Editor’s Note: I’m happy to debut an interesting guest post from an EV early adopter — and not just any EV early adopter, but one who bought a used EV! Check out her first CleanTechnica post below, with links to some of her posts on her own blog scattered throughout it.
So, I bought a used electric Nissan Leaf…
By Amy P. Lutz
A few months ago, I purchased a two-year used (2011) Nissan Leaf SL. It had only 4500 miles on it, so it was virtually new.
Her name is Gidget (our new gadget). Go go Gidget! Heh, heh.
As there has been quite a bit of curiosity about electric vehicles, I thought I’d fill you in as I learn the pros and cons.
A little background: I live in Colorado. That means hills, extreme temperatures, and icy / snowy roads. Not the best environment for EVs, it is said. And not a whole lot of EV infrastructure, either. Yet.
When I began researching the Leaf, I learned that the resale value was pathetic. Dealers and Nissan try to disguise this fact by calculating the depreciation using the post federal tax break price instead of the sticker… which is a pile of bunk. Be warned: the “Up to $7,500 tax break” is very difficult to come by. I had my tax accountant crunch the numbers every which way, and the best break I’d have available would be about $2000. Not bad, but certainly not $7,500! It is for this reason that many experts are recommending leasing new Leafs instead of purchasing them (due to the uncertainty of future resale values).
Gidget sold new in 2011 for around $35,000. I paid (in February 2013) $18,450. Remember, that’s 4,500 miles, plus the dealer threw in the home electric charge station for $500 (normally $1500).
Why the huge depreciation?
The sales guy said it’s because you can get the full $7500 as a discount if you lease the car. I’ve also read that most folks are probably smarter than me and are reluctant to be the Guinea Pig on such large investments and with not a lot of infrastructure (i.e. charging stations) around. In other words, there’s a lot of handwringing going on.
So… going forward, I am going to tell you my experiences; the good, the bad, and the ugly. My hope (obviously) is that the experience will prove to be more positive than otherwise, but… we shall see….
When / Why should you consider an EV?
My husband and I worked from home and got rid of our second car when he bought himself a Harley. We rarely, if ever, needed to both use the car at the same time, and assuming the weather was ok, he loved getting out on his bike.
Then, I got a new job in an office… *sigh*
What to buy. Our existing vehicle is a 2001 Ford Escape, an AWD, gas-guzzling beater of a vehicle that, quite frankly, has served us well. One of my two kids has her own vehicle, and I no longer own a big dog, so I really didn’t need anything large; in fact, I was craving a small sumthin’ in which to tootle around.
First question: 100% electric, or hybrid? Or the Chevy Volt, which is a bizarre kind of hybrid? Nah, if I’m going to do this, I want 100% electric. No gas. No oil changes. Virtually maintenance free. I was thrilled with the prospect of saving so much money on gas. One forum poster commented that he was spending about $250 in gas per month, and now spends about $30 extra for electricity. Hmmm… that doesn’t sound all bad… I can’t afford a Tesla, I’ve owned and loved several Nissans, so a Nissan Leaf it is.
I always loved the concept of electric cars, especially after seeing the film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The people interviewed for that film who had leased their vehicles LOVED them, and when I started researching the Nissan Leaf, the opinions of Leaf owners seemed to mirror those in the film, with certain caveats.
This car is not for everyone. I learned that one should consider owning a Leaf only if:
— It’s a second car (with a 70 – 90 mile range, it simply can’t be a primary vehicle).
— Its use is primarily short commutes around town.
— You have a place to plug it in at night.
— You don’t live in Phoenix. (Or Texas, or Florida, or Palm Springs…its Li-Ion battery does not fare well in extreme heat.)
Editor’s note: I have a feeling some of our readers will disagree with some of these caveats, as I know that we’ve had several readers who break those caveats (except the “place to plug it in at night” one) chime in from time to time. We’ll see if anyone does this time.
None of the above excluded me: I have about a 15 mile round trip commute for work plus the occasional shopping trip or kid schlepp, so, I thought, I should be good with this.
Next question: New or used?
Damn, these cars aren’t cheap new. A decently equipped one will run low- to mid- $30K, with a fully loaded one pushing $40K. But there’s the “up to $7,500 tax rebate” to consider! As I mentioned in my previous post, that’s folly. Don’t know who would be able to qualify for the full $7,500, but my CPA could only dig up about $2000. There’s leasing, which is actually recommended for this vehicle, but that’s not my thing, either. I’m debt adverse, in case you couldn’t tell.
So, used… I began by checking all the used car websites: www.cars.com, www.autofinder.com, craigslist.org, etc. During my search, I found, in total, three used Leafs (Leaves?) in the Denver metro area. Yikes. What does that mean? They’re so popular they immediately get snapped up, or there just ain’t none?
After spending a couple of weeks watching the listings, it appeared the cars were just sitting on lots. None went away, none were added. This is pretty much what I always saw:
The car I eventually selected was a 2011, but had only 4,500 miles on it, for approximately the same price as those with 18K–20K miles, and yet it sat, and sat, and sat. And the two-year used prices? About $15K to $20K less than new! Good lord, this decision was becoming easier by the second… Either this was the steal of the century, or I was missing something huge.
The Dealership (or Why I Like to Pound My Head into Cement Walls)
I just wanted to see a Nissan Leaf up close and personal. The dealer which had advertised the used 2011 which I eventually bought was fairly close by, so on a whim my daughter and I stopped by one afternoon.
Big, new, and beautiful, the dealership was anything but teeming with activity. You could hear a pin drop.
We walked around in the cavernous showroom where there weren’t any Leafs (Leaves?) on display, but hoped to be noticed by someone who could show us the one I’d seen advertised.
I then asked the receptionist where I could find a brochure on a Nissan Leaf (hint, hint). “Somewhere behind that wall,” she flipped her hand in the general direction without looking up. The brochures “behind that wall” included everything BUT the Leaf.
We walked around a bit longer, displaying the best deer-in-the-headlights looks we could muster, and got nowhere, so we went outside to peruse the lot.
Outside we did find the advertised Leaf, locked up.
Having just begun the aforementioned new office job, taking off mid-day would be frowned upon, so of course that’s exactly what I did.
Prior to my arrival, my husband (let’s call him “Harley”), a seasoned business owner and salesman, wanted to take care of the negotiating for me, the little woman, so he donned his finest Harley Leathers, jumped on his Hog and screamed on over to the same dealership. I can only imagine what ensued. I’m sure the salespeople were having flashbacks of “Sons of Anarchy” episodes. One of them finally got up the nerve to cautiously approach.
The rather green sales guy knew next-to-nothing about Leafs. A few questions into their dealings and Harley knew the guy was clueless, and recognized he could use that ignorance to his advantage.
Long story short, Green Sales Guy had his broken balls handed to him and gave us a great deal!
New, this car sold for mid $30s.
Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) pegs the used retail value at $20,800.
Dealer’s asking price was $19,900, + all the dealer handling BS.
Harley negotiated $18,400, which included hardware and installation of the home charging port ($1500 value).
Some misinformation given to us by Green Sales Guy:
— The Leaf has a CVT transmission (like the Murano, Maxima, etc.) (it does not).
— You will need to get an emissions tag (umm, it’s electric and, by definition, it doesn’t “emit”…??)
Questions to ask the dealer before purchasing a used EV:
1. Have them perform a battery test and give you the report. This test determines how much charge your battery is capable of holding now. Does it still charge to 100% (= 12 bars in the Leaf)? If not, it has been suggested that $1000 be deducted from the price of the vehicle for each missing bar.
Nissan is well aware that this is a huge and scary sticking point for many perspective buyers and now offers, retroactively on all Leafs, a battery warranty. You can read about it here.
2. Where did this vehicle come from? If it was formerly in Phoenix (or Texas or Florida or Palm Springs or another very hot place), be wary. Li-ion batteries do not perform as well in those environments, and it may have sustained damage.
Moral to this story: these cars are new enough that people are risk adverse, and that translates to dealers who are petrified they’ll never get rid of them and will do anything to move them off the lot. Do your research before going to the dealer! And, the longer you’ve seen a car listed for sale, the more motivated the dealer will be.
–> Next up on CleanTechnica: How does she drive?
Amy Lutz lives in the Denver metro area of Colorado, is married with two children, has several critters, an insatiable curiosity, and a love of all things technology. When not writing entries in her blog (http://EVearlyAdopter.
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