Tesla Info: Do I have free supercharging?
Do I have free unlimited supercharging on my Tesla? This is a very common question as there are cars with unlimited supercharging, there are cars without, and there are cars that have it but will lose it if the car is sold, and there are even cars that had it indefinitely and now do not. Through this guide we try and explain how to find out, although if you're basing a purchasing decision on this information, ask Tesla to confirm.
History of Free supercharging.
Supercharging, free supercharging, unlimited free supercharging, transferable free supercharging, lifetime unlimited free supercharging are all terms that get used in this area so we'll quickly walk through the history.
- Supercharging has always been a Tesla thing and other than the very earliest cars with the smallest battery, it was included as part of the car. Some of these very early cars had to pay to have supercharging enabled, but there are only a handful of cars that have not had supercharging enabled so we'll assume all cars can supercharge.
- Supercharging when introduced was free. This gave the car owners the ability to supercharge for free. There was however no fair use policy and while Tesla did state the purpose of supercharging was to enable long distance travel, it did not prohibit the use of superchargers in any way.
- In late 2016 Tesla decided that giving away unlimited free supercharging was not a sustainable action and decided that new cars would be replaced with paid for supercharging with a nominal 400kwh included amount. The rules for the cut over were slightly complex as the car needed to be ordered in 2016, and delivered by the end of March 2017, but then the dates moved around a bit and got extended due to production issues and prices changes and there's no 'cars after this VIN', but roughly speaking cars registered before April 2017 will have unlimited although don't take that as a hard and fast rule for a number of reasons (see below).
- This went down badly and Tesla updated the referral system to give buyers who used a referral code unlimited supercharging, but then made a hash of the wording. To cut a long story short, while the referral scheme awarded buyers unlimited supercharging, it would only be for the life of their ownership of the car.
- You will find people quoting various dates, timelines and features, in part because initially Tesla did not put an expiry date on the referral offer and secondly the offer talked about supercharging for life. A number of people inferred they could have unlimited free supercharging for their lifetime, not the cars. The wording was ambiguous and Tesla did clarify the situation although some insist they still have their interpretation of the initial wording, there is no evidence they have been able to put this into play, partly because new MS and MX purchases have nearly always been available with unlimited supercharging for the first owner.
- As a gesture of goodwill Tesla also retrospectively applied this to cars delivered between the old cut off and the referral scheme starting to gift charging to avoid bad feelings.
- This ran for a couple of years and then changed repeatedly over late 2018/2019 including removing the ability to get unlimited charging, having different schemes on the M3 to the MS and MX, to drop the 400kwh annual allowance if the car did not have unlimited supercharging, and so on.
- For clarity, any car with unlimited supercharging delivered after that very original unlimited supercharging scheme, ie since referrals for supercharging started, were limited to the first owner only.
- Tesla having dropped the 400kwh allowance on cars without free supercharging, have adopted a referral scheme where 1000 free supercharging miles are awarded, although even this has been 4000 miles at one point. These miles need to be used within a fixed time window. For the purposes of this, we're going to ignore this as its largely just a monetary credit to your paid supercharging account.
- Just when you thought you understood it, when Tesla have a car with transferable unlimited free supercharging returned to them, either by part exchange or end of lease, they are removing the unlimited free supercharging. As a result, a 2016 car which previously was a safe bet to having unlimited free supercharging, may no longer have it even if bought privately if its been through Tesla's hands since the change in policy.
If you're a little confused and bemused by all this then you are not the only ones. A relatively simple thing has become very complex with multiple permutations and with changing dates, but it boils down to some quite simple basics on a given car, indicated by the option code:
- SC01: The car has unlimited free supercharging enabled and this is transferable to the next owner via a private sale. This can only occur on cars registered before April 2017 but not all cars will have it.
- SC04: The car has supercharging enabled but you pay for each charge. Any referral miles will give you a credit towards the supercharging cost.
- SC05: The car has unlimited free supercharging currently enabled but this is not transferable to the next owner and the car will revert to SC04 following a sale. This can be on any car but is most common on cars from April 2017 and still registered to the first owner.
Just to add a little extra interest, Tesla has also offered unlimited free supercharging but for a fixed duration, usually 6 months, or in the case of cars delivered at the end of 2020, 12 months.
- SC06: The car has time bound unlimited free supercharging. It's unknown whether this transfers to the next owner in the event of a sale.
So which option does my car have?
There are a number of ways to tell what your car has:
- Ask Tesla which is not particularly practical at the moment with service centres not having a phone line.
- Looking in MyTesla. Select Manage->View details and you should see on the right hand side whether the car has Free Unlimited Supercharging. This unfortunately does not necessarily mean it is transferable and on cars built after 2017 it will not be. .
- From the same View Details page examine the HTML. You are looking for a block of text started with the word 'OptionCodes'. After this there is a string of option codes that looks a little like '['$BP01','$ADPX2','$AU01','$DA02','$APD2','$X028'....'. You need to select and copy this string and paste it into the bottom box on car info and we'll decode them. We believe this is the most reliable way other than asking Tesla themselves.
Does the car I want to buy have free supercharging?
Because supercharging is not transferable except for a given set of conditions, to work out if a car will have transferable supercharging it is a little easier, which you do depends on where you are buying from.
If the car is being sold by Tesla then the Tesla listing will tell you. We go one step further and break down all the option codes on our inventory listing site so it may be worth finding the car on our site to find out whether the charging is transferable or not.
If you are looking at a car privately or froma dealer and do not have easy access to the option codes you can determine if the car has transferable charging by looking at the charging screen and follow the steps below:
- If the car was first registered after April 2017, then supercharging will not be transferable. We are unaware of any car ever circumventing this basic check.
- If the car was first registered by April 2017, press the charging icon on the top left of the screen it will bring up the charging display. In the bottom right hand corner you will find a display that shows recent supercharing activity.
- If under 'Current Session' is says 'No Recent Supercharging' then the car should have transferable charging. If it says anything else, including $0.00, it does not have transferable free supercharging.
If buying from a dealer, we would always recommend you agree a condition of sale that the supercharging is transferable if the dealer is claiming it has. This is to cover the situation where they have bought the car from Tesla, Tesla have stripped supercharging but the car is still yet to be supercharged which would result in the "No recent supercharging" being displayed. Asking the dealer how they acquired the car is also worth doing. Cars bought directly from Tesla or via auction may have had supercharging stripped. A dealer will know how they acquired the car and should be willing to tell you.
If buying privately, we would suggest asking the seller to meet you at a supercharger if one is nearby and actually charging the car. This will also help confirm the no cost aspect and will also allow you to see how fast the car is charging.
Be wary of trade sales. Where a car has been returned to Tesla and Tesla have sold the car into trade either directly or via an auction, they are likely to remove free supercharging however it can take some time for this to be reflected. If buying from a dealer then ask where they sourced the car.