Tesla solar roof price increase leads to lawsuits

Updated

tesla solar roof price increase leads to lawsuits
In Tesla’s latest solar roof blunder, the company altered solar roof pricing after customers had already signed contracts. Image source: Clean Technica

Tesla’s solar roof has been the “next big thing” for the last nine years. The solar roof is designed with active solar shingles that generate electricity for your home, and inactive shingles that act as a traditional roofing material, so you can go solar without sacrificing the aesthetics of your home. 

Sounds great, right? But after nearly a decade, it seems the only thing going to the moon is the price of the Tesla solar roof and the number of Tesla lawsuits. 

In April 2021, Tesla imposed significant price hikes on their solar roof product not only for new projects, but for homeowners who had already signed contracts, as well. For some Tesla customers, the price increases were double what they agreed to pay in their original contract, and included no upgraded materials or designs. 

The contract changes led many Tesla solar roof customers to file lawsuits against the company in hopes that they could get their original contract back. 

So why did Tesla impose these price hikes? And what does this mean for the future of the Tesla solar roof? In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about Tesla’s solar roof price increases, the lawsuits, and what it all means for the future of the solar roof. 

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Tesla imposes drastic price hikes for all solar roof projects 

When Tesla’s solar roof first launched, it was quite expensive. Only people who could afford the $100,000 price tag of the new high-tech roof could enjoy it. Then when Tesla launched the Solar Roof V3 in 2019, the price was substantially lower than the original. 

In fact, the new iteration of the solar roof cost so much less than its predecessor, that in some cases it was cheaper to install a Tesla solar roof than it was to completely replace a roof and install a conventional solar panel system. It seemed as though it was finally the time for the solar roof to take off. 

That all came crashing down in March 2021 when Tesla raised the price of their solar roof substantially. For some projects, the price would be over 40% higher than it would have been prior to the price hikes.

And Tesla didn’t stop there. Just a month later, in April 2021, the solar roof prices skyrocketed again. The cost is now up to 72% more than what it was at the start of 2021. A solar roof project that would have cost around $27,000 at the beginning of the year now costs almost $47,000. 

But Tesla didn’t just raise the price for new solar roof projects - they increased the price for people who had already signed contracts. The contracts sent out by Tesla with new pricing did not include any different materials or designs: they were the same exact plans as before, just with a much higher price tag. 

Some homeowners saw installation costs that were double that of what they signed off on just weeks before their installation was set to begin, and they were not happy about it, to say the least. And since Tesla is known for having poor customer service, many Tesla customers found the best way to get the company’s attention was through legal action. 

Homeowners sue Tesla for changing solar roof contracts 

After seeing such drastic price jumps from their original contracts, many homeowners decided to take Tesla to court. A complaint filed earlier this week in North California stated: 

“After completing the sales agreements, and while the consumers have been making plans for the installations, in classic bait-and-switch fashion Tesla is now informing these consumers they must pay upwards of a 50% price hike on the cost of the Solar Roof if they want to proceed with the installation-- and if they do not pay promptly, they risk losing their place in line for installation.”

According to Business Insider, one California homeowner signed his Tesla solar roof contract for $71,000 in March 2021. In April, Tesla notified him that the project cost would now be $146,462. After speaking to a Tesla representative, the homeowner was offered a free Powerwall battery, aka a $9,500 consolation gift for a $75,000 upcharge. 

More lawsuits are still being filed against Tesla for the changed contracts. Right now, it is unclear what Tesla’s response will be or how the court will proceed. 

Why did Tesla change their solar roof prices? 

Tesla’s price hikes boil down to the company grossly underestimating how complex roofing installations can be. 

With any roof replacement, the more intricate the roof, the more the installation will cost. If your home has multiple floors, dormers, vent pipes, a chimney, or has a steep pitch, it takes more labor and materials to get the job done. 

Prior to March 2021, Tesla was charging a flat rate of $7.65 per square foot for their inactive roofing materials, no matter how complex the roof was. Turns out, that’s not cost-effective. That’s when Tesla implemented “roof complexity” into their solar roof ordering process. So, in order to purchase a Tesla solar roof, you had to deem your roof simple, moderate, or complex, which would ultimately alter the price. 

It’s not surprising that Tesla had to include roof complexity into their solar roof installations - you should have to pay more for an installation that requires more labor and materials. But, when they added roof complexity, they bumped up the prices a lot, even for simple roofs. Now, a simple roof will run you $14.00 per square foot of roofing material, while a complex roof will cost a whopping $19.24 per square foot. And remember, these prices don’t even include the solar portion of the roof. 

Maybe these prices would make sense for a premium roofing material like slate, but Tesla’s inactive shingles are made of painted steel. That’s an insanely high price for metal roofing shingles, which usually cost between $7.00 and $10.00 per square foot, including labor costs. 

It is possible that Tesla is only increasing the price of the inactive roofing materials because they want to keep the cost per watt of the solar shingles low. So, maybe that could explain why there is such a large disparity between traditional metal shingles and Tesla’s. But, it’s impossible to know for sure. 

Tesla’s effort to make the solar roof mainstream crashes and burns 

Even Elon Musk admits that Tesla made significant mistakes when it came to the solar roof. Tesla’s one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t quite work when it comes to roofing. The company has always been all about simplicity, making their solar ordering process as easy as buying a shirt online.

And while this model kind of works for solar, roofing is a whole different ballgame. Simpler isn’t always better. 

Plus, Tesla hasn’t delivered on a lot of promises they made about the solar roof historically. In 2016, they claimed that four shingle styles would be available. Meanwhile, only two ever hit the market, despite Elon Musk's claims that the remaining styles would be available six months after the originals. 

With the lawsuits on top of the price hikes, Tesla isn’t really making itself look any better. So for now it seems the Tesla solar roof will remain a luxury product for the wealthy. That is, if you consider it a luxury to buy an extremely expensive product that doesn’t perform as well as cheaper alternatives from a company that alters their contracts after signing and has historically poor customer service. 

Tesla’s wishy-washy behavior when it comes to the solar roof could make it hard for consumers to ever trust them when it comes to this product again, no matter how cheap it becomes or how great it performs. Until Tesla sorts itself out, you’re better off going solar with traditional solar panels.

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Key takeaways

  • In April 2021, Tesla increased the price of their solar roof for both new projects and customers who already signed contracts.
  • Multiple Tesla customers who saw increases to their solar roof contract prices are filing class-action lawsuits against the company.
  • In some cases, the solar roof now costs 72% more than what it did at the start of 2021.
  • Tesla had to increase the price to take roof complexity into account, however, the price for Tesla’s inactive shingles is much higher than the cost of conventional metal roofing installations.
  • Tesla doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to delivering their promises on the solar roof, and their recent price hikes for customers who already signed contracts could cause consumers to lose more faith in them.
 - Author of Solar Reviews

Catherine Lane

SolarReviews Blog Author

Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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