Super Short Version:
Last year I read that used Leafs (ok, Leaves) are cheap but assumed that they must drive like a flimsy golf cart. After a test drive: WOW - I had to get one. I heard that older ones built in Japan might get new batteries for free... so I got one & then got a free new battery!
Super Long Version:
My wife & I usually buy new cars, drive them for about 6 years or so, then get something new to drive. It's not the smartest move financially, but it makes us happy. When we buy a new car we then sell the older one private-party just to keep a trade-in out of any new car price haggling. After buying a car that my wife drives in early January this year, I couldn't decide what new car I wanted for myself. I vaguely remembered an Internet article I had read last fall about how cheap used Leafs had become and became intrigued at the thought of buying one for our second vehicle.
Back when gasoline was selling in the $3-4 range I couldn't justify the long payback period for a new Prius or Leaf but maybe a used Leaf selling well below $10K would make more financial sense now despite current low gas prices. I've never owned a hybrid and certainly not a plug-in EV, so this was uncharted territory for me.
Before test driving a Leaf, I assumed that the driving experience would be like driving a golf cart: cheap, full of rattles, loud, and not especially safe-feeling. Wrong! After my first test drive I was just about sold. The first used Leaf I test-drove felt very solid, had no squeaks or rattles, and had an impressively loud & clear audio system. With fantastic acceleration from a stop and a low center of gravity for stable cornering, it was super quiet inside with less road noise than any small car I'd ever driven.
I almost bought one particular used Leaf off Craigslist, but that private-party seller and I were a little apart on the highest price I would pay versus the lowest price he would accept. The private-party seller mentioned that a friend had seen a 2011 Leaf SL at my nearest Nissan dealer and thought that used Leaf would qualify for a *free* traction battery replacement under the capacity warranty.
Drove over to the local dealer & saw a white 2011 Leaf SL with the battery capacity gauge showing just eight of the original 12 bars. The car was in fantastic cosmetic condition (white with beige interior), had about 46K miles showing on the odometer, and was put in service less than five years earlier. It was an SL but didn't have the heated seats or "premium sound". After some negotiation on the price, the car belonged to me.
Home in its crib
In utero with umbilical
Carfax info said my Leaf was built in early Sep 2011. It arrived new at another local dealer in Nov 2011 and was sold in May 2012, then in Jan 2017 was traded in to the dealer where I found it. Carfax showed that the previous owner was OCD about bringing the vehicle back to the dealer for every inspection required - even for tire rotations! Must have been a retired owner; I wouldn't have time to be that thorough.
The car was apparently still covered by the 60K mile / 5-year battery capacity warranty. A quick check at the national Nissan EV number (1-800-NO-GAS-EV) showed that previous owner did not take the opt-out cash payment under the battery-capacity lawsuit of 2013 and final settlement in 2015, so it still qualified for free warranty battery replacement. My local dealer said they were trying to limit number of warranty battery replacements due to increased paperwork/diligence that Nissan USA demands of dealers doing a lot of warranty battery work, so I wouldn't get battery replaced in February. That made me a little nervous, but I learned that the battery replacement for my vehicle had already approved by Nissan USA and in fact the new battery was already at the dealer and waiting on the shop floor.
I only have a 13 mile round-trip commute to my office each day and rarely drive anywhere at lunchtime. There's no charger at work and I rely on the 110v trickle charger at home. In Austin we're lucky that our local power company has negotiated a flat $25 rate for six months of unlimited charging at all local Chargepoint stations so I signed up for that. Even with the 8-bar semi-depleted battery I had no problem with the guessometer's typical 65 mile range prediction on a "full" tank.
An updated "audit report" came to the local dealer from Nissan USA on March 7th & I dropped by car off the next morning for my battery replacement. A rental car was complimentary courtesy the Nissan USA warranty program. I picked my Leaf up after its heart transplant and I can report that my fully-charged mileage on the GoM (guess-o-meter) was reading 119 miles in ECO mode. Of course after I drove it for a few miles it was "only" reading in the high-90 mile range, but the most important thing is that the capacity gauge on the far right now showed all 12 bars instead of the previous 8 bars.
Dash "gas gauge" before & after
LeafSpy before & after
With the old battery I just plugged in the car even if it was only "down" 20-30 miles and let it charge to 100% whether I intended to drive it immediately or not. Just Leaf-newbie range anxiety I guess! That's obviously a bad strategy for the new battery so I now set the charge timer for 80% and only plug in every few days. I'm a road cyclist that rides for several hours at a time so my new game is driving Leaf to a free Chargepoint L2 charger and charging while I go out on a ride. Looks like I'll be able to charge twice a week at an L2 charger and never charge at home.
Feeling smug returning from bike ride to a fully charged EV -
When I bought this used car I thought I'd be begging my dear wife to drive her shiny new car more. Turns out that I enjoy this Leaf so much that not only do I hardly drive her car, even on the weekends we both enjoy using the Leaf for errands more than using her ICE vehicle. All in all, I'm one happy Leaf owner!
Here are three final pictures from the scrapbook...
Getting some fresh air
This battery can get wet
And... it's homely from every angle... all part of its charm!