Author Topic: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.  (Read 1168 times)

Mrs Brightside

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Due to job changes, I need to start driving to work rather than taking public transportation. Up until now we (DINKs + dog) have gotten around with 1 small SUV. Hopefully will be a family of 3 in the not so distant future. The current vehicle gets us where we want to go (camping, winter hiking, kayaking, etc). For our second car, we had been considering a Subaru Outback. Outback would be a couple years old, probably $25k, and weíd drive it until it dies. On the other hand I am considering an older Leaf which could cost much less, low maintenance, and has great reliability. Either way I will be paying cash. My last car was a 90s Honda and I drove it for 15 years.  The thought also occurs to me that with ~9k rebate between federal/state/local incentives, buying a new EV might be a valid option too.

My commute is 25 miles each way (highway, heavy traffic) and my new workplace has free car charging (canít be 100% sure yet how much competition there is for those spaces). Otherwise I would charge in my garage (don't have & may need to install 220V)

Is it practical to do a 50 mile round trip in winter in a Leaf I can get for <10k (probably 2012-2014)?
If I want to buy a used Leaf, what should I be aware of?
Is it worth the bump up from ~7k to ~9k to get a 2014 rather than 2012?
Is it worth it to go to 2015 because of better battery chemistry and range?

I may go test drive one this weekend as Iíve never been in one. Ideally I wanted to try to get an OB2 dongle to really check the battery health with Leaf Spy app if I can get it in time. At a minimum Iíll see how many bars it has.

-How good should battery health be? Would you buy a car with 11/12 or 10/12 bars?
-Does the car need a DC fast charge port? So far my craigslist finds either have not had this or arenít clear. Would you consider that a dealbreaker?
-Speed of the on board charging (slower charger pre-2013)
-Probably need the heat pump in a cold/wet climate... Points to the 2012s being too old.

Just to zoom out a bit. Our income is ~250k/year and we max out our 401k/IRA each year and then some. During this crazy time we are luckily both still employed. Am I being penny wise and pound foolish to buy a much older car when Iím willing to drive it into the ground? I donít really want to deal with a lot of maintenance (like my old Honda was here and there) but thatís why the Leaf appealed because thereís not a lot there to go wrong. Then again, this quarantine work-from-home has me jonesing for FIRE. And that means spending less frivolous money. Right?

Thanks for any advice!

There are a lot of epic Leaf threads. Bat signal for Leaf owners I could see: @Nords @sol (RIP) @feelingrovy @HumanAfterAll @MasterStache @RelaxedGal (hey, we're probably neighbors RelaxedGal!) @wordnerd @rementis @Pebs @SpicyUnagi10 @forummm @zephyr911 @chubbybunny @Matt in Akron @myhotrs @chloe1733

AccidentialMustache

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2020, 09:59:02 PM »
You've clearly done your homework, but if somehow the Chevy Bolt as well as (oddly) the BMW i3 hadn't shown up, they're probably worth a look too. Both can be had used, only 2-3 years old for under 20 and should have more than enough range to make 50 miles comfortable in winter.

If your used leaf is only just comfortable in the winter now, in 5 years you may have an issue.

gooki

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2020, 02:58:29 AM »
I purchased a 2014 Leaf with ten bars. Very happy with it, great second car/commuter.

Iíd probably void the 2011/2012 models.

MasterStache

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2020, 05:54:43 AM »
I may not be much help to you OP as I don't have a regular commute. My 2014 Leaf still has 11 battery bars despite purchasing it 17 months ago, so I am super happy about that. I really don't drive it much these days.

I think your situation depends. If you can charge at work that certainly opens up more possibilities. I was driving roughly 20+ miles one way, mostly highway with rolling hills, to a job for about 1.5 months during the winter last year. No issues getting there and back with battery to spare. However, on really cold days when I had to use the heater, I would either charge to 100% before I left and/or charge at the person's house.

The new(er) models definitely wouldn't be a problem range wise. But of course you'll pay more. I've never needed a fast charger. An overnight charge has always filled the battery back up quite easily. Your situation has a lot of variables so you'll need to decide for yourself obviously.  I would also second looking into a Chevy Volt. We almost purchased a newer one for my spouse as her daily work commuter. The issue for us was space. We tend to take long road trips and may have 3 kids in tow. 
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 08:05:29 AM by MasterStache »

teltic

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2020, 02:01:46 PM »
While I don't have a leaf; I researched heavily into electric cars last summer.

For Nissan Leafs; I'd try to get one with "lizzard battery" chemistry. AKA 2014 or newer.  The 2011 - 2013 have HUGE battery degradation problems.

For me personally; I actually felt like 2018 model EVs are legit! Huge battery capacity upgrades across the board.  Tesla Model 3 (250 range), Chevy Bolt (238 mile range), Nissan Leafs (151 mile range)... All Leafs (leaves?) pre 2018 are less than 100 miles of range.

I couldn't persuade myself to buy a brand new used 2018 car last summer... So I went with a 2015 Chevy Volt (paid $12k). 

I get 40 mile range in the summer; and 30 mile range in the winter ( I live in SLC, Utah for reference).  The ~25% range reduction was a surprise to me.  So do note that when purchasing.

Level 3 charging is overrated IMO.  Charging to 80%in 30 minutes sounds nice... But it still sounds too inconvenient to wait that long on a day long errand trip.  I only charge using a 110v plug at home (I get about 1kw per hour. ~3-4 miles an hour of charging).


Budget choice = $5-$7k Nissan Leaf in 2014-2017 

https://cars.ksl.com/listing/6406405?ad_cid=1


Once you start looking at 1-3 year old cars... Its not hard to look at using $7500 rebates plus state/utility rebate to get a brand new one (sounds so weird, I know. Newer is cheaper than used?  Wahh?)

JLee

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2020, 02:42:44 PM »
I did not buy an older Leaf partially because I wasn't convinced I'd be able to do my 32mi round-trip commute plus errands on the way home. A lot of the older Leafs have had battery degradation to the point where they have 55-60 mile ranges in warm weather, and that was just too close to the edge for me.   I bought a 2017 Bolt with 238mi EPA range and it was showing ~160 mi of range in winter in NJ.

SweatingInAZ

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2020, 05:28:06 PM »
I still greatly enjoy the 2013 leaf that I bought in early 2017 for $8k. When I bought it, it was to be my family's only car. Since it was our only car, I held out to get one with DC fast charging, and the 6kW onboard charger. I am glad that I did for those days when multiple long trips were needed or if I was pulling around a trailer loaded up with craigslist building materials. 6kW was essential for us, DC charging was helpful a few times. If it was mostly a commuter car, 3.3kW would be sufficient.

It came with 10 or 11 bars, and I was comfortable taking it on a 70 mile round trip with conservative speed. Now it's down to 8 and I'm barely comfortable taking it on a 50 mile round trip.

A few months ago we bought a Prius for road trips and just use that for any trip over 50 miles. However, the Leaf is quieter, cheaper, and more enjoyable to drive. For 3 years it covered 98% of the driving needs for my wife and I. The only regular maintenance is tire rotations and wiper blades. No gas stations, either! One of the most awesome advantages of having an EV is that you charge at home and start each day with a full charge.

For advice:
If the charging at the office turns out to be reliable: find a backup charging spot, and get any Leaf you want.
If charging at the office is not reliable or you cannot find a backup, get an EV that can cover your whole commute with plenty of margin.

If you chose to stick with 120V charging at home, most people still recommend a dedicated outlet on its own circuit breaker. 240V is faster, and more efficient. I plugged the EVSE into my 240V dryer outlet for the first few months of ownership before I installed a 40A 240V circuit for it.

MasterStache

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2020, 05:48:59 PM »
I did not buy an older Leaf partially because I wasn't convinced I'd be able to do my 32mi round-trip commute plus errands on the way home. A lot of the older Leafs have had battery degradation to the point where they have 55-60 mile ranges in warm weather, and that was just too close to the edge for me.   I bought a 2017 Bolt with 238mi EPA range and it was showing ~160 mi of range in winter in NJ.
The battery degradation depends on so many factors. I thought for sure I would have dropped my 11th bar by now with about 45K miles and the car being 6 years old.  Range wise I've lost maybe a couple miles total. I've been super careful with charging, always kept the car in the garage, which never gets below freezing or super hot. I have to admit I really like the Bolts and wish I had a good excuse reason to get one. 

Nords

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2020, 11:05:41 PM »
The first thing Iíd do is join the MyNissanLeaf forum and read this guide from LeftieBiker.  I donít know anything about the guy but he wrote a good overview of the Leaf history.  Heís also comfortable with discussing options and alternatives.
https://mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=26662

Disclaimer:  My spouse and I bought used Leafs last year when our Priuses started to die.  Weíve had our 2015 Leaf since January 2019, and it had only one owner who regularly commuted 50 miles.  Weíve had our 2017 Leaf since July 2019, and it had two previous owners who abused/neglected it with commuting & pleasure mileage.  (Party-hauler car.  Idiot #2 owner.  Long story.)  It had higher mileage than our 2015 and had already dropped one bar in 2018.
Weíre retirees who drive each Leaf about 3000 miles annually.  Most of our drives are 40-50 miles between charges, although weíve occasionally gone up to 80-90 miles. 
Hawaii is the perfect climate and range for a Leaf.  (Iíve never used the heaters or defrosters.)  Ours spend most of their time in our garage.  We recharge them from our homeís solar panels (for free) and weíve installed a 240v system in our garage for our convenience.  We occasionally recharge our cars at a shopping center (L2) and rarely at the dealerís CHAdeMO DC charger.

Leafs do not have spare tires.  They come with a can of sealant and an electric air pump, which will (hopefully) get you to a shop for a new tire.  Youíll want to have a jack and jackstands at home for a tire which slowly leaks flat overnight.  (Letís not get into how I learned that.)  Some Leaf owners buy a fifth wheel/tire to stow in the back along with a jack.  A few owners make their own fancy plywood compartments that look like Nissan factory gear. 

You might also want a portable jumpstarter & tire inflator in your garage for weak 12v batteries or slow leaks.  We use an old Powerstation PSX3 monthly (for the tires) and every year or two (for a dead 12v battery surprise).

If youíre a surfer, I can carry a 10í0Ē longboard in the passenger compartment but (depending on the board) might have to remove the center fin.  Thule makes a great roof rack and Iíve hauled four longboards at once (with a fifth in the car).

On the other hand I am considering an older Leaf which could cost much less, low maintenance, and has great reliability.
The thought also occurs to me that with ~9k rebate between federal/state/local incentives, buying a new EV might be a valid option too.
Iíd check whether any of those rebates or incentives apply to ďnewĒ Leafs which are actually resold from the dealers after warranty returns or early-termination leases.  In Hawaii, rebates/incentives only apply for a new Leafís first registered owners.

State legislatures have recently realized that electric vehicles donít pay gasoline taxes.  Many states are considering surcharges on EV registrations, or shifting to a mileage-based registration fee.

Of course we owners of used Leafs still have the advantages of our local laws like free parking at meters, free parking at the Honolulu Airport (up to 30 days), and unlimited use of the HOV lanes.  But your savings there will depend on how often you use metered parking or airports.

My commute is 25 miles each way (highway, heavy traffic) and my new workplace has free car charging (canít be 100% sure yet how much competition there is for those spaces). Otherwise I would charge in my garage (don't have & may need to install 220V)
Youíll want to watch your workplaceís receptacles to see whoís using them every day, or what time of day youíd have your turn.  Iíve read of a number of employees whoíve used 100-foot extension cords through their office windows or the building lobby.  A few posters on that Nissan Leaf forum have mentioned ways to (legally?) tap into the wiring of lights in the parking lot or other power sources to add more 110v receptacles.

Charging at 110v from the Leafís provided Level 1 equipment is perfectly satisfactory, as long as you have the time for it.  A 24-Kw battery pack may not fully charge overnight if it was drained too deeply during the day and plugged in too late in the evening.  If you have power interruptions overnight then next morning you may discover that the car didnít resume charging after the power came back on.

Your city or electric utility might offer discounts on Level 2 EVSE kits.  We got a ďfreeĒ $600 240v Juicebox from Enel X as part of a three-year HECO pilot study:
https://evcharging.enelx.com/store/commercial/juicebox-pro-40-commercial
Of course we still had to pay for the 50-amp circuit breaker & receptacle installation.  There are also receptacle adaptor kits for electric dryer 240v receptacles but many of them do not conform to code.  It depends on the maximum current draw from your Leaf versus the ratings of the receptacle and the circuit breaker.

Is it practical to do a 50 mile round trip in winter in a Leaf I can get for <10k (probably 2012-2014)?
Iím probably disqualified to answer this question.  However Iíve read of a number of cold-weather Leaf owners who charge the battery to 100% and then pre-heat the Leaf (and maybe the seats) while itís still on the charging cord.

Is it worth the bump up from ~7k to ~9k to get a 2014 rather than 2012?
Is it worth it to go to 2015 because of better battery chemistry and range?
I think itís worth going with a 2015 over a 2014, and with a 2014 over anything older.  You might find an exceptionally distressed seller (or a car with cosmetic damage) but otherwise you have a strong risk of only getting the last few puffs off a cigar butt.  If you have reliable & available charging every 30 miles then you might not care how old the battery pack is.

That guide on the MyNissanLeaf forum will give you more perspective.

Ideally I wanted to try to get an OB2 dongle to really check the battery health with Leaf Spy app if I can get it in time. At a minimum Iíll see how many bars it has.
Check the forum to make sure your OBD-II reader is compatible with your smartphone/tablet.  For example LELink makes one of the few that works with an older iPhone:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0755N61PW/
I would not buy a used Leaf without getting a full LeafSpy readout.  It not only gives you a comparison to the bars display but also gives you an idea of how close you may be to losing the next bar. 

Of course LeafSpy also gives you a full code readout to show the seller, who may not have known that the car has issues.

The LeafSpy software is very handy for configuring the carís backing beeper, its pedestrian sound effects, and other tweaks.

-How good should battery health be? Would you buy a car with 11/12 or 10/12 bars?
Sure.  Our 2015 just dropped to 11 bars last week.  When we bought our 2017 with 11 bars (confirmed with LeafSpy), we checked with the dealer to make sure the battery-management software was updated/patched.  That carís battery just dropped to 10 bars last week but it still estimates 90-100 miles after a full charge. 

(Iím sure itís a coincidence that both cars dropped a bar during the same week... after sitting in our garage for a month during travel followed by seven more weeks of social isolation.  Even before COVID-19 we were only driving each car 2-3 times per week.)

The Leafís estimated mileage range depends on how it was driven before the last charge.  This tends to annoy the crap out of my spouse when Iíve driven her car, because the next battery charge after Iíve driven her car gives her a much higher estimated range which isnít realistic for her more aggressive driving style.

-Does the car need a DC fast charge port?
Only if youíre in a screaming hurry.  The DC charger heats up the battery quite a bit, and routine DC-powered charges have been shown to shorten the batteryís life.  LeafSpy will tell you how many times the car has been charged by L1/L2 or CHAdeMO.

The 110v charge is the gentlest way to charge the battery, provided you can leave it plugged in for the time it needs.  Overnight might not be enough time in some combinations of cold weather, a discharged battery, and plugging it in late in the evening before an early-morning departure.

-Speed of the on board charging (slower charger pre-2013)
-Probably need the heat pump in a cold/wet climate... Points to the 2012s being too old.
These are good reasons all by themselves to avoid anything before 2014, and the cars probably have plenty of other issues by then. 

Changing the coolant on a hybrid or an EV can be tricky.  It requires some skill & experience at suctioning out all of the old coolant and then venting all of the air bubbles from the new coolantís refill.  If the owner did their own or (even worse) has never had one done, then the inverter might have a shorter life due to inadequate cooling.  Youíd want to have that checked by a mechanic before you buy.

Iíd worry about high mileage (especially over 100K miles if the owner canít document a change of the coolant) and the age of auxiliary equipment like the ventilation blower or the air-conditioning compressor. 

Youíd still want to check a Leafís brake shoes and CV joint boots.  Cars with regenerative braking systems tend to have brake shoes last for over 100K miles.  We had that experience with our Prius brakes (including a teen driver) and we expect to have the same performance with our Leafs.  CV joint boots depend on the road surface and how many potholes theyíve been through. 

Between our solar panels and gasoline prices, as well as less maintenance/repairs, we expect our Leafs to pay for themselves before their main batteries die.

Mrs Brightside

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2020, 11:43:54 PM »
Wow, thanks to all for the helpful info. It looks like my dreams of a dirt cheap 2012ish Leaf were not really practical (at least if I want heat in the winter... yikes!). Appreciate the advice and link to MyNissanLeaf forum. Still considering the Leaf but will have to see how the prices shake out. I was hoping to find car dealers more eager to sell/bargain but it looks to me like they're biding their time until they can fully open.

evme

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2020, 11:57:24 PM »
Have you looked into the Chevy Volt (not Bolt)? It's a plug-in hybrid that can be used as an electric vehicle nearly 100% of the time, with ~40-50 miles electric range. The first gen (2011-2016) has a 14 kWh battery (10.5 kWh usable), after that the gas engine kicks in. I bought my 2014 Volt used for about $17k from Carmax but you can get them as low as $10-12k. Not as cheap as a Leaf, but pretty good considering they retailed for $35K+.

I obsessed over buying a Leaf for a couple years but never pulled the trigger due to the degradation of battery issues (and especially since I live in a very hot climate). The reason Leaf batteries degrade so quickly is that they are passively (air) cooled. The Volt batteries on the other hand are actively cooled for temperature regulation (greatly slows degradation). The Volt has been the perfect alternative for me -- no compromise on range since it has the backup gas engine but I use it 99% of the time in electric mode (but I can still use it for a longer day trip if needed -- it has 300+ mile range when combining electric + gas). I highly, highly recommend the Volt.

Pizzabrewer

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2020, 02:14:12 AM »
Wow, thanks to all for the helpful info. It looks like my dreams of a dirt cheap 2012ish Leaf were not really practical (at least if I want heat in the winter... yikes!). Appreciate the advice and link to MyNissanLeaf forum. Still considering the Leaf but will have to see how the prices shake out. I was hoping to find car dealers more eager to sell/bargain but it looks to me like they're biding their time until they can fully open.

Iíve been super-happy with my 11-bar 2012 Leaf SV I bought in December for $5400. I would have no problem with a 25 mile commute if you can get an hour or two of L2 charging at work.

I trickle charge at home overnight, I donít see the need to install L2.

My wife named it Lulu, itís the first car we ever named. Lulu hasnít given us any problems and the heater works fine. The heated seats and steering wheel are a nice touch.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 02:16:55 AM by Pizzabrewer »

Greystache

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Re: Car advice - Should I buy a Nissan Leaf? If so, tell me more.
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2020, 09:05:06 AM »
If the primary use of the car is commuting with on or two adults on board, there are some other cars you might want to consider. The FIAT 500e has similar range and they can be had wit low miles for under $8K. They are available on the west coast but may be hard to find elsewhere. Don't be too afraid of FIAT reliability, the battery and motor are made by Bosch.  It only has three doors and the back seat is a joke.  The other car to consider is a Chevy Spark EV. It is a subcompact 5 door. It has similar range as the older Leafs and can usually be had for less money than Leafs of similar age and mileage.