If you are shopping around for the best deal for a used electric car, I think that you should consider getting a Nissan Leaf. The depreciation level is high on this car. You may be wondering exactly why this is true. Depending on the real reasons, it might not be a good idea. Nevertheless, having the ability to pay seventy percent less on an electric car that does not use gas is intriguing.
Why are used Nissan Leafs so cheap? A used Nissan Leaf is cheap to buy because of the boring design, and battery cost has caused it to have a high depreciation rate compared to other electric cars. The battery that is in an older Nissan Leaf tends to degrade faster than the current batteries and people are shying away from the used Leafs. Nevertheless, the replacement cost for a new battery is much lower than it used to be.
The battery in a used Leaf seems to have a shorter lifespan than the battery made used with current technology. The tech at around 2011-2012 was not advanced enough to deal with cold temperatures. It is likely that they did not conduct thorough cold climate testing before releasing these models. Nevertheless, dealers were still making a killing leasing the models of that time period.
The reason that the lease costs were down for Nissan Leaf is that there was a lot of stock of Nissan Leafs and also there were tax incentives. The dealers were purchasing the Leafs in large numbers because they were benefiting from the government incentives. Therefore, they were able to offer the Leafs at a lower lease rate compared to other vehicles.
However, once the leases were up, people were more aware of the battery problems and they were not willing to renew their leases or to purchase the Leafs that they had leased. The supply of Nissan Leafs was suddenly growing quickly and the demand was lower which meant that the pricing had to reduce in to sell the used Leafs.
Besides the reduction in used Leafs prices due to the ending of leases, the range of these older Leafs was quite low. It was a novelty and interesting to have an electric car that could travel a relatively far distance without needing to filled with expensive and environmentally harmful gas.
The range of an older Nissan Leaf was around 85 miles. This range is ok if you were to drive within the confines of a city, but longer distances was sketchy at that time. The number of charging stations was extremely limited. You really needed to plan your trips well to ensure that you could make it to the next charging station.
Now that you are aware of the lower range and that the battery was not as hardy as present batteries, is it really worth it to buy a used Nissan Leaf?
Is it Worth Buying a Used Nissan Leaf?
I still feel that buying a used Nissan Leaf is a good plan financially. However, I would advise against buying 2012 or older models. There is a huge difference for many reasons:
- The range is low at around 85 miles for the 2011 and older model of Leaf. You would be fine within city limits, but the newer models are able to travel twice as far on a charge. Models such as the 2014 still have a reasonable price due to the depreciation. They have more travel range and systems inside the vehicle are set-up to consume less electricity.
- The older models of Nissan used a coil system to hear the interior of the car. The coils worked in a way that is similar to toaster coils, they were very old school. Newer models. Starting in the year 2013, the Leafs had water pumps that were used to hear the interiors. This system used only a fraction of electricity when compared to the coil system.
- Regarding the speed of charging, the older 2011 models could be charged within 18 hours. You could use the laundry dryer as an outlet to speed up the process, but it did not charge much faster.
- Staring with the 2013 model, charging was a lot faster. the onboard charger was at 6.6-kW, allowing the owner to charge the car in less than fours if they were to use a 220v outlet to do so.
- In 2014, the Leafs were able to charge more fully the battery. This was due to a change in the software code, but still, it makes the newer models more attractive.
- It is best to compare the battery weight when deciding on a Nissan Leaf to buy used. If the battery is extra heavy, it will affect the lifespan of the tires. I have read that many owners of older Leafs complained that the tires wore out too fast. It seems as if the tires were affected by the heavy weight of the battery. Also, Nissan suggests a lower pressure level for the tires than normal. They may have realized that lower pressure meant that the tires would deal with less road friction that seems to cause the vehicle to require less electricity.
- The lifespan of the battery pack is another important factor to consider for a used Leaf purchase. Have the battery tested to see if it has any dead cells. If there are not too many, perhaps you can have just the dead cells replaced. Replacing dead cells is a lot cheaper than replacing the battery pack outright.
Based on the above issues, can one still conclude that a Nissan Leaf is reliable as a used car?
Is Nissan Leaf a Reliable Car?
When one compares a used Nissan Leaf to many other used gas cars, I feel that the Leaf is more reliable. Of course, all cars will have their problems. The number of problems will increase over time, even with electric cars. Nevertheless, because of the low number of moving parts in a Nissan Leaf, the problematic areas are few.
One component that is costly in the average car is the transmission. The Leaf does not have a transmission. A transmission is required in order to use different gears. The Leaf only has one gear that is called a reduction gear.
I have read in forums that some people have needed to replace this reduction gear. It is expensive, over $2500, but it if there are any problems with it, they seem to appear before the warranty excludes the gear. This problem seemed to occur with mostly the 2012 and before models, so if you were to buy a newer model, you may have to deal with replacing this component.
Besides the gear mechanism, is there another large component that needs to be reliable? Of course, the battery pack is crucial and it can be costly to replace.
Replacing the battery pack was happening with the older model, pre-2013 models. Later models seemed to fair well over the life of the Leafs. The older battery pack was not as well designed and some of the cells seemed to degrade quite readily. It is ok to replace a few cells, but the battery may never reach its previously high recharge level if numerous replacements of cells happen. Also, I have read that the warranty for the earlier batteries was restrictive and there were cases where the warranty would not cover high damages.
Here is a video highlighting the replacement of the battery pack in a Nissan Leaf Model 2012:
Another feature that seems to be reliable for Leafs is the life of the tires. Since the center of gravity is low in a leaf due to the weight of the battery and the structure, the tires in the front do not lean over as much as with some other cars while in a turn. The tires tend to wear less on the sides allowing fuller contact to made to the road. This stickiness of the tires allows them to last longer and it is great for the use of electricity. If there is less contact with tires to the road, more electricity or power is needed.
Yet another reliability concern might be the 12v battery that is there to power the accessories. They are not terribly reliable in a Nissan Leaf because they’re not connected to an alternator. I have read that several people had to charge the 12v battery several times over the life of their Leafs. Nevertheless, the use of a trickle charger will ensure that they have enough of a charge to deliver power.
Although I have outlined that many models of the Nissan Leaf are reliable, which year should you focus on when you are in the market to buy a used model?
What year is the best year for a Nissan Leaf?
I feel that the best year to look for a Nissan is actually 2013. There have not been a lot of changes up until 2018. Why not save your money by getting an older model that has depreciated greatly. I would assume that you will need to replace the battery pack since that is crucial to have to extend the life of your used Nissan Leaf.
This model will not need a lot of servicing. I have read online that someone had paid just $135 over numerous years of owning this model. The fact that 2013 seems old is OK since there are not a lot of moving parts in an electric car.
Even though it can only travel 85 miles on a charge, you will be able to charge it fully in 30 minutes on a fast charger.