Should You Buy A Used Nissan Leaf?

Nissan’s all-electric Leaf has been a darling of the electrified car movement since its debut in late 2010 as a 2011 model. It not only became the best-selling electric vehicle in America for several years after its Dec. 2010 release, it has sold more cumulatively around the globe than any other EV to date.

As good as a new Leaf is, used Leaf prices are even better, in fact, incredibly better. There are thousands of used Leafs for sale priced from $5,000 for a base 2011 model to $8,000 for a 2014 edition. There are even two year-old Leafs available for $10,000.

If it fits your needs and you are looking for something really cheap to get you reliably from point A to point B, it’s difficult to find a better deal than an inexpensive used Leaf.

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve gathered information that you will need to know to purcase a used Leaf, as well as scouring the Internet to check used Leaf pricing across the U.S.

Why Has The Leaf Depreciated In Value So Much?

First, few original Leaf buyers, whether a private individual or leasing company, didn’t pay the full sticker price because of a federal income tax credit of $7,500, reducing the price of a base model to around $23,000. When that effective price is used, the depreciation doesn’t look all that bad.

Additionally, some states offered their own incentives that further reduced the purchase price.

On top of the federal and state incentives, many Leaf owners purchased the car with some kind of Nissan incentive, like a $199 per month lease, or a very large cash back offer. Dealers also offered their own promos and discounting in case. These lowered the price even more.

And finally, original three year leases have come to, or are coming to, an end, resulting in further downward pressure on used Leaf prices.

Taken all together, these factors add up to more pre-owned Leafs than there are buyers for them. That equates to ridiculously low used Leaf prices.

Buy A New 2017 Leaf For $13,000?

You might really want a Leaf, but even with the low ball prices, buying a previously owned Leaf is not your fancy. So, how about a brand new 2017 model for $13,000?

Depending where you live or work, that price is possible.

Many Leaf buyers are holding off their purchase until the all-new model speculated to be unveiled in September with an anticipated 200 miles give or take driving range. That means that inventories of 2016 and 2017 models are stacking up and Nissan needs to move them.

To facilitate that, the automaker is making discount deals with energy companies for their employees or customers, or both.

The best deal we uncovered adds up to a $17,500 incentive after adding the federal tax credit for employees of NextEra Energy in Florida. With a base sticker price of $30,680, that would reduce the price of a 2017 Leaf to just $13,180.

A wider reaching deal was made with Duke Energy. It’s the same incentive, but is offered to the energy company’s customers who live in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.

These aren’t the only Leaf deals made by companies with Nissan, so ask your local Nissan dealer if there are incentive programs available.

Buying A Used Leaf, What You Need to Know

Buying any used car can be difficult enough, but with an electric Leaf there’s even more to bear in mind, such as the battery’s condition, driving range and battery charging options.

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But before you hit the computer keyboard to search for used Leafs, there are some questions you have to ask yourself to determine if a used Leaf is right for you.

A big issue is the ability to charge the car’s battery; if you don’t have a garage or available parking space that has an accessible electric outlet, then a used Leaf, or any EV, is pretty much out of the question.

What kind of driving will you do? If you travel a lot of highway miles, then the Leaf is a no-go because a fully charged battery will lose its charge faster at highway speeds than the estimated range indicates.

If short urban trips take up most of your driving, then the used Leaf is ideal because stop-stop-start traffic will help limit battery depletion.

Leaf model years, originally EPA estimated with 73 miles range – 2011 to 2102 are available in two trim levels: SV (mid-level) and SL (high level). The S trim (base level), was added in 2013. Standard features for each trim level vary across model years so you need to know what came standard with the different trim levels along with the different options and packages.

Also, beginning in mid-2013 Nissan upgraded to the battery known as the “lizard” battery that was more heat tolerant that would not degrade in hot climates. Models with this 24-kWH battery also are rated for an effective 84 miles. We say “effective because an EPA rule in 2013 caused the rating to be 75 miles, but that was with a 90-percent charge. At 100 percent it’s the same 84. In 2016 Nissan also introduced a 30-kWh battery with 107 miles range.

That said, Leaf batteries, not being liquid cooled due to a cost-saving measure by Nissan, tend to slowly lose range from the moment you buy one.

Battery:Thus a major concern will be the battery life of a used Leaf. Like a cell phone or tablet, the car’s lithium-ion battery pack will degrade over time and usage, lowering the driving range. For that reason, purchasing a 2014 or newer model would be a better choice.

The first thing you want to check on a used Leaf is battery degradation. This can be determined by looking at the “capacity bars” on the far right of the instrument cluster. A new battery will show 12 bars, while a highly degraded battery will show nine or 10 bars.

A used Leaf may show 12 battery bars, but this does not indicate true capacity of the battery. The first bar will be lost at 85 percent of original capacity, so a used vehicle with 87 percent of original capacity will still show 12 bars.

If you are considering buying from an individual, used car dealer or a non-Nissan new car dealer, insist on seeing a current battery-capacity test from a Nissan dealer.

Battery Warranty: All electric-car batteries are warranted against total failure for either 8 years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles, depending on what state you live in.

Nissan revised their battery warranty in 2013 that protects Leaf owners against battery-capacity loss during the car’s first five years or 60,000 miles.

If the battery capacity gauge falls below nine bars (from 12) during that period, Nissan will repair or replace the battery under warranty with a new or remanufactured unit, “to restore capacity at or above a minimum of nine bars.”

Battery Charging: All Leaf models have a charging cable with a standard three-pin plug available, so you can simply plug the car into a standard 120-volt AC wall outlet (Level 1). But this is the slowest way of charging a Leaf — up to 21 hours.

Level two charging, 240-volt AC, can reduce the time to around seven hours. Home Level 2 charging units are available from a variety of manufacturers that can be found on line.

Level three fast charging, usually 62.5 kW of high-voltage direct current, allows an 80-percent recharge in around 30 minutes. The number of fast charging stations are growing and you can find stations in your area at the PlugShare website. The fast charger is also available for home charging.

Onboard Chargers: Early Leafs were equipped with a 3.3 kilowatt onboard chargers. These are slower than the 6.6-kW fitted to most, but not all, 2013 models. All Leaf models from 2014 to present have 6.6-kW onboard chargers.

DC Fast Charging Port: To take advantage of Level three fast charging, a DC fast charging port is needed. The 2011 and 2012 models either didn’t have one or it was an option. Beginning in 2013, these ports were either optional or standard depending on trim level. The DC port is rarely included in the feature list of used Leafs, so open the charge port door to see if there are two different charging connectors; the DC fast charger is on the left.

Heat Pump: In 2013, Nissan offered standard with the SV and SL trims a heat pump (Hybrid Heater System) — a far more efficient and effective heater than prior years.

Pricing: As with any used vehicle, prices for a pre-owned Leaf will vary depending on whether it’s being sold privately or by a dealer, as well as its age, mileage, and battery condition.

In general, prices for cars bought from individuals will be lower than those from dealerships.

To compare prices, you can sort through used Leaf listings on Ebay, Carfax, Autotrader and others auto web sites as we did.

Nissan Certified Used Leaf Is A Good Option

For those who don’t want the time and hassles involved with shopping for a used Leaf, Nissan’s Certified Used program adds a measure of reassurance with a car that has been checked by dealer technicians to ensure it meets strict guidelines from the Nissan.

These will be the crème de la crème of used Leafs, and as such will have a price tag that is around $2,000 more than a comparable non-certified Leaf.

To qualify for certification, a used Leaf must be less than five years old, have fewer than 60,000 miles, have at least nine of 12 bars of battery capacity remaining on the gauge and have a clean Carfax vehicle-history report.

The car then must pass a comprehensive inspection by a trained Nissan technician in which 167 separate items are checked.

Nissan Leaf cars already have two warranties on the battery pack. The certified program adds a factory extended warranty of 7 years or 100,000 miles on both the electric system and the powertrain.

Additional benefits include: three free months of SiriusXM satellite radio, 24-hour emergency roadside assistance, reimbursement for car rentals, and trip-interruption coverage.

Is A Used Leaf A Good Deal For You?

In addition to being locally emissions free and running on electricity is still usually cheaper than gas, a used electric Leaf requires very little powertrain maintenance. There are no transmission, no belts or timing chains, no oil changes, no spark plugs and no muffler.

Maintenance for a Leaf largely consists of tires, brakes (they last a long time), wiper blades, cabin air filter and a motor coolant check.

If that’s appealing and you’ve learned that driving “range anxiety” really isn’t an issue for you, now is a very good time to search for a really cheap used Nissan Leaf.

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