Modern collectibles revealed: 2009-2012 Tesla Roadster


Chances are that you know many details about the Tesla Roadster or at least know what it is. It is simply the first mass produced car that showed the world that electric motoring and fun are not mutually exclusive. Electrically powered cars are not a new concept, but Tesla Motors showed the public that such a car can be an exhilarating sport roadster.  This car has thus reserved its place in the automotive hall of fame and it will hold a significant status in the collector car world.



In many respects, a used Tesla Roadster is blazing an uncharted course.  This is due to the inherent design aspects of the car’s Lithium Ion batteries. First of all, Tesla Motors publicly stated that the car’s battery or Energy Storage System (ESS) has a useful lifespan of 7 years or 100,000 miles.  The ESS replacement cost including labor is currently pushing $40,000. Oh, and it does weigh 992 lbs, so it’s not like you and a buddy can easily do the job yourselves over the weekend in your driveway.  Second, there is a potential “bricking” problem.  The bricking is when the battery becomes irrecoverably discharged and requires replacement.  This can occur when your device or a car is left unattended and unplugged for an extended period of time and the battery gets fully discharged.  There are only a handful of such alleged and non-confirmed Tesla bricking cases, but this potential issue is difficult to ignore.


Nonetheless, you have to consider that the general rate of technological progress is growing exponentially, and so is the energy storage industry.  For example, Elon Musk (the Tesla Motors CEO) recently stated that a Model S beta car successfully surpassed 150,000 test miles on a single battery pack.  The battery capacity, useful lifespan, cost and other parameters will continue to improve by leaps and bounds.

Now, what about the car itself?  It’s aluminum lightweight chassis was made by Lotus Cars and is a distant relative to the well acclaimed Lotus Elise.  Even with 992 pounds of battery to lug around – the Tesla Roadster still checks in at just 2,723 lbs at the curb.  It’s a fun and nimble car that is similar but not quite as spectacular as the lighter Elise.  It is capable of brutal acceleration at any speed and in any environment.

The Roadster Sport can dispatch a 0-60 mph run in 3.7 seconds and the fun does not stop there.  This is a desirable car, although the long-term performance of the battery pack adds unpredictability.  Will the technology progress so much in the next 25 years, that today’s suitcase sized half-ton battery will be replaced by something the size and weight of today’s AA?



Tesla Motors itself said that it intended for the roadster to be an exclusive vehicle that’s attractive to collectors.  The company does not release almost any production or sales figures, but we know that there were a total of 2,500 chassis or gliders ordered from Lotus Cars.  We can make an educated guess that up to 1,800 units were sold in the North American market over a four year period.

Tesla ceased sales of the roadster in the States at the end of calendar 2011, while international sales will continue in 2012.  Of note are just 15 examples of a special Final Edition roadster that commemorate the end of production for the car.  North America gets just 5 of these 15 and you can recognize one by its atomic red paint and dark silver stripes.  There is no question that the Tesla Roadster is one of the most exclusive sport cars of today.



It’s not easy to find a used Tesla Roadster for sale and when you do they are generally very low mileage cars with asking prices close to original MSRPs.  The original MSRP started at $109,000 and this was before heavy government tax credits and other incentives.  There are a couple of examples with around 7,000 miles on the clock that are asking between $90-95K.  However, there majority of used Roadsters have under 2,000 miles and are asking above $95,000.  This car is already showing very good resale value.  Lets hope it continues this way.

Andre-Smirnov-1Andre Smirnov is a Software Engineer by trade and a life-long automotive enthusiast.  On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering in the garage.  When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.

Check out our first drive review of the Tesla Roadster below.

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