Used Nissan Leaf Cheaper Than Used Toyota Prius

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Brian Kent — who is on a 100-day, 48-state negative-carbon road trip in his Nissan LEAF — recently dropped an epic comment on an article we published about used Nissan LEAF prices. It deserves a lot more eyeballs, so I’m reposting it below (with only the most minor of edits).

By Brian Kent

I’ve personally been following the used Leaf market for a while and it’s astounding to see the cars available. To put it in perspective, I just now did a search and found a 2013 Nissan Leaf S (the base model) with 11,924 miles for only $11,450.

Care to do the numbers?

*at an average cost of about $0.12/kWhr in the U.S. and a realistic fuel economy of about 4.0 miles/kWhr, you’re paying about $0.03/mile for fuel

Contrast that with AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report–which today lists an average price of $2.759/gallon and you can see that even the vaunted Prius’s 50 mpg economy falls far short of the Leaf’s–at $0.05518/mile it’s 83.9% worse.

But it gets worse than that.

Checking the same site (cargurus) I found a 2013 Prius Two similarly listed as a “Good deal” with a fair market value which was almost the same ($14,736 vs. the Leaf’s $14,702.) The price listed was $13,499, however–$2,049, or 17.89% higher than the Leaf’s offering price.

But it gets worse.

The Prius already had 51,068 miles–39,144 or a staggering 328.3% more miles.

Now let’s assume for a moment that the buyer intends the car as a short-distance commuter vehicle. After all, it’s as sensible to assume that a person will buy a vehicle for a specific purpose in the case of a commuter vehicle as it is to assume that a person will buy a truck when they will need to haul things. In other words, let’s not enter into the tempting non sequitur which analyzes the car based on whether it can take us to California on a moment’s notice from our home in rural New York.

If we can reasonably expect to get 125,000 miles out of either vehicle before wear and tear starts “catching up on it,” what has our money bought?

[WARNING: Don’t read further if you’re a Prius fan.]

Here’s a per mile analysis:
Miles remaining to 125,000:
Prius: 73,932
Leaf: 113,076
Fuel cost for remaining miles:
Prius: $4,079.57
Leaf: $3,392.28 (16.85% cheaper for 52.95% more miles!)
Oil changes (at $20/3000 miles):
Prius: $492.88
Leaf: $0
Initial price:
Prius: $13,499
Leaf: $11,450
Total costs:
Prius: $18,071.45 (or $0.2444/mile)
Leaf: $14,842.28 (or $0.1313/mile)

Verdict? The Prius costs 86.22% more than the Leaf.

Now I hear some of you saying, “Well, that’s not fair, because you’re amortizing the purchase price of the Prius over a shorter number of miles, so you ought to expect that it will be higher per mile.”

I have two responses to that:
a. Unless you assume that the Prius will remain reliable to a higher mileage, you have to assume something along those lines.
b. Even if you assume that the Prius will remain reliable to a much higher mileage, it cannot best the operating cost of the Leaf.

(Graph below for those interested.)

USed Nissan LEAF vs Prius price

Used Leaf vs Prius

As you can see, no matter what distance you ultimately travel, the Leaf will be far cheaper than the Prius. In fact, even if you completely ignore the difference in the odometer readings, and as a purchaser you assume you’ll get 100,000 miles out of either car from the moment you buy it, it turns out that the Leaf still beats the Prius handily, with an amortized cost per mile of $0.1445 vs. the Prius’s $0.1968.

The Prius is a staggering 36.22% more expensive to operate as a commuter car. At a total difference of over $5,200 for the distance driven, you could arguably replace the entire battery pack of the Leaf and essentially get yourself another 100,000 miles and still be cheaper than the Prius.

You can go back to your argument that the Prius has more range if you like, but as we’ve already discussed that we’re making the comparison of commuter cars, that makes no more sense than comparing the two based on cargo capacity.

Oops. The Leaf beats the Prius there, too. 24 ft^3 to 21.6 ft^3.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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