Should I buy a used Nissan LEAF?

by Ernie Hernandez on June 16, 2017

Or rather, why you should buy a used Nissan LEAF

According to the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Driver Survey Results – May 2013, 94 percent of EV owners also own a conventional fuel vehicle. Why do I lead with this? Because, the odds are, you are already a multiple-vehicle household. It likely would be very easy to replace one of your current vehicles with a used Nissan LEAF or other EV. Let’s tick off some of the reasons why this might make sense.

According to Autotrader.com, there are currently almost 1,100 Nissan LEAFs, model year 2011 through 2015 available across the country. The lowest priced LEAF is $4,988, highest priced is $21,339, and the average is $10,863. The $4,988 car has 82,503 miles on it and is already missing four bars, but it’s well beyond the five year, sixty thousand mile battery capacity warranty, so no free battery for you. The highest priced used LEAF is a 2015 S with 475 miles for $21,339. And it’s certified pre-owned as well, which provides additional warranty coverage (excluding the traction battery). Doing a sort by lowest price, there were well over 200 available for under $9,000 across the country, some with amazingly low miles (I saw a 2012 with 6,780 miles for $8,999 with all twelve bars).

That last comment is one of the important things to note when looking at a used LEAF. How many bars does it have left? I wrote an article that talks about losing bars, if you’re not familiar with the term, so I won’t go into it here. But you want to be careful to check how many battery capacity bars remain on the car that you’re looking at if driving range is important to you. Let’s use my really low priced example above. With four bars down, the range could be 50-60 miles, or it could be 40-50 miles depending on where you live and how you drive. Here is a picture of my 2012 LEAF with four bars down, fully charged, in ECO mode.

If all you do with your second car now is take the kids to school and go to the grocery store, that may be more than enough for your needs. If your current second car is more than five years old, you may be faced with expensive engine or drivetrain repairs over the next five years. You will also still be required to change the oil and filter, spark plugs, etc just to maintain it in good shape. One of the great things about an EV is that the vast majority of that maintenance goes away. It’s not that an EV needs no maintenance or repairs, but without all of the moving parts in a combustion engine and automatic transmission to fail, the most significant source of maintenance and repairs is also removed. EVs make excellent second cars for these reasons alone.

Let’s say you only drive your second car 10,000 miles each year, and it gets a pretty decent 25 miles per gallon. According to GasBuddy.com, the current low average price for regular gasoline is $1.99 per gallon in Oklahoma with a high of $3.04 in California. So let’s pick Colorado at $2.32 which is somewhere near the mean. Your 400 gallons needed to cover that annual mileage would cost you $928. According to fueleconomy.gov, the cost to drive a LEAF 25 miles is $0.97. Your fuel cost for the LEAF to cover the same distance would be $388. In other words, you are $540 to the good every year, just by selling your current car and getting a used LEAF. Not counting maintenance and repair savings. If you do happen to live in California, the state where the most EVs are currently sold in the US, your gas cost would be over $1,200. And that’s just in fuel costs. Also, in California, now you can commute in the carpool lane saving time and reducing stress if the range will allow it. Naturally these numbers will change based on your gas and electric costs, but you get the idea. Just by replacing your current second car with a LEAF you could give yourself a raise (much easier than trying to get one from your boss) and reduce potential future repair costs.

One last point, if you already have solar panels on your roof, and you’re selling excess capacity back to the grid (for pennies), your fuel bill goes to zero. Just sayin’…

 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Isaac June 16, 2017 at 7:43 pm

My first Adventure in to EV was 2 years ago, when I said I’m not paying $400 a month gas on my 8 cyl car, I’m in CA, got read of it and got A New Nissan Leaf , at that time my son was getting his permit and we used the Leaf for his training,
End of last year he got his license and with straight A Report Card I told him I will get him a used car I came out with a budget and we started looking for 2013 Leaf.
CA prices as Everything Else in CA were High 9000- to 11000$ but I found a Dealer in AZ 300 mile away with 2013 for $7000 drove and tested the car and bought it same day,
Car had 30000 mile on it ,full bar, and so far it’s a gem, and I’m told I can get more them what I paid for it.
Now I don’t here from him Every week ” Dad I need money for Gas” he charges over night and the 15 to 30 miles he does a day I.E. School and Work it’s perfect.

Reply

Ernie Hernandez June 17, 2017 at 9:33 am

Isaac – Welcome to Living LEAF. The situation with you and your son is another excellent example of how someone might find a great use for a used EV. Thanks for the comment.

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Bob July 21, 2017 at 10:59 am

I found your website as I was exploring options for a daily commuter car. Obviously your experience is anecdotal. Is there some resource to know what the common problems are that occur with these at 1,2-5 year points?

Reply

Ernie Hernandez July 21, 2017 at 11:51 am

Bob – Welcome to Living LEAF. The only real concern with pretty much any electric car is the traction battery. How long will it last, how much degradation can you stand before it will no longer serve a useful purpose to you. Think of all of the things that have gone wrong with cars that you’ve owned in the past. Many of them were likely due to the drivetrain. That is where the simplicity of an electric car really shines. The thousands of components that make up the engine, exhaust system, transmission, drivetrain are reduced to an electric motor, and a one speed transmission. Due to its regenerative braking capacity, the mechanical braking system is also used less, thus lasting longer. Your online search should include terms such as “problems with used electric cars”. In my view, a used electric car is one of the best values available if the range limitation of a partially degraded traction battery is not an issue for you. Best of luck in your search.

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Hans August 30, 2017 at 9:17 pm

Great site with lots of good info. My trusty old gas guzzling 2000 Buick LeSabre died, so in looking for another car we came across a 2012 SL LEAF Craigslister with 2045 miles on and all 12 bars for 8,900 which included an AeroVironment EVSE. We did some research, a little bargaining and bought the car. So far so good. The build date stamped on the door plate is 11/11 and our LeafSpy Pro battery stats after putting a 1,000 miles on it in the last 3 weeks are AHr= 60.49 SOH= 92% Hx= 90.45. My wife drove 77 miles recently with 3 passengers in mixed terrain and some highway and about town driving. She only switched to Eco mode after texting me if she’d make it home with 11 miles on the GOM. Sure enough she had our first LBW about a mile from home. So far we end-time charge to 100% daily using the newly installed L2 EVSE (and use the LEAF right away), 77 miles is an unusual large amount of driving for either of us and seems impressive for a 6 year old battery pack…

Reply

Ernie Hernandez August 31, 2017 at 9:21 am

Hans – Welcome to Living LEAF, and to the world of driving electric! Pleased to hear about your experiences so far. And I’m actually glad that you got a chance to experience the Low Battery Warning early in your ownership experience. It shows you that the driving experience is identical, just as in a gas car running with an eighth of a tank. While a little unnerving the first time, you have generally over a dozen miles after LBW comes on. Enjoy your LEAF!

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