2011 Nissan Leaf
About 15 million people buy a new vehicle in the U.S. each year, on average--but almost 40 million buy used cars in that same year.
Modern electric cars have been sold in the U.S. since December 2010. Not surprisingly, they're started to show up on used-car lots.
Should you buy one? The answer, of course, depends on your individual needs. But a used electric car can be a very good deal in many circumstances.
You need to evaluate your personal needs, how you plan to use the car, and how much uncertainty you're willing to accept.
2011 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Dashboard
We've chosen to focus on the Nissan Leaf because not only is it the highest-production electric car in the world, it's now the best-selling plug-in car in the U.S. as well.
The Leaf beat the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car a few months ago. (We'll focus on used Volts in a separate article.)
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We thank the many readers who suggested updates and additions to this article. We suggest all readers browse through the comments for the wealth of practical information from current Leaf owners. We've updated this article with added sections on Quick Charging and Insurance, as well as tweaking some other sections.]
Here are the major issues, concerns, and questions that we're routinely asked about used electric cars.
While much of this article applies to specific details of the Leaf, it's worth reading for anyone considering the purchase of any used plug-in car.
ALSO SEE: The United States Of Used Cars
The price for a used Nissan Leaf will vary depending on whether it's being sold privately or by a dealer, as well as its age, mileage, and battery condition.
In general, prices for cars bought from individuals will be lower than those from dealerships, for whom used-car sales are often more profitable than those of new cars.
We've heard reports of the oldest Leafs (from the 2011 and 2012 model years) now offered at prices of $9,000 to $11,000, but those are still rare.
2011 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Grille
You can sort through used Leaf listings on The Car Connection and other sites to get a sense for what's available near you.
Remember that a new 2015 Nissan Leaf starts at $28,960, but that's for the base Leaf S model. High-end models can carry sticker prices of up to $35,000 or so.
Nissan has also added the Leaf to its Certified Used program, which will add a measure of reassurance for those who prefer to buy used cars checked by the dealer to ensure they meet strict guidelines from the carmaker.
One of the immediate questions asked about used electric cars is usually, "Why did they lose their value so quickly?"
Indeed, compared to similarly-sized gasoline cars, used Leafs are generally offered at a lower percentage of their original sticker price--meaning their depreciation has been high.
This is due to at least two factors. First is unfamiliarity: With less than five years of history, buyers just don't know how used Leafs will fare when they're 10 or 12 years old.