6 Model Years to Avoid When Buying a Tesla Model S

Owning an EV in New Hampshire

6 Model Years to Avoid When Buying a Tesla Model S

Key Points

  • The first year of production, 2012, should be avoided when buying a Tesla Model S due to reported issues with the central infotainment system and starting problems.
  • The 2013 model also has similar issues as the 2012 model, including touchscreen problems and power failures while driving.
  • The 2014 model has problems with the instrument cluster and suspension, making it another model year to avoid.
  • The 2015 model is considered the worst with issues such as suspension failure and broken door handles.
  • The 2016 model has fore-link suspension failures and problems with the central display and phantom braking.
  • The 2017 model has difficulties with the central display and suspension failures, making it the last model year to avoid.

Which model years should you avoid when buying a Tesla Model S? Tesla has brought EVs to the masses, and its luxury sedan is one of the few EVs that reach back over a decade. That said, if you’re in the market for a pre-owned car it can be difficult to discern which years are the ones to miss. The Tesla Model S is no different from any other vehicle on the market. You’ll have your good years and your bad years.

The Model S’s long history in the automotive industry lends itself to quite a few models to avoid. Buying a second-hand EV can already be somewhat nerve-wracking. You have to contend with things like the overall battery health and other factors. The Model S is a solid pick, make no mistake, but that said, these are six model years you’ll want to keep an eye on when buying a Tesla Model S.


buying a tesla model s
Despite its revolutionary concept, the 2012 Model S had a host of major issues.

The thing to remember with any car or EV is that the first year is generally the worst. This is when you’ve got your teething problems, severe issues, and other maladies that can arise. As a whole, the Tesla Model S is a reliable vehicle. However, the first production run is one to avoid when buying a Tesla Model S.

There are several important problems to keep in mind when looking at a 2012 Model S. Users have reported issues with the central infotainment system. The touchscreen in particular has a habit of just going out completely. Now, for most cars, this isn’t a major issue. However, when you consider the Model S is controlled by the touchscreen, this raises some major issues.

The 2012 Model S also has some other notable problems like refusing to start despite having a full charge. The production run had three recalls in total, which isn’t abnormal for any vehicle. However, the main issues that get reported by long-term users are too glaring to ignore.

As such, you’ll want to completely avoid the 2012 Model S. You are better off saving up more to get a more reliable EV.


buying a tesla model s
The 2013 inherits a lot of the same issues from the 2012 production run.

The 2013 Model S has a lot of the same issues and problems that you’ll find with 2012 models. When buying a Tesla Model S, it is important to keep in mind that 2013 wasn’t the best production year as a whole. You’ll find a lot of the same issues recurring with 2013 vehicles, like the same issues with the touchscreen.

Some users have noted substantial electrical malfunctions, like the aforementioned inability to start. There have also been a few nightmarish scenarios where the vehicle experienced total power failure while driving down the highway. As such, it is extremely difficult to even consider the 2013 Model S.

Some of the second-hand 2013 Model S EVs on the market have likely had many of these problems already addressed. However, when it gets down to it, this is too much of a gamble. You’re still paying a substantial sum for a vehicle that could potentially lose all power while you’re driving along the interstate.

Tesla issued a total of four recalls for 2013 Model S EVs, so the manufacturer was at least staying ahead of some issues. You’ll want to give this model run a wide berth either way when car shopping.


2014 Model S EVs saw major issues with the center console having defective adhesive.

The electrical system behind the 2012 and 2013 models saw an overhaul for the production run in 2014. That aside, the 2014 model still has its own issues. When buying a Tesla Model S, you’ll want to steer clear of the 2014 model as well.

2014 saw issues with the air bubbles and leaking glue on the instrument cluster. This was due to defective adhesive application and can lead to issues with the instrument cluster being seen in the first place. When you consider things like your current speed are only visible from this instrument cluster, it becomes a dangerous proposition.

2014 models also had issues with the suspension. Numerous users have reported creaky and groaning suspensions, especially on rougher roads. It isn’t a vehicle killer necessarily, but it is something to make a note of.

You might as well just skip the 2014 model as well. Fixing the defective glue for the instrument cluster was a paid repair from Tesla, and some users may have opted to avoid it entirely.


2015 Model S EVs are regarded as the worst model run of the product line so far.

If any Tesla Model S production run could qualify as the worst, it would be 2015. This production run saw a number of massive issues, with recalls to match. Some Model S owners have reported suspension failure, which is horrifying to even consider.

You’ll also find other common issues like broken door handles. Users have reported the rear trunk not opening, which is thankfully an easier fix. Instrument cluster woes are still a top consideration, but it isn’t due to glue. This is more of a hardware and software problem on the Model S.

If you’re buying a Tesla Model S, run from the 2015 production year. There are simply too many issues as a whole to even consider one. Buying used EVs can already be a headache, you shouldn’t be risking your purchase on a vehicle from this production run.


The most common point of failure you’ll find with the 2016 production run is on the suspension.

2016 saw most of the issues from the 2015 production run rectified. However, the Model S still had its share of problems. You’ll find fore-link suspension failures are common with this run of vehicles. Now, this doesn’t make the vehicle inoperable, at least at first. Instead, with time this would cause horrible damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

Now, that on its own is enough to be cause for concern. However, the 2016 Model S also has a slew of other problems to report. Users have commonly reported issues with the central display failing. You’ll also find phantom braking, which is a recurring issue with the earliest runs of the Model S.

Simply put, if you’re buying a Tesla Model S, you’ll want to avoid the 2016 and all the previously mentioned models. There is definitely a reason the company didn’t really hit its stride with production and customer satisfaction until the late 2010s. The 2016 model is just a sterling example of continuing problems with the vehicle.


buying a tesla model s
The 2017 production run saw a number of improvements, but the display not functioning and phantom braking is still present.

This is the last model run in our lineup, but it certainly isn’t without issues. The display setting issues are still present and accounted for, resulting in the vehicle being extremely difficult to use. Some users have noted the central display simply wouldn’t turn on. You have to remember the Model S needs the central display to access functions like the front collision alert and rearview camera.

Suspension failure is still common, sadly, in this production run. They would be completely rectified with the 2018 model, but that’s six production years in a row with massive issues. You’ll also see the same phantom braking issue found in the 2016 model.

As a whole, 2018 is the oldest model you’ll want to consider when purchasing a Tesla Model S. It does have its share of issues, but none are as severe as the issues found in the 2017 model. If your budget can allow it, from 2020 on you should be absolutely fine. There are still recalls being issued, but not to the same extent as older models.

The Model S has found its stride, it just took a while to get there. Still, it is good to keep these issues in mind when buying a Tesla Model S.

Summary of Model Years to Avoid When Buying a Tesla Model S

Model YearMajor Issues
2012Issues with the central infotainment system, car refusing to start
2013Persistent issues with the infotainment system, substantial electrical malfunctions
2014Air bubbles and leaking glue on the instrument cluster, problems with the suspension
2015Suspension failure, instrument cluster problems, broken door handles, trunk not opening
2016Fore-link suspension failure, central display failure, phantom braking
2017Persistent issues with the suspension, the central display, and phantom braking

Frequently Asked Questions

Are newer Model S EVs more reliable?

As a whole, yes, they’ve certainly benefited from refining and tweaking the design.

Is battery failure a concern with older Model S vehicles?

That isn’t really an issue to be concerned with when looking at an older Model S. You can get the battery health checked by a Tesla dealership if you do have doubts, however.

Which production years should I aim for when purchasing a Tesla Model S?

You’ll want to look at Model S EVs from 2018 to the present day, those will be your best bet for a reliable vehicle.

Does the center display need to function on the Model S?

Yes, especially if you want to keep an eye on the rearview camera and collision alerts.

Was the adhesive fix free from Tesla?

No, the repair itself cost around $1600 from Tesla to complete.

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