The best vehicle I ever had was a 2015 Nissan Leaf. When new it got about 100 miles on a charge. By the summer of 2021 that had dropped to under 75 miles. Still, it was plenty of miles for most of the driving I did and the few times that it wasn’t, I would just plug it in somewhere along my route for just long enough to allow me to finish my trip. I figured I could drive it until the range dropped to under 40 miles. Then I would consider replacing the battery or buying another vehicle. Unfortunately, our situation forced me to consider replacing it years ahead of when I planned to do it.
We bought a house in West Virginia in November of 2020. We packed our three cats in two crates and put them in a moving truck while we towed my wife’s BMW 430i. It was a nightmare trip. The crates barely fit between the seats and we had to listen to constant cat cries for a good portion of the trip.
We stayed there until early January and then headed back to Florida. This time the crates went into the back of the BMW. I bought the biggest crates I could that would still fit in the back seat of the BMW, which was not very big. It felt unsafe because the only way to get the crates in and out was to put the top down. In an emergency, getting the cats out would be tough. Fortunately, we made it home okay but I didn’t want to do that again.
In 2021, we decided to spend September and October in West Virginia because the cold was just too much after being spoiled by Florida winters. This meant my wife needed to bring all her Christmas decorations back to our Florida home. She told me I needed to trade my Leaf in for a large vehicle like a van or SUV. I really did not want to do that and resisted the idea for a long time.
We probably should have just rented a truck again for the return trip but neither of us wanted to go through that again. I instead searched for alternatives. My first thought was that we could rent a large van that could tow my wife’s car but it is impossible to rent a one-way van, or a truck with a back seat, that can also tow a car. Also, because the rental car companies were experiencing a car shortage during 2021, they would not rent vehicles for one-way trips out of state. That eliminated the idea of driving two vehicles home. I also thought we could put a tow hitch on the BMW and tow a small trailer, but for some reason, a tow hitch was not recommended for convertibles. We also could not put on a roof carrier for the same reason.
In the end, I gave in and traded my car in for a big, gas-guzzling 2008 Nissan Titan. It was an older truck but it only had 19,000 miles on it so we thought it would be reliable, which it was. Unfortunately, I overpaid for the truck but since used cars were as scarce as new cars there were no good options.
I was able to buy bigger crates and the trip up to West Virginia went pretty smoothly. But then, with one week left in our stay, it became clear to my wife that I wasn’t totally happy there, even though I never said anything to the contrary. I also think she was starting to have second thoughts about our yearly trips up there. In the end, we decided to rent the house out and then spent the next week trying to find a tenant while we packed up everything that we could reasonably bring back to Florida.
I rented a trailer and we came home with almost everything we brought up there plus more. The truck did a good job for us during that time but if we had known ahead of time that we were going to rent it out we could have just flown up there while someone watched our cats and rented a truck to come back.
I think my wife felt guilty because now I was stuck driving this big battleship around that was totally unneeded and damn near impossible to park except at the back of parking lots. So when I floated the idea of trading my truck in for a new Leaf, she was all for it.
The idea came about four weeks ago when I brought the Titan into the Nissan dealer for an oil change. While I was there I walked around the parking lot casually looking for a new Leaf. I saw none. I asked a salesman named Miguel who said they didn’t have any and the only one coming in was spoken for. He also said that I could not order one from the factory at this time. I asked him for his card and figured I would check back.
Six days later, on a Saturday, I thought I would check how realistic it would be to trade my truck, knowing I owed more on the truck than it was worth. I checked Autotrader but there were no Leafs or any electric vehicles in my price range anywhere nearby. The exception was a few older Leafs that were highly overpriced. I thought about calling the salesman I talked to but I had lost his card and forgotten his name. Instead, I looked on the website of that Nissan dealer.
The website showed no Leafs but while I was browsing it a window popped up asking if I needed help. Without thinking I typed a question that I don’t remember now. I think I asked what my trade-in value might but I’m not sure that was my first question. She then asked me to text her photos of my truck and gave me her phone number. After I did that she said the only Leaf they had coming in was an SV model and told me about payment options but avoided telling me the price or what my trade was worth. I had to ask for each, which started to feel like I was dealing with the stereotypical used car salesman.
When she said the SV model would cost me $35,700, I said it was more than I wanted to spend so she looked for the standard S model and said there was nothing coming in. She then said she found one at another store and again mentioned payments without mentioning the car she found was also an SV model and that the price was $34,700.
I said I saw the car started at $27,400 and asked if I could just order it. She confirmed that they were not taking orders and asked what my max payment would be. I wanted to get away from payments and settle on a price so I asked what my payment would be if the car was $29,000. She said $29,000 is below MSRP and no dealership would sell it for that. I showed her a screenshot of the Nissan website showing the MSRP as $27,400. She replied that was before any packages were added. I said that is why I added $1,600 and she suddenly stopped texting me like she decided I wasn’t worth her time.
Later that afternoon, while my wife and I were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant, I mentioned that I was considering trading in my truck for another Leaf. She was all for it and thought we should drive straight to the dealer, which we did. There I was met by the same salesperson I saw the previous Monday, Miguel. He almost immediately asked if I had spoken with someone online. I don’t know how he knew so quickly but I told him I did. I also apologized and said I lost his card and forgot his name, which was true. I found out later that he had to share his commission with the woman that was texting me, which he was okay with but I wasn’t because I didn’t think she deserved anything, especially after she just stopped texting me back.
Miguel found a Leaf coming in that was an SV but it was under $33,000. Still, more than I wanted to spend, but it was starting to seem like getting what I wanted was going to be difficult. Besides, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have the extra features that the SV offered. I would have preferred the SV plus which has the bigger battery but I didn’t think the extra $5,000 or so would be a worthwhile expenditure considering I didn’t have a need to drive that far.
While we were discussing the car, another salesman, who I think was a sales supervisor, was also there talking to us. There were several top-of-the-line used cars in the showroom, one of which was a “used” 2022 Tesla Model Y with only about 36 miles on it. That caught my wife’s interest and the salesman was trying to get my wife to take a test drive. My wife wanted to test drive it but considering the price was $80,000 I said that was a crazy idea. But the salesman kept pushing and my wife kept buying into the idea. I kept telling her it was a bad idea and I could not get behind the idea of going that far into debt but, as usual, she didn’t listen to me.
Since she was going to take it for a drive with me or without me I decided to go with her. The car was like driving a spaceship with a glass roof and a computer screen that controlled everything. In the end, she decided to buy the car. I reminded her she was upside down on the BMW that she promised last year would be her last car in a long time after she traded her third Mustang in five years for it. So we spent two and a half hours at the Nissan dealer that evening and drove home in a Tesla.
A week later I was able to pick up my new Leaf.
So far I am happy with the Leaf but, after more than two weeks, I have driven it about 140 miles. I almost think it would have been cheaper if I had just sold my truck and taken an Uber to work every day. It would have been especially cheaper if I sold my truck without my wife present.
Whew! I resolved back in the 1980s when I had a loan at 18-3/8% (!) that I’d never finance another car, that I’d only get a new one if I had the total purchase price plus taxes and registration fees on hand. I’ve purchased five new cars that way, and it is an agreeable feeling not to owe a penny on a brand-new car. Best yet, it’s a smug feeling I get knowing no bank is making a penny in interest off me, let alone legalized usury. Of course, this means I keep cars longer, yet I’ve liked every car I’ve purchased this way. No problem.
I agree with you and I hate having a car payment. My first Leaf was paid for and I wish I had resisted trading it.
I traded a perfectly good and fun Audi Fox for a car that was the 18%+ interest one that turned out to be a lemon. I had to keep it through an engine rebuild at barely 30,000 miles and saving till I had the exact amount saved for a then-new 1992 Chrysler Lebaron coupe that was such a super car that it only recently was resold by the person I sold it to after I had it 13 years with no issues. Consumer Union rated that car poorly for reliability, yet my experience and that of the friend who bought it was it was something else! I love the VW Golf Sportwagen I have now, and it probably with be another car I will trade reluctantly. I get it about your Leaf!
I specifically bought the first Leaf less because of the gas mileage and more because of the lack of maintenance. In five years I changed the tires and fixed the AC. That’s it.
That definitely is a major benefit of those vehicles. If I lived in an area with the right infrastructure for electric vehicles, I’d like one.
We have a fair amount of charging stations here but none near our home in West Virginia.
I’d use most of a full charge driving round trip to the nearest one here.