After 8 years of owning a 2013 Nissan Leaf and putting it through everything I can think of, my review overall, is it’s a great starter electric car. Its not perfect, but there are a lot of great things about owning a Leaf. There is practically no maintenance, zero inspections, no fuels costs and no parts to replace. In the 8 years I’ve been driving my Leaf, I’ve only had to rotate the tires and replace the original factory 12 volt battery. With the total cost of maintenance after 8 years adding up to $985 ($723.98 USD) and no, that’s not a typo. It really is this affordable.
So what about the cost of charging a Leaf? Usually, I can charge for free in most places as its included with the parking. Which may cost $7 to park somewhere that I was already going to anyway. Fast charging to get to a destination, it usually costs between $5 – $7 ($10 at most which would be considered expensive).
Over the course of a year, charging can add up to $200-$800 a year. This of course depends on how often/little you charge and how much free/cheap charging you use (which you can plug into a wall outlet overnight and this can cost cents to charge). Charging the batteries does not have huge draw on power from outlet. This is typically referred to as “trickle charging” for this reason.
Below, I’ll talk about realistic range, regenerative braking (which is awesome), how to charge a Nissan Leaf, reliability & maintenance, the best places to find Nissan Leafs and a secret to finding a great deal on one.
Nissan Leaf Range
|2010-2017 Nissan Leaf Range
|84 miles / 135 km
|2018-2019 Nissan Leaf Range
|40 kWh Battery
|158 miles / 252 km
|2020 Nissan Leaf Range
|62 kWh Battery
|226 miles / 364 km
Electric range in older Nissan Leafs are the biggest issues when compared to modern day EVs. Its not great for long distances but perfect for driving to and from cities. A Leaf from 2010-2017 is better suited for a daily commuter or driving locally which is how most people use vehicles anyway. Could you do road trips in a Nissan Leaf with these models? Sure, but it does require fast charging stops at around 20-30 minutes. So you would have to factor that time into your road trips. I personally keep my “short road trips” to less than 75 miles.
All leaf models from 2010-2017 are essentially the exact same model and very little was changed until 2018 when they redesigned the Leaf. With the redesign they updated the exterior looks to be more modern, and also added more range by extending them to 158 miles / 252 km of range. The 2020 Nissan Leafs got a huge upgrade with the 62kwh battery providing 226 miles / 364 km of range.
If your strongly against using fossil fuels but don’t want to spend a lot a a new EV, you may find its worth getting one of the older Nissan Leaf models. If you do road trips often, it may be worth spending a little extra for an electric vehicle with longer range or to get a newer Nissan Leaf. I’ve done round trips from as far as Seattle, WA to Portland Oregon and from Vancouver, BC to Pemberton, BC. The 8 years I’ve owned my Leaf I’ve driven for a total of 32,635 miles (52,521 kilometers) which isn’t that much but I generally don’t drive too often. In that time period, I have had to pay zero in gasoline costs which is a great feeling every time I drive past a gas station.
Charging a Nissan Leaf
Charging a Nissan Leaf is the same for all model years. Press the charge port button to open the charging door and connect your charging cable. It really is that simple. A great tip for Nissan Leaf owners is to use the “Auto Lock” button after plugging your car in. By pressing up on the Auto Lock button this will keep the charger locked to your car so that it can’t be removed until it’s done charging. This is really useful if your going to be away from your Leaf while it’s charging. It’s also helpful to other EV owners so that if you haven’t gotten back yet, they can unplug and use it when it’s done charging. Charging at a fast charging station will usually take 30-45 minutes if the battery is near empty.
Nissan Leaf Charge Time? (from empty)
- 2010-2017 Nissan Leaf 24kwh: 30 Minutes on Fast Chargers / 2 Hours Level 2 Chargers / 8-10 Hours Wall Outlet
- 2018-2019 Nissan Leaf 40kwh: 40 Minutes on Fast Chargers / 3-4 hours on Level 2 Chargers / 8 hours on Wall Outlet
- 2020 Nissan Leaf 60kwh: 1 hour on Fast Chargers / 4-5 hours on Level 2 Chargers / 11.5 hours on Wall Outlet
Nissan Leaf Regenerative Braking
There was a story that was published (Nissan filmed a promo video called “Nissan Leaf and the Volcano” ) where a man in Hawaii uses most the battery charge going to the top of a mountain and generates all that electricity coming back down. I experienced something similar where I had driven up the Cascade Mountains coming from George, Washington (yes, that’s an actual place) and when I had reached the top of the mountain the range meter was reading nothing it was so low. I continued my decent down the mountain and by the time I had reached the bottom… I had 89 miles (143 km) of charge which is way more than what I thought the batteries could handle.
Nissan Leaf Reliability & Maintenance (Important Tip)
Battery Reliability: After 8+ years of ownership I have had very little (if any) battery degradation. While the car has really low mileage but old, the battery is still holding up very well. According to the dashboard gauges there are now 10 bars of the 12 bars left on the battery meter which measures the “battery life” (vertical meter on far right). The battery warranty on Nissan Leafs are good up to 8 years or 100,000 miles and many older Nissan Leaf batteries don’t even start to see battery degradation until 60k to 70k miles. I have done many fast charges (sometimes multiples a day) with most charging done by level 2 plugs and there hasn’t been any changes in the battery reliability so far.
Important ownership tip: This goes for all electric cars in general, but do not let the car sit for long periods of time with a low charge in the battery. Especially in the cold. I discovered that if you let the car sit with a low charge this degrades that battery faster. I did this once (and only once) but I left the car for two weeks with a low charge of 26km of range, which was a dumb mistake. After going to charge it again I noticed there was another bar missing from the battery meter. In hindsight this makes sense but for all electric cars its not a good idea to let them sit with a low charge. This is sort of similar to gasoline powered cars and not letting them sit without the engine running for long periods of time. Gasoline in the tank collects sediment which can damage the engine and spark plugs are meant to be used which is why these two things often need attention when letting them sit there for a long time. For electric cars the material in the batteries in meant to hold and discharge electricity. So if the battery material just sitting there without any electricity flowing in or out of it… it makes sense that it would degrade over time. So that is an expensive lesson learned on my part that hopefully I could spare other EV owners from. While the age of this car and its current battery capacity is still beyond good for a 10 year old EV, I bet that I could have kept the battery life at 11 bars for much longer if I didn’t let it sit there with a low charge.
In regards to any Nissan Leaf maintenance repairs, there was the one time I brought it in to have it looked at and the Nissan dealer had said the car is fine so all they did was rotate the tires. Since then I have had zero maintenance issues and no need to bring the car in. Now that its been over 8 years I may look at getting the tires replaced or at the very least rotated again.
The one thing that had to be replaced on my Nissan Leaf in 8 years is something that’s also found in fossil fuel cars… the 12 volt battery.Jacob Haust
The auxiliary battery back in 2020 finally had to be replaced. This powers everything but the electric motor and oddly it’s also required for the vehicle to start. I’m not 100% sure what the engineering decision was behind this. If any electrical engineers have an explanation, leave it in the comments below. It would help out myself and others understand why EVs have this integrated into the system. The cool thing about the auxiliary battery is it’s charged with a small solar panel on the roof. So some of the power you use in a Nissan Leaf (even if it is just for heat, music and lights) comes from solar power. Total cost of the battery replacement: $130 CAD. Add that with $50 to rotate the tires and if we’re accounting for everything, I also ran out of windshield washer fluid. In 2023, I’ve purchased a new set of tires for $800. So my total cost of maintenance over 8 years is $985 ($723.98 USD).
Practically zero maintenance is one of the biggest benefits of electric vehicles. When you take into account the amount of things that can break on a combustion engine and combined that with the amount of fossil fuel required for the vehicle to operate, electric vehicles are significantly less expensive to own. Electric vehicles have one moving part on the motor, they don’t use gas and you may have to pump up the tires or replace the windshield washer fluid when they get low. That’s about it when it comes to owning an EV, especially one as reliable as a Nissan Leaf.
Nissan Leaf Reliability
When I had purchased my 2013 Nissan Leaf it had come with all season tires that are rated fairly well for winter. Aside from having less range in winter, Nissan Leafs actually perform better than expected in the winter season. One of the best things about electric cars is actually the weight, which would seem counter intuitive. The battery weight actually allows electric cars to drive very well in winter due to more pressure providing grip on the road. Since the batteries are usually positioned low in the vehicle, it also creates a lower center of gravity which gives electric cars better performance in general.
Even in extreme cold in Canada, there has been some change in the battery performance. Range difference is noticeable when it’s very cold outside dropping 10-20%. But once the battery warms up and I use the seat heaters instead of the heater which helps improve the range. If you have an indoor heated garage this will help prevent some of that since it will keep the battery warm. Its also worth mentioning that charging the vehicle indoors in winter will give you a much better charge rate for the same reason. The Nissan Leaf does amazingly well since it’s a front wheel drive car and the motor sits on top of the front axle providing better traction in the snow and ice.
Used Nissan Leafs in the Pacific Northwest
The most difficult trip to do was from Seattle, WA to Portland Oregon. This required charging 4 times each way which added 4 extra hours to the round trip. In an older model electric vehicle with 80 miles (129 km) of range this isn’t ideal. With modern electric vehicles like a 2020 Nissan Leaf, its easy to do this trip with only 1 charge to get there. This is the difference that 8 years of EV development can do. For road trips, I would recommend the newer 2020 Nissan Leaf model which will make for a more relaxing experience knowing you’ll reach your destination and you’ll also save a lot of time in the process. If you end up getting a used Nissan Leaf, be sure to check the battery meter and make sure it has 11 or 12 battery bars. This indicates the battery is still in great condition and will last for years to come.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest and are looking for a budget EV, a used Nissan Leaf is ideal. Especially if you live in places like Portland or Seattle. Both cities have an incredible amount of EV chargers. Over 200+ EV chargers (not including Tesla charging locations) throughout the Portland area with over 1600+ EV charging stations across the state. Seattle alone has over 250 chargers available.
If you live in a large city, electric vehicles like used Nissan Leafs are perfect. It’s “stop and go” traffic 90%+ of the time so you’ll actually generate more electricity than the Nissan Leaf uses if your driving in the city. I experienced this driving around downtown Seattle where I spent the day in the city and left with 10 more miles of charge than I arrived with. This is the beauty of regenerative braking in electric vehicles. Something else that fossil fuel cars will never be able to compete with.
Buying a Used Nissan Leaf
If you search for “Nissan dealership near me” and select a dealership close to you, you might be surprised at how many Leafs are available for sale. Nissan has made more than half a million Leafs and you can easily find many used Nissan Leafs available across the United States and Canada. Some Nissan Leafs are as low as $9k and and most average between $14k-$19k with low mileage.
Here’s a secret to getting a great deal on a used Nissan Leaf. Look for Nissan Leafs at other dealerships who are competitor brands. If someone trades in their Leaf at one of these dealerships, they have incentive to get the Leaf off the sales lot since its a competitor product to their brand. These dealerships will often sell them for thousands less than you would find at any Nissan Dealership.
2020 Nissan Leaf Price?
$32,000 – $42,000 USD
2010-2017 Used Nissan Leaf Price?
$5,000 – $29,000 USD
Here’s some interesting math for how a simple car like the Nissan Leaf can help reduce fossil fuel usage at large. For each Nissan Leaf are sold, this prevents 522+ gallons of gasoline per car/per year from being burned (this is based on a gasoline fueled car of identical size). Calculations were made with a newer VW Golf, which gets and average of 29 mpg, 13.2 gallon fuel tank, an average fuel cost of $950/yr, $24 to fill the tank and using the average driving range of 15k miles a year. So for every 100 Nissan Leafs on the road, this works out to 52,200+ gallons of gasoline not being burned per year. Multiply that by the more than 500,000 Nissan Leafs that have been made globally and that’s 261,000,000 gallons of gasoline per year. Over 260 million gallons of gasoline not burned every year if every Nissan Leaf on Earth gets driven instead of a fossil fuel car. How cool is that?
What I’ve spent on maintenance and charging costs on a Nissan Leaf over the course of 8 years… a gasoline car of the same size would use in only a few months. This is the cost comparison of EV ownership from a first hand perceptive with half a decade of experience. Owning an electric vehicle saves you a lot in both fuel costs and maintenance costs.
Overall, a Nissan Leaf is very reliable EV. Total cost of maintenance over 8 years was $985 ($723.98 USD) and the total cost of ownership (which would include the very little I’ve had to pay for charging over the past 8 years) would ad up to maybe a few hundred in total. The only complaint I have after reviewing the 2013 Nissan Leaf (aside from the appearance) is the range of only 84 miles/135 kilometers. Which for city driving is all you would ever need. For the new 62kWh 2020 Nissan Leaf the range was greatly improved with 226 miles / 364 km of range which for most people is plenty. So if you only require an electric vehicle for getting around the city, an older Nissan Leaf may be one of the best electric vehicles on a budget.