You’ve taken the plunge and shelled out anything from $33,000 upwards for an all-electric 2012 Nissan Leaf. 

Quiet, efficient and full of gadgets, you’ve discovered that it has quickly relegated your gas car to the garage, carrying out the weekend chores, work commutes and maybe even school runs. 

Unless you’re in the minority of Americans with just one car, the chances are you still have -- or need -- a second car to help share the burden of busy family life. 

But which cars make the ideal companion to the all-electric Leaf, either as a second car, or as commuter vehicle for that family member who isn’t lucky enough to get the Leaf every day? 

To help you, we’ve selected a range of second cars to use alongside your Leaf, covering everything from the occasional runabout to solutions for larger families using criteria as diverse as longevity, reliability, environmental impact and financial running costs.

For the purposes of our list, we’ve assumed you’ll want a reliable car less than ten years old that can be driven on long distance trips and that can be easily purchased and serviced at a local dealer.

All-rounder: Toyota Prius Hybrid

When the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius launched, many customers commented that it made their gasoline cars seem old fashioned, unrefined and a little noisy. 

Admittedly, Toyota’s erstwhile hybrid won’t feel quite as quick off the lights as a Leaf, but it does combine great gas mileage and hatchback practicality for those days when you really do need to go further than the 73-mile EPA range of the Leaf allows.

Better still, both cars give a similar enough driving experience that it’s relatively easy to switch from car-to-car without trouble, while a flat load-bay floor makes carrying large loads easy.

2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GL

2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GL

Long, green legs: Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel Wagon

If your Nissan Leaf is used for everything except long-distance trips, you’ll want something with reasonably good gas-mileage on the freeway, and lots of space for your luggage. 

Cars like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI fit the bill perfectly. 

At 31 mpg city for the 2005 year model, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Wagon isn’t all that impressive. But take it on the highway, and it’s possible to get the 1.9-liter, 4-cylinder diesel engine to give gas mileages that far exceed the EPA’s 39 mpg highway estimate

Later models, with six-speed manual gearboxes, are happy to sit on the highway all day in top gear without stressing the engine. 

Moreover, unlike the Leaf or the Prius recommended above, you can tow with the Jetta Wagon, making it ideal for those family camping trips. 

Finally, if the thought of burning oil just fills you with horror after driving an electric car, there are plenty of resources on the Internet to help you convert the Jetta’s diesel engine run on vegetable oil or biodiesel. 

2013 Kia Sorento

2013 Kia Sorento

Daily family abuse: 2012 Kia Sorento

If you’re in an active family where one (or both) parents regularly have to take cars in different directions AND you need something large enough for the weekly soccer practice or school run, a seven-seat SUV might be your ideal second car to a Nissan Leaf. 

Okay, we admit, at 25 mpg combined, the base-level 2.4-liter Kia Sorento is hardly what you’d call fuel efficient, but it does combine seating for seven

With kia’s standard seven-year warranty to boot, a 2012 Kia Sorento should be a good investment for the family which needs a longer-distance car that also has to handle hoards of children. 

At $21,250, it is significantly cheaper than the base-level 2012 Toyota Prius V, plus it can legally tow, making it ideal for those long weekends away in the great outdoors. 

Got the bug: 2012 Chevrolet Volt/2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George Parrott

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George Parrott

After sitting behind the wheel of an all-electric car, it’s pretty tough to make the switch back to a car that you need to put gasoline in. 

We’ve chosen to recommend both the 2012 Chevrolet Volt and 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid at the same time because which car you choose will depend on your personal circumstance. 

Remember, we’re assuming you want a car that will be capable of going longer distances without hassle, which is why we’re not recommending a plug-in hybrid over a purely electric car. 

If you don’t need to carry large amounts of luggage with you, both the 2012 Chevrolet Volt and 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid provide comfortable, long-distance travel without giving you a large gas bill. 

However, since neither car is particularly cheap to buy, you’ll need to to make regular, daily trips in order to justify the purchase price: if that’s the case, you’ll be better off with our first two choices.

Occasional use: rent, don’t buy.

So far, we’ve covered everything from those who need a family car for daily use through to people who just want to use a second car once or twice a week. 

But if your need for a second car is in the order of once or twice a month, your best choice isn’t to buy a second car at all. 

Hertz electric-car rental press event, New York City, September 2010

Hertz electric-car rental press event, New York City, September 2010

Instead, join a local pay-as-you go car rental scheme, like Hertz’ On-Demand service, or rent a car as needed from a traditional hire company.

Not only do you avoid the worry of the bills that come with owning a car, but you can choose a car that suits your needs every time you rent. 

For example, if you need a large vehicle for that Ikea trip, rent a van. For that long-distance weekend road trip, hire a luxury sedan. 

What’s your pick?

We’ve given you five suggestions for ideal second cars to a 2012 Nissan Leaf, but we’re interested to know which cars you’ve paired with your electric car -- and why. 

Perhaps you’ve got a 2012 Nissan Leaf and a Toyota Prius, or perhaps you keep an old gasoline car as the family’s gas guzzler. 

Whatever your second car is to your electric car, tell us about it in the Comments below.


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