Trinity Solar Vs. Vivint: Which Company Is Better?
By Dan Simms /
Here’s what we’ll cover in this Tesla Solar vs. Vivint provider comparison:
Each product and or company featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Installing photovoltaic panels in your home is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills. Now more than ever, homeowners across the country have numerous options for solar installers, each bringing its own benefits and downsides to the table.
Tesla Solar and Vivint (which was acquired by and is now operated by Sunrun) are two popular solar installers that have a wide reach in the U.S. If you’re considering going solar, chances are you’ve not only come across these companies but have considered hiring one or both of them for your solar conversion.
In this guide, we’ll be comparing Tesla and Vivint to help you decide which is a better option for you. We’ll discuss things like pricing, customer service, and warranty coverage, and we’ll explain why we think Tesla is a much better option overall.
We think it’s important to compare these two solar providers because they’re so popular and have large service areas. Since they’ll undoubtedly appeal to numerous customers, our breakdown of how they stack up against each other should help many solar customers choose the right company for them.
|Brand Is Best For
|Solar Services Offered
|Wide Coverage Area and Overall Quality
|25 years for equipment, 10 years for installation
|Cash, solar loan
|Solar panels, solar battery storage, EV chargers, solar shingles, solar system monitoring
|10 years for a roof leak, 25 years for performance, and manufacturer’s warranty
|Cash, solar loans, leases, PPAs
|Solar panels, solar power storage, EV chargers, energy efficiency monitoring
Tesla is best known for its electric vehicles, which it’s produced in California since 2003. However, the tech company, owned by Elon Musk, started manufacturing energy storage (the Tesla Powerwall) for homes in 2015. It then purchased SolarCity in 2016 and officially became a solar energy company as well.
Tesla provides some of the best panels available for home solar systems, and it maintains low pricing by matching competitors’ prices.
The company’s customer service isn’t the greatest, largely because Tesla outsources all installations to third parties. However, this does give Tesla a nationwide service area, which is quite impressive.
Vivint Solar got its start in the solar industry when it was founded by David Bywater in 2011. It quickly became one of the largest solar panel installation companies in the country because it used aggressive marketing tactics and offered appealing lease options for panels.
Ultimately, these same things that helped the company grow led to its demise. It faced numerous class action lawsuits for its marketing tactics and poor customer service, and it was eventually purchased by Sunrun in 2020.
Today, Sunrun still pushes solar leases through the Vivint brand. Sunrun is one of the best solar companies in the industry if you’re looking specifically for a lease. It also provides one of the best warranty packages, but only for leased systems.
The average rooftop solar array in the U.S. will cost around$29,970 before any incentives or closer to $20,979 after rebates and solar incentives like the federal tax credit are taken into account. However, the installer you choose can affect this pricing quite a lot.
Below, we’ll compare Tesla and Vivint based on overall cost and financing options.
The system you purchase can fall within a rather large cost range, and one of the reasons for some systems being more costly than others is the type and brand of equipment they’re made up of.
High-efficiency panels often save you more money on electric bills and can often mean a smaller system will cover your energy needs — but high-quality panels cost more, and companies that carry only energy-efficient options will naturally be more expensive.
Your up-front price and long-term savings can also be affected by the method you use for payment. There are four options available that can have an impact on your system price:
Tesla only installs its own high-efficiency equipment, which is more expensive than the average. However, the company matches competitor pricing, so it works out to be lower than the average cost in most cases.
Vivint installs a variety of photovoltaic equipment, and its prices sit below average as well.
One major difference between Tesla and Vivint is that Tesla only accepts cash purchases and solar loans — the only options we recommend. These will almost always be more expensive upfront than leases and PPAs.
Vivint accepts cash, loans, leases, and power purchase agreements, so it’s a bit more accessible.
If you’re looking to buy or finance your panels, Tesla and Vivint are about equal in terms of pricing, and both are below average in cost. However, Vivint provides access to leases and PPAs, which come at minimal or no up-front cost, so it can be a bit cheaper in the short term in some cases.
Since solar power systems are naturally expensive, ensuring that the equipment you acquire is protected is essential. Solar warranties are an important thing to consider, as they protect your equipment from damage, protect your home from improper panel installation and help ensure your panels produce sufficient energy.
Tesla’s solar panel systems come with a 25-year product warranty that covers damage, plus a 10-year warranty for workmanship. The workmanship warranty is below average for the industry, and the company lacks a performance guarantee altogether.
Vivint includes one of two warranties, depending on how you acquire your solar equipment:
The best warranty between these two companies comes from Vivint for leases and PPAs. However, since we don’t recommend those payment options, we have to go with Tesla for the best warranty coverage, as we feel workmanship trumps power production.
Few solar companies provide service nationwide or even across multiple states. This being the case, many companies will only appeal to customers in specific states, and those with a broad service area are able to bring renewable energy to far more customers.
As mentioned above, Tesla Solar uses a large network of third-party installers that certifies itself for all installations. This outsourcing leads to poor customer service in some cases, but it also means the company can deliver clean energy to all 50 states.
Vivint has a smaller but still impressive service area. It covers Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the following 20 states:
Tesla has more than double the service area of Vivint, so Tesla clearly comes out on top in terms of the number of customers and areas served.
Panel performance is, unfortunately, something very few solar customers consider when choosing a provider. How well your panels perform will influence your total system price, but it will also affect your energy production, the energy savings solar offers, and the system size you need to offset your utility bills.
Unfortunately, Tesla doesn’t post performance information about its solar cells, panels, solar roof shingles, or Powerwalls. All these pieces of equipment are believed to be on par with other top-tier monocrystalline panels and other solar storage solutions.
Vivint uses a variety of panel brands with varying efficiency ratings. These include:
These brands are also considered tier-one and in line with Tesla’s solar products.
Tesla and Vivint have similar equipment performance, so we’d have to say these companies are about tied with respect to power production and efficiency.
The customer service provided by your solar company might seem like a quality-of-life factor only. In actuality, a positive customer experience can mean faster response times to warranty claims if you have system issues, which could end up saving you money in the long run.
Below, we’ll include some information about the service you can expect from both of these companies.
Tesla has a reputation for poor customer service, and this is attributed mostly to the company’s outsourcing business model. While it certifies its third-party installers, there’s no definitive way to maintain control of service quality, so it suffers in some cases.
Many of the complaints about Tesla include issues like:
There are also many positive customer reviews online, so your experience will most likely depend on the installer you get assigned to your project.
We’ll include some customer reviews for Tesla below that exemplify the different experiences you might have.
“We installed Tesla panels two years ago — a 12-panel, 3.8 kW system. The installation went seamlessly and the panels save us around 30% of our bills. We haven’t had any problems since installing the panels. Highly recommended.” — Vladimir Y. via Yelp
“My customer experience with Tesla Solar and Powerwall installation was fairly smooth. After roughly 18 months of the system being in service, the system failed. Apparently, Tesla did not [protect] the system from the outdoors/nature/wildlife. It took them two months to come out just to inspect and determine the issue, and now another two months and counting, and still no word on when they are coming out to fix the issue. So new customers are their first priority, and existing customers are the least of their concern?” — Tony N. via Yelp
Vivint has an even worse reputation when it comes to customer service, although things have improved a bit since the company was purchased by Sunrun. You can check out the video below for some information on how unhappy customers have been with Sunrun:
Most customer reviews mention a lot of the same issues, including:
Vivint/Sunrun has fewer positive reviews than Tesla, but it still seems as though the customer support you receive depends on the person assigned to your solar project.
The reviews below showcase what you can expect from Vivint/Sunrun on the positive and negative ends.
“We’ve had solar for a full year now. The initial startup could have been quicker, but multiple agencies were involved, so I can’t blame anyone specifically. The 21 panels are working well. The monthly payment to Sunrun has lowered our energy expenditure. Also importantly, it is clean energy. Sunrun user app could be more detailed.” — Ralph J. via Better Business Bureau (BBB)
“If I could give Sunrun a negative rating, I would! I signed up with Sunrun 15 months ago. Now the holdup is that Sunrun doesn’t have a valid business license to work in [my state], and all related permits expired to get those projects completed! I gave them several days to figure this out but have no answers and no idea when my panels will ever be operational. As of today, I have notified Channel 10 News to check out this story and advise consumers of the ongoing issues.” — Diana I. via BBB
Neither Tesla nor Vivint is the best solar company if you’re looking for a positive experience. Both have a reputation for poor customer support. However, Tesla has more positive reviews, so we have to go with Tesla for the service.
Both Tesla and Vivint have their downsides, so neither is the ideal solar installer. Overall, though, we’d recommend Tesla over Vivint for most customers.
We recommend Tesla over Vivint for most property owners. Tesla is more affordable if you buy or finance your panels, thanks to price matching. The company also has a larger coverage area and a slightly better reputation for customer service.
The cost information presented in this article is derived from a comprehensive analysis, incorporating data from multiple industry sources. The average cost per watt per state was calculated based on figures from Consumer Affairs, Energy Sage, and Berkeley Lab’s Electricity Markets & Policy Department. Additionally, monthly energy consumption and the average monthly cost of electricity were sourced from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, ensuring a well-rounded and accurate representation of the information presented.
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