How To Pay Just $12,280 For A Brand-New 2011 Nissan Leaf Electric Car

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2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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All the different incentives to purchase electric cars can be confusing.

But if all the stars align and you're the lucky person who can take advantage of multiple incentives, there’s a slim chance that you could buy a brand-new 2011 Nissan Leaf for a mere $12,300.

Here’s how it works: Start with the $32,780 list price of a Leaf base model. You’ll have to wait until next year, when you file your taxes, to cash in, but the Leaf qualifies for the highest $7,500 Federal tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in vehicle. (The Leaf should appear in the list of eligible vehicles on the website once it goes on sale.)

That takes the effective cost down to $25,280.

Next, if you live in California, the state will send you a check for $5,000 as part of its clean-vehicle rebate project—once you submit paperwork to the Center for Sustainable Energy, which manages the program, showing you bought a Leaf or any other qualifying zero-emissions vehicle. Now you're down to $20,280.

(Incentives in other states include a $6,000 tax credit in Colorado, a $5,000 credit in Georgia, and a $4,500 purchase rebate in Hawaii.)

Now, if you live in one of the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin portion of Kern), you can apply for an additional $3,000 rebate for the purchase of a zero-emissions vehicle. Total: $17,280.

And, finally, if you work for Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company just announced it will offer employees a $5,000 allowance for the purchase of an electric vehicle. For this one, there's an eligibility application to fill out, then the buyer submits proof of purchase, and Sony sends a rebate check.

The Sony scheme expands on a similar program for hybrid cars it began in 2009, and is similar to a much-publicized program for hybrids from Silicon Valley software maker Hyperion Solutions several years ago.

If you’re a Sony Pictures employee who lives in one of those San Joaquin Valley areas, we really want to hear from you. While you'll have to write a check for $32,780 up front (plus tax, title, registration, insurance, and any other fees), you will end up getting a remarkable $20,500 of that back, one way or another.

(And, yes, that's the same Sony Pictures that distributes Chris Paine's Who Killed the Electric Car?)

That's even better, in percentage terms, than Colorado's notorious (and now-ended) $42,000 tax credit for buying a 2009 Tesla Roadster.

Special Offer: If you prove to us that you bought a new Nissan Leaf for $15K or less, we’ll sweeten the pot with a High Gear Media t-shirt. And you don’t have to work for just Sony; the offer is open to anyone who can stack up that many electric-car incentives.

Let us know how cheap you think you can get your Leaf …

NOTE: This article does not claim to be, and should not be viewed as, tax advice. Due to a comment from a highly suspicious reader, we fear we must now add the sort of legal disclaimer that should be patently obvious to anyone who has read this far--but may not be.

Before making any plans to purchase anything that may involve any kind of tax implication at all, consult your tax professional, your accountant, and potentially your relevant religious leader. In fact, doing so many be a useful tactic before making any kind of decision at all.

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Comments (13)
  1. The economics of Electric Cars and Hybrids still don't add up as a win situation for the consumer looking to save some money at the pump. Think long term ownership cost after the honeymoon is over.

  2. Does anyone have experience yet with these types of rebates, e.g. Tesla Roadster owners?
    The following statement seems very definitive.
    " will end up getting a remarkable $20,500 of that back..."
    I wonder. A few years ago I was supposed to get $2600 back on a Prius and only qualified for $800. It would suck to be expecting massive tax relief on the EV purchase only to be screwed over in the end.
    But if I do get screwed over, guess I will sue "High Gear Media" because they are giving out definitive tax advice.
    By the way, when I went for the Prius purchase with the $2600 rebate, it was clear that the Toyota sales staff was trained to say "I don't know, ask your tax professional." Wonder if someone needs to train the "High Gear Media" staff or if they have a firm basis for saying "will".

  3. @Matt, Really? Why do you say that. The average new car purchase is $28,000 in the USA. The cost of the LEAF is only $33,000. That $5,000 difference will easily be made up in the lower cost of electricity over gasoline.

  4. @Matt: Actually, not necessarily true. Stay tuned for another article on how EVs can pay back on total cost of ownership, using some not-very-aggressive assumptions.

  5. @[anonymous]: Fair point. Disclaimer added.

  6. Personally, I don't think the $7500 rebate thing is obvious at all. Will most people qualify? Will 50% qualify? I really have no idea. The tone of the article suggests most people will qualify. Does anyone really know?

  7. EVs make complete sense when you look at the total cost of ownership numbers! EVs have very impressive TCO numbers! Perhaps you guys would get a kick out of my calculators:

  8. OK, I was wrong to be so skeptical. Perhaps most people will get the rebate as long as their federal tax liability exceeds $7500.
    TEST ONE: Here is what I did to test it, and you can do it too. I went to TurboTax 2009 and opened my tax forms. Then I saved a copy of them to play with (don't want to mess up the originals). Went to section on "Energy Efficient Cars" and put in that I bought a 2009 Tesla Roadster for $109,000 on March 15, 2009 (date matters) with a 53KWH battery.
    Bang, I got $7500 more in refund. When I tried putting in two Tesla roadsters, I got capped.
    TEST TWO. Tried the same exercise with my 18 year old daughter's taxes (only works summers, so very low income). She only got $151 out of the $7500.
    So if you are really counting on that rebate. Still best to check first, but I am a little more calm about it than I was earlier.

  9. I like the drilldown however I really do not want to move to California and work for Sony. So I guess I would miss out on a big chunk...

  10. "you will end up getting a remarkable $20,500 of that back, one way or another."
    Are the rebates tax free? I doubt it.

  11. That's great that Sony stepped up with this offer to their employees. I hope other companies do the same. One thing, don't forget your sales tax will be based on the gross ($33K), not the maximum possible net ($12,280). In CA, that's $2475 versus $921.

  12. The very first sentence in the article is very wrong. From 1996 - 2004 at least 4 production electric vehicles were on the road. First the was the EV1 by General Motors. Second was the Chevrolet S10e pickup truck. Third was the Honda EV+ and finally the RAV4-EV by Toyota. I personally owned or leased each of them except the Honda EV+. I still own am S10e and a RAV4-ev. None of the foregoing is anywhere near 80 years old.
    So sorry, please get your facts right before making such rash statements.

  13. @Gardner: The first sentence in the article is, "All the different incentives to purchase electric cars can be confusing." I'm unclear as to how your comment applies to that statement.

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