We all know used Nissan Leafs are so cheap and so abundant now that Nissan should consider stopping production of new ones. Recently I did a search on Autotrader and found that there were more than a thousand Leafs (Leaves?) for sale nationwide listed for under $10,000. With so much used Leaf inventory everywhere, it’s no wonder Nissan is one step away from paying you to take a new one one off a dealer’s hands.
Recently, thanks a group buy, a Leaf could be had for only $11,510. This was the lowest price I had ever seen for a brand new Nissan Leaf and was a result of energy companies partnering with Nissan to offer an astounding $10,000 off retail. Sadly, the offer expired Jan 3rd, 2017, but who knows, it might be back.
Nissan had no choice but to offer these deals because people are still apparently clueless about electric vehicles. According to Car and Driver, 60 percent of U.S. drivers either don’t know about the existence of electric cars or know next to nothing about them. These must be the same folks who are still driving all over town on Saturday looking for a DVD to rent for movie night. Where’s that damn Blockbuster!
As good as the new Nissan Leaf offer was, used Leaf prices are even better. If you’re looking for something super cheap to get you reliably from point A to B, it’s tough to find a better deal than an inexpensive Leaf.
Tons of Leafs are available right now for around $6,000, the cheapest of which is listed at $5,600. This is a car that MSRP’ed at over $30,000 just five years ago.
A while back our old friend Doug explained the price drops. One of the reasons Leafs depreciate as fast as they do is because of the limited lifetime of the battery. If you’ve owned anything that’s battery-powered (there’s probably a miniature computer currently in your hand as you’re reading this), you know that the longer you’ve owned the thing, the quicker it dies. At this point, all it takes is one Twitter feed refresh and my phone has to be plugged in immediately.
But Leaf batteries, at least, appear to be holding up well. According to this report, only three batteries have failed out of the 35,000 Leafs sold in Europe during a five year period. Also, Nissan offers an eight year or 100,000 mile warranty on the batteries. Even after the warranty is over, Nissan charges a not-so-bad $5,500 to replace it with the same warranty coverage.
But why would you want to own one?
The Leaf is unbeatable as a traffic navigator. If your daily commute contains a lot of stop-and-go driving over not a ton of distance, then a Leaf is a great deal. Regenerative braking will allow you to preserve the battery while also slowing down the car automatically as you lift off the accelerator. That’s perfect for someone lazy like me, who wants things to be as easy as possible. It’s too much work to excessively pivot my foot between the accelerator and brake pedals.
Regular upkeep with the Leaf is simple. Because this is an electric car, there’s not much to maintain other than the brakes, tires and a periodic battery check-up. Unlike internal-combustion engines there are no oil changes, spark plugs or timing belts to worry about.
Also, there are no fuel concerns. Resist the temptation to get the vanity plate “FCKGAS” to one up your Tesla-owning neighbor with the plate “LOLOPEC.”
Depending on how much you drive and what kind of mileage you get you could potentially be saving thousands of dollars a year in gas costs. At worst, if you need to get a new battery right after buying a $6,000 Leaf, at $12,000 (including the cost of a replacement battery), Leaf ownership for eight years would amount to a little more than a monthly cable bill.
Of course, there are a couple caveats to consider.
Range anxiety: Like with any other electric vehicle you have to be aware of how many miles you have left to go because of our lacking electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The Leaf has a limited range of 80-100 miles so it’s essentially a drive-to-work or haul-groceries kind of car. For road trips or longer drives you’ll need something else, but if your office has a place to charge, you’re in business.
Charging anxiety: If you live in an apartment where it’s tough to charge these things then the Leaf would be more hassle than it’s worth. Unless you own a home where you can charge your Leaf or plug the car in at work while you bang your head against your desk eight hours a day the Leaf could be a pain to own. But if these two things aren’t a concern then the Leaf is a great commuter car. (Just ignore how it looks.)
What’s wild is that people still aren’t buying the Leaf in mass numbers no matter how hard Nissan tries, although they did just have their best new sales month in two years in December. City dwellers should at least be sold on the car: it’s a cost-effective, reliable method of transportation to get themselves from A to B, better than a bicycle or a Segway.
As long as gas prices remain low with people continuing to ignore the existence of the Leaf, they will continue to get less and less expensive. Since Trump says he wants to eliminate EPA regulations, the Leafs are probably going to depreciate even quicker.
On second thought, maybe you should wait. In a few months you could probably buy a used Leaf for the same price as a Dell laptop.