Tesla’s first vehicle, the Roadster, can be a good investment, and loads of fun to drive. This little iconic car is what made Tesla the success it is today, and launched the EV revolution. Any car enthusiast understands limited supply (2400 built) first edition status, all means collectible some day. Before you jump in and buy one, here are some considerations:
Log File Analysis
The Tesla Roadster logs event activity that help service staff understand how the cars are being used and a history of error logging. There is a wealth of information being recorded, well before it reaches the main LCD screen, which often provide a deep look at future issues that may be brewing.
Before buying a Roadster, ask the seller to extract a log, and email it to us for a free log file analysis. We have a newsletter that describes how to extract these log files and this file is easily retrieved from the car using a USB thumb drive. Armed with detailed behind the scenes and under the hood information like this, a much more informed buying decision can be made.
Deferred Maintenance Items
The most vulnerable component is the Power Electronics Modules (PEM). Some have aged 12 years, and are full of wear components.
Auto repair shops are not equipped to rebuild complex electronic items. This is the heart of the car, and one of the most sensitive subassemblies in the car. Buying a car with an unrestored PEM changes the valuation of the car. To properly rebuild a PEM costs around $5K. This part is out of production, so rebuild/reman is the only option.
The main battery ESS packs are also aging. Although exceeding original service life estimates of 10 years, they will have to be replaced at some point, and the only solution on the horizon at this time is a $30K new battery replacement from Tesla with a projected 1 year plus wait time.
A number of other low tech items are reaching end of life. Rubber cooling hoses, pump, plastics used throughout the car, internal PEM connecting blocks, suspension bushings, TPMS sensors, bearings, are all wearing from age and use. A detailed vehicle service history outlining what has been done, is a very important negotiating tool before a purchase.
Tesla Roadsters originally listed at $109K and optioned cars went for as much as $157K. A number of factors even beyond normal depreciation have depressed Roadster resale pricing, the most influential being uncertainty regarding a battery pack replacement solution.
Declining Roadster service support at the Tesla Service Center level further adds to the short term uncertainty whether to buy this car. Original batteries will begin to die soon, which could create downward price pressure as cars are idled, waiting for the replacement low production Tesla battery packs, as the waiting list grows. The future collectible status of the Tesla Roadsters is undeniable considered it ushered in the EV revolution. Any limited edition car, and especially early models, are what collectors crave. As always, the burning question in collecting is when does the buying frenzy start.
In fall of 2019, Tesla began a Roadster buyback program, and selling prices have edged up recently for possibly two reasons, Tesla bids for Roadsters began exceeding current market value, and the buybacks are reducing the number of cars for sale. It is still unclear whether these purchased cars will be returning to the market as CPO cars.
The Roadsters, for most owners, is a secondary weekend car, usually pampered, taken to car events, and stored in a controlled environment. We have also seen daily drivers, and even cars routinely stored outside showing paint etching, cloudy and yellowed carbon fiber clearcoat, cracked dashes, and worn and frayed leather seats. Cracked and peeling headlights are another common Roadster deterioration item.
Storage factors play a large role in condition. Mileage which is a good indicator of wear in an ICE vehicle, is not as large a factor in an EV, like a Roadster with the exception of suspension components.
Another consideration common to EV’s full of is electronics wear and tear. Critical Roadster electronics age whether driven or stored, like electrolytic capacitors in the PEM, the PEM cooling fan used during drive and repeated charging, and of course the main battery pack full of electronics, and auxiliary 12 volt battery.
Some parts in a Tesla Roadster are unique, and some out of production like the electronics. In partnership with Tesla, GMC is reactivating original parts vendors, restocking, and renegotiating resupply, often dodging high minimum order requirements. When we find original tooling and molds have been scrapped, we create suitable alternatives like 3D printing or remachining parts.
Tesla has recommitted to rebuilding the Roadster parts supply chain. For one-of electronic assemblies and modules, GMC is providing component level repair, and complete rebuilds like the PEM. Waiting for this sub-assembly to fail can render it unusable for rebuild.
These cars can be kept on the road for decades provided owners are making pro-active decisions to continue to resolve deferred maintenance items.
Range Mode Charge
Under normal usage, you do not need to range charge to balance your main battery. The only reason to range charge for re-balancing is when the battery is so far out of balance one brick can't maintain the minimum voltage required for balancing, like after a sheet replacement. Standard mode is plenty sufficient to keep it balanced.
Keep it plugged in and it will wake up every 24 hours to charge and balance itself.