Tesla Client Shares His Experience Buying a 2021 Model 3 With a 2017 Battery Pack


This Tesla customer told us his story, which shed some light on what is going on with these cars. Murphy ordered a Tesla Standard Range Plus on December 12. He made a $250 deposit and got a loan request approved. On December 18, Murphy decided he would be better with a Model 3 Long Range and called Tesla to check if that was possible. “They said they had my exact specs (black/black/18″ wheels) in Burbank (20 minutes from where I live). I kept asking if there was a catch. The guy on the phone insisted no. He did indeed disclose that it was a demo vehicle with 81 miles on it. I figured: ‘Hey, what the hell. 81 miles is nothing. This thing is as good as new.’ So I agreed to take it.” On December 19, Murphy took delivery of the Model 3. It was already dark, so he could not give it a proper inspection. Apart from checking if his key worked, the woman that delivered his car was more worried about her Uber drive than about telling him all the details involved with his purchase. He took a quick drive with the car and thought it was fantastic, an impression he said that persists until today. It was only in the morning of December 20 that Murphy saw a pre-paid FedEx envelope in the Model 3. “A notice in it asked me to sign within 24 hours and ship it back. It is the exact notice described in your article (2017, potential 12% degradation, etc.). In the backseat, I found the paper slip that must have been in the demo while it was on display. It says that the car was built in October of 2021. So I’m assuming it’s a recently built Model 3 LR with a potential 2017-2019 battery.” Murphy was kind enough to share the notice with us. His impression is confirmed by the disclaimer Tesla presents on the website. The complete message is this one (the bold is on us): “Range Disclaimer This vehicle was built with a battery pack manufactured as early as 2017. While this pack was brand new when the vehicle was built, the cells have reduced capacity due to their age and you can expect up to 12% reduction in range from current production specifications.” In other words, it was really a battery pack created in 2017 that was never used, which leads to some questions. The first and main one is why Tesla built brand-new EVs with four-year-old battery packs. Would that be a solution for getting rid of aging battery packs? However, this is just the beginning. A more thorough analysis shows that all cars that come with this disclaimer are listed as new despite being demo vehicles. In States that issue dealer plates, that is possible because these cars were never registered. If you remember that Tesla is proud to have no dealers, that’s the mother of all ironies. It is also not precisely coherent that Tesla uses these plates for test drive cars. Thankfully, California demands companies to disclose if the vehicles were used as demo cars before being sold. Sadly, it seems to make no difference for Tesla: the company charges as much for these test-drive vehicles as it would for an EV that was never used. So much so that Murphy had to wrap his mind around the idea that the car was as good as new to accept the deal. In the afternoon of December 20, the Tesla customer called the company to get an explanation for that disclaimer. “The guy on the phone said he’d never heard of this before. But he did indeed seem concerned. I made it 110% clear that at NO POINT was it disclosed to me that this car might have a 12% battery degradation. He told me that he is getting in touch with Burbank (my delivery center location) and that they will call me.” Murphy was still waiting for an answer the last time we spoke to him. The fact that Tesla’s own representative alleged he “never heard of this before” regarding the 2017 battery pack makes us wonder if Tesla is disclosing this as it should, whether to customers or its own staff. “On the advice of the guy on the phone at Tesla, I took the car to a supercharger and brought the charge to 100%. I got it up to 99% with 5 minutes remaining, and the range at that moment was exactly 344 miles.” Compared to the 353-mile range that Tesla discloses for the Model 3 Long Range on its website, the 9-mile difference represents 2.5% less range. That left Murphy a bit relieved but not exactly comfortable with his purchase. “I’m wondering if Tesla would offer ANY kind of recourse (a discount, an FSD upgrade, or honestly, the NEW car I thought I was buying). I re-read my documents, and there was 100% no prior disclaimer (which is in stark contrast to the websites, at least mentioning the batteries are old).” Murphy is now talking to consumer-protection attorneys to understand what his options are. The fact that he was not warned that he was getting a 2021 car with a 2017 battery pack does not feel right. With more transparent communication, Tesla could probably have avoided the bad experience Murphy now feels he had. With fewer cars presenting the disclaimer, our last question is if everybody that bought these “new” demo EVs was adequately informed about the 2017 battery packs in their vehicles. We hope so.