I Bought A USED Nissan Leaf And I’m Not Sure I Like It…Should I Return It?

It's cheap as you can imagine to run, but for a car enthusiast...eh...

This is my 2016 Nissan Leaf. Note the terrible hubcaps. (Images: TFLcar)

You would be surprised how inexpensive owning and driving a used 2016 Nissan Leaf is.

Let’s cut to the chase, I never wanted to buy the 2016 Nissan Leaf – but it made a ton of sense. My goal has been, and it continues to be, get a midsize or full-size pickup truck that I can customize for my own needs. Yep, that’s still the plan – eventually.

Unfortunately, life gets in the way and I had to make a decision: my teen is now driving and I’m saving up for her future, among other things. Before I begin to build my dream truck – I need a way to get back and forth to work for the next 18-months to two-years as inexpensively as possible. Just basic, simple transportation that will serve as a no-frills commuter for a while.

After researching this for about a year, I came to a conclusion: a used Nissan Leaf may be the way to go.

Here’s the good and bad:

  • I’m light on dough: My budget is $10,000 and this used Nissan Leaf with the 30-kWh battery was $9,500 with 40,000 miles on it. I also spent about $350 on a Level 2 charger to plug into my dryer (Nema 10-30) outlet.
  • Cheap and reliable: I need a reliable car that’s cheap to run and with so few moving parts, the Leaf has a lot going for it. They are safe, very inexpensive to service and cheap to run. At 13 to 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs be just a few bucks to run an over 90 mile round trip from my house to the TFL Studios in Boulder, CO. My beloved 2008 Nissan Pathfinder does the run averaging just over 17 mpg. That’s about $14 each day. Just commuting, my monthly gas consumption hovers between $225 and $315 per month. I expect my EV to cost about a quarter that – or less.
  • Battery degradation and range: Yep, that is a concern. When new, my used Nissan Leaf with the large battery option had a range of up to 107 miles. My model shows a 90 mile range that drops quickly on the road. I estimate it’s more like 80 miles on a good day. That’s fine, as long as I can charge at work (we have a Level-2 charger) it’s still very doable. With that being said, Nissan does offer a 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery if it malfunctions or if degradation is too severe.
2016 nissan leaf

Here’s what Nissan had to say about my model Nissan Leaf when it first came out:

“The advanced lithium-ion battery pack carries an industry-competitive limited warranty**** of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Under the New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty, Nissan will protect against battery capacity loss below nine bars of capacity as shown on the vehicle’s battery capacity level gauge for the first eight years or 100,000 miles for the 30 kWh battery and for the first five years or 60,000 miles, for the 24 kWh battery.”

2017 nissan leaf recharging at ChargePoint station
Recharging at ChargePoint station in NASA Ames Research Center next to Moffett NAS Mountain View, CA
  • More on degradation: It appears that this model’s 30kWh battery had a defect where the range wasn’t accurately shown. According to many owners, the range dropped rapidly in a short amount of time. Nissan offered a fix that recalibrated the range to more accurately reflect what the battery is capable of. In some cases, this mitigated the effects of the battery degradation. It’s still an issue, and the more modern Nissan EV products have more advanced components that should be less troublesome.
  • Offsetting the cost (and pollution) caused by manufacturing: I don’t care that much about the pros and cons of manufacturing EVs. Honestly. I know that mining for lithium, nickel-metal and other substances is wasteful. Building EVs takes a ton of resources as well. More than your average automobile. Still, the payoff comes quick in areas using a lot of renewables. Colorado has an energy grid that uses 25-percent renewables, that’s impressive and it pays off for “green” supporters rapidly. The waste caused by building a new EV is compensated rapidly in this type of environment. Still, if you live where coal produces a vast majority of your electricity, compensating the environmental loss will take longer. In time, it will happen and that’s what’s important for some. Being that this is a used EV – I’m already ahead of the game. AND it’s cheap as hell to run.
2017 Nissan Leaf EV interior
This is a 2017 Nissan Leaf with a nicer interior, because I’m poor. Image: Nissan
  • Projected maintenance: This year, I spent about $1,750 on general maintenance on my 2008 Nissan Pathfinder. If I didn’t have a warranty and a service plan, I would have paid about $950 on my Mini Countryman. Other than replacing the terrible speakers and rotating the tires, I do not expect to pay a dime on maintenance this year on my 2016 Nissan Leaf. Remember: there is no engine to service, no transmission or major fluids to flush. From what I’ve seen, most Leaf owners service the brakes, tires and occasional electric glitch.
  • No fun: With all of that being said, i can honestly say that this Nissan Leaf is no fun to drive. Sure, a hot looking hippy may toss a peace sign my way, and I know this vehicle is less pretentious than a Tesla – but it’s not very rewarding behind the wheel. So far, I’ve noted its mellow ride, outstanding brakes and easy to park/maneuver abilities. For my teen, she’s loving the ease of driving the Leaf – especially over driving a large SUV. For me? Not so much. Honestly, I waned a zippy, longer range Chevrolet Bolt – but it was out of my price range.

Over the next several months, I will post some updates about the pros and cons of owing this used Nissan Leaf. Meanwhile, enjoy this video where I talk about the buying process too!