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Tesla has a new kind of buyer

July 29, 2015, 5:30 PM UTC

The Tesla owner archetype has changed.

A year ago, the average Tesla Model S owner lived in California and earned more than $100,000 a year. Today, the emergence of a used-car market has pushed the luxury, all-electric automaker into a different pool of buyers who are younger, earn less, and live outside the Golden State, according to analysis released Wednesday by Edmunds, the California-based car-buying platform, examined registration data of all 1,600 Tesla Model S vehicles that have ever been sold in the pre-owned market in the U.S.

While it’s not uncommon to see used luxury vehicle ownership expand within a population over time, it is unusual to see it happen to this degree, according to Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ director of industry analysis.

The findings, which show the company has a wide-ranging buyer base, bode well for Tesla as it prepares to make its biggest move into the mass market with the upcoming Model 3, Caldwell says.


Earlier this year, Tesla (TSLA) began selling used versions of its all-electric Model S on its website. Most of the cars that were first offered through Tesla’s certified pre-owned vehicle program were vehicles whose owners traded them in for the newer all-wheel-drive version of the Model S (P85D) that went on sale late last year.

In several states, the share of used Model S sedans actually surpasses sales of new ones. The market share of used Model S vehicles in Washington is 8.9%, nearly double its share of new Teslas.

In Seattle, the used Tesla market is booming. In 2015, there have been more used Model S registrations in Seattle than in San Francisco, according to Edmunds.

Florida, Washington, Texas, New Jersey, Arizona, and Nevada all sell more used Model S’s than new ones.

California still has the largest share of new and used Model S sales. But here, demand for new Model S vehicles outpace demand for used ones. California’s share of used Model S sales is only 30.5%, compared to its 42.5% share of all new sales, according to Edmunds, which examined registration data of all 1,600 Tesla Model S vehicles have ever been sold in the pre-owned market in the U.S.

The Tesla brand has migrated into different age and earning demographics. Some 36% of all used Model S buyers earn less than $100,000 a year. Only 25% of new Model S buyers have salaries under $100,000.

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Edmunds also found that owners of used Model S are younger. About 10% of pre-owned Model S buyers are millennials, ages 18 to 34, compared to just 6% of those who purchase a new one.

An Edmunds analysis released earlier this month found millennials are leasing vehicles at higher rates than the overall car-buying population and they’re opting for more luxurious, tech-forward cars than they could otherwise afford to buy. Millennials are particularly attracted to leasing Ram, GMC, and Lexus brands.

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