2011–2015 Leaf as a secondary vehicle?

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Mar 23, 2019
Eugene, Oregon, USA
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.
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 :)
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!
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.
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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.

The S came with no cruise control before 2015 or so, but ALL Leafs had heated front and rear seats and steering wheel until 2015, except the 2011. Otherwise I agree with the above. One thing to consider: you really don't need 12 bars, so you might focus on 11 bar cars, and even consider a 10 bar - as long as it was built after March of 2013 and had the QC port, and the price was very low.
Lothsahn said:
You'd have to have the car transported to Oregon, which would run probably $500-700.
I had my LEAF shipped from NorCal to Albuquerque two years ago for ~ $600.
LeftieBiker said:
as long as it was built after March of 2013 and had the QC port, and the price was very low.

The odd part with leaf asking prices is that they seem to be the same today as they were nearly 4 years ago except the cars are now older with more miles.

Very strange, a lot of low end plug ins are in the $3-$4000 area with lowish miles.

Odd to think a leaf is becoming a premium EV in the beater EV market.
Yes, Leaf resale prices have remained stable (bad thing)..... My 2015 S was worth $10k 2-3 years ago, and they are still going for that...

I guess that any junk Leaf will always bottom out at around $5k.
powersurge said:
Yes, Leaf resale prices have remained stable (bad thing)..... My 2015 S was worth $10k 2-3 years ago, and they are still going for that...

I guess that any junk Leaf will always bottom out at around $5k.

There are quite a lot of what I would consider “high mileage” leafs in the market now.

One has to Wonder who pays $7000+ on up for a leaf with over 70,000 miles?

Seems like that person might be disappointed with the remaining range?
Holy moly, y'all have been amazing. Thank you for all these perspectives. My wife and I have been digesting everything you said, and it's been really helpful.

Based off what you're saying, I'm figuring a 2015 will be our sweet spot. Waiting to see how our taxes settle out before we start "Leaf hunting" more aggressively.

Good points on the private sale. I've seen a few private ones in the area, but mostly dealerships. Thanks too for being willing to check out links.

Looking forward to finding our right Leaf!
Other posters have pretty much said it all and I’d like to add my own emphasis to two items:

1- Dealership cars are cars bought from individuals either outright or as trade-in. There may or may not be an advantage if the dealership really does inspect and repair deficiencies, but beyond cleaning it up, that’s unlikely. The only thing you can be sure of is that there will be a markup over negotiating and buying from an individual. Just a middle-man situation.
2- I can’t stress enough the sage advice of others regarding the acquisition and use of an OBDII device and LeafSpyPro BEFORE signing paperwork. Go through the two major threads on this forum (yes, they’re lengthy) to see what these amazing tools can do, and more importantly, what to look for in considering any LEAF purchase. LeafSpyPro offers a huge amount of information, but you’ll want to hone in on several key readings affecting purchase decisions. Again, reading related threads (lots of homework, I know) will be very informative. Use the forum search for help. Even better, there may be a forum member near you who can quickly explain how to plug-in and set up the OBDII, pair with your phone (Android and iOS are both supported by the app), and highlight what to look for. Regardless, if you do acquire a LEAF, LeafSpyPro will likely be the best $20 you’ll spend on the vehicle.

My 2012SL, purchased new, was an incredible introduction to the then state-of-the-art electric vehicle. I still very much enjoy it today as our 2nd vehicle even though it is pretty range-restricted at this point over 7 years after purchase and given battery deterioration. The good news is that the rest of the car has held up such that everything is still working like new. Maintenance has been minimal: new wipers blade refills about every two years, new cabin air filter every two years (which I do myself), brake fluid flush and replace after four years (yeah, I know, the manual says more often). Rarely have I used charging stations other than my home EVSE, and I’ve never had to pay for a charge.

Whatever you do, enjoy!
SalisburySam said:
1- Dealership cars are cars bought from individuals either outright or as trade-in

Not necessarily. Many are also purchased from auctions; I would dare say the majority of used cars you see on dealer lots were obtained this way, unless the car is a high-demand one in which case the dealer may have gotten it as a trade. Most trade-ins and ones brought in solely to sell off don't get sold at the same dealer, but are auctioned off. Even my excellent (according to the lease-end appraisal guy) condition, low mileage, new-tire-equipped Leaf wasn't desired by the dealership where I returned it. I found it for sale at CarMax a month later, for much less than the residual.

I think it was cwerdna who mentioned difficulty in finding off-lease Leafs with the CHAdeMO port that were NOT being sold by a dealer, as they tended to be purchased from leasing company auctions by Nissan dealers first.
LeftieBiker said:
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.

The S came with no cruise control before 2015 or so, but ALL Leafs had heated front and rear seats and steering wheel until 2015, except the 2011. Otherwise I agree with the above. One thing to consider: you really don't need 12 bars, so you might focus on 11 bar cars, and even consider a 10 bar - as long as it was built after March of 2013 and had the QC port, and the price was very low.
It comes down to price in the end but each of the top bars is worth more than may be realized.

Consider the case of 35 all season miles to be a practical commuter
That is 35/0.7 + 10 = 60 EPA miles with a battery reserve

The car when new is 84 EPA miles
One capacity bar down, the car is 84*0.84 = 70.56 EPA miles. 13.5 EPA miles are gone
Two bars down, the car is 67 EPA miles. 4.5 more EPA miles are gone
Three bars down, the car is 62 EPA miles. 5 more EPA miles are gone

So it follows that a 24 kWh LEAF has lost 14/23.5 = 60% of it's useful life by the time the 12th bar drops,
And 18.5/23.5 = 79% of its useful life by the time the 11th bar drops.

Put another way, a 10 bar car is worth 1/2 that of an 11 bar car.
In moderate climates a LEAF built after 10/2013 loses about 1 kWh a year. A LEAF that just lost its 12th bar has ~ 2 years of useful life left while a LEAF that just lost its 11th bar has ~ one year of useful life remaining.

Notice how often LEAF owners sell their cars just before or just after the 12th bar drops ? This is not random.