Is Tesla Premium Connectivity Worth It? Features Explained

Tesla Premium Connectivity is free for the lifetime of your vehicle if your Model S or X predates June 30, 2018. Any Tesla Model 3 with a premium interior ordered before that date has the same privilege. But all other cars require a subscription. So, is Tesla Premium Connectivity worth it? 

Tesla Premium Connectivity is worth it for the live traffic visualization with satellite-view maps and Sentry Mode’s live camera view. Plus, you get internet browsing, karaoke, music, and video streaming. However, your phone data or Wi-Fi may also facilitate the latter.

Whether or not Tesla Premium Connectivity is worth it depends on your needs and preferences. Also, the monthly or yearly cost is a decisive factor for most owners. Read on as I explain all the advantages and disadvantages of Tesla Premium Connectivity to help you decide if it is worth it.

Why Tesla Premium Connectivity Is Worth It

Tesla offers two types of connectivity for all its models:

  • Standard
  • Premium

You shouldn’t consider or equate either with the over-the-air connectivity that Tesla uses for its firmware upgrades and communications between the software and servers, including fixing any bugs or troubleshooting glitches.

All Tesla models have over-the-air connectivity by default.

The Standard Connectivity is free or included in your purchase of a Tesla.

The subscription is for eight years for new Teslas. Older Tesla models ordered or resold before or on July 20, 2022, have free Standard Connectivity for the vehicle’s lifetime.

Now, all the differences between Tesla’s Standard and Premium Connectivity are essentially about the following features:

  • Maps, navigation, and traffic visualization
  • Entertainment: karaoke, music, and video
  • Internet browsing on the infotainment system
  • Sentry Mode, especially the live camera view

I will elaborate on each of these features to compare the pros and cons of Tesla Premium Connectivity below:

Live Traffic Visualization With Satellite-View Maps Is Helpful

Both Standard and Premium Connectivity offer a navigation feature on your Tesla infotainment system or media control unit. However, the type of navigation access and its attributes differ. 

Here are these differences:

  • Tesla Standard Connectivity uses the same maps for navigation, but you won’t get live traffic visualization. Your Tesla will still use the routing functionality based on traffic conditions, but the live feed won’t be visible on the screen without Premium Connectivity.
  • You can access Supercharger stall availability and Trip Planner functionality on all Teslas, but only Premium Connectivity offers you satellite-view maps. This means that the Tesla Premium Connectivity subscription offers you a more engaging and interactive system.

You can Display or Hide satellite imagery and traffic conditions only with Tesla Premium Connectivity.

These interactive and visual navigation features of Tesla Premium Connectivity are convenient for many people, especially those who prefer to have a full suite of accessibilities on the dash.

If you don’t mind using similar features on phones or tablets, these conveniences may not matter.

Is Tesla Premium Connectivity Worth It? Features Explained 1

The Sentry Mode Live Camera View Is a Valuable Feature

All Tesla models manufactured after August 2017 have the Sentry Mode. Whenever you enable this function through Controls > Safety & Security > Sentry Mode, a Tesla car is put on three levels of proactive and reactive security:

  • Standby: the Tesla cams are on and ready to detect threats.
  • Alert: the Tesla can detect a minimal threat, such as a person leaning on the car.
  • Alarm: the Tesla issues an alert, activates an audible car alarm, and plays music.

This Sentry Mode has a View Live Camera option in the Tesla mobile app. You can access this feature through the app’s Security menu and by enabling the Sentry Mode setting.

You can use this View Live Camera through the app only if you have Tesla Premium Connectivity

Tesla Standard Connectivity will have the Sentry Mode with all three functions: Standby, Alert, and Alarm. However, you won’t have any live view of the car’s cameras.

This convenient sense of security can be the singular reason Tesla Premium Connectivity is worth it for some.

If you would like to find out how to set up Sentry Mode, check out this related and helpful article that I wrote. I explain everything you need to set it up and what makes Tesla’s Sentry mode different from other security systems.

Not everyone lives in an impeccably safe neighborhood, and some people have to park their Teslas in crowded places.

Those with busy alleys and lanes around may also want to have this feature, even if it is just to feel assured that they can proactively detect and respond to a potential threat. 

Premium Connectivity Simplifies Entertainment and Media Access

Tesla Premium Connectivity offers substantial entertainment options and media access, such as the following:

  • Internet browsing on the infotainment or media control unit.
  • Music streaming: radio stations, Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn, etc.
  • Tesla Caraoke, which is their spelling and version of karaoke.
  • Video streaming: Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, among others.

Tesla Premium Connectivity doesn’t include subscriptions to any of the streaming platforms or other related services.

So, you will still need to pay for one or more of the following entertainment options you wish to enjoy:

  • Hulu
  • Netflix
  • Spotify
  • Tidal (for HiFi and Connect)
  • TuneIn (Live or Premium)
  • YouTube Premium

The whole package of entertainment options and media access may be worthwhile for some Tesla owners, especially those who frequently drive with family and kids.

If you are someone who must spend a lot of time in a Tesla, these entertainment choices are probably necessary. 

Pro Tip: Can you auto-turn-on your hotspot to use some Tesla premium features?

If your premium subscription has expired but you would still like to use features that need Wi-Fi while driving, there is an easy way to automatically hotspot your car to your phone every time you get into your car. If you have an Apple iPhone running iOS 16, you can create an automation within the Apple Shortcuts App to “Auto-Turn-On” your phone’s Hotspot. From there you can configure your car to auto-connect to that Hotspot and remain connected to that hotspot while in “Drive”. This will easily save you time and effort, and maybe a bit of money as well.

Tesla Premium Connectivity May Be Useful Beyond Cities and Towns

The strongest argument against Tesla Premium Connectivity is that you can readily use many special features by connecting the infotainment system or media control unit (MCU) to your phone data.

All you have to do is tap and turn on the Wi-Fi hotspot on your smartphone.

However, a smartphone’s cellular network coverage may be an issue in some regions beyond cities and towns.

I am not implying or suggesting that Tesla Premium Connectivity has no network issues, but you get an additional form of cellular communication or data.

Tesla uses the AT&T LTE cellular network for its Standard and Premium Connectivity.

The signal strength or network coverage depends on the AT&T cell tower nearest to where you are at a given time. Having two or more cellular networks at your disposal is not a bad thing.

Also, Tesla Premium Connectivity will likely use Starlink satellites for cellular networks soon

On August 26, 2022, Elon Musk tweeted that Starlink V2, which will launch in 2023, can transmit directly to mobile phones.

Cellular networks using satellites can theoretically and practically bid adieu to the dead zones.

Some Twitter users asked Elon Musk if the Starlink satellites will provide cellular network coverage to Tesla cars with Premium Connectivity. To that, Musk replied with an unequivocal ‘yes.’

I should note that Musk mentioned the connectivity is likely to be only 2 to 4 Mbits per cell zone. However, even that will be sufficient for texts and voice calling.

Besides, having at least some form of connectivity out in the wild when you are on an adventure with a Tesla is definitely worthwhile.

The Subscription Cost Is Cheaper Than Most Phone Data Plans

Last but not least, the monthly or yearly subscription cost of Tesla Premium Connectivity is not as pricey as many unlimited cellular or phone data plans.

Here are the subscription costs of Tesla Premium Connectivity:

  • $9.99 per month
  • $99 per year

The major carriers in the US charge around $60 to $90 per month for unlimited data plans for smartphones. Even budget carriers charge more than the monthly subscription cost of Tesla Premium Connectivity. 

Of course, I am not drawing any false equivalence, as the two types of services or data usage are very different in nature.

But the pricing check offers some food for thought while assessing the affordability or costliness of the Tesla Premium Connectivity subscription.

Furthermore, you can only access the entertainment options using your mobile data. You can’t use Sentry Mode’s View Live Camera feature and the satellite imagery and traffic visualization interfaces for navigation with Standard Connectivity tethered to your phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot. 

Why Tesla Premium Connectivity May Not Be Worth It

Owners of older Teslas enjoy free Premium Connectivity for the lifetime of their vehicles, albeit it doesn’t cover any hardware retrofitting or upgrades necessary to use high-speed data.

The free Standard Connectivity package also excludes any such upgrades.

Besides those hiccups, does Tesla Premium Connectivity offer sufficient reasons to be worth it? Let me highlight a few reasons some owners may not find Tesla Premium Connectivity to be worthwhile:

Tesla Premium Connectivity Costs $9.99 a Month or $99 Per Year Plus Tax

All new Tesla owners must pay $99 annually for Premium Connectivity, which is down from $120 a year. This amount is not prorated if you choose to cancel the subscription at any time, and Tesla Premium Connectivity will continue to be available to you for the rest of the 12-month period.

If you wish to pay monthly, the subscription cost is $9.99, so nearly $120 per year, plus tax.

If a Tesla owner is unlikely to use the special features or they don’t matter much, this cost is simply an additional financial obligation that one can do without.

Having said that, there’s absolutely no harm in trying Tesla Premium Connectivity.

Owners of a new Tesla Model S or X are in a win-win situation because they will have a 1-year free trial of the Premium Connectivity services.

In contrast, the trial for new Tesla Models 3 and Y is for only 30 days

Whether you have 30 days or one year, both periods are sufficient to figure out if you are someone who needs or will use Tesla Premium Connectivity to the extent that the monthly or annual cost is justified.

Thus, everyone should use this trial to make an experientially informed decision.

Tesla Premium Connectivity Has the Same Network Issues as Your Phone

Tesla doesn’t have any exclusive or special network right now, whether cellular or otherwise. It relies on AT&T LTE for its Premium Connectivity.

This means that your Tesla may have the same network issues as your smartphone. Some people have experienced poor connectivity and slow speed.

The company might team up with T-Mobile in the future, but it’s purely speculation at this stage because there’s no official word on such a potential association or its impact on Tesla Premium Connectivity, if any. 

Also, Starlink’s support for cellular networks is still in a nascent phase, and no one knows how much of a difference or impact the coverage may have on real-time data connectivity or speed. 

Tesla Premium Connectivity Doesn’t Offer Unlimited Bandwidth and Data

To be fair, no one should expect unlimited bandwidth for high-speed data with Tesla Premium Connectivity at $9.99 per month. The likes of AT&T cap their expensive unlimited data plans at 50 GB or so.

However, the problem with Tesla is the ambiguity about daily data usage.

Tesla answers the following question on its official website, and I’m paraphrasing:

Is there a limitation on excessive data use? Yes. In some cases, where data use is deemed excessive or exceeds a fair daily usage, Tesla reserves the right to reduce the Premium Connectivity bandwidth.”

The fact that your Tesla Premium Connectivity bandwidth will be throttled is expected. But what precisely is this fair daily usage? And the ‘daily’ criterion is what I find a tad inconvenient. 

Suppose you need to spend a lot of time in your Tesla on some days. You may need to wait for someone, you might be on a long trip with your family, or you could be a person who drives a lot.

Would prolonged music and video streaming on such days be curtailed by Tesla?

You may not need to stream music or video for many hours or at all on other days. So, if your Premium Connectivity doesn’t serve your purpose on the select days due to the fair daily data usage issue, the whole worthwhile or not debate takes on a very different form against Tesla.

You Don’t Want Karaoke, Internet Browsing, Music, and Video Streaming

Tesla Premium Connectivity is not worth it if you don’t need the following:

  • Karaoke
  • Internet
  • Music
  • Video

Tesla Standard Connectivity offers the following media and music options:

  • Bluetooth pairing
  • FM radio
  • Sirius XM
  • USB playback

It would help if you listened to the advertisements on the radio and other free channels or platforms. However, you aren’t paying anything for Standard Connectivity yet.

That being said, not every Tesla owner may have access to premium streaming services, whether it is ad-free Spotify or Netflix.

You’re Comfortable Using Alternative Maps or Navigation Apps

Tesla’s satellite maps and live traffic visualization aren’t the only interactive systems you can use while driving.

You may use Google Maps, applications like Waze, or any of the other GPS navigation software available today. You don’t need Tesla Premium Connectivity for these.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Tesla Premium Connectivity Have a Free Trial?

Tesla Premium Connectivity has a 30-day free trial for Models 3 and Y. The free trial is for one year for Tesla Models S and X. Thereafter, you will pay $9.99 per month or $99 annually. 

Should I Pay for Tesla Premium Connectivity?

You can pay for Tesla Premium Connectivity if you want a more convenient, entertaining, and interactive driving experience than the Standard package. The free trial can help you decide.

Check out these 20 great gift ideas for yourself or a Tesla fanboy.

Contact Us if you have any questions or queries.

Is Tesla Premium Connectivity Worth It? Features Explained 2
Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

A renowned Tesla enthusiast, and successful entrepreneur, enlightens global audiences through his compelling EV narratives. Discover more about his electric journey on his About Me page. Venture to read Erwin's incredible story that's reshaping the future of motoring. Want to spark a conversation with Erwin? Visit his Contact page, and let’s electrify the world together.