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The Road To Buying An All Electric Nissan Leaf

I split up with my 2001 Subaru Forester. Perhaps I should say it split up with me. At the mature end of its life with 106,000 miles under its belt(s), its “weak” head gasket caused the heater core to crack. Without a major overhaul, I would soon end up with a lapful of hot glycol and no ride home.

I’d been supporting its gas habit for years, spending over $10,000 at the pump. These regular expenditures mounted up so slowly I hardly paid any attention. It was fast to warm up and good in snow. It wasn’t good looking but was always dependable. But it showed its age in the last few years. I spent thousands to keep it going. But with a $2,000 repair bill looming, I had to face facts. It was time to move on.

I started looking around. I talked to friends and family to see if they knew of any models that might work for me. Based on my needs and likes, the Honda Fit and Toyota Prius came recommended. I took a look at both of them. The Fit reminded me of an early love affair I had with a 1970s Volkswagen Bug. The Prius offered a more sophisticated ride. But I just couldn’t make a commitment.
2013 Nissan Leaf at 2013 Detroit Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)

2013 Nissan Leaf at 2013 Detroit Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)

On a whim, I stopped by the Nissan dealership. I liked what I saw. Within minutes, I was test driving my first electric car, the LEAF. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I need to “ride” in the bike lane? But it wasn’t anything like that. It was smooth, it was quiet, and it was fun!

What about costs? I’ve got a strong frugal side. New cars can rapidly depreciate. Yet trying to find a used, affordable one that I could trust to perform … it seemed like such a lot of work. My heart wasn’t in it. Yet a new electric car might have double-whammy depreciation. It could incur the quick two-year, 30-percent value reduction typical of new cars. Its value might also be impacted by ever-improving battery technology. Longer-range, faster-charging batteries could outdate current models, making depreciation even more rapid. The Nissan dealership manager suggested I consider leasing, explaining that they were currently running a very attractive offer for the 2012 LEAF. And if battery technology advanced, as I feared it might, the dealership—not I—would ultimately own the car.

I had never leased a car before but the financing terms seemed reasonable. I got all the data, went home, and ran the numbers. For the 2012 SL LEAF, the offer required $1360 up front to cover fees and taxes and $260 a month for 2 years. The deal accounted for the $7500 federal tax credit and an additional $2650 rebate from Nissan. It did not include a Colorado state tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles, which for me knocked off about another $1000. The numbers were compelling. And after 2-years, I could walk away free and clear, ready to take on the next new, leaner, cleaner model.

For reference, I compared the LEAF’s lease terms to that offered by my local Honda dealership for the gas-powered, fuel-efficient Fit. As attractive as the LEAF was looking, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Perhaps a car such as the Fit might give it a run for its money.


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