Why the Nissan LEAF is Depreciating Quickly — And How You Can Grab a Bargain

From the moment they are driven off dealer lot to the moment they are sold on, new cars slowly depreciate in value. While the largest depreciation will occur in the first few months of ownership, the rate at which a particular model depreciates depends on a whole slew of outside influences, from the cost of fuel to the weather, new car availability, and weather.

Used Nissan LEAF prices are falling. Is it time for a bargain?

Used Nissan LEAF prices are falling. Is it time for a bargain?

Between May 1 and June 1, Nissan’s all-electric LEAF hatchback was the fastest-depreciating used car in the U.S., despite rising gasoline prices. This prompted some outlets like Kicking Tires to wonder out loud if this was indicative of low demand for plug-in cars. Here at Transport Evolved however, we think we know why the Nissan LEAF and other first-generation cars like the Chevrolet Volt are falling dramatically.

What’s more, we think it’s a good sign.

The math(s)

According to data provided by Kicking Tires, the average used price for the Nissan LEAF fell by $819 at the start of June, a total percentage drop of 4.2 per cent compared to the previous month. This means on average that a used, late model Nissan LEAF is retailing for $18,692.

In terms of percentage change, that’s the biggest depreciation of any used car last month, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t the largest monetary change. That award goes to the LandRover Range Rover, which Kicking Tires said dropped its value on average by $2,458 during the same period, a percentage change of 3.6 per cent.

Contextual understanding

Without any context, the Nissan LEAF’s depreciation could be misunderstood as a bad sign for the electric car industry. But compare it to the facts below, and you’ll see it’s not a bad piece of news at all.

Prices may be falling like the setting sun, but there's a good reason.

Prices may be falling like the setting sun, but there’s a good reason.

Firstly, sales of the Nissan LEAF hit an all-time record during the month of May, cracking the 3,000 milestone mark — 3,117 cars — making it the first automaker to sell 3,000 all-electric cars in a month.

While not all of those sales will have come from existing LEAF owners, it’s likely a sizeable number of existing LEAF owners traded in their older LEAFs for newer models, increasing the number of used LEAFs on the market. At the same time, many shoppers who would traditionally opt for a used car were enticed into new LEAFs thanks to favorable lease schemes and special offers — not to mention the better specifications and range of 2014 model year cars compared to used 2010-2012 model year LEAFs. Add

These two factors not only increase the number of used cars on the market, but also decreases the number of used LEAF buyers at the same time. This double-whammy of increased supply and reduced demand will always do just one thing: drop prices.

Second, May 2014 marked the start of BMW i3 deliveries across the U.S. Like owners trading in their first LEAF for a newer LEAF, we’re suspecting at least some of the used LEAFs on sale last month were a consequence of customers collecting their second electric car and selling their first.

New Nissan LEAF sales hit an all-time high last month.

New Nissan LEAF sales hit an all-time high last month.

Finally, because automakers traditionally release new model years in the period between July and September, many dealers start dropping the price on outgoing model years towards the summer in an attempt to clear their inventory ahead of the new model year’s arrival. As a consequence, incentives on new cars increase, discouraging buyers from buying used.

How you can benefit

Of course, with used Nissan LEAF prices dropping so much over the past month, there’s never been a better time to find yourself behind the wheel of a used Nissan LEAF.

As with any used car purchase, you’ll want to make sure the car you’re looking at has a full service history, has been well-looked after, and that it has been given all the appropriate recalls issued by Nissan for its model year.

You’ll also want to take it out for a test drive to check its range under normal conditions. If possible, try to persuade the seller to let you have an extended test-drive of at least 30 miles, so you can see how the car’s range and ‘guessometer’ reacts to your driving style.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure the battery pack is in good condition. Any Nissan dealer should be able to provide you with a battery report –either for free or a small fee — to give you an idea of how healthy the car’s battery pack is.

Make sure you follow our tips to get a good deal on a used LEAF.

Make sure you follow our tips to get a good deal on a used LEAF.

If you’re more inclined to check yourself, using something like the excellent LEAFSpy app for Android smartphones paired with a bluetooth ODBII Scanner should give you everything you need to check battery health. In addition to checking the current capacity of the battery pack, you’ll be able to see how much of the pack’s original capacity remains, plus see how many times it has been rapid charged.

Finally, don’t be afraid to haggle on price. With used LEAF prices dropping, your seller should be willing to negotiate a price that you’re both happy with, even if it’s not what they’d originally advertised the car at.


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  • dm33

    You can also use LEAFstat for the iPhone or iPad with a wifi obdii adapter. nnLeaf prices also drop because the 2013 model year had a big price drop, the $7500 tax credit, the severe battery degradation making them poor choices to purchase rather than lease, and the awesome lease deals often available.

    • Its always touted about the big price drop of the LEAF in 2013. This is a mirage, the striped S model is much cheaper, however if you compare the MSRP of the 2014 SL to the 2011 SL, you’ll find there has been no price drop. That is not the reason.nnnThere is no second hand demand to speak of, that’s why the price has dropped. As Nikki states in the article, early adopters of EV’s tend to buy new.nnnIt will take time before second hand car buyers start picking up LEAF’s. Dealers auction off very nice low mileage LEAF’s, bypassing their second hand inventory. There is little demand for them. It will either take a few more years or an oil crisis to jump start the demand for second hand LEAF’s. ISIS may help LEAF prices before too long!!

      • VFanRJ

        ISIS is certainly a reminder of our energy vulnerability to OPEC. One day in the future that will no longer be true. Can’t wait for that day.

    • Moohamed

      the 2013 doesn’t have that bad battery degridation in temperate climates., that was the 2011/12’s that had bad over all battery loss.

  • lad76

    Leafs are depreciating at an abnormal rate because of traction battery uncertainty. Nissan’s policy and pricing on replacement traction batteries is non-existent or at best secretive. You are completely dependent on Nissan and the dealer, even if you can repair or replace the battery yourself. Nissan has in effect shut out competition in the maintenance and repair market by not making all the maintenance information public, including the critically needed CANBUS code.nnnIn the world of EVs the CANBUS code is critical to fault isolation and the ability to modify the car because many of the car’s systems are controlled by computer and buss network code.

  • PaulScott58

    Both previous comments are correct. I’ll add that if you have a daily drive cycle of less than 50 miles, these cars are incredible bargains. It’s unlikely the battery range will get under 50 for many years, and if it does, you can get cells or modules replaced to get back up to at least 9 bars. Just don’t count on it for really long range and you’ll have a great car. Chargers are everywhere now (in CA at least), so your 60-70 mile range can easily be doubled.

    • ChilliKwok

      Yes, you can double the range if you have 5 hours to wait for a charge. Or if you need to make a real journey you can buy a cheap petrol engined car with a 500 mile range and a 2 minute refuelling time.

      • PaulScott58

        Level 2 charging (240 volt) takes about 3.5-4 hours, but Level 3 480 Volt Quick chargers will charge your car in about 30 minutes. nnnYou might be able to buy a cheap petrol car, but your fuel is very expensive, and you aren’t even paying for half the real costs. Thousands die every year from the pollution, and thousands more die from wars over oil. Maybe you are OK with that, but good people wish to no longer participate in those deaths.

        • ChilliKwok

          Petrol is cheap. It’s the 80% fuel tax that makes it expensive. Your assertion that ‘thousands die’ from automotive pollution is unsupported nonsense and fails to acknowledge how many lives are saved and immeasurably improved by cheap transport. Regarding wars over oil : I predict these will lessen as more countries tap their own reserves of shale gas and shale oil. And FYI your Leaf charging electricity is still 75% fossil-fuelled.

          • PaulScott58

            Your oleaginous comment carries no weight. If you really think there are no deaths from internal combustion pollution, please read the following studies.nnnMy LEAF has always run on solar energy. It’s clean from well to wheels. You can’t make gasoline on the roof of your house.nnnPre-mature death from pollution:nnnhttp://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2007/08/pollution-causes-40-percent-deaths-worldwide-study-findsnnnhttp://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/nnnhttp://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-air-pollution-neighborhood-ultrafine-particles-20131213,0,7983027.story#axzz2nWaPWWfVnnnhttp://www.nbcnews.com/health/who-agency-air-pollution-causes-cancer-8C11410692nnnhttp://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/study-air-pollution-causes-200000-early-deaths-each-year-in-the-us-0829.htmlnnhttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231013004548nnnhttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231013004548nnnhttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-air-pollution-causes-more-than-2-million-deaths-a-year-20130711,0,3387516.storynnnhttp://reconnectingamerica.org/news-center/half-mile-circles/2013/are-we-there-yet-the-air-pollution-threat/

          • Paul Mott

            Moreover, the charging energy for an EV comes from a grid mix that in reality, according to the physics of the flows to your house across the resistive network that is the grid (Kirchoff’s laws) and not any accounting trick, includes a fair wadge of CO2-emitting fossil-fired plant. In britain, the several GWs of new diesel generating plant of <20 MW doesn't, as far as I am aware, have to have the Nox-abatement that a new or even few-years-old diesel motor cars have to have; it does have a soot filter (DPF, in motor car parley) but not the fancy NOx abatement. If you live in a country with lots of nuclear power, like France or Sweden or Finland (or Iceland with her other low carbon gen), and charge an EV then yes – it's very, very, very clean when viewed on a whole-cycle basis. In Britain I believe the grid mix averages 400 or so grammes of CO2 per kWh, which is quite a lot; for pure coal it's 900. For CCGTs (large efficient gas plant), most governances where the methane is largely imported as LNG, conveniently ignore in their CO2-accounting, the very large amount of energy inherent in liquefaction of the methane to -162 degrees at the source country. Shipping and re-gasification+compression onto the NTS of LNG entail only rather more modest amounts of energy compared to its liquefaction. However, I do believe EVs are good as for most power plant other than the smaller diesels, the Nox emissions are mandatorily abated very efficiently at a large central facility, the particulates are very well abated at any fossil power plant, and with luck you have more nuclear, biomass and other low carbon plant in the grid mix on your synchronous area (e.g. your country's grid system), which, subject to having to have and run some fossil plant available to back up, perhaps, some of the intermittent sorts of low carbon plant that might not generate at the winter darkness peak demand, is genuinely ultra-low-carbon. And that fuel tax, whatever you think ideologically, is a reality; with an EV you personally can dodge it. For many people that's surely a strong play, as ranges go up, and as more and more charging points go in.

  • Joel Saavedra

    Negotiating prices make customers happy, good to hear Nissan is trying to grab more and more customers through this.nn Wheelnation.net