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 Vigilante October 4, 2016, 7:24 pm

    Mrs. Vigilante and I have two very reliable, obviously paid-off, relatively high-mileage gas-powered antiques in the garage that serve us just fine.

    Still, we’ve talked about electric vehicles (especially Teslas, although we don’t anticipate getting one as they still run a bit pricey), and we’ve decided we will most likely invest in one sometime around when our Honda needs a downhill rolling start just to get me to work. I would love to get an electric vehicle now, while there are tax incentives galore, but alas I have more important things to do with my incoming cash at the moment. Hopefully, by the time I’m in the market for a vehicle, everyone will be driving ultra-efficient, self-driving electric vehicles and a tax incentive will be a silly relic of the stone age!

    So anyway I’m excited to see how this turns out – it could heavily influence our next vehicle purchase!

  • Insourcelife October 4, 2016, 7:24 pm

    Finally, an endorsement from the triple M himself for a Brand New Financed Car! I’m heading to a dealer tomorrow morning to see if they can offer a similar deal. It’s about time we replace our two uncool fossil-burning clunkers with a pair of sexy electric vehicles. Volume discount perhaps? Thanks for the inspiration, MMM!

  • Rob B October 4, 2016, 7:38 pm

    Hi MMM,
    I bought a 2015 leaf almost a year ago. I agree with most of your points but want to note some items where I have a different perspective:
    1. Net price: you have $13,391 as your pre-tax price. When I bought mine I figured my after tax price at about $12500. And this is in Maryland, where the state rebate is $3000, compared to about $4600 in colorado. I guess the primary difference is that mine is the S model (with quick charge) so the sticker is probably only $29000 or so. I can see why you might pay the extra for a bit more battery, but I’d encourage folks to get the cheaper option if they can. For me it just wasn’t worth the extra money.
    2. The extra $190 for insurance for financing is well worth it. But the whole $190 isn’t the true cost. The true cost is less than that. There is clearly a nonzero chance you will file a large claim for this insurance, even if you are a good driver. So figure Geico’s profit margin is 25%. Then the true cost of the insurance is $190/4 = $45
    3. You didn’t like the Nissan touchscreen, etc, saying it’s from 2007. In my opinion it’s always a waste to pay for nav, or items like that, in a vehicle. Like you say, a phone is a few hundred and is way better. Cars last 10 years, phone 2 or 3. So why put phone tech into a car that will be obsolete so soon?
    4. I thought the MP3 on a thumb drive would be a good option. However, it only can access a few hundred songs. So it’s not that great. It works better if I plug in my old ipad. This is another point arguing in favor of my #3
    5. You’re spending a lot of time worrying about cost of batteries, etc. There’s an 8 year warranty during which time Nissan will replace, free of charge, battery if it loses enough capacity. But in 8 years, batteries will probably have advanced to the point where repairing or replacing an old one isn’t economical. Does anyone replace old iphone batteries? No just just get a new one. Also, with the (low) price of this car and the money saved on gas and oil changes, you will be ahead of the game even if the car’s not worth much or range is significantly reduced after 8 years
    6. You didn’t mention this, but others asked about cold weather driving conditions. In my experience, cold weather does have a significant impact on range, and I almost never run heater or defroster unless I absolutely must for visibility. For example, Nissan advertises 100 mi as range for my 24kwh leaf. I think EPA 84 is closer to accurate unless you are really driving under optimal conditions. And extreme cold conditions (< 15 degrees Fahr.) can reduce that to around 65.
    7. Public charging is a nuisance. There's no guarantee any particular charger will be functioning or available when you need it most. That said, this car is not for people who have a lot of need to charge when they're not at home.
    8. The 120v charger is fine, but in my case it started tripping my breaker after a year. Still not sure why. You need at least a 15-20 amp circuit without anything else on it. Maryland pays 50% of cost to install 240v charger, and feds pay another 30%, so my cost to install a 240V station wasn't much and allows me to take advantage of off peak rates.
    9. You only glance upon the issue of efficiency. Almost no one understands this. People routinely make comments that a 40mpg compact sedan is "Fuel-sipping". Really? The truth is, the most efficient internal combustion engines only convert about 20-25% of the energy in gasoline into forward motion. And it takes energy to refine oil into gasoline as well, reducing overall efficiency. What about electric vehicles? Well they probably convert about 85% -90% of the energy stored in their battery into forward motion. But of course you have to get the energy there. I think the state of the art natural gas power plants are about 65% efficient. Then there are losses actually moving the electricity from the power plant, through the grid, and into the battery. At the end of the day, from well to wheel, let's say it's about 50% efficient for electric vehicles and 20% for the best gasoline vehicles. That's why you can get 120 MPG-e vs 50 MPG for a Prius.
    10. As much as I'd love everyone to go out and buy an electric vehicle tomorrow, it's going to take time. The gasoline infrastructure has been built up over a century. It's going to take time to get the charging stations. Probably harder than that is ramping up battery production, though. I read that we'd need 200 Tesla style gigafactories just to product 50% of what's needed.
    11. I'm not so naive as to think we'll ever leave any fossil fuels in the ground when we can exploit them, no matter the impact on the environment. But the efficiency argument to me really makes it hard to see how in the long term gasoline can compete with electric, except for long haul applications. Maybe we can somehow pump all the pollution into the ground so we don't have to all choke on it.

    • Justin October 4, 2016, 10:20 pm

      Good post agree with it all. Will say that I have exclusively trickle charged my Leaf using 110 wall outlet for three years without issue. Simply plug it in when I get home from work and its ready in the morning. I’d suggest trying to charge 110 first before paying to run 220 and installing/purchasing a charging station.

    • Ryan October 5, 2016, 8:42 am

      I do a lot of work with utilities (investor-owned and municipal) and you’d be surprised at how many offer incentives for 240v chargers. Some include caveats where you must give them access to the trending data, which helps them forecast how/when drivers charge and begin planning for the (hopefully inevitable) transition to EV’s.

      That said, I also just use the standard wall outlet charger that came with the Volt. But that’s a different animal than the Leaf, since it has a smaller EV range. Does the Leaf offer reduced amperage charging, 8 amps vs 12 amps? If you use the vehicle infrequently, this could be a “band-aid” solution to not trip the breaker, but would significantly extend the charging time needed.

      Just thought I’d stress checking the incentives with utilities, as they can subsidize 50-100% of a 240v charger. Sometimes with the trade off of sharing your charging habits…

      • Rob B October 6, 2016, 10:46 am

        Good points Ryan and Justin. I did check with utilities and didn’t find anything useful. Matter of fact, they will actually change my utility rates if they know I have an EV. Basically will increase peak rates and lower off peak rates. While this in theory could lower my bill, I think in practice it would actually increase my costs. This is because I use a lot more energy to cool my house in the summer during peak times than I use to charge my car overnight.
        So, I went ahead and took the plunge for the level 2, and here are a few other reasons:
        1. I figure I might trade in my other car, a Subaru Outback, for a plug in pacifica hybrid in a year or two. The outdoor 120v outlet is on the same circuit as the garage outlet, so there’s no way to charge both at the same time unless I put in another circuit. So it may as well be a 240v level 2.
        2. The Maryland 50% incentive for installing a charging station is running out of money, so I figured I should go ahead and get it now while I can. Similar story for Federal incentive, especially depending on how the upcoming election goes.
        3. I expect that after the LEAF I’ll buy another electric car. So why not go ahead and future-proof now and enjoy the convenience in the mean time.
        4. Didn’t mention explicit prices earlier, but the charging station was about $500, install was about $600. MD credit is 50% and I think fed credit is 30%. That leaves me paying only 20%, or maybe $220. Not that much out of pocket, all things considered.

      • Doron October 7, 2016, 9:30 am

        The Leaf does not offer reduced charging of say 8A at 120V. It pulls 12A at 120V using the supplied 120V power brick (“trickle charger”). It should not trip a dedicated 15A or 20A circuit. Something does sound odd in Rob B’s setup.

  • Laura October 4, 2016, 7:41 pm

    So any vehicle suggestions for a suburban northern Canadian family of 5? We share a 2008 Toyota Sienna right now that we own outright (bought for cash in 2010 as a 2 yr old leaseback) My husband and I take turns using the bus as our “2nd vehicle”. We often carpool with others, but also use our van for things like large amounts of groceries, getting our canoe to the river, occasionally construction materials and even firewood for our wood burning stove. I know the gas mileage isn’t great and the van isn’t in great shape because of its uses as a farm-truck! but we’d like to avoid buying something new as long as possible. Any advice??

    • S.G. October 7, 2016, 10:15 am

      Do you need room for car seats and boosters?

      • Laura October 27, 2016, 6:21 am

        Right now only our 5 yo needs a booster but it doesn’t take more room than the average adult. And it won’t be too long before the growing lad should be out of it! Appreciate your suggestions!

  • Mike October 4, 2016, 7:44 pm

    I’m all for electric vehicles, unfortunately there’s an army of apartment dwellers out here and all electric (or even the Bolt) just isn’t a reasonable possibility. I think that will limit adoption even as they continue to increase the range. Would be interested to know what some of the near and mid term solutions are projected or in the works.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:09 pm

      Mike, try visiting chargepoint.com and reviewing the public charging stations in your area. For most apartment dwellers, there is probably a free one within just a couple of miles – maybe even within walking distance. Also check the library, city hall or your favorite grocery shopping areas. It doesn’t take long to get a week’s worth of city driving stored into that battery.

      • Ryan October 5, 2016, 9:27 am

        I’d also recommend PlugShare. It’s a smartphone app that combines public chargers across different platforms (Chargepoint, Blink, etc.)

  • MarylandJeff October 4, 2016, 9:13 pm

    I also looked at Leafs very seriously last Summer and was pretty set on getting a 2013, mostly because I want to do my part to save the planet.

    But then I started to think more deeply about what I was *actually* doing by selling my current gas-burner and buying an electric car. If the plan was executed (selling my gas-burner to someone else and purchasing a used Leaf to replace it) nothing would have changed in the overall fleet of cars. My current gas-burner would still be burning gas until it dies, it would just be a different person behind the wheel; that was its fate the day it left the assembly line. The real power for change, it seems to me, is in the mix of new cars sold. If new car buyers go with electric instead of gas, then the fleet will gradually shift toward clean vehicles.

    I checked the interwebs as best I could to try to verify my logic, but there ain’t much out there written about this so I welcome others’ thoughts.

    So, sadly, I’m still with my gas-burner for now.

    • Rob B October 6, 2016, 10:56 am

      It’s important to consider this aspect. If you buy a new electric car and trade in your old car, then obviously someone else will be driving it. What’s the net impact?

      If it’s done on a large scale, it will effectively drive down the cost of used cars, and some folks who would have bought a new car will buy used instead. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s still one less new gas burner on the road, whether it’s the one you didn’t buy, or the one someone else didn’t buy because they bought your old one.

      In my case, my Prius was totaled so I had to buy a car of some sort. I chose a LEAF It’s pretty clear in my case that the impact was +1 electric.

      It’s also important what message we send to car manufacturers and the press. If they have strong sales on electrics, they will continue investing and accelerate the progress of the tech. If there aren’t many sales, then development might be delayed or put on hold altogether

      So maybe you don’t need to rush it if your gasmobile is still in good shape, but do your research so that when the time comes, the next car you buy is electric.

    • S.G. October 7, 2016, 10:19 am

      The person driving your old car will still be driving a car, just not your old car. In our society people who want a car will have one. A more likely scenario is that some old clunker that is burning oil will finally be retired 5 cars down the line.

  • Bryan October 4, 2016, 9:20 pm

    Thank you for running this experience! It’s a lot of fun to read and consider your experiments for my own future.

    If I understand your spreadsheet correctly, shouldn’t there be only one data point per month? It looks like gas and electricity costs are being added 2 or more times for some months (for example, April, 2017 has three data points).

  • englyn October 4, 2016, 9:47 pm

    Wonderful, here in Australia a 2012 leaf is still twice the price of a new small petrol hatch. >:-(

  • Justin October 4, 2016, 9:58 pm

    I live in Colorado and own a 2013 Leaf. Just passed 30,000 miles. Really have enjoyed the car. Got the full state and federal tax credits. After three years I’m averaging 4.9 miles per kwh and have experienced only minimal battery degradation (no lost capacity bars yet, maybe 7-8% loss). Like MMM I financed over three years at 0%. I estimate my annual fuel savings at roughly $700/year (over comparable ICE) at current gasoline prices. I’ve had rooftop solar since 2007, which covers 100% of my transportation fuel. There’s no better feeling than driving on sunshine. Acceleration in the 0-30 mph range is awesome and super fun. Driving in the snow or running the heater will drain the batteries quicker in winter. maybe a 20% loss in range on days in the teens or single digits. Nissan provides seat heaters for all the seats, front and back, to combat this loss of range because heating a metal element takes more electricity than heating air coming out the vents. On the plus side, due to the heavy battery pack and the resulting low center of gravity and front-wheel drive, the Leaf handles quite well in the snow.

    My long term plan is to own the car for 15 years and replace the battery for less than the current $6000 price tag (labor plus battery replacement pack) around year 8, when I expect to have about 70% capacity left. After factoring in all the up front tax credits, dealer incentives, maintenance and fuel savings, I expect the price of owning this car (original purchase price after credits + battery replacement cost) to average out to $1,000/year over the 15 years. This assumes I sell the car at year 15 for a modest sum. That comes to roughly $2.75/day. I’ll echo MMM’s endorsement of Nigel and Boulder Nissan for anyone in Colorado looking to buy a Leaf. Man is not a salesman and knows the car in and out. Most dealers look at EVs as annoyance and will quickly try to steer potential customers to ICE options. EVs are a losing proposition for the dealers because of reduced maintenance and the fact that battery replacements means these cars can easily have 20-year lifespans before needing to replace the entire car (no heat, fewer moving parts, etc). Bottom line, this is a fun, environmentally friendly, and safe car to drive. Great for a daily commuter, for those of us still working our way to FIRE.

  • a1smith October 4, 2016, 10:07 pm

    Most likely, the reason for the great price on the 2016 Leaf is that sales have stalled somewhat this year as many people are waiting for the 2nd generation design of the 2017 Leaf. It will have 30 and 40 kWh battery options and the 24 kWh battery will no longer be offered. Also, there are rumors that Nissan is switching to liquid cooling (from air cooling) of the battery pack to eliminate the issues the Leaf has had in warmer climates.

  • a1smith October 4, 2016, 10:12 pm

    Oops. Posted twice. I didn’t think the 1st one made it.

  • Lizz October 5, 2016, 5:01 am

    You should look into LeafSpy, from a data nerd perspective – It’s an app that uses a small ODB-II dongle connected to the car to give interesting readouts on battery capacity, battery cell health, and other stats I don’t pretend to understand.

    Very excited to see that you’ve taken the plunge! This post is perfectly timely for me. I just recently discovered that used Leaf prices have come down significantly, and I’ve been hunting for the right one for a couple weeks now.

  • Chris October 5, 2016, 5:35 am

    Great article, also timely for me. Been thinking this week about what to replace my car with. Nothing wrong with my car, it was incredibly cheap (3500CHF), it’s all paid for, reliable etc, but it stinks, sitting there in the garage. It seems ooze solvents which can’t be good for me. On top of that, where I live there are hundreds of Teslas on the road. They’re everywhere. I don’t want to spend so much on a car, but if I can get a sweet deal on a Leaf, then that’s what I’ll do. By the way, you’re right about Nissan’s mainframe, except the data isn’t typed in in the US. That function’s been outsourced. Now there’s a project manager and business analyst in the US who fill out an HPSM request form. Thanks for the continuously great content, MMM.

  • Jon Southerington October 5, 2016, 6:12 am

    We live in Orkney, Scotland. We bought a used Leaf last October. She’s a beauty.

  • Brewer's Arcade October 5, 2016, 7:10 am

    After extended research on the Nissan Leaf and watching the price drop on used models I finally pulled the trigger in August. I live in Maryland and found a dealership that mainly specialized in exotic cars that had a 2012 SL w/ 28,500 miles on it. The owner of the dealership got it on trade and actually was letting his wife use it to commute to work and it was kept in his garage. He was asking $9,000 and I offered $8200 out the door including any fees (since I bought out of state I paid taxes,tags, and title which was about $850). Our Leaf was missing one capacity bar but still has about 88% total capacity according to LeafSpy (I recommend getting this app and a bluetooth OBDII sensor on Amazon…it gives you true readings).

    Since we bought it our mindset has changed and my wife and I actually enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” in finding free charging stations. Fortunately we are in the Washington DC area and chargers are abundant but so are electric cars so we actually compete at times for a charging station. My wife is able to charge for free at her work so we save even more money since we only trickle charge at home on weekends mainly. My wife’s commute is roughly 10 miles a day taking the kiddos to school, going to work, and picking them up and we all ride along in evenings for various sports activities or recreational fun.

    I’ve owned only Fords my entire life so this was a big jump for me but we’ve loved this car since day one. For the price you can get a used Leaf for now it is simply a steal. Only maintenance I have done is to change out the air cabin filter which costs $10. Keep your tires rotated every 7500 and you should be good to go. Hey MMM, does your Leaf have the holographic kick plates? They look so cool but it’s such a silly splurge.

    Again, it becomes addictive trying to find charging stations and there are lots of great apps that help you find them! There is nothing like charging for free at University of Md. while I go for a run…I’m recharging two things at once!

  • Ryan October 5, 2016, 7:55 am

    Newbie Mustachian here: this is the first article that’s made me throw my comment hat into the ring of fellow followers. Being 24, a new college grad, and fresh to the corporate world, I’m glad to have had the “wake-up moment” early. Especially seeing many of my high-income peers and co-workers, live paycheck to paycheck with their fancy pants lifestyle.

    I’m a site engineer for an energy services company, and I drive often, 2-3 times per week, to job sites (reimbursed at IRS rate, plus time). I bike to work every day my calendar is empty, which rocks. While my co-workers keep the IRS reimbursement rate high, driving luxury German sleds and decked out F-150s commuting with one passenger, I picked up a killer deal on a 2013 Chevy Volt.

    I regularly get 45-50 miles on full EV mode and, when needed, the gas motor seamlessly activates getting about 40MPG. I agree with everyone else, I cannot go back to a “regular gas car.” I was on the fence about going full EV with a Leaf or Mitsubishi EV, but I think with another 2-3 years the infrastructure will catch up to the 50+ year head start gas stations have. So luckily, when the time comes to go full EV, I’ll happily make the plunge.

    One caution/realization: it’s hard not to become an EV-advocate. Seriously, electric cars are quick, techie, cheap to operate, silent and just plain awesome. I paid significantly more than I would have for the alternative vehicle (a 5-speed Corolla a family member was selling) but having to drive for work and being willing to be a “test dummy” for renewable/efficiency measures helped take the purchase over the edge. Absolutely no regrets, it is a luxury for me, but one I appreciate every time I’m required to drive and am able to do so (locally) emissions-free. Stop-and-go traffic even becomes almost a game.

    I don’t even use the physical brakes in “L” because that maximizes the battery regen once you let off the accelerator. When I rotated the tires (in my garage…why pay to have this done?!) the brake pads had no noticeable wear and no brake dust on the front wheels. BONUS!

    Totally & completely enjoying the blog and the community. Keep it up!

    • Ryan October 5, 2016, 10:00 am

      Since my net-worth is, just barely, under $50k and this is, therefore, a non-mustachian decision. I will mention that I receive a work reimbursement of $3k/year for a work vehicle, which must meet “company image standards” (don’t get me started on corporate life…) in addition to the mileage reimbursement. So I did finance the car (with half down) through my credit union. This cardinal sin of a car note will be paid off by March 2017, and a dependable, economical vehicle is a necessary evil to continue to enjoy my relatively high paychecks (80% of which go into investments/savings)

  • insourcelife October 5, 2016, 8:03 am

    Did you look into towing with electric vehicles? I just added a “Class I” hitch to my MINI Cooper and in the process of building out a lightweight foldable 4’x8′ trailer with a 1,200 lbs load capacity. I was wondering if that’s even an option on a comparable electric car. That would cure most “yeh, but I occasionally need a truck” excuses.

  • Anonymous October 5, 2016, 8:52 am

    > 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

    I don’t know the law in your state, but in many states, you can get a “certificate of self-insurance”, which effectively says “I have enough money to pay what the insurance would have paid, and I promise to keep having that amount of money as long as I use this certificate in lieu of insurance, so I’ll take the risk myself”. You can use that certificate instead of insurance, including for purposes such as insuring the bank’s car until it becomes your car.

  • Ben October 5, 2016, 9:05 am

    Quick Volt review
    I had one for 2 yrs and was an expert hypermilier.
    I would unplug a fulling charged car in the morning,
    Drive 50 miles round trip to work, plug back into regular
    Garage outlet when I got home, and repeat… Car MADE me
    Burn gas after 1 yr. Then I only put in 1 gal to cut weight.

    • Chaz October 10, 2016, 12:34 am

      Great info Ben, curious to know what year your Volt was and what you are driving now?

  • Andrew October 5, 2016, 10:51 am

    I liked your diagram!

    I know *somebody* has to buy Teslas, but the theory of paying 100k for a car even at a 2mm net-worth seems crazy to me. Dumping 5% of your net worth on what really amounts to a really-awesome toy is still crazy!

    My thought is that 1-2% should be the limit for a really-awesome toy, even if it’s a supercar – so $5mm to $10mm before even considering a Tesla.

    The Leaf sounds like a pretty good deal though. Effectively only 15k or so out of pocket for what could be a necessary work expense *plus* possibly saving $2k/year in gas would be a wise investment.

  • Allison October 5, 2016, 11:07 am

    Ok hive mind, I’ve got a question about electric cars. I am jazzed about them for all of the reasons mentioned here but recently came across this Union of Concerned Scientist (via Vox) report ( http://www.vox.com/2015/11/16/9737720/electric-vehicles-cleaner) that shows that in my area of the country, a gas car would have to get 35 mpg to beat the enviromental impacts of an electric car. So, wouldn’t a Prius or other kickass hybrid be my best bet?

    We’ve got the dirtiest grid in the country here in the KC area, lots of coal. On the plus side, wind is available so there is hope but storage seems to be the big limitation. I’m excited about the potential for change there–I love the Elon Musk idea of using electric cars as home storage that you can draw on and having that spread grid wide. Unfortunately our utility company doesn’t seem super motivated about pushing renewables and we will probably move in the next 10 years so putting solar on doesn’t seem to pay off economically–unless MMM can do a post soon on how to do a $5k install instead of $30k which seems typical in these parts.

    • Allison October 5, 2016, 11:09 am

      Ooops, and I just noticed in that article that Colorado has the same MPG rating as my region so maybe MMM or other CO MMM’s can speak to this concern?

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 3:45 pm

        Hi Allison – as noted in the article, if your power company offers you a choice over what type of electricity you buy (and then if you charge the car mostly at home), your state’s power mix does not matter at all. Your own charging is offset by adding more wind turbines, so you are beating a gasoline car that gets hundreds of miles per gallon.

  • Andrew October 5, 2016, 11:13 am

    As a possible alternative for larger families, Chrysler is supposed to release a hybrid plug-in Pacifica later this year with a 30-mile all battery range that qualifies for the tax credits.

    An electric mini-van seems pretty sweet to me.

    • Chaz October 10, 2016, 12:51 am

      Agreed but wish that Toyota, Honda, and Nissan would opt to compete in this niche. Also learned that due to battery location the Chrysler product will not have middle row stow and go seats, it’s most innovative feature. Still a minivan with a hitch and 30 miles of all electric range would make for one heck of a versatile vehicle. Too much to ask for an AWD option?

  • Manelle19 October 5, 2016, 11:27 am

    Could we change the flow chart a bit? If you are worth over TEN million dollars you should get the expensive Tesla. If you only have two or three million, the thought of putting that much money into a depreciable asset is anathema.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 3:42 pm

      Nah, I don’t think Elon would be too happy with me if I cut his customer base off at $10M. Someone needs to keep buying Model S if we’re ever going to get the Model 3 into production :-)

      It’s true that a $75k Tesla Model S sucks up almost 4% of your life savings if you are “only” a double-millionaire. But my rationale was that at that level, you have AT LEAST one million dollars more than you need, so even buying TEN Teslas, in cash, will have absolutely no effect on your financial wellbeing.

      If you have way more money than you can possibly spend, you don’t need to hoard it. But you should spend it on something that nudges the world in the right direction – I put Tesla in a different category than buying a Mercedes SUV in this regard.

  • Miro October 5, 2016, 11:40 am

    I purchased a 2016 Nissan Leaf S last week in NJ with similar rebates and incentives. Although I must say that Nigel at Boulder Nissan was beating my local dealers slightly even after shipping costs!

    This is my first EV and here are some takeaways that I think are important to share:

    1. After rebates, tax credits, and finance incentives, a $32,000 MSRP vehicle becomes a net purchase price of about $15,000. Incredible!

    2. 85 mile range of the car will satisfy 90% of mine and most people’s needs. A typical married couple has two cars anyway, so for now having 1 EV and 1 ICE (Internal Combustion Engine for the uninitiated), will bridge the 10% gap that would generally stop people from considering an EV.

    3. To charge the car, you don’t need an expensive charging station. The Leaf comes with a 25′ cable that plugs into a 120v outlet. This is the slowest way to charge, but to regain 50% of your battery depletion takes 10-12 hours which is easily done overnight. (240v charging is about 3-5 times faster and can be set up for an additional $300-$600).

    4. You can park your car outside and charge the car even while it’s raining. Remember, must public charging stations are outside in the elements so no big deal if you don’t have a garage to park in.

    5. There is an amazing awe that you’ll feel when you feel the quiet, smooth, and constant acceleration of an EV.

    These 5 items were the biggest surprises discovered by my neighbors regarding an EV. If you’re at a point where you’re looking to purchase a mustachian vehicle, give the Leaf some serious thought.

  • phred October 5, 2016, 11:48 am

    Neat! If you wire three solar panels to a roof rack, your range should increase.
    Be careful where you get your free electricity. A local teacher, attending a football game, plugged his electric car into the school’s outlet. He was then fired for theft.
    About the 0% interest. If you miss a monthly payment, does the interst rate ramp to skyhigh %? Not everyone can keep money in a bank account (sigh).
    Several local schools have gone to solar panels. Actually, a company provides the panels, receives the tax credit, and guarantees a set power cost for five years. At the end of the five years the panels belong to the school (probably need replacing,by then). They are mounted on the ground as we do get the wind. Anything screwed to a flat roof seems to cause leaks, and no-one will take responsibility. Lots and lots of panels — almost as far as the eye can see…

  • Bill.B Oceanside October 5, 2016, 12:26 pm

    A friend of mine recently leased a Volt. I was surprised by the lease. He is very financially savvy and usually drives his cars for 10 years before replacing ( a recent encounter with a deer put him in a need for this new car ahead of schedule). His logic on the lease was this: “Normally, I’d never lease a car. I buy smart and then drive them until they drop. However, the technology in the electric car is changing faster than smart phones. Right now my volt will give me about 120 miles. In three years I suspect the range for the electric car and efficiency will close to double- if not more. So unlike previous auto purchases, I believe the speed of change in the technology will drive me to replace the car much sooner than my normal pattern of hold for 10 to 12 years.” His lease cost was significantly lower due to the rebates being applied to the lease. Thoughts on this logic?

    • Chaz October 10, 2016, 12:59 am

      I would love to buy your friend’s “120 mile range” super Volt for roughly half of it’s sticker price at the end of his lease. 😉

  • Dan October 5, 2016, 1:02 pm

    Got it!
    1) Create a business that researches new lifestyles.
    2) Live that lifestyle.
    3) Deduct living as business expense.

  • Chris October 5, 2016, 2:15 pm

    I leased a Ford Focus electric over 2 years ago, and one of the best benefits of all was the carpool lane sticker – it cut my commute in half! The time I get to invest in my family with those saved commute minutes has been amazing.

  • Drew R. October 5, 2016, 3:01 pm

    Welcome to the EV club MMM! I got a new 2015 Leaf SL last December and paid just slightly above what you did (Missouri doesn’t have a state credit) and got the same financing from Nissan so I could take the tax credit and sale of my last car to kill off my 6.5% home equity loan (part of an 80/10/10 mortgage). I absolutely love it — I live only 3.5 miles from work (I know, I know, bike) and have free charging there. It gets me anywhere in town I need to go while only requiring a charge maybe once a week, and I can fit a 17′ collapsible ladder in the back! Hopefully this lasts me at least ten years, at which point I hope to be happily retired, spending part of my time researching my next EV!

  • Kootenay EV Family October 5, 2016, 5:10 pm

    MMM, nice to see that you switched over to an EV. I’ve been following the blog for a few years, but have had a hard time with some of the investing concepts because there is little mention of value investing (how can we have a blog fundamentally about better human values and happiness, but then turn around and blindly invest in degenerate companies?)

    Glad to see you bought it partially because of the environmental and social benefits (who likes breathing exhaust fumes? I curse every diesel truck I get stuck behind… so I usually pass them in my Leaf ;)

    Anyways – side question: have you been following the value investing trends? Any ETFs you think are worthwhile yet? I couldn’t stomach the thought of putting my money in a general market ETF here in Canada, since I don’t support the tar sands or banks bilking their customers. So we’ve stuck to government bonds and targeted ETFs (e.g. FAN, TDIV) generally. I did recently find ETHO and started buying around $25. Seems better than nothing.

  • Jose Gonzalez October 5, 2016, 5:49 pm

    Hey MMM!
    For some reason my last comment didn’t load… I just saw an awesome video about the EVs, smart cars and solar energy. The sum of these three technologies with the speed that everything and everyone is right now developing the new car models with these technologies integrated it is just gonna change transportation.

    Please see the following video… the information displayed actually needs to be updated since with all the latest news in electric cars and prices, this should make the graphs go steeper.

    Please let me know your thoughts after you see the video… this is happening NOW!


  • Patrick "Mustachio" Ronan USN October 5, 2016, 6:06 pm

    Please let me know if you need any data. I purchased a 2013 SV (wife doesn’t like leather seats) with bose “premium” package and Quick Charge port. I created a google sheet to track my use and figure out the true cost. I’ve found the Level 1 120V charge system to be a bit less efficient overall. Also, the stock charger that comes with my car draws about 75 cents (at PACNORWEST current 11 cents per KWh rate) per year if left plugged in and not monitored. I use a few KWh meters to determine electric useage to the wheel comparing to “precise” odometer.

    I also find it fun to “hyper-mile” in it, but it took me a while to figure out how to best do it in the leaf. Hint: hold shifter left to place car into neutral. Long time reader (2 years) and can’t get enough. Glad to see you’ve joined me in Leaf ownership. Enjoy the experiment and I’d look forward to a phone call some day if you’d be willing.

    – LCDR Patrick “Mustachio” Ronan
    United States Navy

  • Reader from the Rockies October 5, 2016, 6:29 pm

    Only 5.3% of all electricity in the US is currently generated by solar and wind. Other sources, mostly fossil fuels, produce the vast majority of all electricity. Even fast growth of such a small percentage of renewables will not amount to much energy production in the coming years. As a consumer, chances are that the power going into your electric car were generated from fossil fuels. Signing up for a “boutique” wind program doesn’t change the equation. From a global carbon perspective, adding electric vehicles is simply adding more consumers for carbon based energy and adding to the problem of global warming and greenhouse gasses. It takes the equivalent of 325 gallons of gasoline to build an electric car, so that is another load on the environment.

    Then there is the fact that all the tax rebates are not appearing out of thin air. These are tax dollars that could have been spent on better education, more bikepaths, or other good causes. Now that money is simply used to help a well off person buy a new car for much less. Good for your wallet, but a loss for the community it seems.

    Finally, I am saddened by the distinction between MMM and Pete. The entire idea of MM was setting up a real life person and family in a frugal but credible lifestyle that others can use as an example for their own lives. By admitting that there is a fictional MMM persona, and then the real life Pete who is far more wasteful than MMM, so much authenticity and credibility gets lost. The comment that you recommend a specific car salesman and then tell the readers to say “they were referred by MMM” sounds very familiar. It sounds like a money making referral request. Hopefully not so, but it sounds that way. I enjoyed the read of your post, but thinking about it a little more left me disappointed. Sorry but I felt I had to say it. Still, I hope you enjoy driving the new wheels.

    • Scott October 5, 2016, 8:00 pm

      Agreed. The benefits of EVs are primarily reduced gasoline consumption but what are the costs? These tax credits for EVs also potentially incentivize more cars, more driving, more roads, more sprawl, more dispersal, more long commutes, more sitting in traffic. EVs keep us on the same problematic trajectory that gas cars started us on. We need a new trajectory that aims for more walkable, bikeable, liveable, sustainable cities. EVs are a cool technology and may be the lesser of two evils but I do not see any connection between EVs and the traditional MMM badassity.

      • phred October 6, 2016, 11:22 am

        Commutes? Sitting in traffic? Hasn’t the advice of MMM always been to either live where you work or work where you live? Until we actually do this, I’m not sure we can get away with being complainypants.
        Car sales have been down for years — only now reaching the level of 15 years ago. So, people are going to be buying something – better an electric than an Escalade! Stop building cars altogether? And bail out car companies all over again? Has 2008 been forgotten already?
        Yeah, it costs money to build bikes, lay bike paths, erect wind farms. If we truly wanted to be sustainable, we would provide grants for watering troughs and hitchin’ posts.
        Sustainable cities are a bit population dense; this will quicken the spread of disease.

    • phred October 6, 2016, 11:27 am

      “Good for your wallet, but a loss for the community it seems.”

      Someone has to serve as the good example. If everything is not perfect from the gitgo, we should do nothing?

      Better education is via home schooling.

  • CZ_Technically_Frugal October 5, 2016, 6:38 pm

    There is cheaper way how to get the same results. Just buy older electric car which fits your needs and replace batteries for bigger LiFeYPO4 ones. You need to have the same voltage and have BMS for each cell (these lithium batteries can be simply destroyed by overcharge and full discharge both).

    For sureness check on the internet if anyone has changed batteries in the same car. There is possibility, that manufacturer intentionally created some complications.

    My own car doesn’t care even for lower voltage (it’s slightly slower), but there is a few of them only (scattered in western Europe mostly), so you’ll have another car probably. Acceleration from 0 to 60mph would take 5 minutes if the round will be downhill enough :-). Maximal speed on flat road is around 40mph.

  • steve poling October 5, 2016, 7:22 pm

    Glad to see you see you’ve transitioned from gasoline powered to coal/nuclear/natural gas powered transportation. (Though I’m teasing you, I’m pro-nuke so I see this as a Good Thing b/c it reduces your carbon footprint. Depending on where you live, the mix of electricity generation sources differs. E.g. the Quebecois drive water-powered EVs.) I like the infinite torque that an EV promises, but I’m shocked your 0-60mph times aren’t measured in milliseconds. I hope you don’t let the hedonic adaptation of a new Nissan Leaf move you into a Tesla roadster. Or maybe I do, I want to read your review of it.

    This is a great post b/c I think it shows you’re not a hair-shirt frugality fundamentalist: when it makes sense to spend and you can afford it, by all means do so.

  • John Evens October 5, 2016, 8:35 pm

    Well 286 comments and no-one answered your question about 0% financing, which I was very interested to know the answer to as well. So I Just F***ing Googled it and…turns out it is a big incentive for sheeple to come in thinking they are going to get a great deal and then not qualify, so they end up paying interest after all.

    From http://www.kbb.com/car-advice/articles/zero-percent-financing-_-financial-fact-or-fiction/

    “Does zero-percent financing work? In large part, yes. According to the J.D. Power Dealer Finance Study, it is considered to be one of the most successful motivators to get car buyers into dealerships. Another side of the issue is that while the enticement of zero-percent financing brings many car buyers into the dealerships, those buyers may not necessarily end up with the zero-percent loan — for a variety of reasons….”

  • Gmoney October 5, 2016, 8:43 pm

    One of your financial reports revealed that you only consumed a couple of tanks worth of gas for your car for the entire year. From this I conclude you drove less than 1,000 miles for the year. With your devout bicycling habit, how do you plan to put miles on this new Leaf for an accurate experience?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 9:56 pm

      My next experiment is (temporarily) becoming an Uber driver, for one thing. Also, getting back into camping and mountain biking as my son has cleared a few hurdles in being able to do these things now.

      • David October 7, 2016, 11:57 am

        I once got a ride from an Uber Leaf driver. He relied solely on the free QuickCharge stations around L.A., which can re-charge a 24 kWh Leaf from 0% to 80% in 30 minutes. So he was zeroing out his fuel cost as an Uber driver (though he was probably spending 1 – 1.5 hours per shift sitting at the charging station). Worth looking into.

  • Reiko October 5, 2016, 8:49 pm

    We have a 2008 Honda Fit (for longer trips) and a 2012 Leaf (for my husband’s commute) in Illinois. We bought the Leaf used last year when they were starting to get really cheap (I think because the next generation had been released). It was something like $12K, I think (maybe $14K with tax and such). The usual estimated range is only about 60-70 miles, so he doesn’t like to drive it to work on the coldest days, when the limited range isn’t quite enough for his round-trip. It’s too bad the older Leaf can’t fit the newer batteries.

    We will probably upgrade to a newer Leaf in a couple years when the prices drop again. When it’s time to replace the Fit, we might get a Volt, as much of my driving is around town, so then it’d be almost like having two electric vehicles, with the flexibility of gas for longer trips.

    We’re pretty pleased with the situation for now, though. When he was out of town for almost two weeks and I mostly drove the Leaf, I ended up only buying one tank of gas (for $20) for the whole month.

  • Aperture October 5, 2016, 9:05 pm

    Dude, the Smithsonian is going to want the MMM Scion in another few years! I am picturing it on display with Herbie the Lovebug or some similar artifact of yore.

  • Chris October 6, 2016, 12:09 am

    MMM – I had a question about the net cost of your Leaf, you mentioned two discounts that I didn’t understand:

    – Assorted Discounts from Dealer: (-4500)
    – Hard-to-Explain Discount from Nissan Finance: (-6000)

    I was at my local Nissan dealer today and found out about the 0%, $0 down finance option but they didn’t mention the ~$6k rebate,. Also, what was the $4.5k discount? How can I get the same discounts, what’s the secret handshake :D

    My wife and I are looking at getting a Leaf, in part because of your post here and in part because I’ve wanted an electric car for years now. Thanks for the post, loved all the details and video. Looking forward to reading more about your Leaf experience.

    Thank you.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2016, 7:56 am

      If you’re in the US you can either mention the deal that I got (several dealers in other states are now matching it according to reader emails). If your local dealers are too stubborn, you can move out to the next town and checkk again. In the worst case, you can just email Nigel at Boulder Nissan directly and he’ll ship you a Leaf. I think has already happened in at least one case.

  • ol1970 October 6, 2016, 8:22 am

    As a hard core car nut an self proclaimed horsepower junkie I have to admit I have really warmed up to the idea of electric vehicles. Once they figure out this whole autonomous driving thing a little better I think I’ll be ready to pull the trigger. I worked in the auto industry and hell as few as 5 years ago I just couldn’t see the justification, as a high income earner who pays/paid well into the six figures in taxes annually it was frustrating to me to see our government supporting and sending my tax dollars to a technology/industry that cannot justify its existence on its own merits. Elected officials picking industry winners and losers is a tough pill to swallow when you are the one paying the bills for these incentives and tax breaks and are already living a frugal and responsible lifestyle. (for the record I was against the auto bailouts as well). Now I just figure either you ride the wave or let it crush you, there is no stopping this wave.

    All this said though, I think it is foolish to think that 30 years from now that the “kids” will look at automobiles the same way I did when growing up. I think of all the efficiency created by having self driving autonomous cars and it is staggering. There is absolutely zero need to produce 17 million vehicles per year in the future. You”ll be able to hit a button on your phone and within minutes have a self driving car show up at your doorstep. Oh by the way the homes of the future won’t need big garages or driveways to store crap. Downtowns won’t need all the parking spaces and structures they currently have, the trickle down of all these efficiencies is going to be amazing (although disruptive to certain industries…like travel agencies once the internet came along).

    I do think because technology is advancing at a logarithmic rate in comparison to the past that there will be some alternate technology that rises to solve the constraints of electric vehicles currently. Its usually better to be the guy after the first guy who tries to change the world. Looking forward to hearing your updates on this subject!

  • Eric October 6, 2016, 8:43 am

    My understanding is that roughly 50% of the lifetime CO2 emissions associated with the average vehicle occur when the vehicle is being manufactured–i.e. processing the raw materials, building the parts, shipping them around, etc. So while it’s true that electric vehicles represent a significant improvement over gas-powered, buying a new electric car is really only 50% better than buying a new gas guzzler in terms of CO2 emissions. To the extent that Mustachianism prioritizes environmental concerns over personal finance (and I’m not sure what extent that is), committed Mustachians should stick with avoiding buying cars altogether.

  • Melissa October 6, 2016, 5:16 pm

    Personally, I’m looking at a Ford CMax. I prefer the flexibility of having Gas and Battery Charging capability. The vehicle has a great technology package and a similar phone app interface. I don’t like having to wait so long for a charge plus the engine has regeneration to charge the battery.

  • Jeremy E. October 6, 2016, 7:26 pm

    Just a note for some people, if you’re taxable income is such that you can’t take advantage of the tax incentives, you could do things to increase your tax burden, for instance do a Roth 401k/Roth IRA for a year rather than traditional to increase the amount of taxes you’ll need to pay, or alternatively you could buy a used Nissan Leaf which are very reasonably priced.

  • longwaytogo October 6, 2016, 9:14 pm

    Looks like for October they lowered the NMAC deal from $6,000 to $4,000 ):

    Maybe it will go back up to the $6K in November.

  • Nick October 6, 2016, 9:39 pm

    First an electric bike, then a ride in a Tesla, and now this?? Is this the real MMM, or has he been kidnapped? What happened to those triumphant proclamations such as “Muscle over Motor” and “90% of the car use in the US is Pure Bullshit”?? I’ll stick to transporting myself using the most environmentally friendly fuels of all, Human Power and Pure Badassity, by walking, running, and biking.

    Just had to provide the obligatory Facepunch since I didn’t see many in the comments!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2016, 9:14 am

      Face punching challenges are always welcome, Nick – but you did notice that I started the entire article out saying exactly what you said, right?

      Remember there is a difference between my personal situation and those of a diverse set of readers. My job on this blog is to suggest ideas that might be useful for readers, rather than just endlessly describing my own exact life arrangement here in Colorado. I’m still biking to the grocery store and raking my own leaves, just as I always have!

      • Stephen October 7, 2016, 1:40 pm

        “Remember there is a difference between my personal situation and those of a diverse set of. My job on this blog is to suggest ideas that might be useful for readers”

        That makes this blog seem more like a job to me as opposed to a retirement hobby, then. Maybe that makes you a SWAMI, I guess. I dunno, I’m obviously in the minority when looking at the other comments, but I didn’t enjoy the article. Which is fine, you’re not writing it for me, but there you go.

        The idea of you schlepping around Boulder being an Uber driver seems…odd or off-putting, if either of those are the right word. Doing so in a brand new (and financed!) vehicle seems decidedly unmustachian to me. I understand the math on the financing, btw, but I don’t understand why such a small portion of your net worth wouldn’t be worth the immediate payoff. After all:

        Rule #1: You NEVER, EVER borrow money to buy a car.

        I get that “MMM” bought this, not “Pete,” and maybe my problem as someone who has never met you is I have a hard time separating the two. But I also remember you saying something once about kidding yourself with respect to cell phones when they were paid for by the business (or maybe your wife’s job?) and you finally face punched yourself and got a cheap Republic Wireless type plan. This was on a podcast I believe.

        I guess to me it just seems like Pete wouldn’t want this job that MMM is giving him, if that makes sense.

        I enjoy the blog a lot even though it probably doesn’t seem like it in this comment. Reading this back I’m wondering if it’ll even get approved! But I suppose that’s why I wrote the comment – the blog is the best in the business for for personal finance/lifestyle, and even though I’ve read the reasoning behind the purchase this seems like a very distinct fork off the mustachian road.


        “rather than just endlessly describing my own exact life arrangement here in Colorado.”

        FWIW, I enjoy those posts a lot. I know you’re not looking to write on here with the frequency that you used to, and with that comes a choice of what to cover. But I always enjoy the DIY and daily life posts. To me it’s the biggest selling point for FI/RE, because when someone is beholden to a job it’s often tough to find the time to do all those awesome but ordinary things. Having the time to redo your deck on your own, grocery shopping on a Tuesday morning at 9 AM with nobody else in the aisles, vacationing offseason at better rates and less crowds. I get the financial aspect of FIRE and I get the environmental aspect of what you preach. Neither are super complicated, so those regular old life posts are just motivating to me.

        500 or so words later I’m signing off.

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2016, 7:41 am

          I appreciate the feedback Stephen – I’m sure you’re not the only one who feels that way.

          The personal/blog balance is a bit of a balance for me, which I try to pursue with my best attempt at logic. Surely I fail sometimes, but that’s part of the fun too.

          First of all – No, it’s not burden at all – learning about stuff like this and then getting to write about it is the most fun thing I could possibly imagine doing. It is nerd heaven. So yes, Pete absolutely wants the job MMM is giving him.

          Secondly, the blog was started entirely as an advocacy project. It was never meant to be a meandering personal diary – only to get people to change their lives in a way that makes things more fun for all of us. I believe that getting these fucking gas-burning death machines out of our cities absolutely qualifies as making things more fun. (It is only over the last 10-15 years that I realized car-based city design is even a choice, but since then I have become pretty excited about the alternatives.)

          So, I agree that personal stories are still useful and it’s high time for more of them. If I’m only advocating for social change all the time, I become just a talking media head like everybody else.

          On the other hand, if you started typing some personal shit into the computer and later noticed that your blog was starting to reach this many people, wouldn’t you do your best to consider the bigger perspective just a bit? The entire blog is an experiment, so I figure it is worth trying a few different approaches. Your feedback here is an important reminder that there are boundaries on what works.

          • TheHappyPhilosopher October 9, 2016, 4:15 pm

            This is a very interesting comment thread. As bloggers and as people in general, I think we need to try new things otherwise we sort of get trapped in our habits. I like the diversity of posts, and I like the experimentation and challenging of assumptions. MMM/Pete will change over time. We all do. We all change and may seem to contradict ourselves over time. Heck, sometimes I do it in the same post. Nobody cares when you are small, but as an audience grows, so do the expectations. Innovate, say something different, but also stay the same. It is impossible. Some will say you are not changing enough, and others say you have changed too much.

            I approach a blog like Bruce Lee. Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.

            I enjoyed your thoughts Stephen, thank you.

  • snowcanyon October 6, 2016, 10:31 pm

    How do people who live in condos or apartments charge?

    • Doron October 7, 2016, 10:01 am

      Use local public charging as listed at plugshare.com. Some charging plans are geared to apartment dwellers. If you own a condo, work with the condo board to allow owners to install charging equipment in garages. Some states (MD) have introduced legislation so that condo boards cannot unreasonably refuse such a request. It is certainly more difficult for condo / apt dwellers, but possible.

  • Kathy Abell October 6, 2016, 11:26 pm

    Now THAT is forward thinking:avoiding domestic air travel by having your self-driving car drive you cross country overnight. Saves on airfare AND hotel stays. Not to mention avoids all the hassles of airport ground transportation, parking and security lines!!! A win-win-win-win-win all around. :)

  • Imp October 6, 2016, 11:36 pm

    For your California readers, the Fiat 500e is leasing for $49/month. This is a “compliance car” and not available in most states. Between Federal & CA tax incentives, I figure to drive completely free (in the HOV lane, no less) for the first nine months. I have enough friends interested that we’re putting together a letter to fleet sales at several dealerships, inviting them each to bid for our business in a bloc. At the end of the year, buyers have power because dealerships are scrambling to make their year-end numbers, and want to move 2016 models before 2017 rolls in. There’s no need for hardball tactics, and doing negotiations by email or fax takes much of the stress away. Getting a killer deal can be an entirely civilized process. Added bonus for written negotiations: those of us who are women or minorities have historically been overcharged. That ends with text; who can tell?

    Does anyone have wise advice on gap insurance for leased cars? I’ve always owned my cars until they died, so leases are new to me.

  • Stephen October 7, 2016, 12:38 am

    Electric vehicles are in a weird spot right now. For them to make sense from an environmental and financial point of view, you basically need to be a medium distance daily commuter in an area poorly served by public transportation. Too far, and you’ll run out of juice. Too short, and you may as well have walked or biked. Fortunately, many cities now days are investing in public transportation.

    Unfortunately, people will always flock to the companies with the marketing budgets (GM, Nissan, Tesla), and not to affordable transit. With all the mining, manufacturing, and distribution required to make a brand new car off the assembly line (electric or not), I’m not convinced that it is ever a good idea to buy new.

    • Tim S. October 7, 2016, 7:49 am

      “medium distance daily commuter in an area poorly served by public transportation” describes most suburbanites and residents of small satellite cities. Also many small-town dwellers who work at a local bank, feed mill, jail, etc. Also many urbanites in the western half of the country.

      Other than those 200 million people, though, most folks can’t make use of an EV.

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2016, 9:07 am

        I agree with both of you, Tim and Stephen. Personal cars are an inefficient way to get around, partly because they weigh 3500 pounds and more significantly because they consume roads and parking spaces, which are even more expensive than cars. But, one step at a time.

        My REAL goal is to get everyone excited about living a bit closer together. Not “shitty walk-up apartment with ambulances running all night and a view of a dumpster out your back window” close, but taking the layout of the typical small city (like my own excellent Longmont, CO), and simply replacing 75% of the big high-speed car roads and 90% of the parking lots with places to live and work. At that level of density, we’d all easily be able to bike and walk, with transit or Uber/Lyft for people toting a pile of small kids or heavy cargo, and for the mobility-impaired and just plain shitty weather days :-)

      • Stephen October 11, 2016, 11:21 am

        Practically speaking, if you want an EV, then you need two cars. Want to vacation anywhere but a city? Too far for an EV. Want to visit your parents in the next county over? Too far for an EV. If you live in a small town far from cities, then you will need to periodically visit larger cities for supplies, airports, etc. EVs are simply not practical yet right now as a single vehicle.

        There are 200 million people that DON’T need two cars, and shouldn’t be paying to insure two cars.

        Now I’m not saying that will always be the case. Even in a couple years, it could make more sense as more charging stations are built and EVs get longer ranges.

        To be frank, right now EVs are toys for the wealthy. The tax breaks don’t apply if you aren’t paying that much tax. If you are the average Joe and Janet, taking the bus is the best financial deal, and one (or two) used vehicles are still the second best financial deal.

        • A New Yorker April 19, 2017, 8:18 am

          Stephen – I wouldn’t quite agree that EVs are currently ‘toys for the wealthy’. But certainly, their cost/benefit utility is probably limited to the upper middle class, because the numbers just don’t work unless you’re paying a substantial sum in income tax. And the mere fact that EVs still aren’t anywhere near price-competitive without government subsidies should dampen the Tesla stock-market euphoria.

          That said, EVs are still the future for individual commuters. The two car issue is real but will be mitigated soon by increased ride-sharing options, rapid charging network expansion, and continued EV range optimization. 100+ mile range DOES get me to see my parents in the next county and back home, and if we ever sell my wife’s car. . . we can always rent a van for the rare road trip.


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