So I Bought an Electric Car…

The new ride - a 2016 Leaf SV in a sweet '70s brown color.

The new ride – a 2016 Leaf SV in this deluxe ’70s brown color.

Before we begin, I should probably admit that the Mustache family absolutely did not need a new car. Or even a new used car. In fact, we didn’t even need the two older used cars that we have been keeping around for the last five years, because our local life has blossomed so nicely in this small city that there is really nothing outside of biking distance, aside from the odd trip to the airport.

If I were still my real retired self (circa 2005-2011), we probably would have sold these vehicles and gone blissfully car-free, combining bikes and bike trailers, with car sharing, carpooling, rentals, and Uber/Lyft rides for our trips out of town, which only average twice per month. The money savings of maybe $2000 per year would only be a minor improvement to our annual spending, but the peace of mind of a clear driveway, no maintenance or registration or maintenance or insurance, and the joy of trying something new, would be worth much more.

But instead, I now lead this dual life: Normal Pete, the retired Dad/carpenter is in control for 90% of my waking hours, but like a werewolf, his alter ego Mr. Money Mustache (circa 2011 to present) takes over occasionally, and he has a different agenda.

MMM is restless, reckless, bossy, prone to experimentation, has a surplus of blog-related income at his disposal, and has to answer to millions of people. Pete’s friends mostly live nearby and already ride bikes, but certain MMM readers are still burning millions of gallons of gasoline driving gas-powered cars on long commutes. Many of them want to know if there is a better way.

So, Mr. Money Mustache just bought himself a brand-new, 2016 Nissan Leaf to run a long-term science experiment and report the data back to you. Pete is a bit nervous about this shiny new toy in the driveway, but he will do his best to have some fun with it.

Why is this a Valid Experiment?

As I mentioned in the recent post about Driving a Tesla to California, I think we’re on the cusp of a very positive change in transportation. Gasoline-powered cars are just about to go the way of the dinosaurs they burn as fuel, and they’ll be replaced by a mixture of electric cars you can drive yourself, and electric cars that drive themselves

However, this transition is just getting started. Over 99% of new cars sold in the US are still gas-powered, and when I run the numbers as an engineer and car enthusiast, I find this to be preposterous. Logically, this should already be less than 50%, and by the end of this decade, it should be zero. The only thing keeping more people from ditching gasoline is that people don’t realize how fucking amazing electric cars are, and I feel I should do my part to share this information. The most effective way to do this is to own one myself and write about the experience.

So Why Did You Choose a Brand-New Nissan Leaf?

The simplest way to explain might be to draw a complete picture of the US car market as I see it – including both gas and electric vehicles of all categories. This decision-making chart covers the spectrum of personal transportation needs for, as far as I can tell, about 99% of the population.

Fig. 1: Car Decision Chart

Fig. 1: Car Decision Chart

I was initially looking for a 2013 Leaf, but given my city’s location (90 miles roundtrip to the airport and some other key destinations) the longer range of the 2016 SV model would eliminate all possible range anxiety. Plus, given our unusual money situation these days and my desire to support the EV market in general, I figured the extra dollars would not be missed.

Update, October 11th: The Leaf comes in three trim levels called “S”, “SV”, and “SL”. They are each about $3000 apart in price. Those top two trim levels have a 25% bigger battery, so I upgraded to the SV to get it. But as of today, Nissan has revealed they will start offering the bigger battery even in the base model. So you can now get the higher range for a few grand less than what I describe in this article.


What about Other Electric Cars?

Besides the Leaf, there are EV versions of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, BMW i3 and a bunch of other cars. By the end of 2016, the new GM Bolt will be out with 240 miles range, at a higher price. GM has also made the excellent Volt plug-in hybrid  since 2011, which is now pretty affordable on Craigslist. In another 2 years or so, you can get a Tesla Model 3 for $35k before tax credits. And the cars will keep getting better as battery prices drop.

I just chose the Leaf because I wanted to completely ditch the gasoline engine right now. It offered the best price/performance ratio in today’s market and is the most widely available. As you’ll see below, it could actually be considered a cost-effective choice despite the rapidly changing technology.

How Much Does This Thing Cost?

Now THIS is where things get interesting.

Straight off of my sales sheet, this is what the car will cost me:

  • Sticker Price (from the car window): $35,445
  • Dealer Handling Fee (aka more profit margin) added in: $600
  • Assorted Discounts from Dealer: (-4500)
  • Hard-to-Explain Discount from Nissan Finance: (-6000)
  • Federal Tax Credit: (-7500)
  • Colorado State Tax Credit: (-4653)

Sorta Net Price of Car: $13,391

However, it’s not quite that good, because many of these discounts are taken only after you pay sales tax on the full price of the car ($31,544 in this case). In my region, sales tax is about 8.26%, so I paid $2605 of tax. About $1500 more than you’d pay on a car that was really priced at 14 grand.

So my total out-of-pocket cost with tax will be $16,000, which is equivalent to buying a brand-new car with a list price of $14,775. This is right around the price of the cheapest new cars* you can get in the US these days. The difference, of course, is that you get something that is fast, silent, pollution-free, almost free to refuel, carpool-lane eligible and pretty luxurious instead of an economy car.

My Dirty Financing Secret and the Strange Positive Cashflow

Blowing all credibility as Mr. Money Mustache, I actually financed this car.

In order to get that “hard to explain $6000 discount” from Nissan, you have to buy the car with zero downpayment and a 0% interest rate. You can then choose to pay the car off at any point, or let the free money ride over a 72 month payoff period.

I’ve bought new vehicles twice before in my lifetime, and both times I got a discount for paying cash. In this case, the incentives are reversed. (If you work in the financial sector, please let us know in the comments section below why it makes any sense for Nissan to do this!)

The only downside of all this is that carrying a car loan requires me to carry at least $1000-deductible collision/comprehensive insurance on the car, which costs me $190 per year extra at Geico. My car loan is for the full $28,000, so the insurance premium works out to only 0.6% of this balance per year – much less than I’ll earn by investing that money elsewhere, so therefore I’ll keep the loan unless it becomes a pain for some reason.

The net of all this is a very odd cashflow diagram for buying this car:

My net wealth difference over time for buying this car. Original spreadsheet here.

My net cashflow difference over time for buying this car. Original spreadsheet here.

I drove the car home without paying anything at all – I just signed a few papers. Two weeks in, I still haven’t paid a dime, which feels really inappropriate.

Meanwhile, I have already sold my old car on Craigslist and collected $5000 in cash, which is now in the bank. In about a month, Nissan will start withdrawing “car payments” from my bank at $400 per month. But at tax time, I’ll collect that juicy $12,150 in tax credits we saw above. Meanwhile, there are fuel savings every month, and I get to enjoy living in the future (and promoting the joy of gas-free transport to everyone else) the whole time.

The bottom line is that at on balance, I will actually have more money sitting in investments than I would have, if I had kept the old car – at least until mid-2021. On top of that, I’ve placed the new car in service as a business vehicle, which will make it partially tax deductible and skew those graph lines even higher.

At the end of the graph, I put a blip to simulate what would happen if I sold the Leaf for $7500 at that point. Meanwhile, my Scion would have been 16 years old and worth maybe $2000. Who knows what the year 2022 will bring – I could keep the Leaf, or perhaps switch to the latest self-driving electric car with a 400 mile range and replace my domestic air travel with sleeping in my future car while it drives me across the country at night.

Maintenance is much simpler on electric cars, but the battery does fade gradually. The warranty is 8 years, but you might be down to about 50% range after 100,000 miles. The Leaf battery can easily be swapped, at which point you’ll have an almost-new car. If you’re beyond the warranty period, the current price for this upgrade at a Nissan dealership is $5500, although with battery prices down 80% over the last 10 years, I would expect this to be about 50% lower by the time a new battery grows old enough to need replacement. For now, you could consider long-term battery wear to be roughly equivalent to engine maintenance costs on a very reliable small car (3 cents per mile).

Is it Actually A Nice Car?

In general, the Leaf is a spiffy vehicle, both inside and out. Interior materials are reasonably classy, especially if you get the black interior. Seats have a firm, reasonably sporty shape.The 5-door hatchback design makes it easy to load and unload people and cargo. Both front and back seating areas, and the trunk, are quite roomy. I can easily fit five of me into the car (6’0/185 lbs), and two more of me could actually fit into the hatch (without such niceties as seatbelts or comfort, of course). Or you can fold down the 60/40 rear seats and have an area big enough for two bikes or 1-2 adults sleeping (if you set up a level sleeping platform). Overnight camping (even in winter) in an electric car is somewhat practical, because you can run the automatic climate control overnight without running out of battery – even better if you have it plugged in.

The Leaf's main computer screen, and the phone app that goes with it.

The Leaf’s main computer screen, and the phone app that goes with it**.

The car has some semi-useful electronics as well: a permanent cellular data connection allows you to check on the Leaf from your smartphone if you install the Nissan app. You can pre-heat (or pre-cool) the cabin from the comfort of your bed or office, as well as start/stop charging, check the charge level and review your driving history and efficiency with a nice calendar-based record. There’s also a GPS navigation system.

However, the whole system of menus, displays, and the app are a tech experience straight out of 2007. If you judge the Nissan by current iPhone/Android standards, you can only laugh and shake your head. On the other hand, even the Tesla Model S touchscreen is no match for a modern tablet.

Finally, the Leaf’s audio system sounds quite good thanks to 6 speakers including column-mounted tweeters. I filled up a 32GB USB drive (value $9) with about 500 of my favorite albums in MP3 form, and plugged it into the port on the dashboard. The car navigates the folders nicely and displays the album art. So I’m set for life and never have to resort to commercial FM or satellite radio.

How’s the Performance?

The Leaf is a controversial car: some say it is ugly and drives like an econobox, while I find it looks pretty damned nice, especially with the 17″ wheels and wide performance tires (215/50/17) that now come on the SV and SL models.

The weight distribution is close to 50/50 and nice and low, with the battery pack way down under the floor and the electric motor between the front wheels. Combining those good tires with the reasonably tight suspension, I find you can whip this car around on a curvy mountain road and it handles it very well. Cornering and passing in the city and interstate is similarly enjoyable.

But the best part is the acceleration. Subjectively, I’d describe the typical economy car or SUV as “plenty fast”, and a midrange performance car as “way faster than you need.” The Leaf feels even faster, at “holy shit this thing is fast!” – only a couple of impractical notches below my impression of the Tesla Model S, whose acceleration is “YEEEAAAH-WHAT THE HELL I’M ABOUT TO CRASH INTO THIS CAR THAT WAS JUST DISTANT SPECK ON THE HORIZON TWO SECONDS AGO!!”

The speed is a bit elusive: acceleration around town is fierce, but the official 0-60MPH acceleration numbers for the car are hard to find. So I tested it myself by flooring the car with a camera mounted in the back. You can also get a feel for the smooth, quiet operation of this car as there’s a bit of regular driving thrown in there:

leaf 0-60

As noted in the video, the actual numbers are only average compared to professional driver results on a moderately sporty car like a Honda Civic. But the instant 100% torque (187 ft-lbs of it) means that casually hitting the gas pedal on this car is equivalent to instantly shifting down to first gear in that Honda, revving the engine to 4000 RPM, then dropping the clutch at full throttle and powershifting through the gears at redline. Most people don’t drive like that in real life, and thus an electric car feels much faster for most drivers.

How Far Can it Go on a Charge? (and how much does the charging cost?)

The EPA rates the car at 107 miles per charge, because they simulate typical American driving patterns (full throttle at all times with constant unnecessary braking, and a parachute and a sack of bricks attached to the back of the car). So far, my lowest performance has been 115 miles (25 miles remaining after a 90 mile roundtrip to a far corner of Denver, mostly on the interstate at 70-80 MPH with A/C). And my best is around 150 miles (city and country driving averaging about 45MPH).

“How Long Does it Take to Charge?” is usually the next question, but the idea of waiting to fuel your car is actually somewhat obsolete. Because you generally just leave it plugged in every night, you awake to a car that is totally full – so most electric car owners never need to make a refueling stop. Much more convenient than gasoline.

However, to actually answer the question – you also can charge the car from empty to full in about 5 hours at the typical public charging station (these are often free to use). Or about 30 minutes at a DC fast charging station. Nissan provides 2 years of free nationwide charging with new Leafs. Public charging is starting to become pretty useful:

There are over 36,000 public charging machines in the US, and the number grows by over ten per day.  This should continue to accelerate, because an 8-car gasoline pumping station costs about $1 million to build, while an 8-spot EV charger would be less than half the cost, and requires much less land (plus profit margins on electricity can be much higher than those on gasoline). Existing gas station chains including BP are already adding electric charging stations alongside their gas pumps.

Both coasts have already set up an “electric highway” infrastructure, which is a string of the ultra-fast 30 minute chargers spaced conveniently for electric cars.

If I’m charging at home, the car holds about 30 kWh of electricity, which costs roughly $3.00 at my local electric rates. By comparison, an economy car (35MPG) would burn around $10 of gas at today’s cheap prices to go the same distance, which means the Leaf is getting the equivalent of roughly 115 MPG. This comparison gets even better as the price of gas increases.

Do I Need an Expensive Home Charging Station?

In most cases, no. Just plug the car into a regular outlet whenever you aren’t using it, using the cord that comes with the car. This adds 4-5 miles of charge per hour, or 60 miles per day if you leave your car parked from, say, 7PM to 7AM.

If you need faster home charging (3-4x faster than the standard cord), you grab a 240 volt charger (about $300 on Amazon), and plug it in to any dryer plug. You can add an outlet like this in your garage or driveway for about $60 in parts and wiring, or hire an electrician to do it for a few hundred dollars, depending on the distance from your main breaker panel. Or you can get even fancier – search Amazon for “J1772” for all your options.

It’s even better if you can plug it in at work and let your employer pay for your energy.

Don’t Electric Cars Pollute Just as Much because of Coal Power Generation?

No. Because electric motors are much more efficient, even the worst case (charging an electric car purely on coal-fired electricity) comes out slightly better than burning the typical fracked and imported gasoline mix. Even better, the US electric grid is only about 28% coal these days, and dropping. Natural gas is still our biggest generator for now, but solar and wind account for almost half of new capacity added each year.

At my house, I’ve enjoyed 100% wind power for over 10 years, just by signing up to my local power company’s wind power program. Whether you buy an electric car or not, you should check with your electric company and switch to wind power (or install solar panels) immediately. And save your receipt, because I might use it as an excuse to invite you to lunch someday.

Further Reading:

This car is a pretty new thing for me. As I have some fun and test it out, I’ll put the results on a permanent page on this blog called The Nissan Leaf Experiment.

Although I have no affiliation with Nissan or any car dealership, I had a great experience buying this from Nigel at Boulder Nissan, because he’s a genuine EV nerd rather than a car salesman. If you’re shopping for one of these cars, feel free to compare the price I paid price to those at your own local dealership, or contact Nigel himself. You can tell him MMM sent you (he’ll know what that means).

Have Questions? Ask them in the comments below

I really enjoy talking about energy and transportation stuff, so I will do my best to answer more questions below. Also, I suspect that about half of the world’s 97,000 Leafs are owned by Mustachians since we are the ideal demographic for such inventions. So you’re an owner and know the answer to one of the questions, feel free to answer it on my behalf. And also share any corrections to this article if you see some incorrect details.

* note: most of the cars on that 10-most-affordable-cars list are excellent choices, especially the Honda Fit

** notice how my phone reports a different range than the main screen? That’s the perfect example of the clunky interface. You have to manually hit the “refresh” button on the phone app, which then goes into an unsightly 1990s spinning animation for, quite literally 38 seconds before you get the new data.

I can’t help imagining the request must be triggering a pager on someone’s belt at the Nissan Tennessee factory, who then runs to the nearest landline telephone and frantically makes a call.

Martha: “Hello, Bill? This is Martha at Nissan Tennessee. We need a range check on Mr. Money Mustache’s Leaf in Longmont Colorado!” 

Bill: “No problem, I’m right in that neighborhood right now! I’ll pull into his street and check on the car. Stand by. (…)”

Bill: “OK! I got it! He’s at 124 miles remaining.”

Martha: “Thanks Bill! You are like a gazelle these days. How are the kids?”

Bill: “Well, Bill Jr. is a little bit sick, but we’re doing pretty well. Cynthia’s starting soccer next week…”

Martha: “Well, I better get this number entered into the mainframe. Talk to you later!”

Bill: “Sure thing, talk to you later!”

A few seconds later, I get my range update.

Hint to Nissan: you can poll this shit asynchronously in the background, and then the data will be reasonably current whenever I open the app. You cannot have 38 second delays in a product that you actually ship to customers. Who actually saw this and said, “Ship it!”?? Please hire some Mustachians to design all aspects of your interface in the future. We can help if you want to get in touch before the next Leaf comes out. Your look-and-feel grace period is almost over, as Tesla will not be gentle with you.

  • The Wealthy Accountant October 4, 2016, 8:23 am

    Awesome looking car, Pete! I know I had an early look at the numbers, but I cannot understand why anyone would buy anything but an electric car in Colorado (or other states with tax incentives) until the incentives go away. In case I missed it, the tax credits require you have a tax to reduce. Not everyone benefits from the tax credits of an electric vehicle. Electrics are also nice if you have AMT issues.

    • David B October 4, 2016, 9:58 am

      Agreed, I’d love to get into something like this but Illinois cancelled their incentive plan a while back, so not as sweet a deal here as what Pete got.

      • Jay S. October 4, 2016, 2:21 pm

        Hi David, if you’re looking for one and don’t mind it being used, Carmax seems to carry a lot of them. My guess is they are just off lease because the mileage is similar (20-30k) and they are quite reasonably priced (I think this is related to the current low price for gas.) I bought mine in St. Louis a year and a half ago and will never look back. Carmax can have them shipped from anywhere in the country for a small price as well.

      • Tummy October 5, 2016, 5:10 am

        There are reports from owners that Illinois started recently sending out the rebate checks.

      • ken ashe January 13, 2017, 2:36 pm

        New Jersey did too :(

    • Stockbeard October 4, 2016, 10:14 am

      I’d love to see where you find a rental car for $25/day, Pete. In my experience the costs have been closer to $50 a day:

      $15~$30 : car
      $12: liability insurance (people who don’t have a car usually don’t have car insurance and are not covered for liability)
      $8: taxes
      $10: fuel
      Total: $45 to $60 a day

      Source: I’m the “occasional long road trips” guy on your graph, tried that myself.

      • Troy October 4, 2016, 10:23 am

        I’ve rented cars for under 30 per day plus gasoline at enterprise. There are a few tricks to this, but in general, do not ever accept any additional liability insurance, it is not necessary. Perhaps someone else can clarify what that actually buys you, but its nothing worth 8 bucks in my personal situation. I haven’t owned a car for years and rentals have been the best way to use car on occasion for extenuating circumstances.

        • Andrew October 4, 2016, 11:18 am

          Most major credit cards will cover your rental insurance. That will save you the $10-15/day.

          • RN October 6, 2016, 1:27 pm

            Note that credit cards, such as the Visa Signature I carry, covers damage to the vehicle but NOT liability for casualty losses suffered by those you might hit in an accident. I have a supplemental policy plus an umbrella to be covered from a liability perspective. I have been car free since November 2014 and rent a car once a week to visit family.

            • Patrick October 21, 2016, 4:48 pm

              I’d be interested to know how the Umbrella policy works in this case if you don’t own a car and don’t have car insurance. My Umbrella policy required me to vastly increase my car liability coverage (guess I was really underinsured previously). I find it hard to imagine that they’d just cover your liability in a rental without some type of insurance other than the Umbrella policy.

        • Stockbeard October 4, 2016, 4:48 pm

          Necessary for me as far as I can tell: my credit card does not cover liability for rentals, and my renter’s insurance does not cover liability for rental cars. Both are very precise about it. I’d need a non-owner car insurance, maybe, as suggested below.

          • Leigh Ann October 5, 2016, 6:28 am

            The Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve both carry primary rental insurance as cardholder benefits.

            • Brian October 6, 2016, 11:25 am

              Nearly every credit card offers secondary rental insurance, which if you don’t have car insurance (i.e. anyone who doesn’t have a car) acts as primary insurance. No need to pay a $95 annual fee (or 450 for the CSR)

            • Mark October 7, 2016, 1:25 pm

              +1 one of those cards is a must have if you rent cars more than 2-3 times a year just for the primary insurance alone forgetting about any of the other benefits.

            • AdamP October 9, 2016, 6:10 pm

              Primary rental insurance offered by credit cards is not the same thing as liability insurance. The credit card insurance will cover damage to the rental car, but it will not cover damage to anything (or anyone) else.

          • Michal October 6, 2016, 6:04 am

            I’m just a mortgage-slave from Europe, and I don’t have scientific data available, but I believe for people who rent a car at least couple of times per year, the insurance is a waste of money, as long as they’re able to drive safely. If you don’t choose insurance (which is usually almost as expensive as the rental itself), there is an excess of couple of hundred euros/dollars. Just last week I rented in Spain, 12 day rental, price 180 EUR, and the insurance was 150 EUR. If not insured, the excess was 1200 EUR. Given that I do this 4 times per year and I put the insurance money aside instead (which I never do because I’m irresponsible), I have those 1200 EUR saved in just 2 years if the worst happens. I’ve been renting cars without insurance for ~12 years now and never had any problem. And Spanish drivers are pretty crazy! ;-) So the cost was: 15 EUR/day without the fuel (ok, this is highly competitive Spanish market).

            • Steve October 14, 2016, 1:52 pm

              You are basically comparing a deductible waive/lowering to self-insuring *the deductible only*. Generally speaking higher deductible is a slam dunk for those of us with the means to pay the deductible. I don’t know what happens if you decline coverage in the US and don’t have any backup coverage. The car is likely less than a year old (not a clunker) and to boot they’ll charge you for the lost rental income while it’s being repaired.

        • Robert October 5, 2016, 9:34 pm

          How is this done? I’m currently doing this right now in Southern California. I rented a small Kia via Costco Travel for $22 a day. I don’t have a car so I don’t carry auto insurance. The additional insurance purchased adds up to $32 a day. That brings my total to $52 a day.

          I called my CC company and they will only provide insurance on the damage to the vehicle while in my possession insurance. Not the most important while driving around and not hitting anything or anyone insurance.

        • Eldred October 30, 2016, 6:08 pm

          Isn’t the car rental insurance so you don’t have to make a claim on your OWN insurance? Plus, if you have $1000 deductible, you’d have to pay that first before the insurance takes over. Then after that you’d have to worry about them jacking your rates…

      • Brendan Long October 4, 2016, 11:18 am

        Presumably fuel shouldn’t be included in the comparison, since you’d pay for that if you owned a car too (or pay a smaller amount for electricity).

      • jamaicaspanish October 4, 2016, 11:21 am

        When I was overseas, I carried non-owner’s car insurance (USAA). It covered me when I visited the U.S. and drove a borrowed car or a rental car. My annual cost was $24 or so. It also kept me continuously insured, so when I returned stateside, I was not automatically chuted into the “high-risk-can’t-show-proof-of-recent-insurance pool.” It’s worth checking out.

      • Allison October 4, 2016, 12:08 pm

        I know my Capital One credit card offers collision and theft coverage when I purchase the rental with that card. Worth looking into before you pay the insurance to the rental company.

        • Stockbeard October 4, 2016, 4:44 pm

          But not liability, which is really the important one

          • Doug October 9, 2016, 9:52 am

            Agreed. I would be hesitant to even drive the car in the parking lot without liability insurance. On my own car I carry $2 million CDN of liability coverage.

      • Jacob B October 4, 2016, 12:19 pm

        Check with your credit card with which you book the reservation. Most credit cards offer up to $25,000 in liability protection on rental cars so you do not have to buy theirs.

        • Stockbeard October 4, 2016, 4:45 pm

          Mine doesn’t unfortunately, and is very precise about it

      • Leigh Ann October 5, 2016, 6:27 am

        I book all my non-business rentals through Autoslash.com and have consistently gotten rock bottom prices. They even automatically rebook your reservsation if a lower price pops up. I can’t recommend them enough. Clark Howard turned me on to them :)

      • Florida Mike October 8, 2016, 4:53 pm

        Caution to those who rely on the credit card to cover them….
        I rent cars alot and never get the insurance. This past March I rent a car and the windshield gets cracked overnight while its parked. Took me 4 months and countless hours on the phone with the credit card and then rental car company (a large name I might add) to get it paid. I figured I spent well over 20 hours in time getting this resolved as it wasn’t just a matter of “No problem Florida Mike, you are covered” as I had to provide endless documents and such to prove what happened, etc. Had I not done all this, the cost for the windshield was to be $640.! And when you are 1,100 miles away, its not easy to contend.
        So lesson here is I will now get the insurance as for the $20-30 per day, I can bring the car back beat to hell and no one cares. They don’t even inspect the car prior to my leaving now as the agents all know I bought the insurance.
        OK, so I really don’t abuse the cars as I am not that type but the agents still don’t inspect it.
        So sure it costs me money but I am now an “insurance believer”.

        • Steve October 14, 2016, 1:56 pm

          For this to pay off you would have to end up with a cracked windshield one out of every 32 rental days. I find that pretty unlikely.

        • Greg December 8, 2016, 7:41 am

          I’m skeptical about the “self insure” situation, too. I have insurance as part of one of my credit cards, but it doesn’t include liability, either. Plus, I asked the agent last time I rented and they added the little detail that, if you decline their insurance, you are liable for the daily rental cost for the entire period that the car is out of service being repaired. That info sealed the decision for me right there and then.
          On the other hand, I am more and more often trying to use a ride sharing rental like Turo – which has been a lot of fun, and cheaper.

        • lars December 11, 2016, 2:37 pm

          Good lesson. When in college, I worked for car rental outfit over one summer and based on that experience, was always convinced that the damage waiver was a great deal. Years later I had the opportunity to experience how great it was. I was parking a rental in the garage at work and accidentally backed into another car. I left a note on their windshield to contact me and then immediately contacted the car rental company – it was hertz. Bottom line, they took care of everything. I mean everything. Once I made contact w/the owner of the car I hit, I gave her contact info to Hertz, they called her, told her what to do, she got it done and absolutely no complaints. So in total, it took me three calls that all took less than 10 mins – First one to Hertz to notify, then received a call from the owner of the car I hit to exchange info, then a follow up to Hertz from me to give them her info – DONE! Always take the damage waiver.

      • Chad February 16, 2017, 10:23 am

        Check out autoslash.com. It’s the best decision I’ve made since marrying my wife.

      • Roberto April 26, 2017, 6:19 pm

        Here’s a tip from a regular renter: I use a third party insurer. I used to have to call them every time which was a hassle, but now they have an app, and when I rent a car I click something like three buttons and I’m covered for all rental car liabilities. This is usually about a 75% discount on the ripoff insurance offered by the rental car company. I’m in Australia, but I’m sure there would be the same type of thing in the US..

    • Julia October 4, 2016, 1:17 pm

      We also live in Colorado and were looking at buying a Leaf last year, and the tax incentives are what broke the deal for us – if I remember right, the Colorado state tax credit is fully refundable, so it doesn’t matter whether you owe taxes or not – but the federal tax credit is NOT refundable, meaning you have to actually owe that much in taxes in order to cash in on it – and we don’t make that much money.

      I’m excited to keep up on the Leaf experiment, MMM! We’re Honda Fit owners now and hoping we can go electric next time around (also hoping that’s not for a few years yet!).

    • tom October 4, 2016, 1:24 pm

      +1 on the $7500 tax credit point. It’s not refundable.

      Not to be a downer complainy-pants, but as an example, my family of four has an AGI near $80k, taxable income of about $45k, and $2000 in child tax credits already, so that $7500 would’ve benefited me to the tune of about $3800. YMMV, pun intended.

      • Daniel H October 4, 2016, 3:54 pm

        If you lease an EV the dealer gets the federal tax credit and this should reduce your lease cost. In California if you lease for 36 months or more you can still claim the state (refundable) tax credit (and this credit can be paid immediately, not only at tax filing). Leasing might be a good option for those not able to fully take advantage of the federal tax credit.

      • Steve Ferguson October 4, 2016, 10:03 pm

        You can spread the credit over multiple years (two years in your case) so you would still benefit for the full credit amount regardless of your low tax situation.

        • Josh October 5, 2016, 11:38 pm

          This is actually not true. The Federal EV tax credit is a one and done type credit. If you can’t claim the entire $7,500 in the year you purchased the car you forfeit the balance. Furthermore, this credit is “non-refundable” so if your tax liability for the year is less than $7,500 you will not receive a refund for the difference.
          Source: Form 8936 Instructions, Line 23: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8936.pdf

          • Charles December 8, 2016, 3:14 pm

            To the extent it’s considered business use you can carry back and forward the credit as usual( back 1, forward 20) . 7500 would be a lot in capital gains taxes for mmm to cover, I guess he could harvest 154k or so in gains to generate a 7500 tax liability this year if he wanted to.

            • The Wealthy Accountant December 9, 2016, 2:08 pm

              Depends, but probably no. Since most business owners are organized as an LLC treated as a S corp, the credit flows to the personal tax return or is put there in the first place. The credit is use it or lose and is not refundable. I stated in an earlier comment that this credit only works for people with an income tax to reduce. It also does NOT affect Other Taxes. Therefore, this credit will not reduce self-employment taxes or IRA penalties, etc.

      • Jeik October 4, 2016, 10:33 pm

        You can manufacture some tax liability by converting some retirement funds to Roth in the year that you purchase. Or plan ahead and contribute to Roth accounts that year so you have a bit more tax liability. Works well for the solar tax credit too.

      • Jeremy October 4, 2016, 11:29 pm

        You could take steps to create taxable income in the year you want to get the credit. For example, you could move money from a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA (a Roth IRA Conversion, a taxable event)

        • Kenneth October 5, 2016, 6:54 am

          Excellent idea, GCC!

      • tom October 5, 2016, 5:39 am

        Nice strategies, everyone. I did not see the provision to spread the credit over 2 years, and I’m not usually gaming the tax system to *increase* my taxable income :) Thanks.

    • Don October 4, 2016, 2:24 pm

      The $7,500 Federal tax credit would not help me much in one year. I’d it possible for that to be spread out over several years?

      • Jane October 4, 2016, 8:07 pm

        NO, which we should lobby to change. You can only receive as much credit as tax you owe that year.

      • Andrew October 4, 2016, 9:43 pm

        I believe it is a one-time credit only and cannot be carried over into subsequent years. Bummer.

        • Josh October 5, 2016, 11:39 pm

          That is correct, this credit is a “one and done” deal. See my other post above.

    • Nik October 4, 2016, 4:09 pm

      The biggest reason I can think of is that even the 150 mile range he claims isn’t really enough to get to Vail (or pick your mountain activity) and back without recharging. I can get from Denver to Browns Canyon to go kayaking and come back without refueling a gas powered car (or refuel in 3 minutes anywhere if I really needed to), I couldn’t do that with any electric car except for maybe a Tesla. There aren’t that many high speed charging stations so a charge to make the trip would add 3+ hours minimum to my trip (because there aren’t any charging stations at river put-ins or trail heads).

      • Devin October 4, 2016, 9:06 pm

        You’d have to charge at your destination while you skied. Yes, sometimes a pain, but sometimes not. Plugshare.com shows chargers and you’d be surprised at how many there are. For sure it requires more planning and limits you, but it also would be possible to do this kind of thing. The Model 3 and Bolt should have more than ample battery packs for these types of excursions, and the supercharger in Dillon Frisco means that Tesla has absolutely no problems getting up to the mountains and back.

      • Stephane January 5, 2017, 12:32 pm

        Aye, now you understand the use of having a charger at your destination, or a fast charger along the way. Thing is, any plug anywhere could be a charger, just need to ask permission. And plugshare will show you a number of ones you didn’t know existed… EV owners help other EV owners…

    • mark October 7, 2016, 9:12 am

      In your post you mentioned that “not everyone benefits from the tax credits”. It is also true that not everyone benefits the maximum amount as MMM has in his case. My current salary is about 70k, I recently bought an electric car in electric car in CO as did MMM and my credits were much much less because I did not pay that much in State Tax. MMM must have a very nice salary!

    • Viraj October 19, 2016, 2:49 pm

      Re. the question of why and how the incentives of discount are given when financing at 0% from Nissan financing.
      Its actually a situation created by artificially low interest rates. Nissan has its main financial holdings in Japan. At the moment, the rates in Japan are slightly negative or zero. Further, there are tax incentives for moving larger inventory through from the Japanese government. Rather than take a negative rate, a 0% rate is better for Nissan. At the same time, they get their revenue higher and get the tax incentives as well as moving inventory through the system which stimulates the sluggish economy. Its a hokey way to encourage economic activity, but thats what the BOJ has been doing last few years!

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 20, 2016, 8:39 pm

        Wow, I like this theory Viraj – do you have any further reading to back it up?

        If it’s true, I’m benefiting from international interest rate arbitrage, which is a fun side benefit to owning an electric car.

        • keithage May 10, 2017, 10:53 am

          It also has a lot to do with dealer financing and their relationship to the manufacturer. Car dealers finance their new car inventory at 90-100% so any time it is in inventory they are paying interest. Also, I imagine Leafs (Leaves?) aren’t the best seller at Nissan, but the dealer is required to accept delivery of lower selling models in order to guarantee inventory of better selling models. On top of it, the manufacturer is pressured to sell low emission vehicles to meet their CAFE requirements. NMAC (Nissan’s financing arm) also makes money from the origination of lease which the manufacture pays so NMAC is happy to make the lease even if you don’t pay a dime of interest because they are trying to turn inventory. Finally they are banking on you to change in the car when the lease is up and make money on the residual. Long story short, including what Viraj said above, it is a host of different factors that push certain car prices so low.

          • DeeTee July 30, 2017, 8:58 pm

            The reason is actually simpler than this. To package car loans into a securitization that can be sold to insurance companies and other financial market participants, you need a certain amount of high FICO score loans in the pool to make it seem safe. Too many low FICO score borrowers in the pool and investors get scared – they start getting that 2008 feeling, and it wasn’t a pleasant memory. But most car buyers have low FICO scores and the high quality borrowers are in shorter supply. If they can’t get enough high FICO scores to balance out the low ones, they can’t sell the securization because it looks too risky. And if they can’t sell the securitization, it means the loans have to sit on their books, and they can’t make new ones. Can’t make new loans, means you can’t sell cars.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks October 4, 2016, 8:26 am

    Sweet new ride! I don’t see any problem with putting money where your heart is. Especially if you have extra disposable income and are helping promote environmentally friendly tech.
    We got a used Prius for $5000 to do most of our driving – we do a lot of road trips now that I’m done working. It’s saved us a ton on gas and I like that it’s more environmentally friendly. I enjoy cruising with just the electric mode and can’t wait to get a full electric car one day.

    • Fiscally Free October 4, 2016, 7:34 pm

      I’ve got a Plug-In Prius and enjoy it quite a bit. I like the idea of purely electric cars, but it’s really nice not having to ever worry about finding a plug.

      We just bought a brand new gas powered car to replace our disgraced Golf TDI. Unfortunately, none of the reasonably priced electric cars are big enough for our extra-tall family, nor could they reliably make the ~100 mile round trip to visit grandparents.

      I am surprised MMM didn’t hold out for the Bolt or the next generation Leaf. They probably won’t be quite as cheap as his Leaf, but they will probably be significantly better. I have driven the current Leaf and I can confirm the tech feels very dated.

  • The Wealthy Accountant October 4, 2016, 8:28 am

    I have a question, Pete, I think you have to wait to answer. How is the range in colder weather? It gets frigid in NE Wisconsin and batteries tend to lose some oomph as the temps drop.

    • Kyle October 4, 2016, 9:17 am

      Extreme warmth and cold definitely affect the battery life. Can be as much as 30%-40% depending on driving conditions in my 2012 Leaf. We are luck to live in a temperate climate where this is of little concern.

      • The Wealthy Accountant October 4, 2016, 10:03 am

        Kyle, so you are saying your Leaf goes 60-80 miles on a charge in colder climates? If so, that would still work for me. Anything under 60 miles and I could have a problem if I have a sales call.

        Thanks for the input, Kyle.

        • Kyle October 4, 2016, 10:29 am

          My 2012 Leaf goes about 70-80 miles on a single charge and is on the slow decline due to the battery aging. However, battery life on the new leaf has increased about 50% so it would probably fit your needs. The Bolt will allegedly be 200+ miles and a new generation Leaf that performs similarly is allegedly on the horizon as well. One other thing to note about cold weather is that the heater is a gigantic energy sink (although the seat and steering wheel warmers help tremendously).

          If I were you, I would wait for the next generation with 200+ mile range since battery degradation could render the unsuitable for your needs after 4 or 5 years.

          • The Wealthy Accountant October 4, 2016, 11:21 am

            Excellent advice, Kyle. I’m chompin’ at the bit to get an electric, but cold weather and plowing through a blizzard worry me. I think you are right, waiting is what I must do.

          • Andrew October 4, 2016, 10:07 pm

            Nissan switched to a hybrid heating system (resistive and heat pump) for 2013 and newer model years. This is supposedly less of a drain on the battery, although in really cold ass weather the heat pump will likely not be very useful. My family has a 2012 Leaf and will experiment with preheating the car this winter via an internal timer while it’s still plugged into the grid.

            • RelaxedGal October 5, 2016, 9:19 am

              Re: pre-heating: the pre-heat is only so-so if plugged into a regular 110V outlet. If you’re on a level 2 charger though it gets up to the full 77 degrees and is lovely. Doesn’t quite justify the installation, but it does make my winter mornings nicer. I turned on the climate control timer last week here in Massachusetts and a 40F morning is much nicer.

              Re: range: Yes, cold batteries affect range. My 2012 Nissan Leaf (10 battery bars left, out of 12) is in a car port so it’s only slightly protected from the elements. I have a 40 mile/day commute, and last winter there were 3 days with a high around 10F when I had to charge on my lunch. I don’t have a charger at the office, so this was a special trip to the dealership to use the DC fast charger. I’ve chatted with other Leaf owners there on the cold days, and we have a winter uniform: Hat, mittens, winter coat, lap blanket. Leaf owners are obsessed with efficiency and loathe to use the cabin heat (heated seats and heated steering wheel are fair game). So that’s my experience: when the temp is below 10F a 40 mile round trip is cutting it close. That’s a ~ 40% range reduction vs. the ideal 72 degree day.

            • Bytre February 7, 2017, 5:01 pm

              On my 2011 leaf, I have a dashboard mounted 12v heater which does a better job with less impact on my battery (draws from the 12v accessory battery) than the built-in heater. Now, I am in southern california so I use it whenever it gets cold (meaning lower than ~70 f).

    • Janet October 4, 2016, 9:47 am

      I’m in NE WI and have a 2013 LEAF. Range drops considerably in winter. I can make a 50 mile round trip to my parents and make it back to Green Bay with maybe 15-20 miles left on the GOM after charging to 100% (inital readout 90+ miles). There’s a reserve (extra miles than what the readout says), so I am probably not as bad off as I think but err on the side of caution. I pre-heat the cabin and sometimes not run heat while making that trip.

    • Sheryl October 4, 2016, 10:03 am

      We have two LEAFs and live in Colorado. I haven’t noticed that the cold, specifically, has affected the batteries. I do notice that slushy streets affect the range, though, similar to how such road conditions affect gas mileage in a ICE vehicle.

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:29 am

        Just to be clear on this, a cold battery cranks out less energy while it is cold, but recovers fully when it is warmed back up again. In fact, Lithium batteries have a longer lifespan in cooler climates (which is why early Seattle-area Leaves have fewer battery problems than those in Phoenix).

        In Colorado, a bigger problem is our hot summers (90F for a solid couple of months). During this time, a careful owner might shift some of their driving to the evening hours when practical, and especially do the charging at night to keep the average battery temperature down.

        • Sheryl October 4, 2016, 10:49 am

          Ours are in a garage and in the winter they’re pre-heated while still plugged in to the wall. Perhaps the combination of the garage and preheating keeps the battery from being overly affected by winter cold.

        • Ben W. October 4, 2016, 1:45 pm

          I have ~22,000km on my 2015 Leaf, and I get significantly less mileage on the coldest -30 degrees C driving in Winterpeg, Manisnowba. One guy, smarter than I am, told me it’s not the temperature that reduces the mileage so much as it is that because it has to work so much harder to push through all that dense (cold) air, not to mention having to run the heater, heated seats and heated steering wheel! BTW, I still have a full 12 bars with close to 100% state of health on my battery pack :-)

        • Andrew October 4, 2016, 9:58 pm

          To add to the list of habits a battery-conserving Leaf owner might do to prolong life… wait for the battery to cool down after use before charging. On older models, there’s also research that indicates shorter charge cycles prolong battery life. In other words, charge it even if you’ve only taken 20 miles off the range. http://www.electricvehiclewiki.com/Battery_Capacity_Loss

          • lurker October 9, 2016, 3:34 pm

            anyone know about environmental damage due to lithium mining??? not to be a spoiler but folks should know this shit…..

            • smac October 10, 2016, 6:03 am

              Lithium isn’t really mined as such. It occurs naturally in salt form (note it’s just above sodium in the periodic table) and is separated out using electrolysis. So I don’t see any reason it would necessarily be environmentally harmful to obtain.

            • Octopus October 19, 2016, 6:57 am

              Vs. the environmental, financial, military, and human costs of the petroleum extraction industry?

        • Joe October 10, 2016, 10:12 am

          “Leaves.” Lol.

    • Brian Teeter October 4, 2016, 1:38 pm

      2013 Leaf owner here, in Florida. We’ve had it almost 3 years. Obviously cannot speak to hard core cold weather – but sort of cold (40s) and hot weather (90s+) does not seem to impact battery life significantly, or even noticeably. But when it gets “cold” here (anything under 70), and we run the heat, the car will deduct about 3-4 miles from the remaining range when you turn on the heat. We never really see range differences based on the outdoor temperature.

    • GordonsGecko October 5, 2016, 10:14 am

      A friend of mine owns numerous auto dealerships in the northeast, including a Nissan dealership. I sent him the article just as thought piece and to see if his dealership sells many. He said basically none. Issues are the range (no real big cities around) and temperature. He said that cold weather has contributed to some issues in the older models, though the newer ones are better.

      I’d definitely consider an electric down the road when range is not an issue and weather related difficulties are ironed out. But for now, my 3.5 mile commute each way would never let me justify owning or leasing one of those bad boys. I’ll stick to my motorcycle, bicycle or sometimes… my 2003 Subaru.

    • Felipe October 6, 2016, 1:52 am

      My 2012 Volt gets 38 miles per charge in summer and 30 in winter.

  • Wes October 4, 2016, 8:34 am

    When I first quickly read the price breakdown I read it as “Sucker Price (from the car window): $35,445” instead of “Sticker Price (from the car window): $35,445” HA!

  • FinanceSuperhero October 4, 2016, 8:35 am

    I really expected this to be an announcement that you had bought a Tesla. I’ve heard good things about the Leaf from others, so on that basis alone, I think you made a pretty good choice.

    The tax credits on the purchase are pretty intriguing to me. I might jump on the electric bandwagon when the range expands to a level which is comparable to gas engines.

    • Julia October 4, 2016, 3:09 pm

      You don’t need to wait for the range to expand to a level comparable to gas engines, unless you are currently in the habit of refueling daily. We’ve had an electric Golf for almost two years and still haven’t installed a 240V charger. We’re just using the 110V charger that came with the car, attached to an extension cord (because we don’t have a functional garage).

      We thought this was a temporary set-up, but it’s been fine. I typically can go two days on one charge, which is good because our other car is a Ford C-Max, plugin hybrid and it wants to charge as well.

      One neat idea I’ve seen is that there are 240V chargers that have a big plug, like an RV would use at an RV park. (Most of the 240V chargers I’ve seen are hardwired.) This expands your travel opportunities to many places that have RV parks. Just bring along a tent and you can roadtrip all over the place!

      • Nik October 4, 2016, 4:15 pm

        Just a heads up, most RV hookups are 30 amps but still 110V, not 240V (and some are 2-50A circuits at 110V). I believe you can still use them to charge electric cars but I doubt that the 240V adapter you use on a dryer plug actually works in a 30 or 50A RV plug without some adapter.

        • Julia October 5, 2016, 10:43 am

          Thanks for that – we’ll need to learn more about RV hookups before we actually buy a portable fast charger, then. We do plan to have a home charging station beyond the extension cord, someday.

          • Andrew Mullen February 13, 2017, 9:08 pm

            I just hooked up a 240V RV hookup at my house.
            30 Amp RV box/outlet (Sufficient for Volt charging)
            10/2 wire
            30 double pole breaker
            I had my OEM portable charger converted to work with 120 or 240V (much cheaper)

  • SocraticGadfly October 4, 2016, 8:37 am

    He said “excellent Chevy Volt.” When it first came out, it kind o sucked.

    I’m eyeballing a used Prius for my next car, or if Hyundai’s competitor is better as it claims it will be, a used version of it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:22 am

      Do you have a link that documents some of the ways in which the earlier Volts sucked? I’ve heard only positive (bordering on raving) feedback from people who actually owned the car so far.

      • Matt Radcliffe October 4, 2016, 9:56 am

        Take a look at the price drop on the used market for volts after very minor front end collisions. It appears they put some rather delicate and expensivee control units right behind the bumper skin.

        • Str8cash32 October 4, 2016, 10:42 am

          My Father just bought a front end hit Volt in August. Needed about $1800 in parts and a few hours of tinkering/learning (Under 40 hrs) to put it all back together and now has a volt with 25,000 miles on it for about $6500 total invested. Pretty sweet ride if you ask me (someone with intimate knowledge) and they are engineered to be pharmaceutical grade in all aspects.

      • CoreyH October 4, 2016, 10:59 am

        We have had our ’13 Volt for about 18 months (used) and it has been flawless. My wife liked the electric drive so much the she sold her VW that we had owned for 13 years and bought a used Leaf. (We don’t get as good of a state tax credit as you CO folks do!) The Leaf has been a good car for commuting and general grocery getting, etc. My daughter also bought a used ’13 after we crunched the numbers. Happy to see MMM see a similar advantage to these low maintenance marvels of engineering!!

      • SocraticGadfly October 4, 2016, 11:28 am

        First, the Volt, as originally designed, was a plug-in hybrid, not an electric. It’s not fair to electrics to call it one.

        Then there’s the issue, from the start, based on what the Volt is vs. what GM claimed, of what its mileage rating actually is:


        • a1smith October 4, 2016, 6:09 pm

          The Volt is not strictly a plug-in hybrid; it is an extended range electric vehicle (EREV). Typically, it is purely electric until the battery reaches the low end of state of charge (SOC). When the SOC reaches the low end then the engine starts so you can keep driving. The electric range of the Volt has increased with newer models and is now 53 miles. That is more than >95% of US drivers commute in one day. So, for them, for all intents and purposes, it is an EV. Then, if they want to go on a trip they can still use the Volt and drive longer distances using the engine — no need to rent a car.

          There is no issue with what the Volt is vs what GM claimed. The only issue is that the EPA requires the starting and ending SOC to be essentially the same. So, the benefit of the Volt being mostly EV gets reduced because the EPA test procedure required the battery to be recharged by the gas engine (like a hybrid would) instead of being able to charge it using AC power (like an EV would). It is a matter of the test procedure not working that well for an EREV; not a matter of what GM did or did not claim.

        • Jill Walker October 4, 2016, 8:36 pm

          I’ve owned a 2017 for 4 months and I would never go back to an ICE only car. The Volt is an awesome car to drive, especially for my 45 mile commute each day. I do not use 1 drop of gas on my commute. When I head up to Summit County for the weekend, I use 1 gallon on the way up ( 67 miles), charge overnight and use ZERO gallons on the way home thanks to gravity! I love that there is absolutely no range anxiety other than not wanting to use gas so my volt-stats don’t take a hit!
          However, the reason I bought a Volt was more for not wanting to send my transportation dollars to OPEC. I’d rather pay for wind credits and reduce my “contributions” to countries who finance terrorism.

      • SocraticGadfly October 4, 2016, 11:30 am

        Add the fact that, originally at least, the Volt needed premium fuel and … per your financial angle, had sucky lease terms:

        • Ral October 4, 2016, 12:29 pm

          The 2016/2017 models use regular unleaded gas. (And only once the battery runs out.) I don’t know about lease terms though. I financed mine.

      • Zheffafa October 4, 2016, 11:48 am

        I’ve had a 2012 for over 3 years now and I love it.
        I have encountered approximately 1 person, ever, who drove a Volt, any year, and didn’t like it.

      • Ral October 4, 2016, 12:22 pm

        I just bought a 2017 Volt recently. It gets 53 miles electric, which is enough to cover most people’s commute (including mine). And for longer trips it still has the gas engine backup. I have used no gas yet. It is great! Eligible for the $7500 tax credit too.

      • Silverone December 16, 2016, 4:34 am

        Add me to the list of folks that are borderline raving.

        The used Prius I owned was not a bad car, but not in the same class as the first generation Chevy Volt. The Volt wins in all aspects except for interior volume.

        It’s true that some repair costs can be higher due to the electrical components not in typical cars, but also the warranty on those components run to 8 years and 100,000 miles or more in some states. With the warranty, the risks are mitigated.

        Either way, I couldn’t agree more that an electrically motivated car is the way to go. Mine just has a gas backup for rare times when I have to go more than 40 miles between charges. I believe used Leaf (and Volt) pricing is artificially low right now, and am considering picking up a used Leaf for around town.

        The quiet torque of EV’s is more addicting than you’d think. Enjoy your Leaf, MMM!

    • Darell October 4, 2016, 9:43 am

      The original Volt had one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of all time. It was and remains a fine – if over-engineered – car. At the time about perfect for a single-vehicle household with occasional long-distance “needs.”

      • Steve D. October 4, 2016, 11:02 am

        Agreed with Darell. The Volt has had consistently high customer satisfaction ratings and are a downright steal in the used market. It’s not unusual to see a ’12 or ’13 with 80k miles near the $10k mark. Occasionally, off lease models are available that have hardly ever cycled the battery! 40 miles of electric range and a small gasoline engine that extends that range out to 300+ miles makes it a no brainer at the price point.

      • S.G. October 7, 2016, 9:40 am

        My only concern with those numbers would be that a lot of people who bought Volts did so for personal reasons and were more likely to be happy with it from the get go, even if it were a beast. It will need to have far more mainstream customers before those customer surveys are comparing apples to apples.

    • NanoBore October 11, 2016, 3:41 pm

      To preface this, I don’t really like cars. I happily lived without regular use of one from about 2001-2015. Finding myself out in the Bay Area for a job two years ago, I thought a bike+transit might still cut it, but after a few months of feeling rather isolated in the suburbs–and also finally able to afford one without it really impacting much else in my life–I got a Volt. I still kind of hate cars, but I love my Volt. No cars are really very “green”–though some are obviously greener than others–but a Volt was the greenest practical option for me (driving on average once a week, biking the rest, plus a longer road trip every month or so beyond the range of a Leaf). After two years, 82% of my miles have been purely on electric. The best hybrid would have dumped more than twice the CO2 into the atmosphere (and four times as much if I had been living somewhere with a greener grid like Seattle) and as I have free charging at work, I get about ~200 mpg if considering the price of gas, also easily beating out the best hybrids. 99% of the gas was used on longer road trips to Santa Cruz, Tahoe, etc. If I had gotten a pure EV, I would have had to rent a car (and likely it would not be a Prius) fairly regularly, getting fewer mpg than my Volt gets on gas. If I were someone with a longer commute, or who drove to work more than once a week, I would easily be >95% EV, even with my road trips. So it was a good choice for me! I think it’s a good option for -most- people right now, but the case seems to be difficult to make since it has been in a category of its own?

    • Andrew Mullen February 13, 2017, 9:12 pm

      You can pick up a 1st gen Volt for around $10k which is one heck of a deal if you ask me….maybe the deal of the century when you consider what GM invested in this vehicle. Some estimates claim that GM lost over $100k on each Volt sold…so, you get a lot of bang for your buck. I own a 2013 and it has been wonderful! I will never go back.

  • Nathalie October 4, 2016, 8:43 am

    I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on winter driving! I’ve always had the *perhaps unfounded* idea that electric cars aren’t great for cold weather and snow. As someone who lives in Quebec where it often drops below -25 to -30 celsius in the winter, but would love to trade for an electric car when the time comes, I’m curious to read your notes!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:21 am

      You’ll see a shorter range during times when your battery is cold, but since the Leaf has 135 miles (217 km) of city driving in warm conditions, you can afford to lose a LOT before you’d have a shortage for getting through most days.

      There are benefits too – gas engines hate cold weather and take a long time to warm up. The electric car can be warm before you even get into it.

      • Dana February 13, 2017, 10:10 pm

        When shopping electric cars I was told that the Leaf defaults to charging it’s battery to 100%. There is apparently a setting on the car that will limit the charge to something like 80%. If you typically don’t need the full range, the battery will last much longer if you use this setting. We purchased a Mercedes B-class electric and it defaults to the 80% charge level just for this reason. So far I have only charged it to 100% twice in the course of a year.

      • Jen October 6, 2017, 4:23 pm

        But how about the snow? I live in CO and I’ve always driven a Subaru because of the snow/slush/ice. The doesn’t bother me but the snow will get you in an accident, or stuck, really quick. I just keep wishing Subaru would come out with an EV.

    • Emily October 4, 2016, 10:13 am

      I have a 2013 nissan leaf and I was so surprised how well it handled our Utah snow last year. We bought 2 snow tires (so I’m sure that helped too) but because the battery is along the bottom it just seemed like it kept really good traction. :)

    • fleur-de-lis October 4, 2016, 11:35 am

      I do not own the car, but I do live in q’bec

      I looked for the same information in the past


      apparently, there is a small device that prevents extreme cold issues for the battery.

      hope this helps :)

    • Eric_VT October 4, 2016, 1:21 pm

      I’ve been driving my 2013 leaf for 3 years now in Vermont.

      MMM got a great deal. Seems like that mystery discount you are getting is basically what Nissan Corp is writing off on lease buy-out deals now. It’s like they know the price of the car is about $5K or $6K more than the market will bear.

      We went with a lease because we figured the actual residual value after 3 years would be far lower than what they calculated… and we were right. So we got a big discount ($4500) when purchasing the car at the end of the lease. Downside? We had to pay the finance charge associated with the lease (about $1400 over 3 years).

      Oh… and if you don’t pay taxes, a lease will give you access to the tax credit. Nissan Finance gets the credit, but they pass on the savings to you in the “purchase price” of the lease.

      Winter Driving : We use this as primarily a winter car. We bike in the summer. In fact, this year I didn’t even bother taking the winter tires off (this will be the first time I have the snows on before the snow starts flying). This car drives great in the snow. Fantastic low center of gravity, and heavy for a small car. The heated steering wheel and seats are great… on really cold days a blanket goes a long way. Because using the heater drops your range about 10 miles as well, which can be a killer in the winter. You can feel like a badass driving your low range electric car without a heater, especially if you open the window to defrost the windshield.

      Charging stations : They have popped up everywhere. It has been great to watch the screen on my plugshare app fill up. So even if my range is down to 60 miles in the winter, I can drive to the mountain, go hiking, park the car, grab a craft beer, and within an hour have enough extra juice (me and the car) to get home.

      Having an electric car changes your mindset. Instead of thinking about a car that will cover all your needs (which is still difficult for a electric car to do), you figure that the car can cover 90-99% of your needs. We actually thought about upgrading to the new Leaf or waiting for a Chevy Bolt (how exciting is that car?)… but that would only increase the number of trips I’d make with an electric car from maybe 93% to 97%. It still won’t get me to Philadelphia for the holidays. Besides, if I did have the extra range, then I loose my excuse to get that fancy beer in a fancy pub after my hike.

      All this is moot of course, when I can trade in my Leaf and house in for that 1500 mile range, self driving camper van and a lifetime national parks pass!

      • Max October 5, 2016, 7:31 pm

        We just turned our 2013 Leaf back in at the end of lease. I had received an email from Nissan Leasing about some “up to $4500” discount to purchase the leased vehicle, but when I asked our dealer they did not seem to know anything about it. I was ambivalent about purchasing anyway, so I didn’t pursue it (ambivalence not due to the car; we loved it. But I leased because I figured the technology would be getting significantly improved about now.)

        I concur with Eric about the mindset–we thought of the Leaf as our second car that we drove 80% of the time. Having turned it back in about a month ago, I can’t believe how much gas we have to buy now to run the Forester. I see another electric vehicle in our future…Volts and Bolts are looking good.

        • Eric_VT October 24, 2016, 2:44 pm

          The dealers do tend to be clueless about the Leafs. I had to basically be a go between for the dealer and the financing corporation in order to make it happen ahead of schedule (so I could stop paying interest)

          My original discount on the buyback was only $3K, but the dealer couldn’t get their act together. The month changed and the discount went up to $4.5K. So their inability to work with the Nissan corp saved me $1500.

      • lurker October 9, 2016, 3:36 pm

        open the window in the winter in VT….I think I love you man!!!!!!

    • Brandon October 4, 2016, 5:54 pm

      Having owned my 2012 SL for over a year here in Colorado, I can say that it does VERY well in the snow. As advertised, range will decrease, I saw about a 25% decrease due to snow tires and cold/snow/slush etc. Granted the winters here are astonishingly mild. But as far as handling goes it can’t be beat. All of the “extra” weight of the battery plays to your advantage. And another huge benefit of electric cars that you don’t know until you drive one is that the traction control is superb. Imagine an ICE (Internal Combustion Engined) car and all of the tricks it has to do with ignition timing and fuel delivery to try to reduce power to an acceptable level to prevent slippage, jerking around and tearing up the drivetrain and your neck in the process… And electric car just reduces the power linearly down to exactly the level it needs to prevent slip and you just go, smooth and seamless. As an added bonus, Billy Bob in his giant 4WD truck with giant ridiculous tires gets PISSED when you blow him away with your puny little electric car in the snow.

    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 12:44 pm

      Electric cars are no more inconvenienced by snow than regular gas cars. And you can preheat the Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-Miev from the comfort of your own without worrying too much about the environment.
      Cold weather is a bit of a pain because the air heating comes from the same battery that makes you move – so abuse too much of it and you’ll be sorry. The i-Miev gives you a real-time idea of what the heating you’re requesting will have on the mileage. But heated seats take substantially less power – almost free in comparison. We had a few range problems have been from blasting the heat (newbie mistakes) – but remember, any plug anywhere will give you some fuel, if you’re a little patient (or don’t mind going shopping at IKEA). Also, Quebec has an AMAZING assortment of fast chargers, so I doubt you’ll have any problems.
      I bought the i-Miev, because I wanted to prove the smallest electric car is fine for 98% of the cases – but the Leaf isn’t that much more and I am thinking it might have been a good idea.
      Also, like Mr. says, heat is available a lot faster on an electric car than a gas car.
      I have not owned it for a year yet so I can’t say too much about the super cold – I read that below -22C, the car will start warming the batteries, which means if it’s parked outside for many hours (like 24 hours), it will eventually run low on charge (it will not use all of it to keep warm, only down to 30% on i-Miev). You can also warm up the battery by charging it.

  • Jackson October 4, 2016, 8:47 am

    I’m very interested in how this works out for you, especially since:
    1. We have a charging station a mile from our house
    2. I drive very little, usually less than 30 miles a week, if that. Even in winter.

    However, my main concerns are how well this holds up in winter, now quickly the heat comes on, storage room ( for groceries, etc). I have a 2003 Toyota with 14,000 miles on it..yes, only 14K …and I love my car and it is wonderful. So there is that factor – go from a known to an unknown.

    Opinions welcomed.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:31 am

      I’ll have to get back to you (and Keith) on the cold weather performance once we get some cool weather here in Colorado.

      But you’ll have no problem with space in the hatchback/trunk, unless you regularly buy grocery loads that are larger than two 185 pound men, while simultaneously carrying 5 men of similar size in the main cabin.

      • Jackson October 4, 2016, 4:09 pm

        Thanks for the input.

    • Ben W. October 4, 2016, 2:19 pm

      Sounds like a Leaf would be ideal for you. I drive my ’15 Leaf SL in one of the coldest climes (Winterpeg, Manisnowba), and while the heater leaves something to be desired, the fact you can pre-warm it from an app on your smart phone (Leaf Manager is what I use), the heated seats and steering wheel are AMAZING and more than make up for the luke warm blown heat.

    • Tummy October 5, 2016, 5:19 am

      Most people will want to charge at home and you can do it slowly even on a regular 110v outlet.

      It’s a different mindset than gas cars where you have to go to a gas station. You actually want public chargers at the destination, not close to home.

    • Kootenay EV Family October 5, 2016, 4:31 pm

      Have a flip through a blog post I wrote on just that topic last year, or the video if you prefer that medium:


      We don’t get too cold in the west Kootenays, but I did see some -20C (-5F) temperatures last winter, and can report that my car still seemed to be using the heat pump and drawing less than 1.5 kW at steady-state driving on the highway in snow at 80 km/h (50 mph).

  • Colin October 4, 2016, 8:54 am

    A neat feature here in Philly, where we have no driveways on our rowhomes, is that if you put an EV charger in front of your house, the city will designate it as an EV-only parking spot. Anyone with an EV can park in it, but you don’t have to let anyone else charge there. Since hardly anyone has an EV, you essentially get your own parking spot.

    • Jonathan October 4, 2016, 9:17 am

      Hey Colin,

      I’m really torn about this policy in Philly. You have to hook up the power supply yourself, right? And how do you not let other’s charge? I’ve seen the hook ups and they don’t appear locked. In general, it’s a nice way for the city to incentive EV cars.

      On the other hand, it seems to be a regressive policy that harms poorer folks who can’t afford EVs and allows rich folks who can afford it get free parking (subsidizing the rich).

      It also ties into the ideas put forth by Donal Shoup in his book “The High Cost of Free Parking.” (The books shows the externalities and high cost that come from free parking).

      • Colin October 4, 2016, 12:43 pm

        You have to get the charger installed with a switch inside your home to turn it off when you aren’t using it. You have to pay for the installation with a private electrician, yes.

        I have similar feelings about the whole “basically giving the public streets to rich people”, although curb cuts are much worse. Anyone with an EV can use my EV spot, but no one can use a garage when the owner is out, and it takes away a street parking space for the curb cut.

        Philly has a lot of issues with parking… like that I can pay $35/year to keep my car in a spot on the street and never move it, ever.

        • Pat October 4, 2016, 1:42 pm

          My Philly brethren! Here’s the article on the handful of folks who’ve taken the plunge for the EVC, http://articles.philly.com/2015-05-07/business/61869234_1_martin-o-rourke-electric-vehicle-electric-vehicle. The installation/permit costs ($2000-$4000) pose an enormous barrier to entry for most of the city’s population. For those not intimately familiar with the city you typically cannot park in front of your house/apt and therefore you wouldn’t be able to plug in, so you would have to pay the cost of installation/permits.

          On another hyper-idealistic note, I cannot wait for the installation of the “protected staff” bike lanes coming to the streets sometime soon. Its great to make space for more EVs, but cities need not be designed for the auto any longer, or at least intra-transport in which the arteries of the city are fit for only autos. The city needs to continue to create protective infrastructure for the thousands of bicycle commuters that get run off the road by an idiotic driver culture that thinks slamming on the pedal to the next red light is the most efficient way to get across town, or down a few blocks to the corner store (http://bicyclecoalition.org/ride-your-bike/bike-commuting/).

          I would think the 97k Nissan Leaf experimenters and other EV driving rates are higher in the suburbs, and small cities like Longmont, than larger cities precisely because it makes sense for charging and the range makes those inhumane commutes more humane by being more green. Yet the most sustainable transit solution is MMM’s oldest recommended transport: the bicycle.

          Also, congrats to the Philly PD for adopting hybrid plug-ins (http://www.phillyvoice.com/philadelphia-police-receive-plug-hybrid-patrol-cars/).

          • Jonathan October 6, 2016, 12:30 pm

            Yes, and double yes to more bike infrastructure! Philly is such a great city to bike. There are essentially no hills. Center City (downtown) and Greater Center City are very compact. A 20 – 30-minute bike ride can get anywhere you want to be.

            The river trail is awesome. And non Philly folks we have bike trail over our river! See http://www.visitphilly.com/outdoor-activities/philadelphia/schuylkill-banks-boardwalk/

            I bike that almost every day on the way to work. So nice!!

            Anytime I actually drive through the city, I’m like why I’m torturing myself!!

        • Jonathan October 6, 2016, 12:36 pm

          Oh, yeah. And, curb cuts. Ugh.

  • The Green Swan October 4, 2016, 8:58 am

    Sounds like you have some serious blog income! Not a surprise at all and that’s great, Pete. Doesn’t bother me in the least that you are splurging on a car and I look forward to hearing back how you like the Leaf as you continue to use it more.

    Good to know about the 0-60. Not bad, but nothing compared to the Tesla it seems like.

    I feel more and more convinced that my next car purchase (probably in 5 years or so) will be an electric car. I’m fascinated as ever by the continued development of Tesla and their models and hope they continue to do great things. Similarly, it is a competitive space with the other electric car manufacturers and the Leaf is right up there for me. I can’t imagine what it’ll look like in 5 years from now and hope prices continue to improve!

    And I have the bonus of already owning solar panels! We currently use all the energy for the home, but could always add a couple more panels so support the new EV. Our local energy rates are about 10 or 11 cents per KWH, so pretty cheap compared to much of the US, and not a bad option to charge the car either. Or, then again, the Power Walls the Tesla makes may be significantly more affordable too. It’ll be fun to continue to monitor the space and hear updates on your Leaf.

    Thanks MMM!

  • Mike T October 4, 2016, 8:59 am

    One other very positive impact of charging stations is the lack of environmental contamination almost always caused by underground storage tanks or “USTs.” These are why gas stations so often go undeveloped after they close. The previous owners don’t want to pay for environmental remediation nor do the new owners want potential liability from leakage.

    Great to see this analysis. I have been going back and forth for some time on a EV. I agree with “The Wealthy Accountant” that with all of those tax credits, you’d be crazy not to get one. I am very excited to see the long-term analysis. Keep up the great blog! It’s an inspiration to family and friends and a great resource for saving me a lot of over-thinking the numbers in my life.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:36 am

      Very true – it’s kind of amazing to think about what a gas station really is: several underground swimming pools full of gasoline, buried in the dirt, all around every city.

      These days, the tanks are fiberglass which is fairly reliable, but older stations have steel tanks which have rusted and leaked.

      In earlier eras we would give up anything for a quick jolt of industrial wealth: rivers and lake shores, forests, whatever. Now it seems we’re being at least a BIT more careful about the tradeoffs of wrecking stuff. I’d definitely suggest that it will be great to decommission our gas stations.

      • Colin October 4, 2016, 12:45 pm

        The Philadelphia riverfront, which is finally being reclaimed (recently named America’s best urban trail!), was totally dominated by industry. Slaughterhouses liked that they could dump straight into the river! This was something encouraged by the government! Tall piers were built for garbage trucks to dump onto barges, and about 70% actually landed on the barge.

        Unfortunately we’re forever stuck with an interstate on the west bank.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher October 4, 2016, 9:03 am

    My God, I thought this was another April Fool’s post for a second! The Mustache has FINANCED a NEW car!! Mercury must be in retrograde. :)

    Well, at any rate, kudos on the Leaf! I’m more of a Tesla fan myself, but I know how those can really get cost-prohibitive. I can’t wait to see where car tech takes us even in the next five years–I really do think we’re slowly on our way to a purely autonomous car future, which is freaking awesome.

    Is it your plan to let the car charge fully for 5-6 hours while on road trips and the like, or do you have another plan? Do you have a plan for what you’ll do if you’re in the middle of nowhere without a charge?

    I love, love, love the idea of electric cars, but the idea of being stranded in Banjo Country scares the shit out of me.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:18 am

      My plan is to use a gas-powered car for any long road trips for now. For medium length ones (250 miles or less, requiring only 1 charge), I’d use the Leaf if there was a 30-minute charger on the way.

      Like any trip, you plan it in advance using Google Maps so you know where you’ll be stopping. The Leaf also shows charging spots on its built-in nav system.

      • david October 4, 2016, 2:22 pm

        This is why I purchased a 2017 Volt. 53 miles X 2 per day – based on our driving pattern, we cn drive 53 miles in the AM, come home, plug in, and can go up to another 53 miles in the PM using our 240 volt charger. My estimate is that I will fill up with gas approximately *never* in local driving. However, we just drove round trip comfortably from Virginia to upstate NY using the electric/gas engine non-stop. Then when we got there we toodled around using electric power, recharging from my sister-in-law’s generous 110 volt plug. Further, the Volt is future proofed in that it has electric steering (lane departure system) and Adaptive Cruise Control…this means that when entrepreneurs develop retrofit self-driving tech, my Volt will be ready to go (see Comma.ai for example). And it’s QUIK – like Tesla quick from 0-30. 0-60 in 7.1 seconds.

      • Jsh October 5, 2016, 1:06 am

        check out the plugshare app, super useful for finding charging stations, even personal ones people will share. good trip planner too.

        I have a 2013 leaf that I’ve been leading for $150/month, been an awesome car and planning on getting a 2016 as well when the lease expires. thx for the post!

  • Jackson October 4, 2016, 9:03 am

    This may be a dumb question but if it takes 5 hours to charge at some public charging stations, what do you do while it is charging? Or do you maybe charge for a bit and then leave?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:41 am

      With a gas car, we’re accustomed to running the tank to empty, then filling it all the way. With electricity and these charging stations everywhere (including your house), it’s a whole different model.

      You start your drive with a full battery every single day. So most people rarely or never need to charge anywhere but home.

      However, if you’re doing a crazy driving day or just want some free electricity, you plug it in while you get some groceries, eat at a restaurant or watch a movie at the theatre. Even one of the slower stations will add 15 miles of range for every hour you have it parked.

      There’s a free station right in the middle of the “big box store” section of my town, and I get an irrational pleasure of parking my Leaf there and doing errands on foot while it charges.

      But usually I just bike: the charger dispenses 5 kW, or 50 cents of electricity per hour. Meanwhile, the health benefits of me riding my bike down to this area with a trailer for the groceries are much greater than 50 cents!

      • Jamie October 4, 2016, 3:10 pm

        What is this “eat at a restaurant, watch a movie at the cinema, go shopping” that people are talking about?? ;)

      • mike October 4, 2016, 7:20 pm

        No irrational at all. Even have your electric bike ready to go explore while the car charges.

        My big hope, with your love of electric bicycles, you’d start an electric bike company.

    • Darell October 4, 2016, 9:47 am

      MMM nailed it. Instead of fueling being an event in itself that you go do, it becomes something that happens while you get on with your life. Watch a movie, go shopping, eat dinner – the car can sit and refuel all on it’s own. In general, your fueling happens at home. While you sleep.

      And it is important to note that running the tank empty and then charging it to full is the old way of doing things. Now, just like your smart phone, you fill it when handy, and without waiting until it is empty – because it is so much easier and pleasant to do than visiting the gas station.

      Indeed, fueling an EV takes less of your time than filling a car with gas.

    • wishicouldsurf October 4, 2016, 12:21 pm

      Also, there are faster charging CHAdeMO chargers which will get you to 85%-90% or so in 30 minutes (depending how low the battery is). I have an older, 2011 Nissan Leaf and I’ve used that a couple of times. I live in San Diego and while there are many charging stations around, they may run on different networks and so I set up accounts on 3 different networks with the respective RFID cards. I found out a couple of times when I first got the car last year that trying to set it up via an app on the phone when you “really” needed a charge didn’t always work. My bigger frustration is that not all the charging stations are operable. I have to rely on a CharePoint App and Charge Hub App to check to see if they are working before stopping in. 90% of the time, however, I charge it at home at night during the lowest rate electricity time, just like Pete indicated. Overall, we love our older Leaf though it doesn’t have the type of range these newer ones have.

      • Heather T October 6, 2016, 5:35 pm

        I’m interested in EVs, but I’m so old school that I don’t have a smart phone. Do you need one to use these charging stations?

        • Chaz October 7, 2016, 12:41 am

          No smart phone necessary but having one can enhance the ev experience

        • Stephane January 5, 2017, 12:50 pm

          The ones around Quebec tend to use a little chip card that you load up online. Check what kind of charge stations are around you.. visit the plugshare website to get an idea. Plugshare is also available as an app should you decide to get a smartphone…

  • Kevin Knox October 4, 2016, 9:06 am

    Great post as always! I thought you and many readers would probably be interested in the app profiled in this new article in the New York Times. It’s really interesting to look at carbon footprint and long-term costs of ownership for electric vs. gas and hybrid cars:


  • Phil R-W October 4, 2016, 9:11 am

    Speaking of older tech: I don’t know if your Leaf uses a more modern cellular connection, but my mom’s 2011 Leaf telematics system uses AT&T’s **2G** cellular system which is slated to be deactivated in 2017. Nissan still hasn’t figured out how (or if) they’re going to upgrade the existing units. And yes, I have always found the latency unacceptable. At least your car doesn’t require you to press “OK” to acknowledge telematics data transmission _every single time_ the car starts up. Still — we need more EVs and at least the Leafs are cheap and plentiful.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:16 am

      The 2016 Leaf uses 3G. Apparently there is now an upgrade option for older ones too, according to this inside EVs article from March:

      Once again, an issue Nissan could have avoided if they made things modular, user-replaceable and with over-the-Internet software updates like Tesla does.

      • Phil R-W October 8, 2016, 8:56 am

        I heard about that alleged upgrade earlier this year. Still not one peep from Nissan about it, though.

        Anyway, congrats on the vehicle! We are waiting for the Model 3, but only if the tax breaks hold out. Otherwise we’ll wait for a used one. It will be replacing two 13+ year old vehicles.

  • Kyle October 4, 2016, 9:13 am

    My wife and I bought a 2012 Leaf a little over 4 years ago. Circumstances were different and she was driving about 60 miles/day for the commute and I did about 20 miles/day to the train station in the opposite direction. We were able to replace an inefficient ford escape (~18 mpg) and I got to use the Corolla my wife drove (~35 mpg). This took us from ~6 tanks of gas a month to 1. This cut about $200-$250 per month (gas was more expensive at the time; especially in CA) compared to $30-$40 per month in additional electricity costs. It was expensive at the time; about $40k out the door (paid cash) $7500 federal incentive and $2500 state incentive took it down considerable and we sold the Escape for $5000.

    The experience with the car has been very nice. It is essentially a small luxury car that takes care of all our short-range needs. We can count on it for 60-80 miles (depending on which one of us drives; my best is 110 miles). The maintenance and charging are probably the best part. It is amazing how liberating it is to never need to worry about a gas station. Just stick the thing in the wall when you get home. Maintenance has been essentially nonexistent costing us less than $200 over the 4 years. The one hiccup we had was a quick loss of range after about 20,000 miles. This eventually became a problem as we were down to about half capacity on the battery. Nissan honored the warranty with no cost or hassle and we had a new battery within a week after the claim. It now runs better than when we bought it (pretty sure there was a problem for the get go).

    In the interim we have moved maxed out my wife’s 457 (the true ultimate FI account if you are eligible since there is no penalty as soon as you quit your job) to go along with my 401k and her 403b. I just picked up a low-end road bike to handle the 7 mile commute to enable the Corolla to sit idly for all but longer trips.

    If I had been perusing your site regularly at the beginning of this adventure, I probably would have done some things differently. Keep up the good fight!

    • Doron October 5, 2016, 1:00 am

      After five years in a 2012 Leaf SL, my purchase and ownership experiences are similar to Kyle’s. I am about to hit 60K miles and have about $600 total maintenance over this period (tires, wipers, brake fluid).

      The EPA rated range is pretty accurate based on how most people drive. You can pretty easily beat the EPA rated range by 20% or more as long as you don’t drive like an idiot. My record on the 24 kWh Leaf (EPA rated at 73 miles) is 119 miles. After five years the car is down to 10 bars capacity, and has lost perhaps 30% capacity.

      Expect to lose about 30% of your range in very cold weather. The car drives well in the snow due to being a heavy car with a low center of gravity.

      I pay about $30 per month to drive 1000 miles per month. That’s approximately 12 cents/kWh at an efficiency of approx. 4 miles/kWh. You can pretty easily get above 4 miles/kWh as long as you don’t drive like an idiot.

      Solar and wind power are great matches with this car. As MMM indicated it’s quite easy to switch your power to wind; our house is not a good candidate for solar so we use wind instead.

      The menu and navigation systems of the car are indeed horrid compared to modern phones; I just don’t bother using them. The spray-on carpeting is lousy too.

      I’m 6’0″ and the car has plenty of headroom. The car easily fits five and has a good size trunk.

      In an emergency, you can even hook up an inverter to the car and power your fridge or other critical appliance! I’ve done this during a hurricane power outage to save my beer and some other food items my wife claimed were important.

      My reasons for going electric were:
      – Reduce dependence on oil
      – Support cool new technology
      – Environmentally cleaner
      – Becoming highly pissed off at a gasoline drivetrain in 2007 because of $4 gasoline (still cheap by world standards) and having to drop the entire tank just to replace a fuel filter!

      I purchased (and financed – ugh) our Leaf but the lease deals have always been attractive for this car. I purchased very early and paid a price for it – those who waited 12-24 months were able to score very attractive lease deals in the $100-$200 month ballpark. We’re at a similar juncture now where affordable 300 mile EVs are coming out, and you should be able to get good deals on the current generation of 90-150 mile EVs. So – punch me in the face for financing and adopting early. But, at least it was for a good cause.

      Once you get used to an electric car, some of the adjustments they’ve made to the car to make it seem more like a gasoline car become annoying:

      – Simulated “engine braking” when letting off the accelerator at speed – I would prefer the car to coast.
      – Automatic forward creep when letting off the brake at a stop.
      – Artificial noise when moving at local speeds.
      – Did they really need to machine the inverter to look like a valve cover gasket? Yes, they did!! What demographic gets a warm fuzzy looking at this contraption?

      Overall we are very happy with the car. Once you drive an electric car, you can’t believe you put up with this gasoline junk for so long!

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 6:19 pm

        “To save my beer.. and some other food items my wife claimed were important” – this part gave me a good laugh.

        • Doron October 7, 2016, 9:34 am

          Yeah, she wasn’t too happy either when Channel 9 came out to do a news segment on this “emergency power setup” and started filming the inside of our messy fridge … but it did make for a good story! :)

  • TJ October 4, 2016, 9:14 am

    That is a great deal! I think the incentives in California expired a long time ago. The biggest concern with an electric vehicle would be if you live in an apartment or condo. How would you charge the thing? Do we anticipate that charging stations will replace gas stations? Will they come out with technology to charge more quickly?

    I find it difficult to imagine planning a cross country road trip in an electric vehicle, for example, but if you stay in a relatively low mile radius and can charge at home, it makes sense why electric would be beneficial.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 9:26 am

      Looks like there are still $2500 incentives in CA: https://cleanvehiclerebate.org/eng/eligible-vehicles

      It’s a little strange to see them offering $5000 rebates on the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: they just seem like a “nice try, but Lithium batteries won the race” thing. Because electricity infrastructure is everywhere, electricity is easier to produce than Hydrogen, and EVs are cheaper to build.

      • Phil October 4, 2016, 12:07 pm

        Hi MMM, I own both an EV (VW eGolf) and a Fuel Cell Vehicle (Toyota Mirai). The $5k rebate is essential for getting this new industry off the ground. This is in addition to the millions CA is investing in hydrogen infrastructure. In CA we now have 21 public hydrogen stations with a goal of 50 by the end of 2017 and 100 by the end of 2024.

        I don’t think it’s a winner take all contest for the future of transportation. I appreciate each vehicle’s strengths and think both technologies together present a great argument to finally ditch fossil fuels. The FCV market is many years behind the EV market but it offers a familiar solution to apartment residents and long distance drivers: 0 to 300 mile recharge in 5 minutes with no home/work infrastructure requirements.

        • CJM October 5, 2016, 1:42 pm

          I agree with you Phil on the different strengths FCVs offer over EVs. I live outside of Toronto and this is a place where most people’s commutes are 80+miles and they think it’s “normal” to drive 300 miles every single weekend to visit their parents, their college buddies, or whoever else. I think the familiar habit of filling up a tank and having instant long range is an easier way to convince these types of people to move away from fossil fuels.

          Unfortunately hydrogen isn’t getting a lot of attention here in Canada since it is quite expensive to install the infrastructure. I think you’re right when you say the FCV market is years behind EV and hopefully some day choosing between EV and FCV will be as commonplace as choosing between gas and diesel is today (perhaps with a little bit less of a bias for one over the other!)

          • Wobblydeb October 24, 2016, 6:47 am

            For me FCV is somewhere between gas and pure EV, in terms of environmental impact. It seems a crying shame to use all that energy to create hyrdrogen, and the expensive storage and pumping network, just to “refuel” more rapidly than you can an EV. Not to mention this stuff seeps out of storage tanks and is explosive :-O I remain unconvinced it isn’t an alternative to keep us chained up by the big corporations to our fuel. Far better to instal renewables energy generators and cut out the middle man :-)

    • Darell October 4, 2016, 9:54 am

      Check into Tesla’s SuperCharger network (see their nice map) and you’ll see that even cross-country trips are now accessible. It’s true that EVs only really shine for the miles we drive the most: Commute. They’re only just a little better at the other stuff. :-)

      Will they charge more quickly? A Tesla can take on charge at about 400 mile of range per hour. You can drive from Sacramento to Los Angeles at full freeway speed, with a stop for a burger and (free) charge at the half way point. The Tesla Supercharger network isn’t a hope and a dream. It is many thousands of screaming-fast chargers in the ground and operating every day.

      As for apartments, there are several solutions happening today. It all depends on the situation, but it is not rocket science to bring electricity to wherever a car is parked. On the street? We have power already for street lights. In a carport? We can add power.

      • Nebilon October 6, 2016, 8:41 am

        It is a good question how fast the charging stations network will be developed. We take for granted now that there is a network of gas stations everywhere we need to go (although I remember a trip through rural Texas off the main highways nearly 20 years ago where we were suffering real range anxiety…) but this did not exist when the internal combustion engine started to be used instead of horses. For long journeys there was a network of stables/posting inns where you could get a change of horses and new postilions…
        In the UK (where I live and drive a 2012 Leaf which is recharged on our suburban driveway from the solar panels on our roof when possible) I think the issue for apartments/condos will be harder to overcome than in the US. In many towns (much of central London for example) there is no designated off street parking and so people who own cars have to park on the curb. There is no guarantee you will find a space on your own street, let alone outside your own building. Even here we are seeing more charging stations all the time, although there is a risk that they will already be in use, or blocked by an non EV

  • Divnomics October 4, 2016, 9:15 am

    Very nice! And interesting to see how it works with electric cars. Like Colin commented, with us we also would get a assigned parking spot for electric cars. Currently there are knly two in the whole neighboorhood.

    Last weekend we decided to sell our own car, and buy back a cheaper one in the following weeks. We still have to do some research on which car to buy. So your post really makes it interesting to look at the options we have for an electronic car. So thank for sharing!

  • Linda October 4, 2016, 9:21 am

    Assuming the financing discount is because average Joe is not going to be paying the car off early and spending more money in the long run?? Anything that helps encourage people to understand and embrace the fact that non-fossil fuel burning cars is the indisputably the future = net positive for humankind.

  • Ken October 4, 2016, 9:22 am


    Do you plan to install a solar array to charge the car for free from the Sun? I currently live with a non-mustachian commute (approx 30 miles each way). I have three small children and I am willing to go a little further to work so they can live in a small town while I work in the city. I am considering an electric car myself and a 2013 leaf looks like a bargain. My electric bill is currently so low that a solar array makes no sense, but if I shift my fuel costs to electricity versus gasoline (and CNG — I drive a bi-fuel Chevy Cavalier) the payback on solar is just a few years of fuel costs. I hope you do choose to go solar and you document your experience here. Good luck with your new car.


    • Darell October 4, 2016, 9:58 am

      It is almost criminal to have a solar array and no EV. It is almost criminal to have an EV and no solar array. The two compliment each other like nobody’s business, and folks who purchase one are WAY likely to also purchase the other. My transportation has been almost free for 12 years now. Even with zero income a while back, we had full high-speed, family-and-gear hauling mobility that was unlimited by finances.

      The adoption of EVs simply goes hand-in-hand with the accelerating change in our grid. We use so much electricity to make gasoline – it’s time to instead use that electricity to… power our cars directly.

      • Videographer October 4, 2016, 12:59 pm

        Darell said:

        “It is almost criminal to have a solar array and no EV.”

        As a solar “farmer for almost eight years and a Nissan Leaf driver for over four, I couldn’t agree more. In Wisconsin, and with a slowly-closing solar hole , my 4.15 kW solar array creates twice the electricity I use in the Leaf every year.

    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 12:59 pm

      In another article Mr. Money Mustache was asking himself how he could use his money for the good of the people, and a solar array would do that for the environment, and for his pocket book lol.

  • Karen October 4, 2016, 9:34 am

    We are in the process of installing a 10kw Bergey Excel wind turbine to power our small NH business. The process has been expensive and arduous, to say the least–but we did qualify for a USDA REAP grant, which helps. The prospect of a someday-lunch with MMM to trade ROEI is motivating. I’ll save the receipt ;-)

  • Zheffafa October 4, 2016, 9:45 am

    Congrats and welcome to the Borg, MMM. Most people who buy electric never go back. ^_^

  • PoF October 4, 2016, 9:47 am

    After seeing the Leaf on Twitter the other day, I figured a post was pending. I will enjoy following along as you add experiments and more posts on the car. I appreciate the separation between the 90% of your life spent as Pete, and the 10% of your life that is MMM. I can identify with the alter ego blogger persona. While there are many similarities between the two, I like the idea of keeping them separate.

    I’ve been saying for the last five years that my ’06 HHR will be replaced with an electric vehicle. By the time the Chevy dies, or I am just ready to pull that trigger, the technology and price point of the electric car should be in a good spot for me. I’d like to see a little more range, and more charging stations; I am happy to read that both are progressing rapidly.


  • Edifi October 4, 2016, 9:49 am

    Nice video! If I had built up my wife’s Ebike with a 3kW motor, it would actually have a similar power/weight ratio as your leaf. Drag race to 20mph?

  • eric October 4, 2016, 9:55 am

    i have a 2012 Leaf that i have driven for 2 years. I can’t imagine going back to a gas car for my everyday driving. Sure I’d like to give up a car all together, but seriously this is ‘Merica and although I try to bike as much as possible, I still would like to use a car and my Leaf is awesome. It’s still going strong, but I sure have my eye on a Bolt. I am excited to see how you like the Leaf.

  • Rick October 4, 2016, 10:00 am

    Would be interesting to do a home study on the cost/payback on a consumer wind/solar setup. Being I’m in NW Ohio I have looking at wind in particular, but seem to find more reasons to not invest vs go wind and solar. Makes more sense because our house is 100% electric. Add in charging an electric car and BOOM you’re potentially off the grid with the appropriate set up.

    • Bert Perry October 4, 2016, 10:59 am

      Long and short of it is that it won’t repay itself at a dime per kW-H, even with subsidies. That’s especially the case with how cloudy it is typically in NW Ohio.

  • Jordan October 4, 2016, 10:03 am

    Is there any sort of a phantom load that is drawn once the battery is charged but still plugged in? I would imagine they would design that out of the system. I remember reading about that somewhere in household devices, then checking all mine and finding it really wasn’t an issue. Just curious here.

    • Brenton October 4, 2016, 11:56 am

      No, the chargers (technically “EVSE”s) are actually pretty smart and communicate with the car. When the car is full, it shuts off the connection so that even if you cut it open and touched the wires you wouldn’t be shocked. No phantom draining is possible.

      I have noticed that sometimes the car will get to 100% and then it settles in over a few hours (I guess due to temperature changes or something?) and you can unplug it and plug it in again and it will continue charging just a little bit longer. I don’t understand the physics of that, but it’s an interesting quirk that has no real-world effect on anything. :D

      • Chris October 4, 2016, 12:46 pm

        It’s “battery balancing”. Often you can unplug the car when it still needs somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-60 minutes of charge but the battery will claim to be 100% charged.

      • Bob L October 4, 2016, 1:27 pm

        That is not a good test as to whether there is a phantom load. Since the charger is still technically on, sensing whether the car needs charging, there will be some phantom load, as there is in all devices that are on. It might be milliwatts, but there will be something. It could be a lot, who knows. Plus, all batteries drain down over time. Some more than others. Also, all modern cars have electronics that are always draining the battery. The amount might be miniscule, but it might not. I have never seen a number for this. I cannot imagine this number is very high, but it would be very interesting none the less. If the phantom load including battery drain was 10 watts, that is only $13/year here, but if it is closer to 100 Watts, then ~$132/year, still an insignificant number, but I am curious. For me, no car really makes sense, especially electric, as I only drive in the winter, and less than 2,000 miles per year. (Motorcycle the rest of the time here in New Hampshire, not practical, but it is what I do).

        As a tangent, I was at a booth from our power company that was promoting power strips that would turn off lights or monitors if you left the room, and turn them back on when you returned. The self proclaimed engineer tried to tell me the sensors use NO power when off, so I should put them on all my lights. I put my Kill-a-Watt meter on it and it wandered between 2 and 3 watts when no lights were plugged in (depended whether it thought someone was in the room or not), as much as 6 hours of use per day of a 12 watt LED/CFL. Small numbers, but that is 1.5 to 2 kWhr/month. My electric usage is 80 to 90 kWhr/month, so one of these strips would use 1.5 to 2.5% of my monthly use. Imagine if I put these on every light in the house. I think I can trust myself to just turn things off when I don’t need them. But this shows that phantom loads can be significant even on things that you would not think would be. BTW, I have measured other auto power strips that really were very low, so it really depends.

      • Jordan October 6, 2016, 11:41 am

        Thanks for the replies everyone. I’m a curious chemical engineer so I went down the rabbit hole a couple years ago in regards to electricity usage for all my appliances, gadgets, etc. A kill-a-watt meter and a large spreadsheet later I decided the rabbit hole was more like a black hole, but I’m no less curious. I just use common sense now rather than a spreadsheet (for my family’s sanity). Good to know that engineers are thinking about it with electric cars.

    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 1:12 pm

      On a Mitsubishi i-Miev plugged into a 120V charger, the phantom load appears to be 2W, as reported by the power meter I am using. At about 12 cents / kWh, that’s about $2/year. I don’t know about the Leaf.

    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 1:13 pm

      On a Mitsubishi i-Miev plugged into a 120V charger, the phantom load appears to be 2W, as reported by the power meter I am using. At about 12 cents / kWh, that’s about $2/year. I don’t know about the Leaf.
      Also, all batteries, of all types, lose a little power over time. I think lithium has a pretty low drain, but lead-acid is pretty nasty.

  • American Dividend Dream October 4, 2016, 10:09 am

    I had a feeling you would be purchasing one of these after you had commented about the cheap car on Twitter I think it was. Congrats on the purchase!

    My brother who is 17 – after telling him he should just ride a bike – is looking for a car still. I told him about this idea and I can only pray that he will go through with it. A brand new car for $15,000 – perfect! How much will a future college kid need to drive? Hardly ever. And when he does, never pay for gas. Unfortunately, he does not use all this wisdom to his benefit.

    If only I was 17 again with a big brother telling me I could stop working after a few years and retire…


    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:25 am

      Holy shit, NO, little Brother! You can’t buy a $15,000 car when you’re a goddamned college student! This car was exorbitant and unnecessarily fancy even for me!

      An electric mountain bike is an ideal solution for badass all-season mobility for non-millionaires who want to eventually become millionaires. And it will beat a LEAF in departure-to-arrival time measurements if you put them head-to-head for most city and suburban driving conditions.


      • Michael October 4, 2016, 10:41 am

        Not to mention a college student wont get if for 15,000 he likely pays little if any taxes so those tax incentives would do nothing for him…

        • QB October 4, 2016, 12:15 pm

          Michael, while I’m not sure exactly what Nissan incentives that MMM got but a common work around this is if you lease the car NMAC gets the $7,500 credit so you don’t have to be concerned with your own tax situation but it is important to point out that you must have $7,500 in tax liability that year and that any unused credit does NOT carry forward. You can then buy the leased car immediately or at the end of the lease with the only additional cost being ~$500 for lease fees and a generally higher interest rate (money factor) than normal auto financing.

  • scott October 4, 2016, 10:11 am

    MMM. I know you’ve mentioned the book Happy City by Charles Montgomery in the comments section of a different article. Obviously electric vehicles have huge advantages over the traditional gas powered car. However, EVs don’t really address the underlying problem of sprawl, and perhaps serve to further enable our destructive sprawl behavior. I guess my question is, wouldn’t it be better to vote with our dollars and divert resources away from the automobile industry altogether with the hope of making our cities more livable, walkable, and bikeable.

    • Jonathan October 4, 2016, 12:26 pm

      Yeah, I agree, Scott. Seems like the one negative of EV is that you are still just driving a car.

      I get on board more with the self-driving cars that are not individually owned but are part of service system – a la minority report :)

      • Wobblydeb October 24, 2016, 7:24 am

        Kind of like taxis?

  • EL October 4, 2016, 10:16 am

    As of right now I admired the look of the tesla S, but way to expensive to justify gas savings. All electric cars are getting cheaper, but still too pricey for me. The example you showed above only paying around 13-14K with tax credits is pretty sweet as my last car cost me 15K. It will be interesting to see the numbers on the first few years, if it will be really worth it. What line of work will the 5K from the old car realize? Money needs to be put to work asap!! I think you just shocked the whole community with this NEW car purchase.

    • John December 6, 2016, 1:43 pm

      You can get a Tesla Model 3 in a few years for a fraction of the cost of a Tesla Model S. You’ll probably be able to find a nice used Model 3 by time 2020. Plus, there will be more improvements by time then and you’ll have more options to choose from.

      Don’t give up on the electric dream :)

  • Troy October 4, 2016, 10:31 am

    Note on longevity for the leaf packs. These are generally well designed battery packs but will likely have a shelf life issue with mustachians, considering the overall low number of mileage that we incur. The pack will degrade from shelf life in about a decade or so regardless of the usage. Those in particularly hot desert climates be aware that this can potentially be much worse. In order to maximize shelf life, keep battery pack a lower state of charge, say 80 percent or less when just sitting around. (below about 4V per cell, ideally like 3.7v for long term storage) The effect is generally minimal, but for those who put very few miles on the overall longevity of the car will be increased and the cost per mile optimized. This is just super nerdy ev stuff, that most people, even mustachians, probably don’t have to worry much about. (but I can’t help myself) the extreme hot climate thing is something to be aware of though.

    • Brenton October 4, 2016, 12:00 pm

      If you do the math on all the engine repairs and maintenance that you _don’t_ have to do, it works out. Yes, you will have to replace the battery. But then you’ll have a car that’s better than new (replace your 24kwh battery with a 60kwh battery?). Compare that to a gas car that will have a decade of oil changes and repairs to parts an electric car just doesn’t have (transmission, engine gaskets, mufflers, catalytic converter, spark plugs, etc etc). But with a gas car, if you (for example) have to spend $4,000 to replace the transmission ten years in, you still have to worry that something else major is on the cusp of going out. Totally different with an electric car. You replace the battery and you don’t have to worry until the battery goes out again in another 10-20 years. Everything else is super reliable.

      • Baron October 4, 2016, 2:19 pm

        A cheap gas car will still be cheaper than an EV over the long run. Get a 3k Honda civic and even after gas and repairs you will be way ahead of any EV. Buying an EV is not a money saving move. It is an environmental move.

        • a1smith October 4, 2016, 9:59 pm

          “Buying an EV is not a money saving move. It is an environmental move.”


        • Trevis October 5, 2016, 9:40 am

          I bought a used Leaf from Craigslist for $5K. Given that it never needs oil, transmission fluid, coolant, has way less parts, and I haven’t paid for fuel yet (here in KC they have a lot of free chargers from the electric company and I am lucky enough to charge at work), I would argue that it works out about the same. Plus, if the battery lasts (2013 Leaf with full bars on the battery still), the costs of replacing batteries are still falling, I probably come out ahead long term on the deal. You are definitely right if you are doing the fancy MMM deal, but something tells me he can afford to throw money away from time to time.

          I also live in an apartment, and if I needed to, I would just run an extension cord out to the car. That hasn’t been necessary yet, and I don’t ever see a situation where it would be (I can charge at every store I shop at and my commute would be a lot less if I ever lost the job I currently have, so losing that charging method wouldn’t really be an issue).

          This is just a personal preference, but my Leaf is a lot more fun to drive than any ICE vehicle I’ve driven. Also, I do have a $1500 Honda Odyssey that my wife wanted to take the family on long trips, though she always wants to use the Leaf if we are going into the city (she can’t wait for range to go up and costs to go down so that our long distance vehicle can be an EV too). We are now eyeballing bikes for shorter travel, thanks to MMM.

      • Nik October 4, 2016, 5:17 pm

        I’m not going to say an electric car wont be cheaper, but don’t forget the suspension, bearings, steering bushings, brake pads, HVAC issues, center console electronics, etc. Currently my 150k ICE car has way more issues with suspension and bushings than it does with the engine.

        • 3laine November 4, 2016, 9:02 am

          For what it’s worth, EVs have relatively very long brake pad life because a big percentage of braking is regenerative braking rather than normal friction braking. Sometimes I’ll do entire commutes without ever using the brakes in my EV!

      • Troy Rank October 9, 2016, 11:21 am

        For the record: I completely agree!

    • Sully October 14, 2016, 9:20 pm

      Hopefully there are people developing software to optimize battery life based on monitored usage and environmental conditions. It sounds like such software woul be worth some amount of money to a whole lot of people.

    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 1:21 pm

      Totally not environmental or economic of me, but I wouldn’t bother. By the time 8 years or so are up, batteries will probably be so much cheaper that getting a new car may very well make sense. My main goal was to get off the gas market, which is killing our planet, helping the wrong people get rich (Saudi Arabia has a great human rights track record right?), adding some competition to the market, and proving that electric cars make sense and can be used by regular mortals (lol). We’ll see how I feel about it when my Mitsubishi i-Miev is up, though if I had to do it again, I think I would have gone for the Leaf. But next year’s Leaf will be better … so there’s always a little remorse anyway.

  • Scott October 4, 2016, 10:32 am

    I would own this car– or more likely, a used Volt or Tesla– yesterday, if only I had a place to charge it. That’s really the only hang up. I rent an apartment, and there are no chargers in sight, nor is adding one really a possibility. I want to take this into account when I move next, but with NoVA prices, I’m lucky enough to pay <$600/person, and adding EV charging as a requirement would probably push that to $800+/person. So, gas car for now it seems.

    • Adam October 4, 2016, 11:31 am

      Come to the other side of town! An acquaintance here in Hyattsville owns a Spark EV and successfully convinced his apartment management that electric charging stations were just what they needed to attract hip millennials with deep pockets.

    • Doron October 5, 2016, 12:25 am

      Public charging station providers such as eVgo have plans geared towards condo owners and others who cannot charge at home. Basically, these plans just build in use of their stations more frequently. Granted, it’s still not as easy as at home.

    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 1:24 pm

      Have you talked to the management? If you’re willing to pay for the station, they’ll probably do it.
      Perhaps $2000 or so (depends where the electric panel is vs your parking), but you will get it back in gas savings, and maintenance. No oil changes yadda yadda yadda… so many less parts.

  • Moof October 4, 2016, 10:33 am

    After 2 years with a used 2011 Leaf I’ll toss in a few good/bad experiences:
    Battery: My 5 year old car has lost 21% in moderate Portland, OR climate. Hot climates like Arizona have seen 30% losses in under 2 years (some folks even got 2 replacement batteries inside the warranty period!). At 79% capacity 50 miles round trip to the airport gets me to low battery warnings in summer, and is not safe to do in cold wet weather unless I plan an hour at the airport charging station. So good for pickups if I plan ahead, not good for taking the family out of town where long term parking has no stations. $5500 replacement for the 24kWh battery does not include labor, and has not come down in price in the 2 years since it was made available. I have not seen a public price for the 30 kWh pack replacement, my guess is your dealer snowed you here. It is unclear if the 30 kWh is any less awful than the 24 kWh packs. Nissan has had by far the worst degradation issues, and did a lot of shady things before offering up the option to buy replacement packs (look up the class action lawsuit details).
    Tires: Default pressure is too low and the shoulders wear out fast. Run them at 40 PSI minimum (I run at 42 PSI) or plan on a <30k mile tire lifespan.
    Fast Charging: Too slow formore than occasional novelty road trips, you'll spend 1/3 of your time at charging stations, which gets old fast. Don't expect fast chargers to be on the same network you have a card for either.
    No Charge To Charge Card: Lots of folks have ended up quite mad on this one, there is no rhyme or reason as to which stations are covered or not, and the tools to look them up are bad and often in error. Expect headaches if this a major part of your charging strategy. Expect non-home chargers to be a headache in general, too many networks with different pricing strategies.
    Driveability: I love driving the Leaf, sadly my wife loves it too. So she drives it, and I bike to work. She even put a quilting "tramp stamp" sticker on the back. Man points are now deducted every time I drive it. Horrors.
    Range: Heater use and worse rolling resistance with cold tires, rain, and snow make winter driving 20-50% more taxing than dry summer driving. Even driving very carefully and bundling up to avoid heater use I drop from ~4.5 mi/kWh in summer to 3.8 mi/kWh on cold dry days, and 3.2 mi/kWh in cold rainy weather. Your SV has a heat pump which is much more efficient for heating and defroster usage, but expect to really notice cold tires and slush cutting your range dramatically.
    Defroster: Pre-heating is a really nice feature on cold days, but does it will not run the defroster vents, so your front windshield will become laden with water, requiring heavy defroster use to clear (WTF Nissan?). In fact keeping the front windshield from fogging up is the primary use of my heater, and is a major source of frustration for a lot of Leaf owners.
    Resale value: Expect precipitous depreciation, which you look pretty sober to. 30 kWh is poised to be half the typical battery size
    Cellular connection: 2G network is slated to be obsolete soon, with no good plans for upgrading/replacing the functionality for existing Leaf owners, including the 2016 models I believe.

    • Dave October 4, 2016, 9:22 pm

      It’s important to note that pack degradation issues are worse for 2011 & 2012 models than the 2013s and forward, since Nissan improved the chemistry beginning in 2013.

      • Justin October 5, 2016, 9:21 am

        This is true, the early issues with extreme battery degradation in hot climates experienced in the 2011 and 2012 versions appear to have been addressed in the 2013 and newer battery packs. I have a 2013 Leaf and after three plus years and 30,000 miles, I’d estimate my capacity loss at 6-7%. Keep in mind I keep my car in the garage, drive conservatively, only charge to 80% (also helps battery life), and trickle charge using 110. we are a two car family, but do 80% of our driving with the Leaf (daily commute, errands around town, etc.) Mini-van for airport pickups, mtn excursions, and the occasional road trip.

    • Mark October 14, 2016, 2:21 pm

      Hi Moof. Thanks for your real-life experience of owning a Leaf. I live in the Metro Vancouver area…that means days and days of rain sometimes and any vehicle that does NOT defrost well is going to be a road hazard! I also just checked the local craigslist and they’re going for anything from $19,000 to $25,000 for a 2013 Leaf!! That’s absolutely ridiculous in my opinion.

      Electricity rates are pretty low in BC (8.29 to 12.43 cents per Kw/hr) and is generated by clean hydro. However, with the high entry cost for EVs here, there’s no way that its going to be a viable option in the near future.

      I’ll be switching to a job that requires quite a bit of driving around seeing clients and I might have considered an EV. Well, maybe once my business has picked up and I can afford to lease one and pass the costs of ownership to the business.

      For now though, I think my moustache is thicker than MMM. I ain’t going to buy a new car, much less finance one (horrors!!). And here I am telling my kids that buying a new car is never ever a good proposition….

    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 2:07 pm

      Aw, that sucks, as the i-Miev has a defrost, heat, or A/C option. You’d think Nissan would have stolen the idea.
      I didn’t find winter driving to be as bad as 50% unless you blast the heat, so far. It’s only dipped to -10C though.
      Cold rainy weather is the worse. I have to use the rear defrost, and the side rear windows are virtually impossible to keep clear unless you open the windows.

  • Todd S. October 4, 2016, 10:36 am

    Nice. My solar panel installation company just did a huge job (paired with LED light retrofit) at Boulder Nissan — did Nigel mention it? It’s right up your alley http://solarips.com/2016/08/boulder-nissan-dealership-to-get-50kw-of-solar-pv-and-led-lighting-retrofit/ .. hope you enjoy the Leaf and looking forward to future updates.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:54 am

      Awesome Todd! Congratulations – Nigel did mention that solar setup, although he didn’t mention your name. Quite a coincidence that you happened to be an MMM reader too.

      We should get in touch to see if we can do the same thing to our elementary school here in Longmont. I’m currently working with them on how to get their $3000 per month electricity bill down, and lots of the building has a flat roof that sits in pure sun.

      • Todd S. October 4, 2016, 11:11 am

        That sounds great. I can be reached at tstratford at solarips dot com if you’d ever like to talk directly instead of going through the office. We can always give guidance even if the school goes another way.

        Cheers and appreciate your reply (and not just because of the potential lead). Love everything you’re doing here, the Leaf is just the latest!

      • Edifi October 5, 2016, 10:16 am

        Solar tubes! New Belgium was just showing them off on the brewery tour!

  • Mike October 4, 2016, 10:36 am

    I don’t mean to critic you because hey you are a millionaire so if you want to buy a new car you can afford it. However, from a financial and efficiency view electric cars do not make sense. If we do some quick math it is very clear. A used 2012 Nissan leaf in my market is at least $9,000 while you could buy a comparable Honda fit or Honda civic for $6,000. The cost in electricity for the Nissan Leaf would be $313 per year while the Honda gas would cost $686 per year assuming 12,000 miles of driving(Yes this is high, but as we reduce it, shifts things further in favor of the Honda. That means it would take 8 years of driving to cover the cost difference in vehicle. But the batteries only last around 8 years and on a 2012 the battery has 4 years of life gone. Once you throw in the cost of the battery into the calculation the Nissan leaf will always be more expensive then the Honda. We also left out the additional cost of rental vehicles for road trips.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:52 am

      Right – but don’t forget the maintenance and oil changes on the gas car – that offsets the battery pack replacement at least partially. Also, factor in that a percentage of your charging will be free.

      Even more importantly, though – what value do you place on not burning gas? Does an electric car HAVE to be as cheap, or cheaper than, as a gasoline car? Or are you actually willing to pay MORE to create less pollution?

      I thought about this during my decision making process and realized that, shit, of course I am willing to pay more for a cleaner option, since I can afford it. It’s part of being a good neighbor to everyone else on Earth.

      It’s basically the same reason you don’t run an extension cord secretly over to your neighbor’s house to power your house: because you are rich enough to not need to steal from others.

      • Steve October 4, 2016, 10:56 am

        I just bought a 2013 Leaf with under 20K miles for under $10K. In my market I don’t think you can get any equivalent efficient car for that price. Add in maintenance savings and extra efficiency, the math just works.

      • Tim October 28, 2016, 7:18 am

        Honestly, I’m not sure we’re creating less pollution. The mining for the metals in the battery, as well as creating an entirely new car instead of using an existing one is exorbitantly polluting.

        It all just happens in third world countries, so we tell ourselves that CO2 emissions are the only thing that matters. Rather than the millions of tons of ammonium sulfate laden rock being poured back onto the ground in the places where these rare earth metals are mined (generally unregulated). I would argue, and I mean no disrespect, that you being wealthy enough to buy something that is clean on your end ( in terms of only one metric – CO2), but much more environmentally destructive than a standard car on the manufacturing end is in fact, not being a good neighbor. You just get the feel good part, someone else across the ocean gets the heavy metal laden drinking water.

        Ironically the manufacture of solar panels and the rare earth mining needed to create them, while making us feel good, may ruin China permanently. Heavy metal contamination is a cost of business in a place that doesn’t really feel strongly about regulation. So while we get to pat ourselves on the back, the way we got here is not necessarily better for the planet.

        Sort of like how the Europeans have created super clean diesel cars that minimize CO2 – and now have an increasing problem with smog because of all of the sulfur and nitrogen emissions from their copious, subsidized diesel usage. Unintended consequences abound because they only look at one metric and declare victory. Same case here I feel.

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 28, 2016, 9:33 am

          Tim, I need to do a separate article on this, but for now please look into battery manufacturing in more detail (on a site that is not run by fossil fuel enthusiasts). As with all manufacturing, it is a toxic process, but a Nissan Leaf is only on par with a SLIGHTLY larger gas car in the manufacturing stage. There is nothing exorbitantly harmful about harvesting Lithium from rock salts.

          In my personal case, YES – I created more pollution by buying this car instead of keeping my old gas car, because I drive so little that the Scion would have lasted me until 100 years old, assuming gasoline, human-driven cars and roads are even around at that point.

          (3000 miles/year x my 60 remaining years of life would have put my Scion just in the mid 200k miles range and I might have gone through a couple air filters and spark plugs totaling $100 or so).

          But this article is not about me, it is about advocating that people who DO drive and buy new cars, consider an electric vehicle instead of a gas one. Because of that effect (now confirmed by several Nissan dealers) I think it will reduce pollution by several or many individual human lifetimes of consumption.

        • Rodrigo November 29, 2017, 5:05 am

          You seem to forget that gasoline doesn’t fall from the sky! In order to get gas in your car the process is very energy wasting. First you need to look for oil underground and that wastes energy, then you need to move in the drilling machines and get everything ready and that wastes energy. Then you need to drill for the oil, then transport the oil to the refinery and that wastes energy. Then the refinery needs to transform the crude oil to gasoline and that wastes energy. Then the gasoline needs to be transported to your local gas station. and then finally you burn the gas in your car.

          This process is repeated every day whereas the batteries for electric cars is done once or twice per car. The battery is placed in your car and thats it – the process ends there.

          The whole gasoline process is by far worse then extracting and manufacturing the batteries for electric cars.

    • Dave October 5, 2016, 3:52 pm

      I’m wondering about the specs of the hypothetical comparable Civic or Fit for $6,000. How old a Civic or Fit are you looking to get for your comparison? It wouldn’t be a 2012. I think you’re stacking the deck in favor of what you want to see in the analysis by edging high on the price of the Leaf and low on the price of the Honda. That said, all number crunching of this sort will be riddled with hard-to-prove assumptions and at the end of the day we’re left making choices partly based on analysis and partly based on convictions, values and preferences.

  • Abandoned Cubicle October 4, 2016, 10:38 am

    Fun! I wonder if you get that remorse about buying something brand new like I do. You start to think about all the resources spent to create the car, ship it, etc. Worthy experiment though, if for no better reason than to get people off their addiction to F150s and Lexuses.

    Oh, and I’d argue you could expand your threshold to 12 miles or less for cycle commuting – about the 45 minute ride mark. Can we do another bike post soon? Those are my favorites. 😎 Maybe a case study from someone who didn’t think they could bike commute, but with your prodding, and loving guidance, made it happen.

    • Troy October 4, 2016, 10:59 am

      After financing a New car purchase!? Some kind of counter article is definitely in order :-p.

      It would certainly be great if more millionaires bought electric vehicles. We would all benefit. It is a great service to the rest of us.

      • The MAD Consultant October 4, 2016, 8:05 pm

        Troy it would be great if more millionaires bought electric vehicles. But since they are smart with their money they actually represent a smaller proportion of new car purchasers compared to their respective population. Seems like it wouldn’t make sense but in reality since most millionaires are self made they spend money more efficiently on average. I even wrote about it in an article, but I won’t self promote by pasting the link(although I’ll shamelessly mention it).

        As for financing the car I agree it is against his long stated principle(and mine), but considering he was lent money for free this is one situation where it makes sense to do so. Plus he is able to expense the vehicle against the blog business income which is “smart” as Donald Trump, any CPA, and I would say.

        While on the surface it doesn’t make sense for Nissan to lend him money at 0%, it’s basically viewed as a loss leader(although they’ll make a few bucks up front). He get’s brought into the Nissan Umbrella long term where they will target him overtime to generate revenue at the dealer with repairs, and other misc services. That’s how they’ll make money. Doesn’t make them a “bad” company for doing so, but they have to make money too in order to stay in business. Start reading over annual reports of automakers and dealerships. You’ll see where and how the money is made.

        Another side note on something I posted about since there is talk of Uber and other vehicle topics. Just over a month ago Ford announced mass production for self driving fleet vehicles(Uber & Lyft). The impact is two fold. For one it means traditional vehicles are reaching an inflection point where they will begin to depreciate even faster. Changing technology will cause them to become obsolete. As autonomous and electric vehicles become more popular you’ll see old stodgy “gas powered” vehicles lose value quicker. So each new vehicle purchase from this point on becomes an increasingly worse financial decision if it’s a standard gas engine.

        2nd is that if you rely on driving a taxi or Uber as your main job you basically have 4 years left until your unemployed and self driving cars replace you. Unless you manage to stay on as the person delivering puppies and food to people. Uber even has their eye on the trucking industry as they recently snapped up a company producing the technology to replace expensive commercial truck drivers. Make no mistake they would love to reduce their exposure to relying on people for providing rides. They’ve already been brought to court if their drivers are “employees”. Plus with autonomous cars they can flex their own fleet to meet demand 24 hrs/day and have reduced labor liability.

  • Noah October 4, 2016, 10:54 am

    Thoughts on the recent washington post article about the cost of mining for cobalt?

    • Kootenay EV Family October 5, 2016, 4:53 pm

      Not to discount the human suffering involved in that specific instance… but how does that stack up against all of the wars fought in the Middle East and elsewhere for oil? I haven’t extensively researched the subject, but from what I have read, my inclination is that on the whole, EV benefits outweigh the cons. Cobalt (and other materials involved in EV manufacture) can be mined in other jurisdictions, such as Canada, where worker/environmental protection is higher.

  • Mr FOB October 4, 2016, 10:56 am

    Thanks for this informative post. It inspires me to check what the tax benefits result in financially for driving an electric car here in The Netherlands. The green idea of combining this with solar cells to generate your own “fuel” appeals to me anyhow

  • Marcia October 4, 2016, 11:07 am

    I absolutely cannot show my husband this chart, because he wants a Tesla.

    Anyway, my question: the federal tax credit – is this a credit that phases out over a certain income? I don’t need a new car (2006 matrix working just fine). To be honest, I have been jonesing for a minivan to haul the kids and their friends around for SO LONG, but ya know, it’s not worth it for the one time a month I need to haul more than four kids.

    I’ve noticed at our income that we pretty much get hit with the AMT every year, so many, if not most, of these tax credits simply don’t work anymore. I’m wondering if this would also be the case here.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 12:48 pm

      There are no high-income limits on the $7500 tax credit, although there is a low-income limit: if you paid less than $7500 of federal tax in the year you bought the car, your credit will be limited to whatever you paid.

      It’s a bit unfair-sounding on the surface of it: a subsidy only for higher income people. But according to my principles, ANY new car is only a toy for high-income people anyway, so it should make no difference if you’re a Mustachian :-)

    • RelaxedGal October 5, 2016, 2:03 pm

      Mr Money Mustache is right – the electric car credit applies even if you have AMT. What you don’t get if you have AMT is the credit for installing an EVSE

    • Steve Adams October 15, 2016, 8:35 pm

      Yeah – I felt a pang of rationalization when I saw the $2mil limit for a Tesla. I’m gonna pretend he meant $2mil in uninvested cash you have no useful idea what to do with. :)

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 20, 2016, 8:50 pm

        Sounds like a wise bit of self-discipline Steve. At least it will get you through to the Model 3 with full autonomy in a few years, presumably for well under $50k. :-)

  • Liz T October 4, 2016, 11:16 am

    Aw, MMM, you’re killing me! After I wrecked my 2008 Toyota RAV4 V6, I procured a 2010 Honda Fit, more-than-partially based on your recommendation. It’s been a great little car. But now you come along with this Leaf, and I am just as big of a transportation and numbers geek as you are…. *sigh* I’ll tell myself I at least have to wait till next year when the new Bolt comes out and I can do a comparison. DAMN YOU, Evil Enabler!! <3

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 5:52 pm

      Glad to hear it, Liz! I have no problem being an enabler for wealthy money geeks to make strategic decisions using spreadsheets.

    • CubertAC October 7, 2016, 9:03 am

      I know your comment is tongue-in-cheek, but I can’t resist… What’s wrong with your 2010 Fit? I traded in my Accord for a 2009 Fit, much owed to this blog. Couldn’t be happier with it. Unless you plan to drive a silly amount of miles, the benefit of getting a Leaf to replace your Fit is marginal at best. My take on this post is that you might consider an electric car if:
      1.) you can pay for it without a high interest loan, and you’re not buried in ridiculous amounts of debt
      2.) you still bike and walk as your preferred mode of transport, and have no access to mass transit
      3.) you’re trading in a dumb dumb vehicle, like a pick em up truck (can’t expect Tundra fools to downshift to touring bikes)
      Be your own enabler. The Fit IS STILL a great little car!

  • Bike Bubba October 4, 2016, 11:19 am

    One thing worth noting regarding the purported efficiency of electric cars is that the process of making the batteries and motor–both to be replaced at around 100k miles (really about 1000-1500 chargings, typical for batteries)–is not easy on the environment, either. Best estimate for the Leaf is about 15000 lbs of C02 emissions, or about 0.15 lbs/mile. Add that to using about 0.3 kW-H/mile, and you’re at about 0.8-1lbs of carbon dioxide emitted per mile, assuming 30-40% power added efficiency from the power plant.

    Go to natural gas, and you’re at 0.45-0.6 lbs of CO2/mile. Now let’s compare with a comparable subcompact at about 35mpg like the Honda Fit. Given about 5 lbs of carbon per gallon, you get to about 0.52 lbs/mile from the Fit.

    So with coal power–your most likely nighttime power source–you’re really emitting about as much carbon dioxide per mile as does my GMC Acadia and almost as much as one of those pickups you love. With natural gas, you’re generally emitting about 10-15% more carbon dioxide than a comparable subcompact.

    All that for the privilege of going 100 miles or less at a time? Seriously? I’m all about the beautiful torque curve of electric motors, but paying (including subsidies) 35 grand to get a car that’s almost as good as a $16k Honda Fit, but emits as much carbon dioxide as my SUV, is not environmentally or fiscally sound.

    • Jeff Booth October 4, 2016, 11:41 am

      It seems like natural gas may not be any better for the environment because all of the leakage that occurs in the drilling, processing and transportation processes. Lets not forget that methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas.

      Also this is the first I have heard of the motor needing replaced. Battery I knew. Do you have any information on motor replacements?

    • Troy October 4, 2016, 11:57 am

      This is extremely funny (and incorrect) math.

      The drivetrain of an ev is has no effective lifetime thanks to reducing the number of wear components many orders of magnitude. It can be operated with indefinitely.

      The energy to produce battery packs indeed depends on the logistics of shipping raw materials back and fourth around the world, but this in comparison to a traditional gasoline vehicle with already highly refined supply chain. It’s a wash in the worst case, even today, and that’s just from a manufacturing perspective.

      Trying to greenwash a gasoline powered car is absolutely ridiculous and completely false.

      All cars are hopelessly wasteful though. On that point, we are very much on the same page.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 4, 2016, 12:02 pm

      I suppose that depends on where you live. In Ontario, for instance, coal power no longer exists and we are a net energy exporter, so I wouldn’t worry about that here. Hydro and nuclear provide for our baseload.

      But even when we had coal power, I don’t believe that it ran all night long. It was carefully ramped up during the day to meet peak demand instead. My information may be out of date, though, since we got rid of coal quite a while ago and I understand that, in some places, ramping coal plants up and down is too slow of a process.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 12:18 pm

      Bike Bubba – I already addressed this in the article. We are at 28% coal and dropping rapidly, and most of us have the option of using zero. Wind power works just fine at night, as does nuclear, hydro, etc.

      As for your claim about battery production: creating a battery like mine generates about 3.5 tons of greenhouse gases. This is about 0.07 pounds per mile of battery life. In other words, you “pay” for the environmental footprint of the battery after you’ve avoided your first 318 gallons of gasoline (roughly one year of driving an efficient economy car).
      Source for the 3.5 ton number: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27303957

      Plus, you could immediately offset that 3.5 tons a second time just for good measure, for about 35 bucks: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2016/03/20/climate-change-footprint/

      Meanwhile, you’re off by 400% on your estimate of C02 emission from gasoline – it is 20 pounds per gallon, not 5 pounds:

      The car was about $25k before tax credits, not $35k.

      The range between easy, often-free recharges with wind power is about 135 miles on average, not “less than 100 miles” – not that more than 1% of US driver-days exceed 100 miles anyway.

      Also, Troy is right about the electric motors – as an old industrial technology they can easily be good for a million miles depending how they are built. With zero maintenance.

      I got to ride in a GMC Acadia recently. I was stunned to see the dashboard MPG readout – it averaged about 18.5 MPG on a moderate speed trip from Denver airport to my house. Eighteen Miles Per Gallon! My fucking 1999 minivan with 173 cubic feet of cargo capacity and a racecar 3.5 liter V6 engine will do 25 MPG on that trip! These piece of shit SUVs need to be reclaimed to make more bikes and electric cars.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 4, 2016, 12:58 pm

        We need to make dashboard mileage readouts mandatory. With the cell phones that will soon become a standard feature in all vehicles, the readout could link to local gas prices and start spewing “Dollars per hour” at you while you’re driving.
        I’d hope such a device would smarten a lot of people up.

      • The McMonkey October 4, 2016, 5:09 pm

        MMM, this is the link to an excellent article, well worth the read. It takes all that crap science and greenwashing of ICE cars and flushes it down the drain. I send this article to everyone when they start exclaiming some bullshit about coal powered inefficient cars. I worked in a explosives manufacturing facility and we had electric motors that were OVER 50 years old, in continuous operation 24/7, fyi the centrifugal (mechanical) pumps they linked too had to be rebuilt every 9 months. Electric motors are simply brilliant. I am currently waiting on my Model S to arrive, I would have gone for a leaf but I would be renting an ICE once a week at last for appointments.


      • Vasile October 4, 2016, 9:29 pm

        Re: “My fucking 1999 minivan with 173 cubic feet of cargo capacity and a racecar 3.5 liter V6 engine will do 25 MPG on that trip!”

        Sorry MMM, I don’t buy this. Unless you have a rational explanation for my 2012 Honda CR-V struggling to get to 26 MPG at highway speeds and long trips.

        Honestly, this thread kind of smells from a long distance.

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:05 pm

          Sure I’ve got some good explanations, as Mr. Money Mustache does not fabricate figures:

          I drive a 2010 CR-V quite a bit every summer, as the inlaws have one. I too find it to be surprisingly inefficient, although I’m not sure why.

          My van weighs 20% more (4200 vs. 3500 lbs). On the other hand, the van has a lower coefficient of drag (0.32 vs 0.34 on the CRV), and frontal area is similar. The CR-V’s modern 4 cylinder engine should be much better, but on the other hand the CR-V has much taller, wider tires. Maybe underinflated too, while I run my van at 42 PSI.

          My van is really, really bad in the city (under 20 MPG if you do a lot of stop and go), but surprisingly good on the highway. The engine only spins at 1800 RPM in typical freeway driving, which definitely helps.

          Both the CR-V and my Odyssey have silly automatic transmissions with no option to lock into any particular gear. So they sometimes downshift or slip the clutch if they think you want them to accelerate quickly. To combat this, you need to keep your foot really steady on the pedal (and use cruise control) during steady state driving, and adjust your acceleration pattern to encourage them to shift to higher gears as soon as possible.

          The air is significantly thinner here in Colorado since we’re over 5000 feet above sea level – this makes cars more efficient on the highway. (And also makes gasoline cars lose 15-20% of their horsepower).

          Also, your CR-V is probably all-wheel-drive, which may be wasting some power unless it totally disconnects on dry roads.

        • Chuck Tuna October 5, 2016, 7:58 pm

          My 2001 Odyssey gets 22MPG all day long on the highway, with 7 passengers and air conditioning. Just saying’.

    • TCH November 1, 2016, 7:43 pm

      I don’t mean to intrude but I own a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid with almost 200K miles (so you may have to update your calculations). The motor and original battery are still the same and I’ll probably keep driving this car for the next 5 years until I buy a full EV.

  • JTP October 4, 2016, 11:22 am

    I just had a heartbreaking total loss on my ’08 Honda Fit which was great for frequent long trips to visit family (about 300 miles once per month). My family is growing and we were planning on moving up to a Mazda 5 anyway – so I got it about 4 months early. Also I have a ’98 Ranger that I’ve owned for 15 years and is slowly rusting away – the plan was to replace it with the Fit. I ride my bike to work (11 miles away) once or twice a week, but I do appreciate having the convenience of a car when I have an early meeting and I forgot to pack my gear the night before. I’m not a devout mustachian but I often find my ideals align with the blog, and I love the writing style. I’ll be taking a very close look at the Leaf when the Ranger finally quits. Is it true the incentive goes away after Nissan sells 200,000 units? Indiana only has incentives for natural gas vehicles and at-home charging equipment.

  • Christopher October 4, 2016, 11:33 am

    I have a Leaf and would not buy one again because that would be investing in an obsolete DC fast charging ecosystem. There is currently a format war for DC fast charging with three players:

    CHAdeMO used by Japanese car manufacturers Nissan and Mitsubishi. Honda and Toyota have not bothered to get into the electric car business in any meaningful way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHAdeMO

    Combo used by every US and German car company (except Tesla). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combined_Charging_System

    Supercharger used only by Tesla (but this is not relevant to the format war because Telsa has adapters for CHAdeMO and Combo and a very robust Telsa only charging network. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_station

    If you buy a car that uses CHAdeMO it is the equivalent of getting a Betamax. It seems clear to me that Combo charging is the future. I would hold out for a Bolt or a BMW i3.

    And a primer on electric car charging:
    Level 1 120v charging adds about 4 miles an hour
    Level 2 240v charging adds about 16 miles an hour
    DC fast charging adds about 350 miles an hour!!!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 12:41 pm

      Yeah, but the same machines can be updated to charge ANY car with just an adapter. The real cost is the real estate, transformer, underground wiring and stuff like that.

      DC fast charging (Chademo) in the Leaf and similar cars is a developing standard. Currently most of them are 50 kW, which is about 200 MPH in a Leaf. But you’ll soon see 150 kW versions: http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1104346_chademo-dc-fast-charging-to-run-at-up-to-150-kilowatts-starting-in-2017

      Tesla Superchargers are up to 122 kW, which is maybe 400 MPH because a Tesla uses more power than a Leaf.

      Given that all this stuff has gone from zero to almost-worldwide just in the last 5 years (!) it seems that charging limitations will be something that nobody talks about in another 5 years. Side note – it is great time to go into the business of being a commercial electrician!

      • Christopher October 4, 2016, 4:59 pm

        Agreed. It is a good time to be an electrician! The amazing thing is that Combo charging has only really been around since 2016 and there are almost as many chargers out there as there are for CHAdeMO which has been around for five years.

      • Rob B October 5, 2016, 11:37 am

        Guys, seems to me you’re missing the big picture. Charging infrastructure isn’t the hold up. Battery cost and scale are. Once they can build a cheap, large capacity battery, believe me, every service station and retailer will be lining up to build charge ports and charge you twice what it costs them (which is still less than cheap gasoline costs).

        Or they will give you the electricity for free, hoping you’ll buy an expensive blouse, meal, etc.

        Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline (for now) and is harder to resell. Otherwise they’d probably give you free gas.

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 3:36 pm

          I agree with all of that Rob – except I’d say battery cost/scale WERE the problem until very recently. Now that the car companies have their all-in cost of battery packs down below $190/kWh, the battery in my car is about $5700 and dropping. That, plus the cheap watermelon-sized electric motor, replaces the whole octopus of engine block, tubes, wires, mufflers, gas tank, coolants, fluids and everything else. This means electric cars are almost price competitive with gas ones even without subsidy.

          So at this point, the next hurdle is people not realizing how fucking amazing electric cars already are, as noted in the article :-) Once there are more of us on the road, more charging will spring up. Although 36,000+ chargers already is not bad at all.

    • Stephane January 9, 2017, 10:05 am

      Around here in Ontario and Quebec, they are building CHAdeMO chargers, so buying a car that has those makes a lot of sense. I imagine as cars get more popular the other formats will show up. There’s only ONE Tesla charger that I know of that is on it’s own and I wish I could use it.
      You have to realize that CHAdeMO doesn’t matter most of the time; you basically use those only when traveling, or maybe the odd time you spent the whole doing errands – but even so, if there shopping malls would get on the ball with it (and they will), you wouldn’t need to worry about that neither. I know one mall in Quebec that has one and a CHAdeMO as well. Quebec is so much more ahead of us on this.

  • Dan S. October 4, 2016, 11:35 am

    Love your vehicle decision chart!

    I don’t think the carbon emission comparison between EVs and the best hybrids is quite as simple as you suggest. Here’s one recent study claiming that a Prius is still better (in terms of emissions) than a Leaf for many drivers, especially those who do more highway driving and who run the heater a lot: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/044007

    Although wind and solar are growing incredibly fast as a percentage of their current share, during the last year the U.S. added nearly three times as much gas-fired electricity generation as wind and solar combined (according to the latest EIA data).

    The bottom line, in my opinion, is that there are still plenty of good reasons to drive *efficient* gasoline-powered cars instead of EVs. Both can be excellent choices for people who need to drive, and the decision will depend on personal circumstances as your chart suggests (but also on geography, which affects climate and the grid’s power sources and availability of charging stations). Things are changing fast, though, and the trend is certainly toward favoring EVs more in the future.

    • Rob B October 5, 2016, 11:31 am

      No way any gasoline burning vehicle can compete with electric on efficiency or emissions. Main reason is modern large scale power plants burn fossil fuels and then convert that into electricity. These plants can be up to 60% efficient. A gasoline I.C.E. is only 20 or 25% efficient.

      Now if you assume that to power the electric car you burn coal from a circa 1940 plant, then yeah, maybe then it’s roughly equivalent. But that seems like a false comparison to me. You’re comparing the least efficient electric source with the most efficient gasoline engine. Why don’t you compare the LEAF fired by coal to a 1960 chevy hooptie and see how it looks?

      The EPA rates a LEAF at 120 MPG-e and a PRIUS at 50 MPG-e. It’s not even close

      And we won’t even discuss wind, solar etc, since that is also orthogonal to the decision of which propulsion mechanism is more efficient.

  • Stachedpotatos October 4, 2016, 11:37 am

    MMM, in your research did you get a feel for how long these rebate incentives will last? We’re currently piloting an ’07 Prius that is working great for now, but I might like to make the jump to a leaf or Tesla model 3 before everyone’s going electric and the incentives dry up and the free charging stations are packed.

    I live just up the road from New Belgium brewery, who has a free DC fast charging station, it would be a cinch to charge and walk home or grab a delicious pint of La Folie while I waited!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 12:34 pm

      The big $7500 federal rebate starts to phase out after a manufacturer sells 200,000 cars (although they don’t stop right away:)

      Tesla has already sold many more electric cars than Nissan, so the Leaf will surely remain credited longer than the Model 3.

      • a1smith October 4, 2016, 7:09 pm

        Tesla has not sold more electric vehicles than Nissan. As of Sept 2016, Nissan has sold 98,810 Leaf’s and Tesla has sold a total of 98,760 vehicles (1900 Roadster, 83906 Model S, 12954 Model X). The Volt has also outsold all of Tesla at 104,750 vehicles.


        • Mr. Real Estate October 5, 2016, 4:21 am

          I assume MMM is taking into account the preorders for the 3 that have eaten up all of Tesla’s federal rebates. If you add in the preorders, Tesla’s smashed every other competitor.

        • John December 6, 2016, 1:48 pm

          Well your stats are a bit misleading. You’re comparing Nissan’s car (spiffy and affordable Leaf) to all of Teslas current vehicles. The Model S and Model X can easily run over $100,000 new.

          So of course you’ll sell more economically-friendly vehicles. The fact that Tesla is selling that many luxury sedans/SUVs in incredible.

  • Jeff Booth October 4, 2016, 11:39 am

    If your math is right, I could basically trade in my 2015 Mazda 3 and get $5,000 back when all is said and done. Were these $6000 in mystery deals and $4500 in discounts something done exclusively for you due to your media reach, or could I walk into the dealer and get the same deal? I would do that in a heartbeat.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 12:12 pm

      Same Deal Jeff, as long as you live in Colorado. The Nissan Leaf is heavily discounted these days for at least three reasons:
      – it’s under heavy competition from the future GM Bolt and Tesla Model 3 (over 400,000 pre-orders placed already!)
      – gasoline has been almost free in the US for quite a while now and shows no sign of going back up
      – its price was originally set in 2010, when Lithium batteries were way more expensive. Every $100 drop per kWh cuts $2400 (now $3000) off the manufacturing cost of the car, and we have seen several drops with more to come.

      But I hope you don’t actually “Trade In” your Mazda, since that usually means donating it to a dealer for a fraction of its actual market value. I assume you’ll sell it on Craigslist and keep all that money for yourself, while helping the new buyer get a much better deal at the same time.

      Dealers have no place in a logical world’s used car market. Actually, in the new car market either – I greatly prefer the Tesla model of directly buying the thing online with no middleman :-)

      • QB October 4, 2016, 12:19 pm

        It’s also about time that for the 2017 LEAF to be released which wile the rumors are its just going to be same as the 2016 they still will need to clear out inventory.

      • Jeff October 5, 2016, 5:50 pm

        I happen to be from up north of you in Fort Collins. I might have to explore this further.

      • Jeff Booth October 10, 2016, 10:23 am


        I hear you on trade-ins. Honestly what i’ve found though, is that with newer cars, your benefit for selling privately is less. In this instance trade-in price is $19,200~ and private party sale price would be roughly $21,000, a difference of only $1800. When you favor in that you don’t have to pay sales tax on the trade-in value of your car this number is not nearly as bad as it seems.

        Say the price of the Leaf is $25000. The sales tax in Fort Collins is roughly 7% on a vehicle, or roughly $1,750. By trading in the car, I would bring the taxable portion of the leaf down to $6000, reducing the tax bill to $420 dollars. That difference is not large enough for me to deal with having random weirdos on craigslist abusing my car on test drives, etc. My time is worth more than that.

        I understand what you are saying is true in 99% of situations.

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 10, 2016, 3:00 pm

          Wow, is that true? To me it does not make sense that you’d be exempt from sales tax on the portion of a sale you paid for with another vehicle.

          Otherwise, shouldn’t I also be able to deduct the $5000 I got from privately selling my old car, against the new car purchase? From the government’s perspective it would be the same.

          Does anyone else have similar experience or any links where I could learn about this more? It would definitely affect my advice on trade-in strategy.

  • Chris October 4, 2016, 11:49 am

    Hi MMM,

    Has anyone pointed you towards evseupgrade yet?

    Kind of a badass option for charging on the go or a cheap-ish solution for level 2 charging at home. I upgraded my charger and it conveniently uses the same l6-r30 plug as my electric homebrew system. It was a much easier conversation to have with the wife when the outlet was used by more than one device.


    Also, check out the seattle leaf owners group on facebook. Probably one of the best Leaf communities out there.


    • Kootenay EV Family October 5, 2016, 5:04 pm

      I looked into the EVSE Upgrade, but went with a charger built to the Open EVSE standard instead. It allowed more flexibility in charging (I can pull 24A at 120V, common plug at RV campgrounds) and I ended up with an additional EVSE for redundancy. More details about a 1/3 of the way down this page – > http://kootenayevfamily.ca/ev-basics/charging/

  • Mr. Frugal Toque October 4, 2016, 11:56 am

    This is exciting. In 2017, the Ontario government is continuing and expanding its rebates for electrical vehicles.


    According to the article: a base Nissan Leaf at $32,698 CDN, will get a $9,600 rebate. Nowhere near your price in the U.S., but still a consideration as a replacement for my current Nissan Versa.

    Also, at 0:19 in that video … how did you find the street where they filmed Back to the Future? Right then, I was thinking “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads?”

    • BH October 5, 2016, 3:32 pm

      It’s unfortunate that Ontario has the most expensive electricity prices in the world.

      • Stephane January 9, 2017, 9:54 am

        Even with Ontario’s higher rates, electric cars are still far cheaper than gas (1:10 ratio, not including the energy used for A/C and heat).
        Ontario’s rates are not even close to being the highest in the world (in the continent perhaps, but New York is worse), though rural folk have it far worse… I don’t understand how Ontario hydro can justify some of their rates. Even so though, other countries are worse.

        • Mikey January 9, 2017, 11:50 am

          Politics, my friend. That’s how.

        • BH January 9, 2017, 1:25 pm

          They are the highest in North America.

      • Stephane January 9, 2017, 9:54 am

        Even with Ontario’s higher rates, electric cars are still far cheaper than gas (1:10 ratio, not including the energy used for A/C and heat), at least in Ottawa.
        Ontario’s rates are not even close to being the highest in the world (in the continent perhaps, but New York is worse), though rural folk have it far worse… I don’t understand how Ontario hydro can justify some of their rates. Even so though, other countries are worse.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 10:21 pm

      Aww, you shouldn’t have to pay anywhere near THAT much for a Leaf.

      I’ll sell you mine when you are ready, then I can move on to my Tesla Model 3 / self-driving-instead-of-airfare experiment :-)

      BH: Ontario’s electric retail prices are ridiculous, but there is a loophole: you can install solar power and they pay YOU those ridiculous rates for your surplus production. I’ve run the numbers in detail with a Canadian Mustachian and it is a no-brainer to put up as many solar panels as you can. I’ve been trying to get Toque to do it on his spacious house or property, but no dice yet :-)

      • Mr. Real Estate October 6, 2016, 3:54 am

        What do they pay per kwh? My local utility company only pays $.04 but charges $.17. When running the numbers with panel prices it only makes sense to install just enough to cover your usage. You can over produce in the summer to cover your winter usage since they do an annual net balance.

      • Reade October 6, 2016, 8:37 am

        If you have those numbers for Ontario it would be great to share.

      • BH October 6, 2016, 2:21 pm

        Don’t you need a bunch of land to install solar panels? I live in the middle of Toronto and am not sure how I would do this.

        MMM, I hope you write a post regarding how many panels it would take to charge your Leaf, the capital cost of such panels and the assumptions under which it would pay to make this investment. (I may take a run at this myself).

        BTW, the other loophole in Ontario is to only charge your car at night. Retail rates go down to around 13 cent per KWH over night (the variable cost per KWH that is). There is a fixed cost on top of that but unless I went off grid – I have to pay the fixed cost no matter how much electricity I use.

        • Stephane January 9, 2017, 9:51 am

          The payment for the electricity generated through the FIT is available here:
          Please note that installation, fees and the other parts besides the solar panels is a significant part of the total cost. The time where solar panels were the biggest cost is long gone.
          For a Toronto resident, if you have a roof side that faces true south (not magnetic south), with no shade from the trees, that would be ideal. If it’s a little off (15 degrees or less) that is fine too. You would need book a consultation with an installer, and they often charge because people back out too frequently, and there’s some labor involved.
          A while back an Ottawa coop did a study and came back with a return on investment of 7%, which isn’t too bad for saving the environment.
          The contract is for 20 years, after which it will be net metering. By then the panels will be producing about 80% or more (warranty is usually 80%), which is pretty good – you got paid for them and after that your hydro is free (or discounted, depending on your usage).
          Side note that you would be very hard pressed to install a solar panel array to power an electric car – kinda expensive – though if you have the land and the money, it can be done.

  • G-Dub October 4, 2016, 11:58 am

    Yes Béla Fleck & Flecktones

  • BC October 4, 2016, 12:10 pm

    Last time I bought a new car, we paid cash to avoid financing interest (a car I’m hoping to make use of until I early retire, and it only gets used when I’m unable to bike!). I thought as you did I would get a discount paying cash, but they seemed more interested in financing because the dealership gets a kickback, or at least that’s what the salesman told me. Kind of took the fun out of it.

    • Elaine January 29, 2017, 6:01 pm

      When we bought a new car last year I was astonished to learn that they would knock $2,000 off the purchase price if we paid cash. Including the tax we would have paid on that, we saved $2,260!


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