March 10, 2016

You Should Probably Buy a Used Nissan Leaf

I'm not trying to tell you what to do but, you should probably buy a used Nissan Leaf for your next car.

If you need a pickup truck for work or commute over 80 miles a day and your job lacks electric chargers then you can skip this article.

At least if you want a cheap vehicle.   Leafs are cheap to operate due to the electric drive train.   Its significantly cheaper to charge the battery in a Leaf than it is to fill a gastank full.   A Leaf is going to cost you around 2¢ per mile in electricity and a decent 30MPG car is going to run ~7¢ for $2 gas.   Leafs also benefit from a fat tax credit.   Lastly the Leaf will have low repair and maintenance costs compared to normal gas engine cars ( no oil changes, fewer moving engine parts things to break).

Edmunds has a True Cost to Own metric that figures the total cost to own a car for 5 years.   Below I compared several select, relatively economical and inexpensive car 2013 models.  

A selection of 2013 model year cars is below with the TCO, cash price and the ratio of TCO/price.

TCO cash price ratio
Buick  Verano $29,557 $12,039 2.5
Chevy Cruze Eco $26,434 $10,536 2.5
Chrysler 200 Touring $28,388 $10,870 2.6
Dodge Dart $27,512 $12,449 2.2
Ford Fiesta S $23,066 $7,345 3.1
Honda Fit $25,119 $12,442 2.0
Honda  Civic coupe ex $25,912 $13,789 1.9
Hyundai Accent GLS $24,510 $9,432 2.6
Mazda 3 $25,630 $12,084 2.1
MINI Cooper $29,959 $12,447 2.4
Nissan Leaf $19,652 $9,991 2.0
smart fourtwo $22,862 $5,320 4.3
Suburu Impreza 2.0i $27,664 $13,885 2.0
Toyota Prius 2 $24,887 $15,212 1.6
Toyota Corolla $25,174 $11,300 2.2
VW  Beetle TDI $27,785 $11,538 2.4

The Leaf comes as the cheapest car to own and operate.    I picked the 2013 model year pretty arbitrarily but you could also compare 2012 or 2011.

Some people worry about the battery life in a Leaf but they come with a 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty for the 2013 model year.    If you buy a 3 year old car and operate it 5 years you're likely to have warranty coverage for the battery the entire time.   And theres really zero reason to think the battery will fail shortly after the warranty expires any more than we'd expect a gasoline engine to explode a day after its warranty ends.

Financially a Leaf is a good choice.  



  1. To be clear, a used Leaf has already benefited from the fat tax credit. The original owner collected that credit and that's what has pushed the used price down so low. I agree though, it's a steal. It's roughly the same price as similar gasoline cars, but cheaper to operate (in most US regions) and to maintain.

  2. I'd say that you should never take an article for face value. Get out there and test drive the car before you make your decision. Not every car is worth buying just because it's cheaper than the rest!

  3. Webb Rowan,

    Oh yes for sure. Everyone should test drive every and any car they drive. I kinda take that for granted. Are there people who buy cars without even a test drive??



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