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?
The questions surrounding 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 began to offer 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 there have been several occasions where Tesla offered Free Unlimited Supercharging and Free (limited) Supercharging 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. First, soon after the supercharger was introduced, Tesla revealed that the 60 kWh Model S was in fact equipped with the components necessary to make Supercharging possible. 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 Free Unlimited Supercharging to buyers of the Model S 60.
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 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.
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?
While that year of Free Supercharging is still ongoing for buyers of the Model Y in 2021 (at the time of this blog post), 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 pretty good idea of which Teslas have Free Unlimited Supercharging and which don’t. If you already own or have recently purchased a Tesla that falls in the former category, you’re probably asking, “well, ” There are a few ways to check this out for yourself:
- Contact Tesla
Tesla’s service representatives should be able to look this up for you, so If you don’t mind waiting or having to call a few times, you can contact Tesla directly and ask. Contacting Tesla is the most accurate way to check for Free Unlimited Supercharging.
- Check Your “My Tesla” User Account
Select “Manage” then “View Details” to check for the Free Unlimited Supercharging option. 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” then “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)
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 does not transfer if you buy a Tesla from a 3rd party dealer. Tesla doesn’t like the idea of 3rd party dealers anyway, so they made sure that there wouldn’t be extra incentive for dealers to snag new or used inventory with that feature.
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 private seller transfers are the only way to get Free Unlimited Supercharging without buying a new Tesla with that perk, the good news is there are still quite a few of those pre-2017 vehicles in the hands of private sellers that pop 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 (we’ll be doing another blog post soon on how Free Unlimited Supercharging transfer should work), 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!