Repair or replace my 2017 Leaf LE?

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New member
May 18, 2023
Hello everyone!

We are in Atlanta and have had our Leaf since July 2017; it's my husband's main commuting car. (In 2014 we leased a Leaf, and when it came time to give it back, I asked him what he wanted to drive next, and he thought about it and said, another Leaf.) It now has about 51K miles. We are very fond of it, but I will be the first to say we have not taken good care of it:
  • There's a 1-inch or so tear in the front bumper that cannot be repaired, I got an estimate of about $1K to fix (replace) that.
  • I accidentally backed into our garage door before it had fully opened, destroying the cover of the light at the top of the rear door and leaving nasty scratches in the roof. That estimate was about $1200 or so to replace. (Those two estimates were last fall; the prices have probably gone up by now.)
  • There are other dents here and there; the body shop at the dealership I took it to said it would be about (IIRC) $8K to get it looking absolutely brand new.
  • And then we had a rat problem over the winter. I'm not sure how much total damage they did, but what we can see is pretty significant. They chewed through the windshield wiper fluid hose. There's visible damage to the stuffing and cover of the rear seat and chew marks on the plastic in the trunk. That happened after I got the estimates above so I'm not sure how much the total cost of repairs would be now.

On top of all this, we lost the ninth bar last fall, so we should qualify for a new battery under warranty. So it's possible that the car is actually worth a fair bit more than it looks because it could be getting a shiny new 40 kWh battery. Or there could be not enough shiny new 40 kWh batteries going around and we get something of smaller capacity. I'm not sure; that's part of why I came here.

It's still drivable! (We figured that if the rats had chewed through something crucial, we'd have noticed by now.) It claims to get about 70 miles at 100% charge, though it did turtle unexpectedly on my husband once, and I get worried if I'm on the highway and I'm down to about 20. My husband's commute has changed so it works fine for him as a daily car so long as he doesn't have to run too many errands. So we haven't demanded a new battery yet while we've been figuring out our options.

Which, as I see it, are:
  1. Pay for the major repairs (the front and rear damage, the interior damage, replace the chewed hose), get the battery replaced, and plan to drive it for the immediate future.
  2. Get the battery replaced, repair only damage that could long-term affect driving, and keep the car in less-than-perfect shape because within 18 months we'll have a 15-year-old who needs to start learning how to drive.
  3. Trade in or sell the car (presumably to someone who would immediately replace the battery) and get something else, maybe a newer Leaf in better shape.

I went on KBB and they gave me a trade-in value of about $8K, but I wasn't sure if that took the battery swap into account. I know from reading around that if I were serious about trading in I should talk to Carvana and get cash offers. My husband is neither emotionally attached* enough to insist on repairs nor chomping at the bit to get a new car. I tried searching this forum and found some threads on repairing or trading in but it sounded like our car was in worse shape, so I thought I'd lay it all out for y'all. I'm happy to give any more information. Thank you so much for your help!

* you are free to laugh, but last year my car (a 2018 Kia Sedona) got sideswiped on the highway and I was almost in tears thinking she'd be totaled. She was not; it took ten weeks and $20K (which my insurance paid for; the other driver ran despite having lost a fair chunk of his car) but she returned to me safe and sound.
Accidents happen, but you might begin by asking why so many happen to you.

Regardless of how you feel about the Leaf, if you keep it there's no point spending lots of money shining it up it if it's just going to get beat up again. If you're someone who just sees a car as transportation, what does it matter if it has a few dents and scratches, especially if your behavior is likely to result in more dents and scratches in the future?

Similarly, even if you're going to sell it soon there may be little point (i.e., return on investment) in getting it fixed up (completely), as the costs you've described to us aren't all that far off the value of the car. On the plus side for you, there's never been a better time to sell a used car. Maybe you can find a buyer who doesn't care about appearances and just wants a low-maintenance short-distance commuter car. I've never understood trading in cars (but then again, I've never understood the economics of buying a new car) as I don't think you get anywhere close to full value. In your case, with a poor condition car for sale, the dealership is going to offer you a very minimal amount so you'll be better off making a private sale.

1) Rat damage - you can easily replace the windshield washer hose yourself. You can also replace the back seat cushions. There probably aren't a lot of Leafs (Leaves?) in junkyards, but I recently saw an ad for one being parted out in my area, including the full interior, so it would be worth your time to call around, check Craigslist, etc. The interior plastic trim can also be easily replaced if you want to do that. All easy DIY jobs.

You might ask how rats got in to your Leaf, and why they came for a visit. No point fixing damage if they have an open invitation to return, or if you're providing motivation by leaving pet or human food, etc., in the car. If they came in through the cabin air intake there's likely damage under the dashboard as well. I recently had to install 1/4-inch galvanized metal mesh screens over the cabin air intakes on our cars because mice kept building nests on top of the cabin air filters. One of the hazards of living in the middle of the rural New England forest - lots of mice looking for cozy winter homes.

2) Scratches, dents, and bumper - as above, ask yourself how much and why you care. If you just want basic transportation, fix any bare metal to minimize rusting and forget about it.

3) Battery - if you can get a warranty replacement battery, why wouldn't you do it? It makes the car more useful for you today, and dramatically increases any resale value you have in the future.

Good luck.
Considering the condition of the car and the fact that it has a degraded battery now, you're not likely to get great offers to buy it, whether private sale or Carvana/CarMax.

If it really does qualify for battery replacement, then if I were you I'd try for a buyback from Nissan. That might net you more than any other sale option.

I'd get it into the dealer to start the process, then immediately call Nissan and express concerns about the wait time. The arbitration department should respond relatively quickly with an offer to start the buyout process. In my case, I went to the dealer to get the battery ordered, then called Nissan the next day just to ask if they could confirm that the order was placed. I said nothing about wait time or buyback or anything, but got an email in a couple of days from the Arbitration department wanting to start a buyback.

Now, if either of you were emotionally attached, it might be different.

to govols97: Are you kidding??​

Keep it. get a new battery courtesy of Nissan, fix the worst of the damage (seat?) and it becomes a super vehicle for your 15,16-soon to be 17 year old. he can bump into things and you dont have to worry about comprehensive insurance- which costs a fortune. liability-only insurance will still be plenty no matter what is driven, however. i This will help govern his driving habits a bit (is it possible to lock it in ECO mode??), and ease him into a car from a cost standpoint, without the costs of gas.​

my 2c...​

PS: I'm a happy 2017 leaf-s newbie (of 3 weeks) getting a free battery myself a week after buying it, lucky me! (probably have to wait 4-6 months for it tho, lol​

Option 2.
Get the battery replaced, repair only damage that could long-term affect driving, and keep the car in less-than-perfect shape because within 18 months we'll have a 15-year-old who needs to start learning how to drive.

This is the winner, get the battery pack replaced if it is under warranty, then let the kid drive it till the stirrups are dragging in the mud.

That is what i did with my kid and she drove it all thru high school, band camp, winter guard and to her job making pizza, and $aved a ton of money not buying ga$ and cheaper liability-only in$urance. Then she was off to college and it wasn't practical for her so we swapped cars and i drove the balls (bearings) off of that thang.

Sure you might sell it now and get some fantastic price, but what will it cost you to buy another beater car for the kid and all the fuel cost? There aren't any cheap $1k beaters out there anymore--they start at 5k now for the same POS beater.
I will join the choir and advise to keep the Leaf, for these reasons:
  • Cheap transportation ain't that cheap these days.
  • The Leaf is ridiculously reliable from a mechanical standpoint.
  • The Leaf is range limited... the kid can't easily drive off to Timbuktu.
Lastly, if the kid is required to pay for the juice, they will learn the economics of ownership and the benefits of conservation. That could lead to a future in sustainable lifestyle, or even an eco-related career. My misspent youth included wrenching on all manner of vehicles, which gave me many practical skills. If I were a teen with an EV today, I'd be finding solar panels and batteries so I could drive "for free" and get a practical understanding of the future of transportation. A decade from now, gasoline will be much more expensive and that little Leaf may still be sipping on ever-cheaper electrons.