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Joined: Sat Mar 23, 2019 10:14 am
Location: Eugene, Oregon, USA
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2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:39 am

Greetings from Oregon! I've been checking out the forum for a few weeks now, but just registered and this is my first post. I'm Anthony; my wife Jodie and I live in Eugene with our 7yo son and 4yo daughter. Fun fact: Our "backup vehicle" used to be a green Ural sidecar motorcycle, but I sold it about 10 years ago to help us finance my leaving an old job to become a full-time writer.

And warnings in advance, based on the different questions and posts I've seen, I'm trying to be as comprehensive as I can up front. Hopefully I'm not hitting you with too long a book, but that's the trouble with us darn writers :)

Why I'm here

About a month ago, a tree limb snapped in a snowstorm and totaled our 2004 Toyota Matrix. (No one was hurt and house was fine, thank goodness.) The Matrix was our secondary vehicle (we have a 2014 Subaru Outback that we use for family travel, road trips, etc.).

Other than a tree limb smashing the roof, the Matrix was in great shape. We owned it free and clear, and we planned to have it a few more years. We are looking hard at replacing it with a used Nissan Leaf, with a view to having that vehicle be our secondary for as long as it's worth having.

I've been researching here and elsewhere online for the past few weeks. Here are some things about how we'd be using the vehicle, and what we are considering. Would love to get your perspective:


  • We own and live in a ranch house in a quiet suburb a few minutes outside of downtown Eugene.
  • We can park an EV in our driveway.
  • We have immediate access to power via external 110 outlets on the side of the house, so running a charging cable from house to car is no problem.
  • We're going to be remodeling our garage this year (converting it into 2 offices, as my wife and I both work from home). Part of that will be having electrical work done, so we would also plan to add wiring for a proper EV charging station (via an existing subpanel in the garage that has plenty of capacity).

How we'd be driving our Leaf

  • We drove our Matrix about 20–30 miles per week. A heavy week would be 50 miles. All in-town/city, mostly local roads, some local highway and interstate.
  • Our secondary vehicle is primarily so my wife or I can drive solo (such as for classes she teaches, when I have an occasional meeting, or one of us is doing something on their own.
  • One child is in a car seat and the other is in a booster. It'll be rare that we ever need to put car seats in the secondary vehicle.
  • If we did need a charge while out and about, Eugene has extensive EV charging infrastructure (for example, public parking garages all have EV-only spaces with chargers). However, this car would pretty much always be within a 20-minute drive of our house.


Eugene is a pretty temperate climate, so extreme heat/cold issues aren't a factor.


  • We have some flexibility on budget, in terms of cash and good credit.
  • Since this is a secondary vehicle we'd like to try to avoid a payment or have only a small payment (and we got a good settlement from our insurance, so that helps).
  • Odds are we'd be trying to keep the purchase price under $10K.

Getting a Leaf

From what I've seen so far, budget-wise/price-wise I doubt that we'd be looking at any Leafs 2016 or newer.

We've looked some at the differences between S, SL, and SV between the different model years, but I don't think anything there is a dealbreaker or essential. Since we're aiming to buy used, and the vehicle gets such small usage, I think we're okay getting whatever body style we can. If we can get a more upgraded/premium body style for a good price, that's cool, and if an S is where our sweet spot is, then I'm confident we'll be dandy with that too.

The Leaf is pretty popular here. In addition to federal and Oregon incentives, our local utility has a rebate for 2018 and 2019 Leafs. The utility incentive ends Apr. 1. 2019. Between that and tax refunds, my hunch is that during April and May our area will see a bump in used older Leafs for sale, especially at our local Nissan dealer. That said, I'm also keeping tabs on used Leafs in the Salem and Portland areas as well.


A 2014 or 2015 Leaf seems like it could be a sweet spot for us?

I've seen various posts recommending sticking to Leafs that are April 2013 and newer, so the vehicle has the upgraded battery chemistry. Given our circumstances though, would it be sensible to also consider 2011, 2012, or earlier 2013?

I don't think we have a comfort level in buying used from a private seller, so likely would be focusing on the dealerships in town, such as our Nissan dealer. Are there advantages/disadvantages to going through a dealership?

For either dealer or private party, what are the big things to look out for and ask about, so we can make the best informed decision that we can?

Thank you so much for all the posts, it's been a huge help as we've worked to wrap our heads around getting a Leaf. Looking forward to your perspectives. I tried to cover all the bases, given what I've seen elsewhere on the forum, but please let me know what other questions you have.

Posts: 64
Joined: Sun Oct 28, 2018 11:24 am
Delivery Date: 01 Jan 2015
Leaf Number: 316851

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sat Mar 23, 2019 12:19 pm

You sound like a prime candidate for a Leaf!

Do get a 2013+ model, and try to get one with as many capacity bars remaining as possible.

Normal overnight Level1 110V charging will serve you just fine for the time being

The S doesn't come with a heat pump, so in winter the range will take more of a hit. Do try to spring for a SV/SL model!

Maybe someone else can chime in on having small children in this car :)

Posts: 234
Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:33 pm
Location: Fairfield County CT

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sat Mar 23, 2019 12:34 pm

My Leaf use is very similar to yours so I can relate to your use profile.

I would confine your search to 2014 or newer - anything older will most likely have a degraded battery which only gets worse over time - something you want to avoid. IMHO considering your planned use I would go for S trim.

You must get LeafSpy so you can check out the battery’s health - do a search and read up on it - this is THE essential tool for buying a used Leaf.

Buying private you will pay less - a dealer will charge more and IMHO there is no advantage to a CPO (even if it exists for a Leaf this age).

Use Carfax to check out vehicle history - an important factor to consider.

Confine your search to Leafs in your area, but make sure that they are not imports from a hot area such as Arizona - hot climates and the Leaf’s battery do not play well together.

Finally, when you come across something of interest to you, run it by us.

Good Luck!
2017 Leaf S with QC, JUN mfg date

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Joined: Wed May 22, 2013 3:17 am
Delivery Date: 30 Apr 2018
Location: Upstate New York, US

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sat Mar 23, 2019 12:51 pm

A late-build 2013 Leaf SV may hit your sweet spot between price, features, and battery condition. If you can find a 2014 in great shape, good, but they tend to be more expensive, and also lack the 80% charge limit feature. You also can't get a '14 with both Premium Package and QC port. I agree that the heat pump is desirable, but with the miles you drive it isn't vital.
Scarlet Ember 2018 Leaf SL W/ Pro Pilot
2009 Vectrix VX-1 W/18 Leaf modules, & 3 EZIP E-bicycles.
PLEASE don't PM me with Leaf questions. Just post in the topic that seems most appropriate.

Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:37 pm
Delivery Date: 22 Dec 2018

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sun Mar 24, 2019 4:20 am

A used Leaf makes a great secondary vehicle. I bought a 2011 SV with all 12 bars on the battery meter three months ago and I love it. Even with a bit of battery degradation, I'm easily getting 50 miles on an 80% charge and 60+ if I charge all the way up to 100%. One of the newer model years, with the better battery, should be a great option for you. Do look for one with the Fast Charging option. It has come in handy on mine when I've made trips to neighboring towns.

Posts: 3855
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 2:28 am
Delivery Date: 13 Feb 2017
Location: Colorado

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sun Mar 24, 2019 6:00 am

OP: I agree with everything you wrote except buying from a Nissan dealership. That is just buying from a private party with dealership profit added on top. Check out the (typically online) businesses that resell cars that are coming off-lease.

The thing about a LEAF is that they are practically all low mileage so as long as there has not been an accident, it comes down to the battery. Do your homework and learn what is needed to evaluate battery health. Hint: 12 capacity bars, no battery reset. LeafSpy* may let you do a bit better within the 12th capacity bar interval but you still need to exclude a battery reset. There are a few ways to exclude a reset but my favored one is to go to a Chargepoint station and charge up for an hour or two. That vendor will tell you how many kWh were delivered during the session. Discount the energy delivered by 12% to account for charging losses and compare that to the SoC increase during the charging session.

You start charging at 20% SoC, and end charging at 70% SoC, so 0.5 increase
Chargepoint reports 10 kWh delivered, so 10*0.88 = 8.8 kWh into battery

8.8 kWh / (0.5) = 17.6 kWh usable battery capacity

Regarding LeafSpy: Its real utility is in identifying weak cell(s) in a pack. Look at the cell voltage histogram at a battery SoC of ~ 20%. I would think twice before buying a car that has a cell more than 20 mv below cell pack average at 20% SoC.

Cheat sheet:
A pack about to lose its 12th capacity bar has ~ 18.7 kWh usable
Avoid packs with weak cells.


Wizard tip: Buy a LEAF away from the cities -- they are often much cheaper because demand is so low in those areas. It is easy to tow home with a u-haul dolly. If you do not have a hitch then rent the truck. U-haul are pretty cheap.
Last edited by SageBrush on Sun Mar 24, 2019 7:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
2013 LEAF 'S' Model with QC & rear-view camera
Bought off-lease Jan 2017 from N. California
Car is now enjoying an easy life in Colorado
03/2018: 58 Ahr, 28k miles
11/2018: 56.16 Ahr, 30k miles
2018 Tesla Model 3 LR, Delivered 6/2018

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Location: MSP MN

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sun Mar 24, 2019 6:51 am

'11s and '12s lack the very handy SOC% meter and while it's possible to leave Leafspy on all the time or purchase a old aftermarket SOC% meter, it's nicest to just have it in the middle of the display. The '11s and '12s also have the slower to heat, less efficient liquid-based heater, much better '13 and on. I have an S model and am very happy with it, in your climate I wouldn't worry about it's non-heat pump heater(still better t han the '11s and 12s) and it's still plenty loaded. I also believe '13(or maybe it was through '14??) was the last year of standard rear seat heaters, something I find almost a must, very nice to have.
IMO '13 or '14 were prime years of getting all the kinks worked out of the very early models but not new enough for Nissan to start cheeping out on things(like rear seat heat, 80% charge option which I use all the time and probably a few other things).
Oh another bad thing(IMO) about the '11s and '12s is the 1/2 speed L2 charger(if you use more than the OEM 120v supplied EVSE). What this means if charging for free on the many L2 chargers around town the '11s and '12s will only charge 1/2 as fast as a '13 and on model, may as well get as much free juice as you can for a given time. Note the S models will also only charge at this half the speed unless it has the "charger" package, which I'd really suggest looking for one that has this. Almost all in my market do but I'm sure there are plenty that don't. Oh some of the '13 model Leafs lack a backup camera so if you want that feature make sure it has it. On the S model you have to have the charger package to get it and I believe its the similar for the SV model, all SLs after '12 have the faster L2 charging speed and backup camera. Note by '14 a backup camera was standard on all Leafs.
2012 SL purchased used 2/'16
2013 S w/QC purchased new
Juicebox Premium 60a L1/L2 EVSE, Ebusbar 16a L1/L2 EVSE
'12 EVSEupgrade'd 20a L1/L2 EVSE, '13 EVSEupgrade'd adjustable 6-20a L2, 6-13a L1 EVSE
Zencar 13, 20, 30a L1/L2 portable EVSE
GE Durastation 30a

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Leaf Number: 007797

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:19 am

I agree that a Leaf is a great fit for you.

I have a 2011 with 7 bars. I can get up to 45 miles (maximum), assuming I drive like Grandma. Practical range is 20-40 miles (20 is full heat in winter, 40 is typical driving in Eco mode with no heat).

The car has been a good purchase. It requires minimal maintenance and it's saved us $500 in gas in the first year we've owned it. However, I've found myself wanting more range, especially this winter. When I bought it, I expected to put a new battery in, but Nissan has increased battery replacement costs so high that it's no longer practical.

If you truly mean that your range will be 20 miles, the leaf will work for you down to 7 bars. But what I've found is that even though my range requirements are low, I'm not able to go somewhere and have to take the primary vehicle, which is frustrating. I'd prefer to put as many EV miles as possible, but for instance, today's trip is 35 miles round trip and so the wife doesn't want to risk the trip. So we'll put 35 miles on the gas car instead. If the EV did 50-60 reliably, we'd be a lot happier.

So I agree--get an 11 or 12 bar car as that will last a long time before it hits 7 bars. The 2013+ are a lot nicer than the 2011/2012, but the 2011/2012 are a lot cheaper. You could find an 11 or 12 bar 2011/2012 quite cheap, and if it's 11/12 bar, that means that it's most likely had a warranty battery replacement.

Keep in mind that the Leaf is cheaper to operate than a gas car, but replacement parts are pricy. So you want one in sound mechanical condition without issues. Get LeafSpy and an ODBII device so that you look at diagnostic codes and check battery health before you buy. If possible, get one with heated seats and steering wheel, so that you don't need to use the heat as much.

Finally, I would rather buy a Leaf from a previous owner who has a history with the vehicle and knows it. I've had too many bad experiences with dealerships. But maybe that's just me...

Cwerdna was selling an 11 bar 2013. I don't know how close he is to where you are in Oregon, but that might be a great car for you... 64k miles, 11 bars, 2013 built after April. You could probably pick it up for $6-7k. And Cwerdna has been posting on these forums for a long time, so it's quite unlikely he's scamming:

You'd have to have the car transported to Oregon, which would run probably $500-700.
2011 Silver SV, purchased 2018, lives in Missouri (previously in CA)
LeafSpy Pro + BAFX Products OBDII dongle
Battery swap 2019/04/24 (87% SOH, 12 bar)

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Location: Upstate New York, US

Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sun Mar 24, 2019 12:26 pm

Good point about Cwerdna's car. It isn't often you can get a guaranteed not-a-scam car at a good price.
Scarlet Ember 2018 Leaf SL W/ Pro Pilot
2009 Vectrix VX-1 W/18 Leaf modules, & 3 EZIP E-bicycles.
PLEASE don't PM me with Leaf questions. Just post in the topic that seems most appropriate.

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Re: 2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

Sun Mar 24, 2019 1:42 pm

Since you live in a mild climate that requires frequent defrost use, I strongly recommend a 2013 (April 2013 or later manufacture date) or newer SV or SL so that you have the heat pump. Your modest estimated mileage needs imply that you would be fine without the heat pump, but I suspect the Leaf will become a primary vehicle for local driving so you may want more comfortable daily range than you presently estimate. I also recommend getting one with the 6 kW onboard charger and DC quick charge port since your area has substantial public charging infrastructure. Rear visibility is restricted with the Leaf so I recommend a backup camera (there are inexpensive aftermarket ones available if you find a car you like that does not have a factory camera).

Others have already mentioned to look for a car with 11 or 12 capacity bars that resided in a cool climate so I will just add some additional things to consider: Try to test the air conditioning, heat, and all normal accessories before purchase since you will probably be buying one that is beyond the 3-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. If the 5-year, 60,000-mile EV system and powertrain warranty is expired, try to check the onboard charger at a public Level 2 charging station (208 or 240 volts), test the Nissan 120-volt charging unit which should be in the hatch area in a storage bag by first plugging in to a receptacle and then connecting to the car. Also, try a short DC quick charge (if equipped with the port). Make sure the car you select has the convenience features you want because cruise control, heated seats, and heated steering wheel were not included on some lower trim models. Low beam headlights are LED on all SL models (which also include halogen fog lights) and some SV models; halogen low beam headlights were standard on S and some SV models (factory fog lights were not available on S and only available with certain packages in some years on SV models). There are seveal threads on this forum looking for ways to improve the halogen headlights so you may want to consider getting one with LEDs if you drive a lot at night.
Last edited by GerryAZ on Sun Mar 24, 2019 1:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Silver LEAF 2011 SL rear ended (totaled) by in-attentive driver 1/4/2015 at 50,422 miles
Silver LEAF 2015 SL purchased 2/7/2015

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