Sale of the Week

Can electric cars become collectible? This $195,000 Tesla Roadster says "Yes"

by Andrew Newton
7 January 2022 2 min read
Photo by Bring a Trailer/Prototype37

Like it or not, EVs are gradually taking over the road. But if you’re concerned that they’ll all be soulless overgrown luxury golf carts and no fun whatsoever, fear not. Tesla (with a little help from Lotus) already built an exhilarating electric sports car over a decade ago. It can be done.

And if you think electric cars will never be collectible, think again. A 2011 Tesla Roadster sold online this week for $195,000, about 60 grand more than it cost new and 60 grand more than a Roadster’s condition #1 (“Concours,” or “best-in-the-world”) value in the Hagerty Price Guide. It’s nearly as much as the estimated starting price for the Roadster that supposedly goes on sale next year, and that’s an all-new car.

Bring a Trailer/Prototype37

The story of the original Tesla Roadster goes back to the early 2000s. Tesla was awash in Elon Musk’s PayPal dollars and developing the cutting edge battery tech that would eventually help EVs go mainstream. But there was one problem—no car to put it in. So Tesla crossed the pond and knocked on the doors at Lotus, with a keen eye on the extruded- and bonded-aluminum chassis from the lovely little Elise. The two companies hammered out a contract calling for Lotus to supply 2500 Gliders (complete cars minus powertrain) shipped from England to California for assembly and distribution.

Telsa sold the Roadster from 2008-12, and after that supply of 2500 Lotus chassis dried up, the company turned its attention from the neat two-seat targa to its real breakout hit—the Model S sedan. The Model S did more to make electric cars cool in the eyes of the public, and it helped the company (and its stock price) grow exponentially in the years since. But the Roadster was Tesla’s opening act, and as far as opening acts go, it was a pretty cool one.

The Roadster wasn’t just Tesla’s first ever production car, it was also the first production EV to utilize the lithium-ion battery cells we hear so much about, and in 2018 it became the first production car to show us its taillights from orbit. It’s out of this world…literally! And as EVs become more prevalent in our lives, the significance of the Tesla Roadster can only grow. Add to that historical significance the fact that it’s a handsome, fast, fun sports car with a high price tag and low production numbers, and you have all the collectible car ingredients right there. And with rising interest and rising prices, we put the Roadster on this year’s Bull Market list of cars that are poised for growth over the next 12 months.

Bring a Trailer/Prototype37

Looks like we made a good pick. The Roadster sold on Bring a Trailer is a 1318-mile car acquired new by the seller’s father, plus it’s equipped with the Sport package that got better suspension and more power. Back when it was new in 2011, the MSRP was about 130 grand ($158k adjusted for inflation), compared to about 52 grand for a perfectly good 2011 Lotus Elise.

Is $195,000 the ceiling for a low-mile Tesla two-seater, or does the OG EV only keep growing? Time will tell. For now, though, this Radiant Red car is the most expensive Roadster we’ve seen by quite a bit, so it’s fitting that the winning bidder’s name is “@MaxProsperity.”


  • drhino says:

    Of course electric cars will be collectible. There are people that collect anything. Remember Bernie babies?

  • eighthtry says:

    Well, I likely suffer from some form of unknown discrimination. It is in my blood and genes. There is nothing I can do about it. I just don’t get electric. For any number of reasons, beginning with pollution, which includes air, land, water, groundwater, and more. In my mind we go from “bad” to “worse”. I like the fact that 100 years later I can make a car run, and can make it just like it came off of the end of the assembly line. Or an unlimited number of iterations thereof.

    However, I get the battery stuff. Absolutely nothing prevents us as consumers from the “hype” coming from all kinds of different sources. There will be collectibles there. I’m just not sure how they can be kept original unless battery technology fails to progress beyond today. I don’t know the range this good looking sport car had when new, but in 20 years the miles will be measured in the low two digits.

    And don’t get me started on “green” power.

    Well, now I said it. I do suffer from some form of unknown discrimination. The good news is so far electric cars and green power is all it applies to.

  • Scott McPherson says:

    They are quick and fun when they came out and still true today.

  • OldFordMan says:


  • OldFordMan says:

    It is possible that they will be piled up like today’s junkyards in 25-50 years when there is no more resources for batteries. By then of course, fission will be scooting us along Jetson style. ??

    • Paul Villforth says:

      Tesla and others have already figured out how to reprocess the batteries that are in use today so that the materials do not ed up in the dumps.
      Then there is the other tech that was accidentally discovered post WW2 by the electrical engineer John Searl in the UK. I say accidental because he was not able to repeat his early successes. Others are now pursuing the dream of tapping into zero-point energy. I believe that if Elon Musk took on the challenge we would likely have electric vehicles that would not need any batteries and airplane that would no longer need gas turbines to fly. No petroleum needed to power any internal combustion engine or any electrical generating facility. Zero-point is what Nikola Tesla was chasing too.

  • Mark says:

    I know many folks locally who were beta testers for the Roadster not realizing they were beta testers. The batteries are only good for 8-12 years depending on the duty cycle. Most of my friends sold their roadsters prior to the battery failing as Tesla had lawsuits from owners because Tesla wasnt providing replacement battery packs even though by law, they are required to provide replacement parts for 10 years. The roadster also lacks the circuitry to prevent the battery from completely discharging. There are stories of Silicon valley execs parking their cars at San Jose Airport, returning two weeks later to a brick. Pre 2010 you could still get the replacement battery from Tesla at the cost of mid 20Ks. Build quality was also at kit car level as well. I can see Tesla fan boys dropping serious cash on one of these with no clue about the battery tech.

  • The Future says:

    Lot of fake news going on here. There actually no instances of a battery going bad on these Roadsters and Tesla came out with an upgrade battery that carried even more range and gave it a little more power (even quicker than 3.5 sec 0-60). Of course everyone remembers that one in like a million Tesla catching fire. It is funny how a “more green” 1mpg big block engine will get its a$$ handed over to this lil car. Also, super reliable because there is hardly any maintenance (vs a combustion engine and all of the maintenance and fluids involved). Everything is going towards either all electric or hybrid. Even F1 (these nascar dinosaurs can only handle watching circles in the same direction and wouldn’t be able to comprehend/follow an F1 race) utilizes hybrid technology. It’s just faster and more reliable. It is quite rare to find anyone who even knows how to tune a carburetor and I actually believe quite the opposite here where combustion engine powered vehicles will become undesirable and obsolete. Lucky to be in this inbetween generation where I can see both sides. Did you know that most kids these days actually have no desire to even learn to drive, there is no need. I know all I wanted to do was to get a license and drive on/work on my own car. But boomers, times are a changin!

    • Paul Villforth says:

      I have a 1972 VW Super Beetle and I would love to convert it to electric. It would be great to charge the battery pack and not have to worry or be concerned with the fuel going bad in the tank and tuning the carb all too frequently. Electric would make it enjoyable to go cruising. It would likely have much better performance than the original internal combustion engine.

    • Jeff Zekas says:

      As a Boomer, my enthusiasm for electric vehicles is unabated. That, said, many Tesla fanboys can’t accept criticism of their cult car. Watch Rich Rebuilds on youtube — he discusses both the good, and bad, of Tesla maintenance and repairs. Also, what most promoters of Tesla (and electrics in general) fail to acknowledge: mining rare minerals for Tesla batteries is just as unfriendly to the environment as drilling for oil. When some of these issues are dealt with– pollution by battery makers, lack of range, high cost, lack of independent electric shops– then maybe we shall consider buying a Tesla or Ford electric truck. Or maybe there will be a zombie apocalypse, and none of this will matter?

  • MAXTHEAX says:

    I saw that thing on Bring A Trailer and quickly looked at the specs. I’ll admit I’ve gone out of my way to avoid any knowledge of Testicles. I know they hit emergency vehicles, explode on impact and turn into bar-b-ques.
    The list of aftermarket parts was certainly impressive and I thought, why waste those parts on that POS. What that really needs is an LS swap.
    Collectable? You’ve heard of hoarders?

  • Jerry says:

    I guess if someone was willing to pay $195k for the car, spending $20k+ to replace the batteries won’t be much of a big deal.

  • David Lee Burdis says:

    i don’t think that we have enough of an electric grid in this country to support everyone having an electric vehicle. Therefore this “electric vehicle craze ” that we are witnessing will not last. The generic nature of these vehicles is very boring and uninteresting. Hopefully they will not become collectable anytime soon. also they are too expensive.

  • Mark says:

    To those who ignore the facts, this article proves my point.

  • Michael says:

    I opened this article thinking it would be about the Sebring vanguard Citi-car
    I used to drive one to work, once got it up to 35mph!!
    Now I have a Trabant, no mosquitos where I live

  • Jeff Von Haden says:

    I went to purchase a year one Tesla model S. Was one of the first 40 built (Founders car). I ended up not purchasing cause I didn’t like Tesla’s policy of not selling replacement parts to DIYers. To scratch my electric itch I ended up getting a Bolt for a daily driver. In a straight line that car is faster than anything I’ve ever owned. Not as nimble as my two seat vintage sports cars but it hasn’t dropped a bit of oil to join the ample Jaguar, Porsche, MG deposits. The day is coming when the Miata of electric sports cars will offer quicker acceleration, and handling equal or better to any sports car we have ever owned.

  • Paul Villforth says:

    Electric automobiles and trucks have always been collectable. I would expect the more recent crop to be collectable too. The older ones predating and post dating the internal combustion engine began to be collected in the 1940s and 1950s.

  • Mike Max says:

    I just bought a 2010 Roadster in July 2021. I couldn’t afford them when they came out as it’s really a toy and not a daily driver. People with Ferraris and super cars don’t usually drive them daily. It’s a lot of fun to drive and a nice looking car. I’m on the list for the battery replacement and mine still shows 160 plus miles on a full charge with original battery. I’m going by Jay Lenos motto. Don’t buy a car thinking it will increase in value, buy something you’ve always liked or wanted. If it goes up in price great , if not you have a car you like. I had a Chevy bolt as a daily driver but GM bought it back because of fires and I now have a model Y. My solar panels provide enough electricity to power my house and cars. I went to the Costco gas station with my brother in law last week to fill up his truck. It’s a pain in the ass. I love how smooth and quick an electric car is. I’m looking forward to something I can take off road. I’m not doing this to be green or make a statement. I just like the low maintenance and home charging. In my 3 years of owning electric I have only used public charging twice. I’ll fly if I go somewhere more than 4 hours away. Anyhooo – I plan on keeping the roadster till it’s 25 years old and sell it then. I’m fairly confident it will at least sell for what I paid for it.

  • Jeff Zekas says:

    If you buy a Lotus Elise, you get better looks than a Tesla roadster, not to mention owning a car with a Toyota engine, meaning lots of parts available and a reliable power plant that will drive for decades to come. My son tried to convince me to buy a Tesla, we even drove one, but when I heard about the lack of independent shops which will work on it (along with Tesla making buyers wait long periods for repairs) my enthusiasm was dampened.

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