Author Topic: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf  (Read 630 times)

Nords

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The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« on: December 15, 2018, 03:42:03 PM »
Iíd like to read about your experiences with a Nissan Leaf, or any other electric vehicle besides Teslas.

If youíre a Leaf owner, what problems or surprises have you encountered?  If you were selling it (or buying another one) then what questions would you ask?

Our 2006 Prius is starting to rack up the repair bills. *  Our 2005 Prius is still running fine (for now) and we have plenty of time to buy a second car.  With cash.

Our typical drives on Oahu are well within 40 miles, and once or twice a month we might make a 60-mile round trip.  Recharging from our photovoltaic array would save us a few hundred dollars per year on gas, but I'm really attracted to the idea of not having to maintain an internal combustion engine.

Iíve looked at Teslas in the past (Oahu is big on Teslas) but Iím not mature or responsible enough to take care of one.  (Iím also not interested in rolling up to surfing beaches in a Tesla with a roof rack and a longboard on top.)  Iím going to table this option for now and take another look in a few years.

Weíve bought used cars since the 1990s and Iím comfortable with that process.  (We try to avoid dealerships but will use one if we must.)  Iíve read up on Leafs in various forums and I understand the engineering issues.  We have a OBD-II code reader & app for checking a Leafís health.  Weíll shop our usual used-car sources out here.

From what Iíve read so far, weíre looking at a model year 2015 or newer.  Iíve also read some concerns about the main (traction) batteries in the 2018 models.

Anything else I'm missing?


* (For you Prius owners:
- The circuit card for our dashboard display (the "combination meter") is dying.  The car can be driven without it but the lack of a speedometer would fail the annual safety inspection.
- A damper in the ventilation system keeps sticking partway, and the stepper motor complains a lot about trying to move it.
- Those two repairs require tearing apart the entire dashboard.  It's straightforward but fraught with brittle plastic parts, and service techs charge $1100 just for the labor. 
- The multi-function display is still all right but it's getting dimmer. 
- We should replace all the tires.
- The brake pads probably have a few years left.  We only drive a few thousand miles per year, and the car only has 105K on it.)
- The car's 12v battery is due for replacement.
- The car's traction (main) battery was replaced four years ago-- cell failure-- and it's doing fine.

sol

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2018, 04:02:26 PM »
We've had our (2012) Leaf for a few years now.  No real problems to report, though.  It just works.

The range definitely drops a bit in the winter when the batteries are colder.  It's not enough of a difference to matter to us, because we don't typically charge it to 100% anyway so we always have the option of a full charge if we anticipate needing more miles.  We get about 55 miles on an 80% charge in the winter, and about 70 miles in the summer, on a six year old battery using the old battery chemistry.  Which is more than enough for us, as I rarely run it down to single digits of listed miles remaining.  edit:  we often drive more miles than that, by driving it in the morning and then charging it for a few hours and then driving it again in the afternoon.

So far, nothing has broken.  I need to rotate the tires, and other than that the only maintenance we've done in 30k miles is replacing the wiper blades once, and sometimes adding air to the tires when we wash it.

It's an easy car to drive.  It's nimble and responsive on the road, and the controls make sense to me.  All of the doodads like bluetooth and heated steering wheel still work just fine.  We charge in our garage every night.  The upholstery is easy to clean.  I love it.

Because they are mechanically simpler cars, I think it's less important to ask about all of those little surprises that sometime plague other vehicles.  No one has monkeyed with the carbs because it doesn't have any.  I can guarantee that it's never blown a head gasket and had to be remachined, because it doesn't have one.  The clutch plates can't have been abused by a teenager, because it doesn't have any.  It's more like buying a cell phone; if it looks good and performs as expected for the first two minutes, I think you're unlikely to find problems under the hood later on.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2018, 07:52:20 PM by sol »

Telecaster

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2018, 07:21:27 PM »
I bought a used Leaf (2013) in part because of Sol's experience.  It was dirt cheap.  Something like $8400 total out the door, tax, license, etc.   Prices seem to have rebounded since then, at least the last time I looked.   The scoop is that many (most?) new Leafs are leased.  When they come off their leases, the dealer just dump them.   So there seems to be a sweet spot for three year old cars. 

It is a great car.  Very smooth and quiet.   I haven't had any issues at all. 

RelaxedGal

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2018, 01:45:28 PM »
Nords, I agree with you that 2015 and newer is the way to go.  The battery chemistry was improved.

I just replaced my 2012 with a 2019.  I bought the 2012 in February 2015 (certified pre-owned, 36,000 miles) and put 36,000 miles on it.  I'm in New England near Boston, MA and my commute is 35 miles round-trip.  I think charging to 100% all winter (November through March) and discharging to "low battery warning" once or twice/month was tough on the battery.  The car lost one capacity bar/year, she was down to only 8 bars (66% of original capacity) when I traded it in.

I have faith that the newer battery, as well as the longer original range of the 2015, would do good things for you.

On the maintenance side, the manual said to replace the brake fluid annually which seems like a money maker for dealerships.   Like I said, I live in the snowy northeast with salty roads in winter.  at the 2 year mark or so I had the dealer do that fluid replacement.  Everything had rusted into place, and there were grooves in the brake pads/rotors.  Out the door I spent nearly $1,000 for all of the work (there was something in addition to the brakes that I  am forgetting now).  Also: my preferred smaller shop refused to touch the brakes.  Hopefully hybrids and electric cars are common enough in your area that you won't have that problem.

The death knell for my 2012 was a squeaky sound when going over speed bumps.  Loose lower ball joints.  According to a coworker that is common on Nissans?  Anyways, since both of the whole lower control arms need to be replaced the dealer estimated $1040 including an alignment.  My smaller shop quoted $900.

May none of those happen to you, but I wanted to toss those anecdotes out there.  "If you cannot be a good example, at least be a warning to others."

dandarc

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2018, 01:48:16 PM »
There's a 2011 for sale for $4400 near me. But we really don't need a 2nd car the way we're set up right now - would be a pure convenience purchase. Still, very tempting.

PathtoFIRE

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2018, 02:12:25 PM »
I really like my Leaf, and would recommend.

Problems to date:
- front tires wear very fast, even when I try not to gun it and always leave in Eco mode which dampens acceleration
- bought mine new, and had the 12v battery go bad right at 2 years (car would randomly not start, but when the 12v was disconnected and then reconnected it would work, so more of a nuisance until I could take it in and they diagnosed the problem)
- this winter and last winter I have a check engine light that comes on; last winter I left it at Nissan for several days and eventually they said the main engineering department reported that there is no real problem connected to the error code it was giving, and they told me just to ignore and eventually it went away, only to reappear this winter; it's annoying because it will make it hard to sell/trade-in anywhere else, not that I plan to in the short term
- battery and range gauges are not real accurate; for the first two years, it would always show 100+ mile range after full charge, but suddenly I now see nothing above 90 miles; seemed to coincide with resets performed at the dealership; yet my battery still shows the full 12 dashes, which the internet tells me means I must still be at 85%+ battery capacity; I obviously knew the battery would degrade, but it's just annoying that it is _always_ overestimating distance and charge

Nords

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2018, 10:53:55 PM »
Thanks, everyone, this is good info and a big help.

Our Prius has heard us talking about getting rid of it, so it's been on its best behavior.  The dashboard has worked every time we've turned it on over the last 10 days, and it passed its annual safety inspection yesterday.  At this point we'll probably shop around with a plan to buy in January or February.  Perhaps the 2016 models will also be going off lease by then.

We need 1.05 cars as an empty-nester couple, but it's convenient to have that second car if one of them breaks down.  (It's also nice to have it for the use of houseguests.)  It costs us about $850/year for registration & insurance per vehicle, and that's before burning gas.  It's getting to the point where our second car could be an Uber... but not just yet.

We're leaning toward making our other Prius (from 2005) the beach & chores car and only using a Leaf for other entertainment & errands.  The Leaf would only see about 3000 miles/year under those conditions.  The tropical climate is pretty easy on the battery range, and we only drive over the Ko'olau once or twice a month.

I've read about problems with the brake fluid, and we'll keep an eye on that.  Squeaky ball joints... well... we've been living with those for a couple years.  We're also going to use the LeafSpy app with an OBD-II reader just to make sure there's nothing weird going on in the main (traction) battery.

turketron

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #7 on: Today at 08:45:27 AM »
I came across this post on JL Collins' blog a few weeks back with some good discussion about Leafs: https://jlcollinsnh.com/2018/11/22/car-talk-an-update-on-steve-and-looking-at-leafs/

Although I expect to get (ideally) a few more years out of my current car (99 accord that I put about 2500 miles/year on) I'm now eyeing a Leaf when it dies. Even with the (comparatively) lower range of the older models, we'd then be able to use the Leaf for probably 90% of our city commuting/errands/etc, and only use our other car (2013 Forester, so still getting decent fuel efficiency) for road trips or times where we both need a car and biking isn't an option.

One other thing I came across worth mentioning- it's worth checking with your local utility company to see if they offer any deals on installation of a 240v outlet + charger.

A coworker just priced a few quotes from electricians and it was going to be upwards of $1200 for installation, plus another $500 to buy the charger itself.  In comparison, our utility company runs a program where they will come out, install the system and maintain it, and include the actual charger, for $20/month (along with the cost of electricity). There's a 5 year commitment -- after that, you are done paying, and they'll sell you the charger for $10.


Telecaster

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #8 on: Today at 10:37:05 AM »
A coworker just priced a few quotes from electricians and it was going to be upwards of $1200 for installation, plus another $500 to buy the charger itself.  In comparison, our utility company runs a program where they will come out, install the system and maintain it, and include the actual charger, for $20/month (along with the cost of electricity). There's a 5 year commitment -- after that, you are done paying, and they'll sell you the charger for $10.

That's a great deal!  However, you don't strictly need an electrician.   You have to run the wiring (in conduit) from the box to the charger.   That part is pretty DIY.  Then you have to hook the wiring to the box.   That part is DIY if you are handy, but if not an electrician can do it.   

I installed a Level II charger recently. Juicebox, FWIW.  Pretty slick, I like it a lot.   

turketron

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Re: The leisurely search for a (used) Nissan Leaf
« Reply #9 on: Today at 11:31:16 AM »
That's a great deal!  However, you don't strictly need an electrician.   You have to run the wiring (in conduit) from the box to the charger.   That part is pretty DIY.  Then you have to hook the wiring to the box.   That part is DIY if you are handy, but if not an electrician can do it.   

I installed a Level II charger recently. Juicebox, FWIW.  Pretty slick, I like it a lot.

Right, it probably wouldn't be worth it if you could get the installation done for cheap. In this case, the coworker is decidedly _not_ handy and apparently had some funky stuff going on with their garage and/or electrical system (she didn't go into detail) that made the estimates on the higher side. In this case, it made sense for her.