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SolarReviews.com isn't a review website, it's a lead generation website (an analysis)

willow_hiller

Active Member
Apr 3, 2019
4,060
23,576
Maryland
I've seen some concern stemming from the poor reviews of Tesla Solar on SolarReviews.com. The average review was so low, it raised some red flags for me. As it stands right now, they rate Tesla at 1.5 stars out of 5 (and claim an average of $5.09 per watt when it's $2.01 as of writing).

bad_reviews.png


I'm a Data Scientist, so I decided to do a bit of a meta-analysis of those 422 reviews. How have the reviews changed over time? They started more diverse, but became a lot more homogeneous after 2016. Dropping to unreasonably low levels as if a switch was tripped in 2018. Here are the average stars per review from 2014 to today:

stars.png


In fact, if you do some basic text analysis of the written reviews, they started off using many different keywords, but in 2016 the reviews devolved into a lot of complaints purely about "customer service."

bigrams.png


So what would suddenly affect the quality and score of these reviews? Around the same time, this page appeared on SolarReviews: Buying residential solar leads vs generating your own in 2020 According to the Internet Archive, that lead generation page appeared around mid-2016 (the gaps between 2018 and 2020 are due to them blocking robot traffic):

Screenshot from 2020-07-21 16-42-20.png


On that page, they clearly say that all three Solar related websites they own are "lead generation websites":

lead_gen.png


And they ask solar installers to pay for leads and accreditation on their website. So starting in 2016, Tesla reviews didn't exist on their website for the purpose of informing their visitors. They were hosting those reviews with the express purpose of directing web traffic to paying competitors.

It's hard to prove when reviews are faked, so all we can do is show the ratings over time and point out the structural shifts. If you're curious at taking a look at their reviews in aggregate yourself, I've attached a CSV of their reviews to the bottom of this post.
 

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jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Moderator
Nov 28, 2018
17,449
23,372
Riverside Co. CA
One of the things I like about TMC (and this section specifically) is that there are some of the smartest people around, either participating or lurking around here.

This is very interesting and its good to see some data to backup to what I was feeling when I looked there briefly (when someone came on this site and said "what about these reviews over here, opinions please?"
 

Az_Rael

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,682
8,990
Palmdale, CA
I am only one anecdote, but I had my Tesla energy system installed in early 2018, and I would totally write a 1 star review and list customer service as my biggest complaint.

They installed the wrong panels on my house, forgot to submit the PTO paperwork for two months, hooked the system up wrong during install, then refused to send anyone out to even look at it for 4 months. And at the time hold times on the “after sale” phone lines regularly exceeded 1 hour, so it was an exercise in extreme frustration. I dread the next time something on my system breaks after all that.

I tell everyone I know to not get Tesla Solar.
 
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Az_Rael

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,682
8,990
Palmdale, CA
You had a 2015 Model S P85D. I know a lot of people have had complaints about the battery with that model. Based on that experience, would you tell everyone to not get a Model 3?

I would advise against a Model S, and I fully caution folks on the Model 3, yes. I tell them Tesla makes great cars, but customer service is poor and reliability is unknown, so be aware. The cars are amazing to drive, but the total experience is not for everyone. I do not plan to own any Tesla past the battery warranty. I might buy another, but not keep it long term. They are like owning an exotic. You have to pay to play.


I have only had to tow the 3 once so far, so doing pretty good all things considered.
 
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willow_hiller

Active Member
Apr 3, 2019
4,060
23,576
Maryland
I would advise against a Model S, and I fully caution folks on the Model 3, yes. I tell them Tesla makes great cars, but customer service is poor and reliability is unknown, so be aware. The cars are amazing to drive, but the total experience is not for everyone. I do not plan to own any Tesla past the battery warranty. I might buy another, but not keep it long term. They are like owning an exotic. You have to pay to play.


I have only had to tow the 3 once so far, so doing pretty good all things considered.

I think it's very similar with their solar installs. I've had to call a few times to correct a form. To some people that's an unacceptable level of customer service, but to me I'm willing to give them a call when they're literally charging 25%-50% less than competitors in Maryland.

And they are improving. For your particular case, they now only offer one brand of solar panels, so that problem cannot happen again.
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Moderator
Nov 28, 2018
17,449
23,372
Riverside Co. CA
I am only one anecdote, but I had my Tesla energy system installed in early 2018, and I would totally write a 1 star review and list customer service as my biggest complaint.

They installed the wrong panels on my house, forgot to submit the PTO paperwork for two months, hooked the system up wrong during install, then refused to send anyone out to even look at it for 4 months. And at the time hold times on the “after sale” phone lines regularly exceeded 1 hour, so it was an exercise in extreme frustration. I dread the next time something on my system breaks after all that.

I tell everyone I know to not get Tesla Solar.

Thats totally fair.... and since you are someone who has been here a while, and doesnt have any real incentive to either bash or totally promote tesla, that carries a lot more weight than some random "solar reviews" website, imo.

My experience with solar was pretty good with solar city in 2015, except for them breaking a bunch of my concrete roof tiles and me having to contact them to come back out to replace more tiles than they replaced on install day.

I also havent had a single problem with my solar since 2015, its run very trouble free. The powerwalls I installed early this year, I was extremely happy with the onsite people, less so with the phone support, but it wasnt "horrible". Just "barely acceptable" from a response time, etc. The on the ground people were great (really really really great).

My powerwalls have run good, and the few times i have called tesla energy support (the frequency issue) they have been responsive. Saying that, I have read enough here to see that some others have had to wait LONG times for parts, etc.

Its definitely "Vons / Albertsons" vs "whole foods" or some other very customer service friendly grocery store like Trader Joes etc, when talking tesla vs some others.

I would use them again, though.
 

Az_Rael

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,682
8,990
Palmdale, CA
but in 2016 the reviews devolved into a lot of complaints purely about "customer service."

I would speculate this may be related to the acquisition of Solar City by Tesla in that timeframe. When I went through the process, even in late 2017, they were still using hybrid solar city/Tesla internal systems and the customer portal was still Solar city. Also, it seemed like all the sales folks were brand new and turnover was high (I had a couple different sales people over the course of my contract signing, design and install). So my guess is the transition was rough.
 

willow_hiller

Active Member
Apr 3, 2019
4,060
23,576
Maryland
And at the time hold times on the “after sale” phone lines regularly exceeded 1 hour, so it was an exercise in extreme frustration.

I also think there's no such thing as an after-sale line anymore. I've just got one number that identifies itself as the "Tesla Customer Experience Line." I've never been on hold for longer than ~10 minutes. And there was a different line for scheduling inspections and service that answered my call immediately, and scheduled my in-person inspection the next day.
 

Az_Rael

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,682
8,990
Palmdale, CA
I also havent had a single problem with my solar since 2015, its run very trouble free.


I think the equipment they install is very good. I have Panasonic panels, and the Powerwalls have been rock solid so far. I am hopeful they have overcome the transition and customer service will improve. I do have a 20 year warranty and all. Just can’t in good conscious tell people to sign up after my experience.


I'm willing to give them a call when they're literally charging 25%-50% less than competitors in Maryland

Oh, I would probably be more forgiving of my crazy experience with today’s pricing. Back when I signed, Tesla was priced higher than the competition in my region. I took the leap with them vs something cheaper because I trusted the brand name. I paid a total of $53K before the federal credit for my 10.71kW system with 2 Powerwalls. Looks like a similar system from them is only $39K today. Que sera, sera.

That old pricing probably does affect the reviews as well though. Folks in 2017/2018 were paying almost SunPower money for a Tesla Energy system back then. You are probably going to be unhappy if the customer service isn’t top notch.
 
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Az_Rael

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,682
8,990
Palmdale, CA
I also think there's no such thing as an after-sale line anymore. I've just got one number that identifies itself as the "Tesla Customer Experience Line." I've never been on hold for longer than ~10 minutes. And there was a different line for scheduling inspections and service that answered my call immediately, and scheduled my in-person inspection the next day.

Yes, they fixed that issue. But in 2018, where you show a spike of bad customer service reviews, it was a factor. Just saying the data might be real. A combination of the transition from Solar City, plus the SGIP madness in the biggest market, plus the hurricanes, which delayed equipment, etc. Lots of structural stuff going on in that timeframe that could be attributed to the increase in poor reviews.
 
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willow_hiller

Active Member
Apr 3, 2019
4,060
23,576
Maryland
Yes, they fixed that issue. But in 2018, where you show a spike of bad customer service reviews, it was a factor. Just saying the data might be real. A combination of the transition from Solar City, plus the SGIP madness in the biggest market, plus the hurricanes, which delayed equipment, etc. Lots of structural stuff going on in that timeframe that could be attributed to the increase in poor reviews.

Why do you still recommend against Tesla Solar if they've fixed many of the issues that caused you trouble?

I'm thinking of doing an analysis of the Yelp reviews next, so we can see if those match up timeline wise. But the distribution of data from 2018+ definitely doesn't look natural. It's almost as if the reviews are being capped to make sure the average doesn't go above 2 in any given month. And unfortunately they block a lot of automated traffic, so it's hard to establish whether the admins are curating or censoring reviews by the web-archive alone.
 

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
3,659
3,175
East Bay NorCal
IMO (basically I have no zip files of data to back this up) - I believe there are two camps of solar companies. The big box corporates and local installers.

The big-3 corporate installers have consistently terrible reviews online. Look up Tesla/SolarCity, Sunrun, or Vivint. The complaints all seem to fall into three types:
1) Sales issues: Customer is unhappy with aggressive sales tactics into a solar lease that doesn't actually save them money.
2) Quality of install: Customer gets a botched installation and they go months without a working array.
3) Post purchase service: Customer has issues with leaks or failures and can't get help to fix things.

The only avenue a customer can fix on their own is the first topic of the sales job. It seems the more informed a customer becomes, the less likely they'll feel conned by the sales team. But, no amount of customer effort can fix a poorly done installation or get the corporation to provide service.

I think customers who demand #2 and #3 to be done well need to find a local installer who actually has reputational skin in the game to keep clients happy with a quality installation and provide consistently good post-purchase support. Tesla couldn't care less if you leave a 1 star review about their product. And the corporate level doesn't incentivize their staff to get good reviews; they incentivize staff to maximize profit.

Tesla's stonk only goes up, even if people start to sour on their experience with the brand. My next door neighbor was very pleased with both a S and and X in his garage. But then his son just bought a 3 and had a ton of problems/issues after accepting delivery. Tesla jerked his son around and wouldn't even give him a loaner while they had his 3 in the shop.

The son demanded a refund and the dad sold his S and X. Now that household is entirely turned off by Tesla, and the father actively detracts people from buying Tesla. Does Tesla care? No because they're worth more than many of the major automakers combined.

In my small sample size of 1, the local smaller outfits didn't have the purchasing power so their prices were much higher. Local/smaller outfits consistently quoted me +$10k (about $1 per watt more) than the Big 3 corporates. It didn't help either that the local outfits were super stubborn about the Powerwall and refused to do a partial home backup.

So at the end, I think it's an unfortunate trade off to try and assign a value of #2 and #3. But for those who prioritize savings and can tolerate the corporate-pain-spin-cycle, they should just bite the bullet and go with Tesla knowing they're going to have poor service.

I think a customer is going to have a bad time if they pick the the corporates thinking they're going to have an end-to-end great experience while undercutting the local installers on price.
 
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willow_hiller

Active Member
Apr 3, 2019
4,060
23,576
Maryland
Well, I'm ready to admit I was wrong about the SolarReviews stars being overly suspicious. I have finished scraping Yelp, although it was much more difficult than I anticipated. Yelp is highly regional, so I had to search for "Tesla solar" while iterating over all 50 states to find all of the local offices for reviews. In the end, I found 830 Yelp reviews across 13 states (including Hawaii, I wouldn't have guessed).

yelp_stars.png


The silver lining is it seems like beginning January 2020, Tesla's average solar reviews are on the rise again. Bigrams are also interesting:

yelp_bigrams.png


And reviews are not homogeneous across states, as I would have guessed. Illinois and Oregon actually rate it 3/5 right now:

yelp_state.png


Zip of Yelp reviews attached for others to analyze:
 

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