Starting at $70,000, the Tesla Model S costs more than twice what Americans spend on the average new car, meaning most people that plain old can’t afford it. This has led some people to take desperate measures, such as repairing a salvage titled Model S, though a San Diego man is learning the hard way that it isn’t quite that easy.

San Diego 6 News reported the plight of Peter Rutman, who spent $50,000 on a damaged Tesla Model S, and then invested another $8,000 into repair it. But when Rutman contacted Tesla about reactivating the car’s complicated software, he says the company wanted him to sign liability waiver that allows the automaker to ultimately determine the car’s roadworthiness. Rutman says the document didn’t say anything about fixing or repairing the car to accept a charge, and that it would allow Tesla to confiscate the vehicle if they felt it wasn’t safe. Rutman refused to sign, and as such says he’s been blacklisted by Tesla stores nationwide, meaning he can’t get parts of technical assistance.


For its part, Tesla has serious safety concerns regarding the salvaged electric vehicle, but nothing in the inspection authorization form they wanted Rutman to sign would have let them take his car away. Tesla also says Rutman had his vehicle repaired by a non-authorized Tesla installer, and while he isn’t blacklisted, the company doesn’t sell certain parts that require special training to install to just anyone. Compare that to traditional automakers, which will sell you literally every piece you need to build a car, except in the case of specialty vehicles such as the Camaro Z/28.

Rutman isn’t the only one to run afoul of Tesla’s parts counter and technical service though; a recent attempt to build a Tesla-powered stretched-wheelbase Volkswagen Westfalia (the “Stretchla”) has run into issues with Tesla as well. Because Tesla owns all its own stores and service centers, there’s no outside network for people who want to fix or re-engineer Model S components for their own purposes. Rutman has decided to try and sue the salvage auction that sold him the Model S, since California state law says if a car can’t be made roadworthy, it must be scrapped.

The takeaway here? For those car modifiers who want to use a Tesla drivetrain for an EV conversion of their own, buyer beware. Rutman found out the hard way that the rules that apply to conventional cars don’t always apply to EVs, and especially not Teslas. Also I’d like to note, for the $58,000 Rutman spent, he was just $2,000 shy of what a base 60 kWh Model S would have cost, once Federal ($7,500) and state ($2,500) tax credits were factored in.

As the old saying goes, penny wise, pound foolish.