If you are buying a Tesla, what probably drew you in was the idea of owning a car that never needs gas. That is certainly great for the environment, but we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the dollar signs you are seeing as well. Charging your Tesla will still cost you money though, but not as much.
Unfortunately, as of late 2020, no new Tesla models currently come with unlimited free Supercharging, but that could change again. In the meantime, all models can get some free Supercharging via the referral program.
Keep reading to learn the best ways to keep your electric costs down on your new Tesla vehicle.
Referrals Are The Best Way to Go
While receiving the incredible perk of unlimited free Supercharging may currently no longer be an option for new Tesla owners, the referral program will probably always be around to give you that taste of the privileged life. This will only be temporary for you, however. But in the meantime, enjoy the satisfaction of Supercharging without needing to take out your credit card.
If You Refer, You Receive Free Supercharging
Tesla, like any smart company, is always looking to expand its brand and grow its clientele. If you buy your own Tesla and enjoy it, that is good for you and Tesla for the finite number of times you plan on buying a car. Think about it: even if you buy a new Tesla and fall in love with it, it is probably going to be years until you buy a new one.
In that case, Tesla has you as an ongoing customer, but they cannot grow outward from there. There needs to be an incentive to get you to recommend your car to friends and family a lot, more than just casual word of mouth. That incentive is referrals.
And your reward for referring a new successful customer is more than just a coupon or cheap gift card; Tesla puts its money where its mouth is. That is why Tesla gives its customers 1,000 miles of free Supercharging every time they successfully refer a new driver to Tesla.
There are no limits to this program either. If you refer 10 people, you will receive 10,000 miles of free Supercharging. For the average driver, that means driving for a year for free. So, go ahead and talk to everybody:
As long as you can prove that you sent them, you can rack up those free miles.
PS. Here is my referral link to get your 1000 free miles if you don’t have a friends to use.
So Do Those People
Not only do you benefit from a successful referral, but so do the people you refer. After all, what better way to convince someone to buy a Tesla over another electric car than to make the first 1,000 miles they drive “free of charge.”Even though Supercharging is cheaper than gassing up in the long run, new drivers love being able to take math out of it for at least a little while.
Both you and your friend can now enjoy 1,000 free miles, and the best part is it does not even matter which Tesla they buy. The free miles of electric are given for referral regardless of whether you buy a lower or higher end model.
The Tesla Models Most Likely to See A Return of Free Unlimited Supercharging
The referral program certainly helps even the playing field for the average Joe anyway. That is because if free unlimited Supercharging does come back, it would most likely only be for the higher end Model S sedan and Model X SUV.
They Have Had It Before
How do we know this? Yes, Supercharging was originally free to use for all Tesla vehicles. But the term “all Tesla vehicles” used to only mean (after the retreat of the Roadster) the Model S and Model X. These models were and still are considered luxury vehicles. Built into their price tags was the economic feasibility of the company to sustain a network of Supercharging stations.
However, as the network grew, the cost of giving away all that electricity for free became unworkable. As the company’s founder and CEO put it in a Tweet in 2018:
“Really need to bring this program to an end while being as fair as possible. It’s not sustainable long-term.”
Source: Elon Musk via Twitter
In short, the program worked too well: too many people bought Teslas because of the free unlimited Supercharging, causing economic loss at the company and no longer being a viable incentive. The program ended for new owners for a few years.
But with cheaper alternatives to the S and the X (the Model 3 and Model Y, respectively) being introduced in the middle of the 2010s, Tesla needed an incentive for people to keep buying the S and X. The solution, again, was free unlimited Supercharging starting for new owners in early 2019. However, that was cancelled by the end of the year for the same cost-prohibitive reasons.
The return of free unlimited Supercharging seems unlikely at this point based on Tesla’s changing attitude toward the program. But if it did come back, it would almost certainly only be for the:
- Model X
- Model S
- New Roadster debuting in 2021
Models 3 and Y technically never had free unlimited Supercharging, so there is no reason to assume they would in the future. The way Tesla probably sees it, your lower sticker price is your extra savings.
The new Roadster would be the most likely scenario for this incentive to come back, but do not get your hopes up.
Are the Models X and S Still Worth It?
So why buy the Model X or Model S if there is no unlimited Supercharging? Well, for starters, their range is still improved over the cheaper models. The Model S has a 402-mile range, while the Model 3 can only do 322. Meanwhile, the Model X can hold 351 miles on a single charge compared to the Model Y’s 316.
Charging is automatically cheaper when you do not have to do it as often. Of course, there are the additional comforts such as:
- Same number of seats in comparable models, but much more legroom and head room
- Faster acceleration
- Larger displays
- More cargo space
- Self-driving capability
- 1,500 customization configurations (compared to less than 100)
But perhaps the most persuasive thing Tesla did to get you to opt for the better model is to simply lower the sticker price. When Tesla ended unlimited free Supercharging for the Model S and X, probably for good, they simultaneously lowered the price of each by $5,000. That extra $5,000 in your pocket will certainly allow you plenty of Supercharged miles in the long term.
Some of us may not have been specifically referred by anyone in particular to Tesla. You may just love the brand. That is great. However, your options for free Supercharging are essentially non-existent. Luckily, any way you look at it, you are still saving a ton of money over gasoline.
If you cannot find any current members of the “Tesla club” to refer you, there are certainly other options to lower your charging costs. These include:
- Home charging station
- Plug it in normally
- Solar panels
- Other free charging stations
- Using standard outlets elsewhere
Home Charging Station
Of course, you are not required to use Supercharging stations to charge your Tesla vehicle. Drivers tend to love them because of how fast they charge: an hour at most, but usually even less. But using a Supercharger is really only necessary in three instances:
- You are in a rush to take a longer drive than usual
- You are in the middle of a road trip
- You live in an apartment with no other realistic locations to plug in
If you are not fitting into those circumstances, do not waste your money “filling up” at a Supercharger station every time your Tesla’s battery is low.
Just plug in your car at home with the home charging station that comes with every Tesla vehicle. If you are unsure how to install it in your garage, Tesla will do it for you for a small fee. Or you can hire your local electrician to do it. Either way, those fees pale in comparison to the hyper speed you are paying for at a Supercharger.
If the factory model home charging station still is not fast enough for you, there are plenty of third-party versions on the market that will give you that extra boost at home:
- Juice Box– This charging dock is easier to install and boasts the ability to charge 7 times faster than the average model. It also has Wi-Fi, so it can let you know on your phone when your car is “juiced up” and ready to roll.
- ChargePoint– A more basic electric vehicle charger, but a bit more durable. Comes with a 3-year warranty and payment plan options
- Siemens– This one is a lot cheaper, but that also means it is a bit slower than the other two. Still a lot faster than a standard outlet though. It is also rated for outdoor use and easy to install, which is great if you do not have a garage.
Plug in Like Anything Else
When all else fails, you can always plug in your Tesla into a standard 110 outlet using the adapter that comes with your car. It is quite a lot slower than Supercharging though: the battery recoups 4 miles of range per hour parked.
That means that if you are on a road trip and you run out of battery, plugging into a regular outlet is completely out of the question. To recharge a Model S, for example, would take 3 full days.
However, this method can certainly work for a commuter with no other options. First, you will want to figure out how far you drive to and from work every day. If, for example, you are driving only 40 miles round trip, that would only take 10 hours to replenish. That would fit quite well into a full night of dinner and sleep.
If you plan on going this route, keep a close eye on your average mileage to determine if it would be practical for you. Many Tesla owners find that it is.
Remember, plugging in at home versus a Supercharger, whether into a standard outlet or a home charging station, is not free either. It may not be extreme as your air conditioning in July, but you will see a bit of a difference on your electric bill.
While it is not an exact science, it will cost about $10 every time you charge your battery from empty at home.How much that affects your monthly electric bill depends on how much you drive. Again, compared to how much you would have been paying at the gas pump, you are still in the clear.
However, the best way to really drive your Tesla for free, or nearly for free, is to have their solar panels installed on your home. You can always buy solar panels from another company. But buying them from Tesla will save you the hassle of ensuring compatibility. The panels are specifically designed to maximize charging your vehicle.
Lighting your home from just the sun certainly does not hurt your wallet either. Other advantages of Tesla solar include:
- Low-profile: designed to blend into the color of your roof
- Batteries to store energy for a rainy day and at night
- Monitor energy flow from your smartphone
Other Free Charging Stations
The next time you are driving around your neighborhood, keep an eye out for charging stations outside of your Tesla’s navigation system. While Tesla does boast in an incredibly large network of Supercharging stations, not every plug-in location is Tesla.
Electric vehicles in general, not just from Tesla, are gradually becoming more popular. To meet that demand, many places have begun to take the initiative and include electric vehicle charging stations right in their own parking lots. These are often (but not always) free of charge just to motivate you to shop at their business instead of the competition.
Look for electric vehicle charging stations available for use at places like:
- Shopping malls
- Grocery stores
- Public parks
- Your own place of business
- Hotels and motels
In general, these tend to be where they know you will be parked for a long time, at least an hour. That way you can receive a significant charge. You probably would not find a charging station at a convenience store, for example. When you plug in, keep in mind that some are faster than others.
For many Tesla drivers who do not have the capability of charging at home, doing so at work can often mean the difference between buying an electric car and not being able to. Work is where we drive to most often anyway, so get all your charging done while your car is sitting there for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. You are not paying that electric bill either, so call it a work benefit.
Source: Electric For All
Using Regular Outlets at Other Businesses
Theoretically, since you can plug in your Tesla into a standard outlet, you could also charge at another business’s outdoor outlet, provided you receive their permission to use this source. As mentioned earlier, this would be pretty slow, so it would only really work if you are in an emergency.
But if you are staying at a motel without a dedicated electrical vehicle charging station, you could always plug into a standard outlet to get at least a few more miles. It will not be much, but perhaps just enough to bring you through the final leg of your journey.
Buying Used Will Not Work
Back in 2018 and 2019, there used to be a workaround here. You were not eligible for free unlimited Supercharging when buying a new Tesla vehicle. What some people would do instead is a buy a Tesla that was already grandfathered into the program and inherit the sweet savings.
However, if you try doing that in 2020 or later, nice try. The perk only belongs to the original owner of those older vehicles and goes away when they are sold. When buying a used Tesla from the days of unlimited, the perk immediately goes away.
Barring any unrealistic surprises, the days of unlimited free Supercharging are effectively over. However, that does not mean all of your Tesla battery charging has to cost money. Charging can be made free or come at a severely reduced cost thanks to options like:
- The referral program: both making and receiving them
- Tesla solar panels
- Plug in at a non-Tesla charging station
And unless you absolutely need to Supercharge, you have cheaper options like use a home charging station or just plugging it in the old fashion way: into a standard outlet. Either way, you will definitely be saving a lot of money over gasoline. Just because electricity is not typically free should not stop you from buying a Tesla electric vehicle.