Potential solar customers often find Sunrun and Tesla Energy when looking for solar panel providers. They’re two of the country’s most popular solar companies, with over 30 years of renewable energy experience between them. The companies are popular for a reason, but they have some differences that may make one better suited to your preferences and energy needs.
Read on to see how the two companies compare on cost, warranty coverage, payment options, energy efficiencies, and more to determine which would be the best fit for your home solar installation.
Here’s how Sunrun and Tesla Energy compare at a glance:
- State availability: 20 plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico
- Warranty options: 10-year product, workmanship, and roof penetration
- Panel options: Monocrystalline (various manufacturers)
- Payment options: Full purchase, lease options, loan
- BBB rating: A+*
- State availability: 50
- Warranty options: 25-year performance, 10-year product and workmanship
- Panel options: Monocrystalline (Tesla)
- Payment options: Full purchase, loan
- BBB rating: A+*
*BBB ratings are accurate as of October 2023.
Benefits and Drawbacks
We looked at the providers’ websites, online reputation, and customer reviews and found these to be each company’s main benefits and drawbacks.
➕ Offers three payment options
➕ Provides BrightSave insurance protection from panel damage and theft
➕ Sells and installs solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicle (EV) chargers
➖ Doesn’t have customer service hours on Sundays or at night
➖ Emphasizes solar leases, which we don’t recommend
➖ Has many negative customer reviews over the past year
➕ Includes a 25-year performance guarantee
➕ Provides 24/7 active monitoring
➕ Sells solar roofs in addition to panels
➖ Doesn’t provide installation services
➖ Limits its system options to four predetermined sizes
➖ Some customer reviews cite miscommunication and delays
We read more than 100 customer reviews on sites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot. We’re happy to see that both companies hold an A+ BBB rating as of October 2023. Sunrun has far more reviews, making finding instances of negative customer feedback easy, but both have negative and positive feedback.
We found negative customer reviews pointing to unresponsiveness, communication issues, and delays for both companies, as well as satisfied customers reporting knowledgeable and friendly staff, quick installation, and high-performing panels. The following sections contain a mix of what we found for each provider.
Sunrun Customer Reviews
“Easy to contact, work scheduled and completed as promised, and most of all, the solar panels are really producing!” —Michelle P., July 27, 2023, on BBB
“I started my solar system journey in March of this year. My system was finally installed in June. My system is still not up and running, and my loan payment is due next month. I have had multiple techs come out and tell me different things that *** be the problem. When calling customer service, they direct me back to my care coordinator. I send multiple emails and texts with no responses. If I could, I would cancel the whole system.” —Mason H., August 30, 2023, on BBB
“My solar system was connected last week, and I couldn’t be happier with the company and its employees. Everyone I dealt with was courteous, efficient, and professional.The whole process was so easy. They handled all of the necessary paperwork, installation, and scheduled all of the required inspections. I recommended Sun Run to friends, relatives, and neighbors without hesitation. It’s nice to know that there are companies that place a priority on customer care.” —Viola U., January 15, 2023, on BBB
“Poor communication and poor customer service. When I received my electric bill, it was high for from my usual monthly bill. When I called Sunrun, it was found out that my solar is not working and some parts need to be replaced. It was down for over a week already, and if I did not call, [no one was] aware of it. There was no call nor email sent. Very poor communication. Then, the customer service told me that somebody will call me within 24 hours to give update, but nobody called. Very disappointed.” —Chuchi Romano, September 7, 2023, on Trustpilot
Tesla Energy Customer Reviews
“I met with more than a dozen companies before deciding to ‘bite the bullet’ and go with Tesla Solar. Oh my goodness, did I make the right choice! To begin with, their presentation was unlike any other company I interviewed; it really impressed me, and the interactive approach was A+! I’m overjoyed to have gorgeous black solar panels on my roof! The solar panel installation was painless, and the installation crew was extremely friendly and professional!” —Vance A., October 18, 2022, on BBB
“I had an 11 kw solar and triple Powerwall system installed. Tesla installed it using a single 7.7 kW inverter, crippling the system to 7.7 kW and forcing the inverter to run maxed out for large portions of each day. The inverter died after less than two years. Now, I am more than two weeks into the support process, and they refuse to provide a timeline for when they might even begin to troubleshoot it. Worst customer service I have ever received from any company.” —Peter M., September 5, 2023, on BBB
“The presentation was outstandingly professional. The installation was quick, and my system is already producing as expected.” —Landon, October 19, 2022, on BBB
“Tesla told us our system would take three days to install. After not showing up for 15 to 20 appointments … the system took 35 days to install. The system never worked the way it should. It is underproducing massively compared to what Tesla said it would. Tesla doesn’t monitor the system much at all. They installed inverters that were already so out of date that they needed to upgrade motherboards after the install. One of my inverters stopped working later, and it takes a month or more to get Tesla to show up to fix the issue.” —Adam, July 4, 2023, on Trustpilot
Sunrun has manufactured and installed solar panels, solar batteries, and EV chargers since 2008. The company now serves 20 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. We like that it’s a full-service company, meaning you can get installation, maintenance, repairs, system monitoring, and insurance all from one place instead of outsourcing certain elements. You get a 10-year product and workmanship warranty that includes free equipment replacement and system repairs related to parts and labor, plus the guarantee that roof penetrations are watertight. Sunrun also offers insurance to protect your panels from damage or theft.
What we don’t like about Sunrun is its emphasis on solar leasing as a financing option. Solar leases require less money up-front, but you won’t own your solar panel system, which disqualifies you from some solar incentives.
Tesla Energy Overview
Tesla is a company that needs no introduction, but some don’t know that its energy division has produced solar panels, solar roof tiles, solar batteries, and electric vehicle chargers for over 15 years. Its innovation extends far beyond cars. Tesla Energy is behind one of the most popular solar batteries on the market, the Tesla Powerwall, and sets itself apart with its solar roofs. Not everyone wants the raised look of solar panels on their roof. Tesla’s solar roofs lay flush and aren’t as disruptive to curb appeal.
What we don’t like about Tesla is that it only manufactures its products. It doesn’t install them. That means you’ll have to work with a subcontractor to handle installation, which could lead to miscommunication and delays.
Cost and Payment Options
We found Sunrun’s systems to be more affordable than Tesla’s. Sunrun also offers more financing options, but not without drawbacks. Solar costs vary based on your location, system size, panel type, and other factors, so it’s best to get a personalized estimate from the company you’re interested in. Keep in mind that solar incentives, such as the federal solar tax credit, can lower your final cost by thousands.
We surveyed 1,000 homeowners and found that a 10-kilowatt (kW) Sunrun system costs $17,500 on average. That’s less than the national average of $20,500 for the same system size, according to EnergySage.
Sunrun has three primary payment options to finance your system:
- Full purchase: Fully purchasing your system up-front requires a big investment, but you’ll own your system from day one, have no interest to pay, and have the shortest payback period and the highest long-term energy bill savings.
- Solar loan: If a full purchase is too expensive, a solar loan is your next best option. You’ll still own your system while making monthly payments to your solar provider. However, you’ll have to pay interest on the loan.
- Solar lease: A solar lease lets you rent your system from the provider. You’ll make monthly payments to your installer and never own your system. Unfortunately, this disqualifies you from most solar incentives.
Tesla offers just two payment options: full purchase and solar loan. Both allow you to own your Tesla solar panels and qualify for solar incentives, but you have to be prepared to either invest a lump sum at installation or make monthly loan payments that accrue interest. We used Tesla’s cost calculator to get quotes for a solar panel system and Powerwall battery. We used a residential North Carolina home address and an electricity bill of $137. The cost calculator quoted us $17,010 for a 10-kW system and $5,697 for one battery or $10,649 for two.
Compare Sunrun vs. Tesla
Here’s how Sunrun and Tesla break down:
|Provider||Availability||Warranty Coverage||Average Cost for 10-kW System||Financing Options||Efficiency Rating|
25-year performance, 10-year product and workmanship
Full purchase, solar loan
19.6% to 20.9%
20 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico
10-year product, workmanship, and roof penetration
Full purchase, solar lease, solar loan
15% to 20%
We recommend both companies, but it’s important to consider which is best for your clean energy needs and budget. Tesla has more comprehensive warranty coverage, but Sunrun handles all services in-house. Tesla offers more solar energy innovation, but it comes at a price. Ultimately, we recommend Sunrun for those who are more mindful of budget and prefer an in-person customer experience. We suggest Tesla for homeowners who value innovation and want sleek, modern-looking panels or tiles and a state-of-the-art energy storage battery.
Whichever solar power company you choose, we suggest carefully analyzing warranty coverage, reading customer reviews, and getting a free quote before deciding.
Solar Companies FAQ
Which is better: Sunrun or Tesla?
Sunrun is a better choice for tighter budgets and those who prefer their experience to be handled in-house from start to finish. Tesla is a high-innovation company best suited for those willing to pay for high-efficiency panels or a sleek solar roof. Both Sunrun and Tesla sell high-quality monocrystalline panels.
Is Sunrun affiliated with Tesla?
Sunrun’s only affiliation with Tesla is that it sells Tesla Powerwall solar battery storage.
What are the disadvantages of Sunrun?
Sunrun has many negative customer reviews that cite poor customer service since acquiring Vivint Solar in 2020. While it’s more affordable than some providers, its panels are slightly less efficient.
Is Sunrun more affordable than Tesla?
Yes, Sunrun’s solar products are more affordable than Tesla’s.
How We Chose the Top Solar Companies
We researched and analyzed dozens of solar panels and solar installation companies. We then formulated a solar company review methodology based on several factors including product catalog, solar services, warranty coverage, and installation method. We also analyzed customer reviews, conducted consumer surveys, and spoke with industry professionals to identify customer pain points.
Speaking directly to representatives, we determined how each solar company personalizes its solar panel installation for each home. We analyzed each company’s warranty options to ensure their product and performance guarantees match or exceed industry standards. We also conducted secret shopping to gain first-hand experiences as a customer.
We evaluated each provider based on its rating and history with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to determine reputation. In addition, we analyzed the 100 most recent Google Reviews for each provider across various locations and branches.