicles. Specializing in salvage vehicle auctions, Copart makes it easy for Members to find, bid on, and win the vehicles that they are looking for. From salvage cars to clean title vehicles, Members can bid on classics, early and late model cars and trucksmotorcyclesindustrial vehicles and more. Copart has something for everyone: dismantlers, dealers, body shops, salvage buyers and individuals. As a global online vehicle auction company that sells more than two million vehicles annually, Copart puts the power to bid and win into your hands. In addition, Copart buys cars!”

Image result for copart

If you followed the link in the first sentence of this writing you would be taken to abetterbid.com. According to their website:

“A Better Bid® is an online car auction with more than 100,000+ vehicles on sale every day. Find and bid on clean title and salvage title cars, pickup trucks, electric cars, luxury cars, SUVs, ATVs, motorcycles and boats — all without the need for a dealer license. A Better Bid® is a registered Copart Auto Auction broker. That means you have access to the largest car auction inventory in USA, including used, repairable, theft recovery, fleet & lease, repo, flood and hail damaged cars. We make the entire process hassle-free, fun and safe, guaranteed. We don’t just ensure a better bidding experience, though: We will deliver your purchased vehicle(s) anywhere in the world, and we are always here to answer any questions or concerns you might have. We’re committed to you — and to changing the car auction process for the better.” 

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A cursory check of both websites done by yours truly revealed a few hundred salvage Teslas of various prices and conditions. If you aren’t comfortable buying online, you can always go old-school and find a live salvage auction near you.

No matter what method you choose to purchase, please find a repair shop and/or mechanic who knows what they are doing before you buy. An ideal candidate for restoring your salvage Tesla should have several successful re-builds to speak of.  Above all, I would hate to see anyone get behind the wheel of an unsafe vehicle.

Any of our readers out there have experience with purchasing and restoring salvage Teslas? What are your recommendations for getting the job done? Please leave us a comment and share your thoughts.

Source | Imags: electrek.com / copart.com / abetterbid.com