If you're reading this website, chances are you're already someone giving some consideration to owning an electric car.
If so, great! You're one step further than the next guy to an oil-free future. However, for some the next hurdle could be a bigger one - should you lease the electric car of your choice, or should you pull out all the stops and splash out your hard-earned green on actually buying one? Luckily, AllCarsElectric is here to offer you the "pros" and "cons" of both.
You're on your own choosing a paintwork color though...
2011 Nissan Leaf
2011 Nissan Leaf
Leasing is a very tempting proposition and probably the easiest method for getting a new electric car in your garage.
Why? Because if you're leasing you're much less likely to need a large down-payment before you take the keys, meaning you can sign your name on the dotted line and pay the monthly installments with very little hassle and no great initial expense. The same applies at the end of the lease period. Final payments can often be a bit hefty, so leasing takes away the worry of needing a large cash sum lying about.
Since you never actually own the car, you don't suffer the usual ownership pitfall of depreciation either, making it easy to drive away in a new vehicle at the end of the contract. Planning to lease a 2011 Coda Sedan? Well if they update it for the 2015 model year offering more range and greater performance you can swap the lease over to that one and reap the benefits straight away. On the other hand, if you don't like it, you can simply walk away when the lease period ends rather than being stuck with a car that's worth a fraction of its new value.
Not to mention that you'll always be driving around in a car under warranty, and benefitting from being able to change to newer vehicles that might have some of the initial bugs ironed out. With EV technology advancing at such a rate, leasing is a very good way of making sure you're always on the cutting edge.
Finally, although lease policies often have a milage limit, you're unlikely to get near to breaking it in EVs with their limited range unless you take the car to its full range every time you go for a drive.
It's not all rainbows and butterflies with leasing though.
Leasing is likely to cost more in the long term than buying as finance charges are often higher. You'll also be penalized heavily if you want to break the lease contract early. With leasing, it pays to stick in there until the end of the contract. Even then, like renting an apartment, you're paying large amounts of money for something you'll never actually get to keep.
You also have a bit less freedom with a lease car. If for some reason you plan on hot-rodding your 2011 Nissan Leaf, then leasing won't suit you as companies won't take kindly to something they can't sell or lease on after your ownership. Likewise, if you have a dog you'd better hope they don't like to chew interior trim if you don't want to pay heavy charges for wear and tear at the end of the leasing period.
2011 Coda Sedan, final production version
Buying: Pros and Cons
In contrast, your dog can eat the seats to his heart's content if you're buying the car, since you only have yourself to please. You could even remove the interior altogether and hit the import tuner scene because when buying, the car is yours to keep. If you get attached to your cars, then buying is the only option.
Since it'll be your own car (provided you keep up with repayments, of course), you get to keep it as long as you want and drive it as many miles as you want with no extra penalty. Of course, if and when you do get around to selling you have to suffer the depreciation hit, but since buyers are likely to keep their car for a longer period it may not bother you. The longer you keep your EV, the better value for money you get out of it.
And let's face it - with an EV there are fewer consumables to consume so five years or more down the line it might not need as much attention as a conventional car. Having your EV go out of warranty might not bother you as much knowing it doesn't have any of those internal combustion components waiting to expire.
You'll likely have to contend with large initial and final payments which might put some people off, unless you've taken out a low-interest loan to ease the financial burden. 2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010
2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010
At the risk of coming up with a "horses for courses"-type conclusion, a decision to buy or lease really does depend on your personal situation.
Nissan expects most of its Leaf customers will lease. The company is banking on the assumption that despite the tasty $7,500 carrot being dangled by the government towards the cost of a new EV, many customers can't afford to wait (up to a year) for a rebate and leasing will get them into the car quicker, since Nissan will apply the $7,500 as a discount straight away.
The Leaf will be available for $349 per month over 36 months with a $1,999 down-payment. A 2011 Chevrolet Volt over the same 36 months will set you back $350 per month with a larger down-payment of $2,500. This means you'll be paying between $14,600 and $15,100 over the three years depending on which EV you go for. A Leaf costs around $25,000 and a Volt $33,500 after the government rebate.
You'd need to own a Leaf for 5 years and a Volt for almost 7 years before you recoup the cost of buying over leasing, though obviously you'd get some of the difference back when you sold. It gives you an impression of the relative benefits of buying and leasing when considered purely financially.
To try and narrow it down, we'd suggest that if you're the type to keep a car for a long period of time and if you like the ecological and economical benefits of only changing cars once in a blue moon, then buying is the best route to take. You'll get to keep the car as long as you want and the longer you keep it the less of an issue the initial outlay becomes.
If you're under a little more financial pressure or you like the comfort and convenience of a brand new car on your driveway, then leasing is probably the best option. You'll get to keep up to date with the best new EV technology every few years and you'll be in a better position to try out the different options on the market. And if you decide that EVs really don't suit your needs, then you'll only have to wait until the contract ends to change back, without having to worry about depreciation.
So a "horses for courses" verdict it is then. But hopefully, our guide will have made your decision a little easier. Oh, and if you're buying a Nissan Leaf, go for any color except blue...