• Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
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  • Image Credit: Nissan
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  • Image Credit: Nissan
The old saying goes that when you buy a used car, you're buying somebody else's problems. And when it comes to electric vehicles, you're also not getting the benefit of any purchase tax breaks. Maybe you should just lease a new one.

That's the conclusion of a new article in Wired, which compares leasing a new Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle to buying a two-year-old version with about 33,000 miles on it. Turns out, leasing comes out way ahead. A $2,400 down payment will procure a 36-month lease at $199 a month. Meanwhile, a two-year-old Leaf with a $15,000 Kelley Blue Book value will cost more than $300 a month to finance. Much of the reason for the lower lease rate is that the $7,500 federal tax credit is baked into the lease terms, whereas a second-hand EV doesn't provide that benefit.

Maybe that helps explain why more new Leafs are going out of the showroom doors than ever. Through July, US Leaf sales had surged 35 percent from a year earlier to 15,755 units. Last month alone, Leaf sales jumped 62 percent to 3,019 vehicles.

Soon, Wired's numbers will get to be put to the test in a big way, as lots of 2011 Nissan Leaf EVs and Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids finish up their initial three-year lease terms and hitting the used-car market. We'll see how those Blue Book values hold up then.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      JonathanE
      • 2 Months Ago
      The viability of leasing also depends upon your state's tax laws. I looked into leasing a Ford Focus Electric last fall, which had a "full" price of nearly $40K but where $15K was knocked off for a variety of reasons including the $7500 Federal tax credit and market forces. But this $15K was structured as a Ford rebate, and by Maryland law I would have paid 6% sales tax on that $15K (in addition to the remaining portion of the car), adding $900 to my lease cost. I wouldn't have paid that $900 if I'd bought the car outright. I didn't lease (or buy) the car in the end, mostly due to range concerns on a 65 mile round-trip commute, but this $900 in extra taxes certain didn't help.
      • 2 Months Ago
      The lessee does not qualify for the $7500 dollar tax rebate, you have to purchase the vehicle to qualify.
        Spec
        • 2 Months Ago
        Sure . . . but the leasing company takes the tax-credit and this is how you can get $199 lease payments on various EVs.
      Spec
      • 2 Months Ago
      Meh. It is a very personal thing and depends on your specific situation.
      archos
      • 2 Months Ago
      If you're going to compare the costs of a lease to a car you buy, you have to factor in the cost to buyout the car at the end of the lease as well as the remaining depreciated value of the sold car. Selling the car after you've paid it off may be a better value than leasing a car and having nothing in 3 years. The only area where leasing may be better than buying is if the car is for your business and you're deducting leasing payments. Apparently its better for business tax purposes if the car is more expensive.
        Luciano
        • 2 Months Ago
        @archos
        I respectfully disagree. You won't be able to evaluate that scenario until your lease is up, since depreciation can only be estimated, due to market variables, and the buyout price is calculated based on estimated depreciation. That said, whether you lease or finance, the vehicle is depreciating at the same rate. The difference is that with financing you're stuck with the car even if it depreciated more than estimated, while with a lease you can evaluate the situation and decide what the best avenue is: buyout the car and sell it for more, making some money in the process, or simply return it, saving some money in the process, since you paid less than the depreciation. With EVs it's not even a discussion: with the potential that the technology has to advance, estimating their depreciation is like playing Russian roulette.
      Technoir
      • 2 Months Ago
      Spec Yeah my thoughts exactly. Why would the leasing co be willing to sell it below market value?
      Spec
      • 2 Months Ago
      When is the buy-out price ever going to be lower than a used car? If it was significantly lower than the used car price, they'd just take the car at the end of the lease and sell it on the used market.
      btc909
      • 2 Months Ago
      Only lease if you intend to buy out and sell the lease. I'm doing this on Monday and should pocket around 6-7K. Since the resale is garbage on these vehicles (buyers are afraid of getting stuck with a worn out battery) you have no room to make money on the backend of the lease. Volt trolls will claim you can sell one for the low 20K range, yeah good luck with that. If you don't OWE $7500 in Federal Taxes you lose the remainder.
      • 2 Months Ago
      So, looking at all these comments, it appears nobody really knows what is true. There are variables involved that no one can effectively estimate, so it seems to me it's a ~$1000 crap shoot. I leased a 2012 Volt in Febuary of 2012. I was happy with the deal and I am very happy with the car. It's not just about the price and cost, it's about value. The smile on my face when I drive, the absence of sound and vibration and smell, only buying gas every 6 weeks and then only when I want to, all of that has value. If it's only about cost and price, you should only buy 5 year old Hondas and Toyotas and drive them into the ground. Have Fun! When my lease is up in 2015, I'll see how I feel then. Not having to be involved in the process of selling a car has value to me, and if it means I spend ~$1,000 more to lease, it's worth it.
      wittlief
      • 2 Months Ago
      This story is absolutely wrong. The base model lease sells for $29k MSRP new and about $21k after tax breaks. The price of the car new is $21k, not $29k everyone understands that. you should NEVER lease a car unless you are using it for a business and can write it off 100% as a business expense. After the lease is over you own NOTHING. After the car payments are over you OWN THE CAR! don't be suckered in by B-S sales pitches for leases, which is all this 'news story' is.
        Technoir
        • 2 Months Ago
        @wittlief
        Agree. The story forgot to mention that at the end of the lease you don't own anything and blew through 10k in 3 years. I lost less than 10k by buying and driving 2 used cars over a 7 year timespan.
      Technoir
      • 2 Months Ago
      So after 36 months you spent about $10,000 on the lease yet end up with nothing. If you bought it used at $15,000 you own the car and can re sell it, losing less than $10,000 in the process.
      offib
      • 2 Months Ago
      Is that why resales values for the LEAF and others like the i-MiEV and Volt are plummeting?
        Spec
        • 2 Months Ago
        @offib
        EVs have a huge drop in resale value because $7500 in value disappears from the car as soon as you sell the new EV. (The tax-credit value.)
      • 2 Months Ago
      I dunno, this doesn't count resale of a car you own. My contrived napkin calculations result in about a $30/mo difference overall, if you re-sell the Leaf after 3 years. Start with $15k, say $17k to buy it (taxes and stuff). After 3 years, you're down $7200 with the lease. With the purchase, you're down $17k. Depreciation is about $2k from Google, so after 3 years it's worth $9k (15-6). Say you sell it for $8k, you're down $9k. That's only a $1200 difference.
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