My Experience With Leasing an Electric Car – One Year Later

You might recall an interview that we had with an electric car owner (leasee to be exact) last year. In light of historic low gas prices this past year, we thought it would be interesting to catch up with him (Jon) to see how his experience has been with the vehicle and if he has any helpful insight for others looking to lease an electric car in today’s climate-aware culture and current economic environment. Enjoy!

It’s been over a year now since we last spoke about your electric car. Can you share how the overall experience has been?

In November 2014, I did decide to turn my 2012 Leaf in as the 24 months was expired.  I turned the lease in one month early to take advantage of some November sales deals, in my opinion November seems to be one of the best months to buy a car.  I was able to have the Nissan dealer pay the last month, so I did not have to double pay the December 2014 lease payment.  A few things to note about the new lease: it was a 2015 Nissan Leaf S (Base Model) with no upgraded charging package (cost nearly $1400)

  1. From my prior lease I obtained a $1,000 credit towards any new vehicle purchase of a new Nissan this was from a loyalty reward.
  2. The State of Texas had a substantial rebate program of $1,875 of any new purchase or lease of an electric vehicle.
  3. There are still BIG government incentives to reduce the cost of Electric car ownership.  I believe the rebate was $9500 off the price of the car.
I understand that your lease is longer (3 years)? Does this help you to save more money?

The question of lease term is based on the residual value.  If the car has a higher residual value at the end of 3 years vs 2 years then most likely the 3 year option is a cost saver.  Granted you don’t get a new car every two years.  So with this example if the residual value is 60% at the end of year 3, and its 70% at the end of year two then you will save by leasing for 3 years. Also if I would have leased at 2 years I would of had a lower rebate from Texas, so the 3 year option ended up saving more.  Also focus more on what the car is going to cost to purchase at the end of lease avoiding the dealer adding a cost and keeping the negotiated monthly lease price. This will matter most if you plan to buy the car at the end of the lease term.  I believe my purchase price at the end 36 months is somewhere around $11,000, which is much more enticing than the 2012 buyout which was in the neighborhood of $18,500.

With gas prices being so low (and may stay low for the foreseeable future), has it still been economical for you?

With the additional rebate from the government I could not of leased or bought another car on the market for less even with gas prices being so low.   My negotiated lease price was 220/month (I put a small amount down to make the payment even, and only paid the first month’s lease payment at closing.)  The effective payment was $168 when I received the check from Texas.  Unfortunately the rebate program has ended.

leasing an electric car
Would you have done anything different in hindsight?

My struggle with this lease was whether to upgrade the car to include a charging package.  It essentially was 1300 upgrade that I felt like I did not need.  This would of given me the capability to charge on a Level 3 station which gives you 90% charge in about 30 minutes.  There is one located in Austin and it is not convenient for me.  Charging was no issue for me, when I come home from work I plug in to my garage (Level 1) and when I wake up I am close to fully charged. The upgrade also gives you a quick charge option again something I didn’t think I needed and wasn’t worth the extra cost – an approx. $35 more per month.

Any struggles or issues come up this past year that have been a challenge for you in driving the car?

Not really. I would say the 2015 is a slightly stronger version which seems to have a better battery package with less loss of capacity over time.  I found the 2012 deteriorated over the term of the lease, most likely to the lost capacity from the extreme heat in Austin.  For this reason I believe they are better protecting the batteries on the newer version from extreme weather.  My average mileage on a full charge is 80-85 miles depending on how you drive the car.  At the end of the lease (2012 version) I was barely able to make it to 65 miles.

Any recommendations for others looking to lease an electric vehicle in the current economic environment?

you may still find some 'free money' in leasing an electric car
Check your local states; Google: “Electric Car incentives per State” and you may still find some ‘free money’ in leasing an electric car.  Also my coworker was able to trade in an older car that gave him a $3000 incentive on the trade in (Clean Air Act in Texas) similar to the Cash for Clunkers from the financial meltdown that was put in place to create economic growth and to rid the streets of lower emissions cars.

Also the 2016 version of the Leaf has promised an increase in mileage.  This is not actual mileage, because the top rated mileage is using IDEAL driving conditions and averaging around 35 miles/hour.  This is not normally how you drive the car other then being in a big city grid atmosphere.  So I would use about 65-70% of the total mileage to come up with the actual mileage you will obtain per charge.

Jon talks a lot about incentives you can get from your state or other government programs. Nissan has a resource page to learn if there are any in your area

any Parting thoughts?

Always do your homework before going in to a dealership.  The internet has put the power in the consumer and dealerships now know this.  Most dealers have gone to more of a volume incentive rather then paying hefty commissions per sale.  Most likely you will get a better deal if you work with non-commissioned sales staff.  If you can find the internet sales manager even better.   You should sometimes begin negotiating before you get to the dealer, either through email, or text even.  This takes away some of the sales persons “on-the-spot” negotiation tactics.  These are highly trained negotiators and you need to protect yourself by doing a lot of homework before stepping in.  Be willing to walk away from a deal, and keep trade-in negotiating completely separate. has the monthly incentives per car, plus it has invoice pricing on all cars.  In my opinion you should never pay more then invoice.

Also, this website has a wealth of information that I would pour over before beginning to shop for a Nissan Leaf.

Thanks Jon! Some super helpful tips here if you are wanting to lease an electric vehicle OR even how to negotiate a lease.

Would love to hear if you have any experience with owning/leasing an electric car

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