- Tesla’s early cars have skyrocketed in price in recent years.
- This is thanks to the “star power” of the Tesla brand and the importance of the roadster in the history of electric cars.
- Tesla only made around 2,450 Roadsters from 2008 to 2012.
When a small Californian upstart named Tesla Motors launched a limited-edition electric sports car in 2008, no one could have predicted that the same company would one day be the world’s most valuable automaker and be credited with starting the electric vehicle revolution to have.
Now, Tesla’s earliest cars are becoming hot collectibles that have skyrocketed in price in recent years as Elon Musk’s empire exploded.
Tesla built around 2,450 Roadsters between 2008 and 2012 and sold them for around $100,000 and up. The quirky two-door convertibles fell in value over time, with one on auto auction site Bring a Trailer changing hands in 2018 for $38,000.
What a difference a few years make. According to Hagerty, a classic car insurance company, roadster values have nearly doubled in the past two years, going from an average of $69,000 in May 2020 to $127,000 this year. This is based on values provided by owners wishing to insure their vehicles and largely reflects what they paid for.
Some specimens with particularly low mileage or coveted options have brought in significantly more. In January, a 2011 Roadster 2.5 Sport sold for $190,000. In May someone paid $212,000 for one of the first 100 roadsters built.
The price hike has coincided with a pandemic-induced frenzy in the collector car market, as enthusiasts turned to their vehicles as an escape route, Brian Rabold, vice president of automotive intelligence at Hagerty, told Insider. The Roadster is a sexy, fast and fun car that has become an important piece of electric vehicle history, and also has a distinct appeal to fans of Tesla and the broader electric car movement, he said.
“It was Tesla’s first product, so it has this special place in history. As Tesla’s fortunes have grown and it has become the company it is today, a lot of that goes back to the Roadster,” he said.
In the past five years, Tesla has grown from a shaky startup to a $700 billion company with a global footprint and an army of loyal fans. Its CEO Elon Musk has become a celebrity and the richest person in the world. All of this helped propel the roadster to new heights, experts said.
Randy Nonnenberg, CEO of Bring a Trailer, credits the roadster’s recent success to the “star power of the Tesla brand.”
Dan Richland, a retired literary agent living in California, has owned a number of fast gas-powered cars over the decades but was sold to electric vehicles after driving a Tesla Model S in 2020. He’s since bought several Teslas and dumped much of his net worth into the company’s stock, he told Insider. Wanting to own the car that started it all, he bought a 2010 Roadster in May for $140,000.
“My thought was: This is the original Tesla. It’s a miracle that this car actually came out,” he said.
Part of the Roadster’s appeal is that it’s unlike any new electric car available today, said Pete Gruber, who runs Gruber Motor Company, an independent Tesla repair shop in Phoenix, Arizona that specializes in Roadsters . “They have four-door grocery shoppers all day,” he said. “Nothing out there quite like a brightly colored two-seater sports car.”
Gruber launched an online marketplace bringing roadster sellers and buyers together in late 2020 and plans to open a roadster warehouse to capitalize on the sales boom. In the last few years he has seen more serious collectors pick up roadsters as investments.
According to Hagerty, Roadster values have leveled off slightly, reflecting a slowdown in the broader collector car market. Both Rabold and Nonnenberg expect prices to rise in the foreseeable future.
“Will it be a rocket ship and they will be worth 20 times what they are now? Probably not. But are they a very solid and worthwhile investment? I think so,” Nonnenberg said.
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