Free Supercharging: it’s one of Tesla’s best-known perks and a program that helped change the minds of many towards accepting Tesla as a viable road trip option. Married with benefits from government EV incentives, Tesla’s Free Supercharging (originally Unlimited Free Supercharging) helped bring the real-world cost of buying a Tesla into the realm of possibility for those on the edge of an EV purchase.
Free Supercharging is also one of the more confusing benefits that Tesla currently offers…or doesn’t. What is Supercharging? What does Tesla mean by Free Supercharging? How is Free Supercharging different from unlimited Free Supercharging, or lifetime free Supercharging? Does Free Supercharging transfer? Does Tesla still offer Free Supercharging? How can I tell if my Tesla has Free Unlimited Supercharging, the top tier of the Free Supercharging scale?
Questions about Free and Unlimited Supercharging for a Tesla can be complicated, so we’re here to help. In this blog post, we’ll cover some history on how Tesla’s Free Unlimited Supercharging incentive came about, how to find out if your Tesla has Free Unlimited Supercharging or some other variation of Free Supercharging, and where to look for Free Unlimited Supercharging when buying a used Tesla.
A Brief History of Free Tesla Supercharging
With the unveiling of the first location of the Supercharger network in 2012, Tesla started offering Free Unlimited Supercharging (the ability to rapidly charge a properly-equipped Tesla at one of Tesla’s Supercharger Stations for no cost) on the Model S as an added incentive for long-range travel. Model X was also given this perk, and Tesla has offered Free Unlimited Supercharging and Free (limited) Supercharging on several occasions over the years. Our focus today is Free Unlimited Supercharging, so let’s break this down by Model:
Free Unlimited Supercharging on the Model S has gone through several changes over the years. Soon after the Supercharger capability was introduced as a standard option for the Model S 85, Tesla promised free charging to any Model S with Supercharging capability. Tesla also began offering buyers of the Model S 60 the opportunity to add-on Supercharging capability (an ability that had actually already been built into the vehicle, but was not enabled).
Through a series of unclear communications (certain buyers were sure that they were getting Free Supercharging for life, not just for one vehicle, and many did not understand what the upgraded Supercharging add-on options meant), Tesla ended up giving both the ability to Supercharge and the promise of Free Unlimited Supercharging to buyers of the Model S 60 at no further cost.
Since that time and until 2020, nearly every Model S has had some form of Unlimited Free Supercharging, with one notable exception: the Model S 40. Even though it was effectively a software-limited Model S 60, the Model S 40 was never given Supercharging ability unless the owner decided to upgrade the vehicle to a 60 kWh version (by paying for a software unlock of the battery pack capacity). Because of this, none of the current Model S 40 Teslas have Free Supercharging, or any Supercharging at all, just like the original Tesla Roadster.
Tesla removed fully transferable Free Unlimited Supercharging from their options in March of 2017, though future promotions have given non-transferable Free Unlimited Supercharging to a smattering of owners through referrals, etc. Then, in May of 2020, Tesla removed mention of Free Unlimited Supercharging altogether, and we haven’t seen it since.
Finding a used Model X with Unlimited Free Supercharging is still possible, though the field has been narrowing over the years. Like the Model S, the Model X has been the recipient of several promotions for Free Unlimited Supercharging, but fully transferable Free Unlimited Supercharging hasn’t been a part of the equation since March of 2017. After that point, a Model X may or may not have Free Unlimited Supercharging for the current owner, and as of May of 2020, not even a new Model X has this option. The only way to find a new or used Model X with Free Unlimited Supercharging is to buy a pre-2017 Model X from a private seller or Tesla-informed dealership after verifying that the Free Supercharging is transferable.
The Model 3 Performance came with Free Unlimited Supercharging for the life of the vehicle for a short time during 2018-2019, but only for the first owner. This incentive was a part of Tesla’s referral program and limited to new purchases through a referral code. All other Model 3 trim levels have been excluded from this promotion.
In 2020, a year-end incentive granted buyers of the Model 3 an entire year of non-transferable Free Supercharging for those who took delivery between December 12th and the end of the month. A small number of owners have reported that Free Supercharging on their Model 3 is still active more than a year later, though that condition is not likely to continue or have any transferability.
Simply put, the Model Y has never been part of the Free Unlimited Supercharging promotion. If Tesla continues to dial that program down, it’s likely that the Model Y will always have to pay for Supercharging.
However, there have been small incentives through Tesla’s referral program that net owners of the Model Y credits in the form of 400 kWh (around 1000 miles) of Free Supercharging when friends buy a Tesla through a referral code. Additionally, Tesla recently added a year of Free Supercharging to any Model Y purchased between December 12-31, 2020. An entire year of free charging is a pretty good deal. Can you imagine Ford offering free gas for a year? Pretty outrageous, right?
Many of the other Free Supercharging incentives have already exhausted either their mileage or their time frame. Only time will tell what kind of Free Supercharging promotions Tesla will offer in the future, but we think that the return of fully Free Unlimited Supercharging is unlikely.
Here’s the basic breakdown in a handy chart:
Free Unlimited Supercharging?
|Model S||2012-2020||Possible (exception: Model S 40)|
|Model 3||2018-2019||Possible, Performance only, first owner only|
With several variations of Free Supercharging between Models S/3/X/Y, how do you tell if you have Unlimited Free Supercharging, the top tier of Free Supercharging perks? We’ll cover a few methods for digging up Supercharging info in the next section.
How to Tell if Your Tesla Has Free Unlimited Supercharging
So now that we’ve discussed how Free Supercharging was doled out between Tesla models, we have a good idea of which Teslas could have Free Unlimited Supercharging and which definitely don’t.
If you already own or have recently purchased a Tesla that falls in the former category, you’re probably wondering, “do I have free Supercharging? How do I check?” There are a few ways to check this out for yourself:
- Supercharge your Tesla
This may seem fairly obvious, but if you don’t have any charges after a session and your Tesla Account > Charging section records the transaction as Free Supercharging, it’s pretty likely that you have some tier of Free Supercharging on your account.
Unless, of course, you accidentally picked a promotional date and location to charge on, though this rarely happens. This past Holiday season (2021), Tesla offered Free Supercharging for a limited time to holiday travelers at specific times and locations at the end of 2021. Generally, though, Supercharging promotions are doled out to individual accounts, not times and locations.
- Contact Tesla
Tesla’s service representatives should be able to look this up for you. If you don’t mind waiting or having to call a few times, you can contact them directly and ask. Contacting Tesla is the most accurate way to check for Free Unlimited Supercharging. However, it can also be the slowest.
- Check Your “My Tesla” User Account
Select Manage > View Details to check for the Free Unlimited Supercharging option. Your Supercharging status should be listed as one of the following: Pay-Per-Use, Free Unlimited, and Timebound Supercharging.
Unlike the option codes (see below), this method won’t specify whether or not you have Free Unlimited Supercharging that will transfer to the next owner. However, along with the chart we included earlier with the model/year of your Tesla, this may give you a pretty good idea on whether there’s a chance it will transfer.
- Search the Source Code of Your “My Tesla” Account for Option Codes
You can check for Free Supercharging in your Tesla’s option codes by going to your My Tesla User Account and selecting Manage > View Details. Using your browser tools to look at the HTML, look for the four digit codes that represent the options on your Tesla (check for text containing option_codes, OptionCodes, or something similar followed by a string of numbers).
While this might be too techy of a hack for some, it’s a more definite way to tell if your Tesla has Unlimited Free Supercharging (or some other Free Supercharging amount). Here are the codes we’ve found that are relevant to Supercharging:
SC00: No Supercharging
SC01: Unlimited Free Supercharging (no restriction)
SC04: Paid Supercharging
SC05: Unlimited Free Supercharging (but not transferable between owners)
SC06: Unlimited Free Supercharging (time-based, or time-bound)
The top tier of Unlimited Free Supercharging is a Tesla with code SC01, which has no restrictions, followed by SC05, which lasts for the current owner only.
It always helps to be aware that Tesla has the final say on whether or not this incentive is offered or revoked, even on an older vehicle.
Does Free Unlimited Supercharging Transfer if You Buy a Used Tesla?
Transferring Free Unlimited Supercharging is the part where things get tricky, and where buyers of older used Teslas definitely have an advantage. We’ll address this issue in full detail in a future blog post, but for now here’s a quick summary.
First, Free Unlimited Supercharging may not transfer if you buy a Tesla from a 3rd party dealer. Tesla has on occasion removed Free Unlimited Supercharging from a 3rd party (dealership or auction) sale. However, there are Tesla-informed dealerships that have seen transfer of this perk to a new owner work out just fine.
Second, vehicles bought through Tesla’s Used Inventory no longer come with Free Unlimited Supercharging even on vehicles that previously had this perk. This is a huge bummer for used Tesla buyers looking into the old Model S and Model X through Tesla itself, but it can make an already great deal even better for a private seller scenario.
Third, Tesla has moved away from offering Free Unlimited Supercharging for the life of the vehicle on new purchases and now limits it to the life of the vehicle for the first private owner only. This doesn’t allow for transfer.
Finally, if you are looking for a pre-owned Tesla that has Free Unlimited Supercharging, there’s still hope! While a successful transfer from a private seller or informed dealership is the only way to get Free Unlimited Supercharging without buying a new Tesla with that perk (currently not offered), the good news is there are still quite a few of those pre-2017 vehicles popping up on the market.
At Find My Electric, we make it a point to show sellers how beneficial advertising the value of their Free Unlimited Supercharging can be. We made sure to put it into our listing filters, too! While you should always try to confirm with the owner of a listing that their Free Unlimited Supercharging is transferable, browsing through our used Tesla Model X and used Model S listings is a great way to get started. Check out our listing sections and see if you can snag yourself some Free Unlimited Supercharging today!
And if you’re trying to sell a Tesla with Free Unlimited Supercharging (hint: they’re super popular and sought after)—we can help with that too! Either by listing and selling it yourself for top dollar or through an Instant Cash Offer from our Tesla-informed dealership network, we can help you to get the best offer for your Tesla and its perks.