2012 Volt Cheaper To Own Than 2012 Leaf, Says Kelley Blue Book

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2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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The 2012 Chevrolet Volt might cost nearly $5,000 cheaper more than the 2012 Nissan Leaf, but over the next five years, it might cost you less to run. 

At least, that’s the verdict of Kelley Blue Book (KBB) which crowned the 2012 Chevy Volt the electric choice in its inaugral Total Cost of Ownership awards

Over the course of five years, it said, the total cost of ownership for a base level 2012 Volt would work out at $40,629, while the expected ownership costs for a base level 2012 Nissan Leaf for the same period total would be $42,089. 

The 2012 Nissan Leaf is cheaper to buy and doesn’t use expensive gasoline, so how did KBB come to its conclusion?

It all boils down to other costs associated with ownership.

2012 Nissan Leaf in the Apple iPhone 4S commercial

2012 Nissan Leaf in the Apple iPhone 4S commercial

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According to KBB, while it costs more to purchase, the 2012 Chevrolet Volt has lower maintenance and insurance costs than the 2012 Nissan Leaf, meaning over the same five year period it costs less to run.

What it doesn’t detail however, is what kind of power mix it based its calculations on. Or, to put it more bluntly, how many miles of electric and how many miles of gasoline travel were factored into its calculation. 

“Even though the Nissan Leaf boasts a lower fair purchase price and racks up less in the way of depreciation, fuel costs and state fees,, the Volt’s slightly better maintenance figure and huge advantage in insurance costs make it number one,” KBB concluded. 

We have a slightly different take.

Chevy Volt Vs. Nissan Leaf

Chevy Volt Vs. Nissan Leaf

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Ultimately, car insurance costs will reflect dramatically on personal circumstance, claim history and your Zip code. 

While insurance companies may generally put the 2012 Nissan Leaf in a higher insurance bracket than the 2012 Volt, your own personal situations will influence the insurance you get much more.

Live in a quiet neighborhood, have a clean driving license and be a low-risk driver, and the chances are you’ll be able to get a good deal on car insurance.

Live in a risky neighborhood, have a few traffic citations on your record and a few insurance claims under your belt, and it’ll cost you more. 

Moreover, if you do a lot of long-distance driving in a Chevrolet Volt without recharging, your total cost of ownership will most certainly rise. 

Our advice? Before making a choice on which plug-in car to buy, make sure you sit down and carefully plan expected expenses over the first few years of ownership. 

To do that accurately, talk with existing owners about their own maintenance costs, research insurance quotes, and put them into a spreadsheet.

Don’t forget to include fuel in your cost analysis too, along with predicted mileage figures and any lease or finance fees for owning the car. 


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Comments (42)
  1. Umm.. maintenance for the Leaf? What maintenance? You mean getting my tires rotated and new wipers? Ouch that's pretty pricey!

  2. The lead should read the Volt is $5K more expensive, not cheaper.

  3. It's impossible for the Leaf maintenance costs to be more than the Volt. Insurance isn't a set price. Exclude insurance costs from th equation and I would bet my Leaf has both a lower operating cost as well as maintnance.

  4. I'm wondering where they got their insurance prices from, and make sure I don't shop there.

  5. This article makes no sense whatsoever.. maintenance on the Leaf is near 0. What are they talking about?

  6. This study is quite inaccurate. An electric car will never require more (or as much) maintenance as a gas powered vehicle, much less the Rube Goldberg concoction that is the Volt. The idea is nonsensical.

  7. Good eyes, Mario, and exactly my reaction--copy editor, proofreader on hiatus?

  8. Mario, Will. Thanks. Yes, obviously we meant more expensive. Whoops. Thanks.

  9. Wow... KBB going down the crapper.

  10. Regarding maintenance:

    The Volt and Leaf both require servicing, as per the instructions set out in their respective manuals.

    You're right that the Leaf doesn't require the oil-changes that conventional gasoline cars (or the Volt) require -- but it may be that service costs are set higher for the Leaf than the Volt. We don't know, but will certainly look into it.

    Insurance wise, the study found that in general, Volts were cheaper to insure than Leafs, hence the slightly cheaper operating costs over five years.

  11. It's not. My first service (rotating tires) cost a whopping $29 dollars. I've also brought it in for 2 error messages. A whopping $0 and 30 minutes to fix the problem.

    What service would there be that would be more expensive? The battery checks (the ONLY required service) is freaking FREE.

    The people who wrote this article and KBB are SERIOUSLY misinformed.

  12. I agree with the others who have posted here. Since the Leaf is a full electric it should have less maintenence costs than a gasoline engine would. With the Volt you would need at least 2 oil changes in it in the first year of ownership if you drive 12,500 miles which is the average per the NTSA data.The thing about an EV that is so great is the electric motor. I have heard that they are extremely reliable and studies have shown that an electric motor will out last a gasoline engine by 2 to 3 times or more. I just don't get where they are comming up with higher maitenence costs. Even battery replacement which is the big if with an EV could be comming down in price since economy of scale will lead to lower costs eventually with baterries.

  13. I don't understand the LEAF being more expensive to insure. It is a less expensive car, so insurance should be cheaper. It is a simpler car, so insurance should be cheaper.

  14. The Volt is certainly a safer car, so that is why insurance is cheaper. A lot of family sedans are cheaper to insure than compacts because they are safer.

  15. Why would you say the Volt is safer? They both earned 5 star crash ratings, they are about the same size (only the Leaf seats 5), and they are likely both driven conservatively more than not.

  16. Well the Volt is a little bigger, and carries 380 more pounds. Even with the same rating, larger and heavier cars are still safer. At least the insurance will see it that way. The only dimension that the Leaf is bigger in is height and actually that just raises the center of gravity making it not as safe.
    There's not a huge difference here, but insurance looks at these things.

  17. Again you have not idea what you're talking about. There is absolutely NO WAY the Leaf's height will give it a higher center of gravity. Since the HEAVY battery is at the complete bottom of the entire car.. the only car with a better center of gravity will be the Tesla Model S. Both cars have the same safety rating.

  18. Volt is a compact car. Leaf is a midsize, per EPA. Using your logic, Leaf should be cheaper to insure.

  19. Did they even look at the maintenance schedule for the Leaf? It pretty much goes like this: Every 6000 miles rotate tires. Every 12,000 miles, check stuff.
    How can the Volt possibly be cheaper to maintain with a complex hybrid system that includes an ICE?

  20. Sounds to me like the Leaf is a victim of a bias report. There is no way that a simple electric drivetrain costs more to operate then a plug-in hybrid. I always say that you can listen to reviews but the best way to figure out if a car works for you, is go check it out for your self.

  21. The manual for the Leaf states changing the brake fluid every 15,000 miles on the default schedule, which is the aggressive schedule. This is probably where its coming from, though makes no sense. The brake system is the same as any other car, but is shown as being changed 4 times as often??

    Is this Nissan throwing the dealers a bone to make a little money on maintenance since it is near 0 otherwise?

  22. to add to that, looking at the Volt maintenance schedule, they recommend changing the brake fluid, well... never.

  23. The braking system is not the same as any other car. As we know, the Leaf (and the Volt) both use regenerative brakes. We can only assume that Nissan has put in something additional to require the more frequent change of hydraulic fluid. (Such as the system generating more heat, etc.)

  24. The numbers are still horribly skewed if over 5 years the list price for brake fluid changes alone is $1,500 for the Leaf ($300 per) and $0 for the Volt, when using the default manufacturers maintenance schedule.

    The Volt brake fluid is not made out of magic.

    Anybody know why the Leaf brake fluid is so fragile?

  25. Actually the hydraulic braking system is the same as any other car. The motor and inverter provide the regen, taking much of the load off of the hydraulic system, so it should see less heat, not more.

  26. Ok, so blame it on Nissan for higher maintenance, not KBB. Still sounds bogus, electric cars should be the simplest with virtually no maintenance.

  27. Just read that GM plans to offer the Volt at $365/month lease, no money down. That's $21900 over 5 years, nowhere near the $40,629 number conjured up by KBB. Guess fuel cost will come on top of that adding another $5K or so if the EPA sticker is any indication. That still leaves a $14K gap indicating that either GM or KBB is clueless as far as total cost of ownership of the Volt is concerned. Looking at KBB's weird arguments my money is on KBB.

  28. It seems to me that you will pay 5000.00 more for a Volt but you get an automobile that is made in AMERICA and will let you have the freedom of driving long distances. Those factors alone are worth every bit of 5000.00!!!

  29. My sentiments exactly. Plus the Leaf is kinda weird looking. The Volt has an awesome interior. My favorite is the leather seats with a touch of 2 tone titanium leather, and a two tone dash. Just awesome. Good job GM. Hope gen2 is even better lookin and better range.

  30. At least until the Smyrna, TN plant opens this year and then the remaining freedom of driving long distances will only be worth $500.

  31. The 5 star safety rating makes the Volt cost less to insure that the Leaf.

    My Volt cost about $600 a year to insure. My 11 year old BMW cost twice that.

    INS base their rates on how likely it is that passengers will get killed or hurt in a car. Safety and medical costs take priority over car repair costs.

  32. That doesn't explain the difference, however. Both Volt and Leaf earned five-star ratings. They were the only compact vehicles to do so, largely due to their low-slung weight and large crumple zones. http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/news/awards#/leaf-electric-car/news/awards

  33. Why would it cost more to insure the vehicle that's cheaper to replace, which will likely drive fewer long distance trips, which has no engine maintenance, combustible fluids, or oil changes, and which has never had any batteries combust? Unless Leafs are being stolen faster than Escalades, I think the insurance quotes are bunk. If anything, this article is clear proof why you should never take any insurance quote and accept it in isolation from competitive bids.

  34. Let's see, KBB awarded the EV category to the hybrid Volt. Good job.

  35. The Volt battery is guaranteed to have 80% capacity at 100k miles, the LEAF battery is guaranteed to be free of defects. Nissan states clearly that the battery will degrade and degradation is not covered. Nissan has also stated that all LEAFs returned to Nissan dealerships at end of lease will be outfitted with new batteries before they are sold as used vehicles.

    Anybody know the cost of replacing the LEAF battery?

  36. No matter how hard this rag tries to swing people toward GM crap, the Leaf will always be better than the Volt in every way. Battery cost and range is a pathetic excuse that will not hold water when it comes time to get a new battery because the price will be just a little more than what you acid battery is now. It is going to take the average person several years to drive 100,000 miles and Leaf says that their battery will still be 80%. Nice try rag, but I'm not falling for the GM crap that this article is filled with and you can give me as many minus points as you like.

  37. James,

    I'm curious: When have we been biased towards GM? We're often accused of the opposite, in fact.

    I hope you'll note that the article itself repots the findings of another organisation. This isn't something that we (GreenCarReports) concluded. Rather, we're reporting someone else's findings.

    You can tell this because we've used words like "according" in our reporting.

    Finally, in the interests of full disclosure. I'm a Leaf owner myself.

  38. another statement that does not provide the math?? oh ya!!

    a typical EV basher article only says how much better EVs are not but declines to explain why

  39. Insurance depends on price paid. So Volt costs more to insure. Leaf has zero extra maintenance compared to Volt. Not sure what KBB is smoking. If anyone knows a contact at KBB I'd like to challenge them on their calculation.

  40. Let's see here, you cleaqrly know little about how actual insurance costs are calculated and you're too lazy to note that others have already explained why the Volt does cost less to insure than the LEAF. So, no, insurance cost does NOT depend on cost alone, contrary to your claim.

    Since 90% of the people here still can't seem to get that the insurance seems to be the delta here, not maintyenance per se, I just did what many of you might want to do, called my insurance company and got quotes for the two vehicles.

    Answer: for me, in MI, $680/yr. for the Volt (about the same as my 2008 A4), $1,160 for the LEAF.

    But facts are for people without agendas, of course. Don't actually check the claims, keep stating the same things.

  41. Thanks for supplying some actual data. Still seems strange.

  42. Clearly, nobody here except me believes that the LEAF will require a battery replacement in 5 years, and the Volt will not. Everybody says the LEAF is nearly maintenance free as they completely ignore the battery replacement cost. What I said before is not made up, it is fact. Go read their warranties,See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf "The warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship, but does not cover gradual loss of battery capacity, nor does it cover damage or failure resulting from ambient temperatures above 120 °F for over 24 hours, or below −13°F for 7 days." Also Nissan said the battery has a "lifespan of 5–10 years under normal use".
    Do you really believe 10 years will be normal, and 5 years the exception?

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