Well, quite the interesting day with the Leaf test drive. Despite the cold and stormy weather, we crossed the lake at Crown Point on the new bridge, and drove up to Plattsburg and met Jason Mull, the Leaf salesman at Garrand Nissan. The trip was worth it.
My impression of the car—they only had one in stock, a silver SV model with leather seats and all the options. From the outside—a fairly normal looking car. Jason unlocked the car and handed me the key and told us to take it out for a spin. I was a bit surprised; I figured he would go with us to show us how to drive an all-electric car. As it turns out, I can see why he didn’t have to, as the only two parts that were different occurred in the first thirty seconds. Item #1—there’s no need for the key, that I could tell. It must be wireless of some sort, and Jason must have already pushed the right button—all I had to do was to put my foot on the brake and press a circular power button on the dash. I pressed it, and all the dash lights lit up and a short chime sounded. That was it. No whirring, no motor sounds, nothing. I didn’t know what to do with the key, so I set it in the console. Then, item #2—there’s a funny knob where the shifter normally would be, and if you pull it to one side and down, you’re in the equivalent of “drive”. Push it up for “reverse”, and press the button in the center for “Park”. Jason showed me this and I put it into drive. Still no noise, no sound. So Jason stepped back and off we went.
From this point on, this car was EXACTLY like driving any normal small car, say, a Toyota Camry. When I took my foot off the brake, it eased forward, just like a car with an automatic transmission would do. But completely silently. It was pretty nifty. We pulled out onto the highway, and it accelerated smoothly, silently, and briskly. Braking was normal, steering was normal. Really amazing. The most remarkable thing about the entire drive was how completely unremarkable it was. It seemed to be a totally normal, functional car.
Then, we came back and discussed the financial side. Buying vs. leasing, fees, residuals, etc. I’ll skip right to the bottom line.
First, my current car—an old 1995 Impreza, I bought it with cash for $2500 four years ago, so it’s paid for. It has 295,000 miles on it, gets 31 mpg, and runs like a champ. Its appearance is marginal; it has developed more than a few fairly rusty spots. I drive it roughly 80 miles every work day, or about 14,000 miles a year. My expenses to drive it, per month, the best I can tell, are as follows—gas $150, maintenance, tires, and repairs $50, insurance (liability only) $50, savings per month to replace it down the road when it gets so rusty it won’t pass inspection any more $100. Total $350.
Per month cost to lease a brand new Leaf S (base model) for 36 months with allowance for 15,000 miles a year—gas $0, electricity $40 (a guess, less if I charge at the free stations or with solar at home), maintenance and tires $0, monthly lease rate $245, up-front lease fee divided by 36 months $55, full-coverage insurance $80 (a guess; I’ll check next week). Total $420.
So for $70 more a month, I could be driving a brand-new car instead of my very old beater Suby, AND be able to travel around virtually emissions free. (Again, if you’re just joining the blog, Vermont grid power comes from hydro-Quebec and/or nuclear, or, in my case, from solar power I generate at home). So, brand-new emissions-free car, no more lying in the dirt in 30 degree weather changing drive axles or leaking gas lines, no more oil changes, no more annual ritual of rust-hole-patching to qualify for safety inspection, no unexpected breakdowns (or at least none I would have to pay for), no timing belt replacement, no more hassle of buying and selling used vehicles every few years. After three years, I’ll just stop by Nissan and get a brand new one. This is starting to seem like a no-brainer. I’ve worked on cars my whole life, and I wouldn’t mind stopping.
For “normal” people who don’t drive old beaters and don’t pull engines to change their own clutches, I’m thinking they would actually come out ahead by driving a Leaf. I’ll let you run your own numbers.
I worked up most of these numbers in my head while we were at the dealership, and told Jason to order me one. (I want an S model, so I don’t have to pay for leather seats and useless side cameras that display on the center console, etc.) He thinks he can transfer a black one from the dealer in Albany.
And, just a completely unsolicited plug for Jason—he’s hands down the most down-to-earth and upfront car salesman I’ve ever dealt with, bar none. It was a genuine pleasure, compared to every other time I’ve ever had to deal with a car salesman. If anyone out there who lives in VT or NY decides that they want a Leaf, I’m pretty sure it would be worth your while to go over to Plattsburg. (I’m a bit less happy with the Burlington Nissan dealer, and I’ll just leave it at that).
Then we went to a good local Mexican place for lunch, had fajitas and margaritas, and then took the ferry over to North Hero in the middle of some serious swells and whitecaps on our way home. A good day.
Image credit: deklofenak / 123RF Stock Photo