How Much Does It Cost to Charge a Tesla? (And is It Worth It?)

Find out how much it costs to charge a Tesla — and see if having one can actually save you money.
Last updated Aug. 15, 2022 | By Ben Walker, CEPF | Edited By Yahia Barakah
tesla at a charging station

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Electric vehicles continue to increase in popularity as a way for individuals to save money and help support renewable energy sources. But are all electric cars accessible for everyone? And just how much money can you save by leaving gas behind and switching to an electric car?

In the case of one of the most popular electric car companies in the world, Tesla, these questions become quite relevant. Tesla cars are often more expensive than many other brands of electric cars, so it can be important to figure out if you’re getting your money’s worth in the long run from a Tesla purchase.

So, how much does it cost to charge a Tesla? Let’s dig deeper into the answer to see if having this brand of electric vehicle is the type of money move that’s worth your consideration.

In this article

Important terms and vocabulary

Before jumping into the math for three of the Tesla models, let’s make sure we’re on the same page by defining what different terms mean for our calculations and general understanding.

  • kW: An abbreviation for kilowatt, a unit of energy used to measure electrical energy.
  • kWh: An acronym for kilowatt-hour, the amount of electrical energy consumed when 1,000 watts are used for an hour. Tesla battery pack sizes are measured in kWh, similar to gas-powered car’s fuel tank sizes. Generally speaking, the bigger the battery capacity in kWh, the more energy and longer range your electric car might have.
  • kWh battery: Each Tesla vehicle comes with a battery that typically ranges from 50 kWh to 100 kWh. The efficiency at which your battery charges depends on the type of charging station you use.
  • Level 1 charging: Home charging is made available with your typical three-prong 120-volt outlet that’s commonly found in most houses. Your Tesla should come with a mobile connector and adapter for this type of charging. This isn’t a fast charger option. It’s the slowest and often most inefficient charging option for Tesla vehicles, typically providing 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging.
  • Level 2 charging: Using a 240-volt Wall Connector, this type of charging is often the fastest available for home or office locations to charge a Tesla vehicle. A Wall Connector can provide up to 44 miles of range per hour of charging, though it’s not as fast or efficient as a Tesla Supercharger. Wall Connectors have to be ordered and should be installed by qualified electricians. You might also be able to use an adapter to connect to an existing 240-volt outlet.
  • Level 3 charging: Tesla Superchargers are the fastest and most efficient charging option available. They’re connected directly to the grid and offer 480+ volts of power. Superchargers can provide enough charge for up to 1,000 miles of range per hour of charging. Over 30,000 supercharger stations are found on the global supercharger network, providing fast charging for Tesla customers.
  • Destination charging: A network of businesses and other locations that make Wall Connectors available for public charging. This type of charging network could make sense when traveling away from home, such as on a road trip.
  • Tesla models: Current plug-in electric Tesla models include the Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y vehicles.

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla Model X?

The Model X currently on the road comes in two trims, the Long Range and the Plaid. Both options have a 100 kWh battery. The Long Range has an EPA-estimated 360 miles of range, while the Plaid has an estimated range of 340 miles.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the current (as of January 2022) national average price of electricity for residential usage is 13.72 cents per kWh, with the lowest price of 9.43 cents in Nebraska and the highest of 37.33 cents in Hawaii. For ease of calculations, we’ll round the national average to 14, a nice, even number.

So, how much does it cost to charge a Tesla at home? If we multiply the size of the Model X battery by the average electricity cost, we end up with about $14 (100 x $0.14 = $14) total to charge your Model X battery from 0 to 100%.

However, we also have to account for the type of charging station because some chargers are more efficient than others. Level 1 and Level 2 chargers can often fluctuate between 80% to 90% efficiency, which means it’s taking 10% to 20% additional power to charge the battery. Let’s say these chargers average about 85% efficiency, then a full charge requires 15% additional power.

Level 3 chargers are much more efficient, so we won’t consider them using any additional power to charge Tesla batteries. Superchargers do, however, come at different prices. It’s not uncommon to see prices of 26 cents per kWh, so we’ll use that number for our calculations to answer how much it costs to charge a Tesla at a charging station.

So, how much does it cost to fully charge a Tesla Model X? Getting a Tesla Model X battery from 0% to 100% with each type of charger would cost:

  • Level 1 and 2 charging: About $16.10
  • Level 3 charging: $26.00

And here’s about how much you’d be paying per mile for each trim:

Model X Trim Charging Level Cost per Mile
Long Range Level 1 and 2

$0.045

Level 3

$0.072

Plaid Level 1 and 2

$0.047

Level 3

$0.076

Overall, the Model X Long Range slightly beats out the more powerful Plaid when it comes to cost per mile, especially if you use Level 1 and 2 charging options.

Moving forward, Tesla announced that the upcoming Model X will drop both the Long Range moniker and its actual range. The Model X, available by March 2023, will have 332 miles of range. While the Model X Plaid, available by October 2022, will drop its range to 311 miles.

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla Model S?

The Tesla Model S is similar to the Model X in that it also has the Long Range and Plaid currently on the road. Both of these options come with a 100 kWh battery, which is also the same as the Model X. However, the total estimated mileage range is different on the Model S trims compared to the Model X. Here, the Long Range has a 405-mile estimate, and the Plaid has a 396-mile estimate.

Using the same information about the average cents per kWh for residential usage, we can calculate how much it would cost to charge a Model S battery from 0% to 100%. Here’s an estimate of how much it costs to charge a Tesla Model S at home with 85% efficiency for Level 1 and 2 charging and at a charging station with 100% efficiency for Level 3 charging:

  • Level 1 and 2 charging: About $16.10
  • Level 3 charging: $26.00

These numbers end up being exactly the same as the Model X because you have the same 100 kWh battery in the calculation. However, you can expect the cost per mile to be different since the ranges of the vehicles are slightly varied.

Here’s what the cost per mile looks like on the Model S Long Range and Plaid:

Model S Trim Charging Level Cost per Mile
Long Range Level 1 and 2

$0.040

Level 3

$0.064

Plaid Level 1 and 2

$0.041

Level 3

$0.066

The Model S Long Range also beats out the Plaid here because of its longer estimated range, which slightly decreases your cost per mile. However, the more powerful Plaid’s range is only an estimated nine miles less than the Long Range — so the difference in cost per mile isn’t huge.

Tesla also plans to drop the Long Range moniker from the next Model S trims along with the estimated range. The upcoming Model S will be available by September 2022 and will have 375 miles of range. While the updated Plaid trim will have 348 miles of range.

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla Model Y?

The Tesla Model Y weighs less than both the Model S and Model X, which is possibly why it’s equipped with a smaller battery. Both the Model Y Long Range and Performance trims come with a 75 kWh battery. The Long Range has an estimated 326-mile range, while the Performance has an estimated 303-mile range.

Since these numbers are different from what we’ve seen on the Model X and Model S vehicles, we should see a big difference in the total cost of a charge, as well as the cost per mile. Here’s what a full charge from 0 to 100% would look like on the Model Y depending on the charging station:

  • Level 1 and 2 charging: About $12.08
  • Level 3 charging: $19.50

The total charging cost ends up being lower on the Model Y compared to the Model X and Model S because it has a smaller battery. This is similar to how a car with a smaller gas tank would likely cost less to fill up than a car with a larger gas tank.

Here’s the breakdown of the cost per mile on the Model Y:

Model Y Trim Charging Level Cost per Mile
Long Range Level 1 and 2

$0.037

Level 3

$0.060

Plaid Level 1 and 2

$0.040

Level 3

$0.064

Overall, the numbers indicate that the Model Y has the lowest cost per mile among the three Tesla vehicles we’ve looked at. And not surprisingly, the Long Range trim is more cost-effective than the Performance. This is because they have the same battery, but the Long Range has more range.

While the newer Model X and Model S trims available later this year and early next year will have noticeably shorter ranges than their current versions, the upcoming Model Y will mostly stay the same. The Model Y Long Range that will be available in January 2023 will only drop 8 miles to a range of 318 miles. While the Performance trim, which should be available by July 2022, will have the exact same range as its previous version at 303 miles.

Additional costs that surprise Tesla owners

The cost of using a Tesla isn’t all about charging your car at home. Fuel costs are one consideration to keep in mind when comparing the math of using a traditional car and using a Tesla, but you should also research the additional costs that Tesla owners might have.

Here’s a look at a few extra expenses you might not have thought about:

  • Home chargers: If you want the Wall Connector charging option, it will set you back at least $500 just to buy it. And then you have to hire someone to install it, which could easily run over $1,000 depending on the work that needs to be done with your existing electrical system. The NEMA 14-50 adapter for existing 240-volt outlets costs $45, but you would need to pay for the outlet to be installed if you don’t already have one — which could be similar in price to installing a Wall Connector.
  • Insurance rates: The average car insurance cost in the U.S. is close to $1,500 per year (as of March 2022), though this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors. The average car insurance cost for Tesla owners often ranges from about $2,000 to over $4,000. To find the coverage you need, compare options on our page for the best car insurance.
  • Supercharger pricing: Using a Supercharger to charge your Tesla quickly sounds nice, but you’ll likely pay for the experience. The cost to charge at a Supercharger is often much higher than charging at home.
  • Sticker shock: Most Tesla vehicles aren’t cheap, so you have to think about your initial investment if you’re interested in buying one. For example, the average U.S. car price is around $46,000, according to Kelley Blue Book (for February 2022). The Tesla Model S with the longer range (available September 2022) starts at almost $100,000, while the Tesla Model X with the longer range (available March 2023) starts at about $115,000. The Tesla Model 3 is more affordable at around $47,000, but that’s also the price point for many trucks and SUVs with more space and amenities.
  • Car maintenance: Tesla car maintenance should typically be pretty low as long as everything is functioning properly. But if you need to replace something, such as the battery, you might be looking at some hefty fees. In fact, a battery replacement could cost over $10,000.

Can you save money by charging your Tesla with solar?

The 2020 cost of solar per kWh for residential areas was about 12.8 cents per kWh, according to The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. That’s about 13 cents per kWh, nearly a full cent less than the estimated average cost of electricity (using the grid) in the U.S. This means you could save more money by charging your Tesla with solar panels, though it could depend on where you live. For example, it might be different in California compared to New Jersey.

FAQs

Is it free to charge a Tesla at a charging station?

No, it isn’t free to charge a Tesla at a charging station. Charging your Tesla at a Supercharger comes with a price, typically around 26 cents per kWh. This is often more expensive than using a different means of charging, such as a 120-volt or 240-volt outlet. Free supercharging was once available on new Tesla vehicles, but the practice was discontinued in recent years.

Is charging a Tesla cheaper than gas and car maintenance?

Yes, charging a Tesla can be cheaper than paying for gas and car maintenance on a gas car. Tesla vehicles have fewer moving parts, which typically means less car maintenance. Also, paying for electricity is often cheaper than paying for gas.

Do you really save money with a Tesla?

Yes, it’s possible to save money with a Tesla compared to buying a vehicle that uses gas. Your savings typically come in the form of paying for electricity instead of gas, as well as the potential of having fewer costs for car maintenance.

Bottom line

So, is a Tesla worth it? The answer: it depends. Tesla vehicles can definitely save you money on gas and certain car maintenance costs compared to some other vehicles, but you also have to think about your insurance costs, potentially installing a wall charger, and also purchasing the Tesla.

But at the end of the day, a car like a Tesla might be the best fit for your situation. If the math works out, you can feel confident you’ve made the right choice. And if you want to continue your relationship with this electric car company, learn how to invest in Tesla.

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF Ben Walker, CEPF, is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For over a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance and has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.