Are Tesla Superchargers Free? (The Real Cost)

So here’s the question, are Tesla superchargers free to use? Simple enough question and one that you’d think would be easy enough to answer, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

Tesla supercharging was Free initially but is now no longer. It is dependent upon a couple of things; firstly, which year you purchased either your high-end Model S, Model X SUV or the more affordable Model 3, and if the car was brand new or pre-owned when it was purchased.

Let’s try and explain because the answer is a little more complicated than you might expect.

Back when Tesla first launched in 2013, they offered FREE unlimited supercharging on the Model S and X for the life of the vehicle. 

Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk

However, on January 1st, 2017, Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk, admitted that this idea “is not sustainable long-term” so as a result of this, the offer got changed to; FREE charging of up to 400kWh per year, which on average is about 1000 miles of range, then anything above this, the customer would need to pay.

FREE lifetime charging but, not for all Model S & X

Then in August of 2019, Tesla brought back the FREE unlimited lifetime supercharging offer but only on the Model S and the Model X purchased after August 3rd of that year. So if you bought either one of these cars between January 1st, 2017, and the end of July 2019, well you just banged out of luck because you didn’t qualify for the free supercharging offer.

So then you ask, what’s the deal with the more affordable Model 3, does that enjoy any FREE supercharging incentives? 

Well, when the Model 3 was first released back at the end of July 2017, it was very much a ‘Pay & Charge’ deal, and in many ways, you could understand Tesla’s thinking on this, because there was a car that was almost half the price of the existing Model S, but still with many of the same build qualities and technologies. 

So realistically at that time, it probably didn’t make financial sense for Tesla to offer free lifetime supercharging with Model 3, particularly as this car was likely to be their largest volume seller.

But in September 2018, with the sales of Model 3 slowing down, Tesla came out with a new deal, and that was, if you purchased a brand new Model 3, you would receive free lifetime supercharging, but there was a catch. This offer only applied to the performance version, meaning all base Model 3’s stayed on the original Pay & Charge program.

Current Model 3 Offer

However, in September 2019, things changed again, and currently, the deal is this, purchase a brand new Model 3 and you will receive, two years free unlimited charging, however, this time, unlike previously, the offer is open across the complete Model 3 line-up, not just the performance version. 

But even with only two years of free supercharging, it’s still a pretty good incentive to purchase a Model 3, particularly if you’re looking to offset the costs of the vehicle. 

And again, as was the case with the previous Model S, and the Model X deals, there is no retrospective offer, so if you purchased a base Model 3 before September 2019, there is no free supercharging offer, and you need to continue to Pay & Charge.

So, in a nutshell, the answer to the question; are Tesla superchargers free, the current answer is Yes. 

But, only on the selected models, and these include any brand new Model S or Model X purchased after August 3rd, 2019, where the offer is FREE unlimited supercharging for the life of the vehicle, or if you purchased a performance version of the Model 3 in September 2018 where again the offer is FREE unlimited supercharging, or if you purchased any Model 3, during or after September 2019, then you receive two years FREE supercharging.

The Sting In The Tail Regarding Used Tesla’s

However, while on the surface this all looks nice, and straight forward, there is a slight ‘sting in the tail’ when it comes to buying a pre-owned Tesla. 

From what we understand currently, only Model S and Model X vehicles purchased before 2019 include transferable supercharging and that supercharging is not transferable on the Model 3. 

However, free supercharging on Tesla’s produced from 2013-2018 is still eligible to be transferred for the life of the car regardless of the number of owners or miles. 

So for those that prioritize having free, truly unlimited supercharging you need to purchase a used Tesla Model S or X produced between 2013 and 2017. 

The Last Word

Free unlimited supercharging will always be at the discretion of Tesla, and whilst it is currently available across all new models, as is the case in the past, if sales show a serious uplift, and there is no need to entice owners to move inventory, then it may well be removed. 

Is Tesla Charging Free?

But would that be the end of the world? 

Currently supercharging costs are still relatively inexpensive, let’s assume for example, that you did have to pay for supercharging, what do the costs look like, well firstly you have two different scenarios, some Supercharging stations bill you per kWh, which is similar to using a regular gas station where you pay by the gallon. 

But, not all Supercharger stations can bill in this way, some other stations, bill you per minute, in other words, based on the time you’re using the station on a per-minute basis. 

However, trying to understand the per-minute costs can also be a little confusing, because there are two charging tiers. Tier 1, which is the slower charging option at below 60kW or less, and Tier 2, which is the faster option at above 60kW. 

Now obviously the charging costs are set by Tesla and are subject to change at any time, but even if kWh prices were to double, and current fuel prices remained where they are today, it would still be more cost-effective to use a supercharging station than a traditional gas station.

Overcharging Can Harm The Battery

And, also let’s not forget that realistically most Tesla owners only need to use a supercharger when taking long-distance trips. Unlimited supercharging can be useful for those that are constantly traveling but it can also harm the battery if constantly used only for a top-up.