By on February 26, 2014
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What happens when the subsidy is over?

This is a question that I tried to study in depth about a month ago when one of my friends had a 10 year old Toyota Prius that had seemingly lost it’s battery.

It turned out that he didn’t need a new car, or a new battery. A stray rodent had inflicted minimal harm to the wiring and his temporary search for a new ride quickly came and went.

However, I did some deep drilling for him one evening since his question was one with more unknowns than the typical car purchase. He wanted a LEAF, new our used, as his next car.

What shocked the hell out of me is that the numbers may indeed work… new or used.

The word may is a key operative term here…

Before I delve into the deep ocean blue of numbers crunching, let me offer each of you three (four!) simple questions.

1. Do you live in one of those wonderful states that offers a $5000 state subsidy for buying a LEAF?

2. Does your income enable you to make use of all the federal and state tax credits? And do you have excellent credit?

3. Are you willing to deal with an electric car that will be losing about 20% to 25% of it’s range by the time it reaches 100,000 miles.

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If you answered no to any one of these (four!) three questions,  then do not buy the LEAF under any circumstances unless you are willing to “invest” in the electric technology that powers it.

So as for those 10% of you who are left (no it’s 5% you cheating used car selling bastard!), let’s go a bit deeper.

If you are only looking for a short-term deal and pure numbers are guiding your decision, then lease. The numbers between a two year lease and a three year lease change based on whatever special packages and bogus fees are ordained by the local dealership. These will likely include a $595 acquisition fee, a $395 disposition fee, a $250 documentation fee (this is an estimate based on TrueCar data for all 50 states), and about $2000 worth in states taxes, title transaction costs, registration costs, and the two lukewarm sodas you get to drink while the general manager of the dealership gets to plan for a weekend run to Vegas thanks to all the fake expenses he gets to collect.

Not to worry though, because the deal also enables you to screw take advantage of every subsidy known to these electric car programs. Federal Tax Credits. State Tax Credits. Possible Charging System Subsidies. Lower Rates For Your Electric Usage. HOV Lane Stickers. Truth be told, buying a Nissan LEAF is the closest most individuals will ever get to enjoying the benefits of becoming their very own large corporation. All these credits amount to over $13,000 in real world cost and to top it all off, you get to thumb your nose at the oil companies.

Once you throw auto insurance to the mix,  your real world costs on an annual basis will likely run around $360 a month, or just $12.00 a day, and that includes everything. Fuel, Insurance, Maintenance Costs, Tax Credit Reductions… it’s a steal of a deal in every sense of the term if you can pass through all the hoops and ignore the monetary flesh wounds of your fellow Americans who now pay $25 a day according to the American Automobile Association.

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Typical car owner losing vital limbs thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Nissan Motor Company

The spreadsheet doesn’t publish well at a site like TTAC. But long story short, I was a financial analyst my first two years out of college and I’m happy to share it with anyone who has a remote interest in all the numbers. Feel free to email at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com.

Now as for the buying side, there were four (three!) unusual findings.

1. The running costs of a LEAF, if you opt for the $100 a month battery guarantee, is roughly equivalent to a 10 year old Nissan Sentra.

2. Insurance costs between a LEAF and that Sentra worked out to only about a 13% difference. $1132 for the LEAF vs $1010 for the Sentra according to my insurer, USAA.

3. If you avoid the dealership’s service department like the plague and buy a $5 turkey baster for your brake fluid servicing, the LEAF will likely be cheaper to operate than a 10 year old beater Sentra.

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There is one area of variance that came into play in my calculations. Battery life and the climate’s impact on it.

If you live in an area with searing heat and unusually cold winters, say, like Atlanta these last few months, your battery pack will likely wear out a bit faster than the owner who enjoys a constant mild temperature year round.  Once you or Nissan decide to discontinue the battery program, you may be living on borrowed time. So you have to figure out at what point you are willing to make that trade.

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Then again, you may find in the near future that replacement parts are cheap enough elsewhere, and that this battery lease program will not be needed going forward. As a long-time owner of a 1st gen Insight and the first two generations of the Prius, I can attest to that outcome coming true more often than not.

So if it were my money, or the money subsidized to me by my fellow Americans, I would recommend the following.

1. If you buy the LEAF new, opt for the battery replacement program right before the vehicle hits the 5 year / 60,000 mark.

2. Replace the pack after the first go round, which will likely offer increased range and longevity, and then stop paying for the battery lease program.

3. Start prospecting for replacement parts if you absolutely do plan on keeping the LEAF past the 12 to 15 year mark.

A one to two year old Nissan LEAF is right now running the gamut of between $16,000 for a non-CPO LEAF with about 35,000 miles, to $22,000 for one that has less than 10,000 miles and is eligible for Nissan’s Certified Pre-Owned program.

That’s quite a range. However, it comes down to this.

A LEAF costs about as much to operate as a 10 year old Sentra that has 120,000 miles. I spent an insane amount of time trying to figure this out, and now that I finally have done so, I’m going to let my fellow enthusiasts buy a 1st gen Miata and forget they ever read this tome to automotive androgyny.

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THE END…

 

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61 Comments on “Is The Nissan LEAF Worth The Green?...”


  • avatar

    You spent $5 on a turkey baster? No wonder! HA! Actually, I’ll forgive you for buying an overpriced turkey baster because you were able to fit in some great Monty Python references.

    Great article Mr. Lang, you got that spreadsheet handy?

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    Interesting, now do a financial analysis justifying me buying a Tesla … cause I really want one.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Yeah. Me, too, but my bank account had to draw the line somewhere and that line was down in Used Corolla territory.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, it all depends.

      If you would otherwise buy a new Mercedes-Benz CLS-class or equivalent Audi, the financial analysis is very much in favor of Tesla. The Tesla costs almost exactly the same and performs just as well, if not better. Fuel costs are about 25% or less that of the CLS. The $7,500 tax credit can’t hurt, and the state subsidies (if you get ‘em) can’t hurt either.

      One thing I really like about the idea of buying a Tesla is that it decreases your travel costs. If I’m sitting here at home and say “Hey, I want to go to Miami”, there is a $25-odd penalty in fuel costs. If I have the Tesla and I’m doing the same thing, there would be about a $6 penalty in fuel costs. Obviously I’m going to travel more if I have the Tesla than if I have my existing car.

      There is no way, rationally, that this should make a difference, since the low running costs are never going to make up for the sky high purchase price. But I know that if I did get a Tesla, I would use it more than an ordinary car and that use would most likely make me happier since I would be going to more places I’d enjoy.

      I would say, honestly, that if you can easily afford it, you should buy it and enjoy. If the purchase would send you into a financial death spiral, you shouldn’t buy it no matter what I say :).

      D

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        How would the $1,700 tire replacement cost every 8,000 miles effect your usage cost for the Tesla? Thats 21 cents/mile for tires compared to 2 cents/mile for tires on an Audi A6 3.0T. Gas and tires for the Audi at California prices cost less than just keeping tires on the Tesla.

        • 0 avatar
          aristurtle

          That figure smells like BS. My motorcycle gets more that 8K out of a set of tires.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            A bit of investigation showed that the 8,000 mile life wasn’t by design and applied to the rear tires. Apparently, the forces on the rear suspension are greater than its ability to maintain its geometry.

            http://www.edmunds.com/tesla/model-s/2013/long-term-road-test/maintenance.html

          • 0 avatar
            aristurtle

            Rear-wheel drive car lent to auto journalist suffers premature wear on rear tires? Say it ain’t so!

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I guess you didn’t read the article, since the wear was due to shifting suspension geometry rather than wheel-spin. Mind you admitting that you read it wouldn’t help the Tesla’s cause, since life with the POS is a comedy of errors.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          The Tesla thing was fixed under warranty, so it doesn’t look like every set of tires will wear-out that fast.

          What I want to know is how you can get Audi tires to last over 80,000 miles? The only other way to get an Audi tire budget down to “2 cents/mile” is to get the cheapest off-brand rock-hard replacements. If that’s the case, why get an A6 at all?

          • 0 avatar
            ExPatBrit

            Well having owned some Audis, they do tend to spend the occasionally trip on a flatbed, so maybe that’s it.

            Or possibly CJ pulled those numbers from Limbaugh’s arse.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    “If you answered no to any one of these (four!) three questions, then do not buy the LEAF under any circumstances unless you are willing to “invest” in the electric technology that powers it.”

    I think the $5K is limited to Georgia, the other 10 or so state subsidies are much less generoua, so people elsewhere are going to buy these for the same reason people buy other cars which do not make economic senses… they want it.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I don’t get it. I would expect to spend money on a 10-year old Sentra. So is this reference a good thing?

  • avatar
    Josh_Howard

    The wife and I are still interested in a Leaf. She drives a grand total of around 10 miles per day because her commute to work is only 2 miles. The Leaf almost seems perfect for us… almost. Part of the problem is that we don’t have a ton of disposable income like we used to because we did purchase a new Altima last year to replace my high mileage car. I commute 60 miles per day without side trips.

    To us, a used Leaf seems like a good deal… but not a great deal. We want one closer to the 10-12k range because we know we’d have to install a charger at the house. There is no extra 5k incentive in Michigan to get an electric car and DTE Energy is no longer helping pay for chargers. This really adds to the price of a used/new electric car.

    Hopefully in the next year or so, we can decide what we want to do for the future when it comes to her daily commuter… even if that means fixing up the 99 Cherokee she drives during the winter.

    I appreciate the honest, humorous, and well studied writeup here. One would imagine that there are thousands of people out there just like my wife and I that are also looking possibly at a used Leaf to replace a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      2 miles? At the risk of sounding like a smart-ass (its not my intent), has your wife considered a bicycle? Or walking?

      I can’t see using any kind of car for a trip that short.

      • 0 avatar
        Josh_Howard

        Well, she rides a Honda Ruckus to work in the spring/summer/fall depending on weather. But, honestly, you don’t really walk to work or ride a bike in freezing temps. Sure… you can… but good luck getting your wife out of bed early enough to start that 30 minute walk to work in 2 degree weather.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        It may be like my wife’s commute. We live in the upper mid-west and the winters would be absolutely miserable walking along the highway to get to work. If it were 2 miles in town in a city like San Diego it would be great, a rural commute at -25* with a 4 year old, not so much.

        (edit, he answered)

      • 0 avatar
        eManual

        In Michigan, walking 2 miles in snow drifts can be very difficult if not “impossible.” Also, sometimes bridges over streams and rivers are not pedestrian / bicycle friendly. And if she stops at the store, carrying the items home might be difficult. My wife goes 10 miles / day in a < $1000 beater, which is about the cost of the 240V charger installed. At 1/2 gallon each trip, that's about $50 gasoline per month. Even used, the Leaf is no bargain.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          Yep same deal in MN. My kids have missed 4 days of school this year due to windchill temps. Walk 2 miles through snow and ice in -30F to -40F windchills with temps at -15F and then tell me what a great idea it is to not have a car.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Honestly, the best EV deals are leases right now. Because a used, 2 year old Focus or Cruze (Fusion too) can be had for such good prices in the Detroit area, the current EV crop makes no sense used. When I’ve priced out the Focus EV on a 24 month lease, its always been between $215-250 a month with just start ups.

      • 0 avatar
        Josh_Howard

        Leaf is a 199 lease in most areas… including Detroit. However, like all other EVs, you still gotta buy the charger unless you’ve got time for the longer 115v charge.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Is that with money down though? I have no idea. I purchase my C-Max in 2012, and I breifly entertained the C-Max Energi and a DTE subsidized charger. I couldn’t swallow the difference in cost once my hybrid purchase incentive from work because the same for both vehicles. Prior to 2012, they would subsidize a plug-in at a much higher rate than a hybrid.

          • 0 avatar
            Josh_Howard

            Yup, that’s with money down. DTE discontinued their subsidized charger for the time being because of the “enormous response”. Of course… what did they expect? People in Detroit Metro by and large lease rather than purchasing so OF COURSE people would get something like that.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Especially with all the GM people that drive Volts. The employee lease price on a Volt is ridiculously good. Throw in a charger and its a steal.

    • 0 avatar
      emanresu

      I can tell you I love the car, so much we bought two. My wife is retired and does a ton of volunteer work in our small town, I live about 16 miles round trip from my work. It is a quiet, peppy, low maintenance vehicle. We paid a total of 35 thousand for two Leafs in great condition. The battery thing will work out, Nissan is likely changing the terms of it to our favor before it is officially explained. Get the car- they are great.

    • 0 avatar

      If your wife is driving just 10 miles a day a charging station at the house is a luxury item. One can recharge at 120v rates using the portable EVSE that comes with the car in under 3 hours, probably closer to 2 hours.

      Shop around for a used LEAF, maybe private party. My 2011 LEAF is worth about $14,000 or less trade in. Getting close to your number.

      • 0 avatar
        emanresu

        She is a volunteer, but works more than she did as a chemist, and drives more than I do. A 240 level two charger is hardly a luxury, it can be purchased from EVSE Upgrade for a reasonable amount. I have one at work and one at home- plus we have a 110 unit in one of our Leaf’s in the event of an emergency. My point is- if you are out there and wondering how the Leaf works- it’s great, providing it fits your lifestyle. We keep an old Buick for long trips, but we hate driving it now.

        • 0 avatar

          I wasn’t implying an EVSE is overly expensive. But with a daily drive of 10 miles a day is unnecessary. The 120v charge available via any electrical outlet is more than adequate. The poster was indicating the cost of an EVSE was a reason NOT to get the LEAF, I was pointing out that they should discount the cost of an EVSE for such a short journey in their financial decision.

          I too have the 240v EVSEUpgrade EVSE for times I am away from my home EVSE.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    I’d be interested in an analysis of whether it’s possible to remove the Leaf’s body and replace it with that of an Audi A4.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Well, Mr. Lang. I have a few quarrels with this piece.

    First, the lower rates for your home electric usage likely only applies to the extra you’re using to charge the car. At least that’s how it is where I work. I also happen to be the knowledge expert for the home EV charging installation program. You CAN get lower rates if you switch to a whole-house time-of-use meter, but that requires a lifestyle change – like using your dryer and dishwasher at night and other off peak hours. Otherwise you pay more.

    Second, this piece offers nothing in the way of derailing everything into a conversation about OCI. I guess I could point out that a lot of newer cars have little caps that prevent the turkey baster method of removing brake fluid (mine is in the guise of a strainer). But I guess I won’t mention that.

    Third, and most important, when discussing this subject people never seem to point out that Arthur asks the Knights Who Say Ni, “What is it you want?” before they tell him to get a shrubbery. Because unless the KWSN only stop being able to hear the word “it” while also in the presence of a shrubbery, that’s a pretty large continuity error.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      You are absolutely correct with point number one. Point taken.

      As for number two… there are a few misguided folks who will try to pick up apart any in-depth study due to the most myopic of points (why can’t you change the oil every 15,000 miles!)… with that in mind, you may want to invest in an excavator with a real thin tube attached to get past that little brake cap of doom.

      Finally, the Knights Who Say Ni are also the Kings of Swing and the purveyors of all things cool. Now you know “it” (starts screaming and holding his ears.)

  • avatar
    RV1458

    Ford is running some great deals on the Focus Electric right now. I think it’s about $165/mo. for a lease it can be purchased for under $30k before any tax credits. That’s a lot less than a Leaf, and nicer car IMO. Also, the Focus has battery temperature management and the Leaf does not. That should cut the battery degradation rate in half.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’d love one, but I have so much range anxiety. If it just had 50 more miles of range my wife could drive it for work. She has 6-7 patients to see per day, and drives 30-60 miles to see them. I would like a cushion for the winter months when battery life is not optimal.

      • 0 avatar
        RV1458

        Buy her a Model S then :)

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        where I live you can’t drop a drumstick without pointing at a charging station. There’s a subsidized one at my workplace, 2 at the McDonalds down the street, reserved prefered parking with charging at community park and rec lots, ones at the mall… it’s very tempting. It almost pens out as an additional car, and as a replacement it is a big money saver for my wife. Problem is, it’s not very lux or oddball contingency capable.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Outside of CARBifornia?

  • avatar

    Interesting. But I just can’t see spending money on range anxiety. Of course, I bought my ’08 Civic used, and I doubt we have any $5000 state subsidy for EVs in Mass (although I haven’t looked into it), so I probably wouldn’t get nearly as much savings as in Steve’s example. .

    LEAFs aren’t unusual in the Boston area.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    There’s no way to justify owning one of these things unless you’ve got enough money so that the memory developed by the battery during its service and inevitable potency reduction don’t concern you and the idea of being able to drive no more than 80 miles between recharge points doesn’t strike you as being unreasonable.

    I’ve owned my car for two years exactly as of yesterday; I work in the same county where I live, and in two years I’d put just over 40,100 miles on that car. Longest trip I took in that time was to Chattanooga (from the northern Atlanta suburbs). And there are plenty of people in this area who have worse communtes than mine.

    I am warming up to the idea of EV’s, but there is no way they are practical in their present form for anyone with a significant commute. They’re basically gaolf carts with roofs and a hatchback.

    • 0 avatar

      Well in 2 years I’ve got over 42,000 miles on my LEAF. Gotcha beat. My commute over these two years has gone from 30 mile round trip to 60 and will soon jump to 80. The savings just keep adding up the more you drive it.

      You can live in your fantasy world where EV’s are roofed golf carts with a hatchback, that’s fine by me. Leaves more available for others to purchase who see the light.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Excellent read.
    The Prius and Honda have NiMH batteries which have proven to be reliable.
    The Leaf battery is li-ion and less reliable. Boeing Dreamliner, Tesla battery failures and your laptop.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Thanks for this article. The biggest benefit here is the HOV sticker, then the free charging at work. I won’t be qualified for the federal tax credit but if I lease, it is not a problem (and can deep cycle the battery and not worry about it at the end of the lease when I return it).

    Too bad the range doesn’t go far enough for my wife. I was thinking about a Leaf for my wife but with a 70 miles round trip commute and the always busy free charger at work, it may not be worth the risk of not coming home at the end of the day due to low battery charge.

    The used non CVT Civic GX looks better by the day as long as you live or work near a couple refueling station. Still the same HOV stickers till 2019, still very reliable, $2/gal equivalent of fuel, and around $9k-15k in price.

  • avatar
    TL

    Don’t overlook the cost of the home charger. The greater Seattle area is fond of it’s Leafy goodness, as a result I’ve got far more friends and co-workers driving these than I ever thought I would. Of their experiences, the two universal truths are: (1) the chargers are more expensive than they thought they would be, and (2) heated seats (factory or aftermarket) increase range.

    A side note about the chargers is that you MUST buy the Nissan branded device as others can void that battery warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      (2) heated seats (factory or aftermarket) increase range.

      How?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      “A side note about the chargers is that you MUST buy the Nissan branded device as others can void that battery warranty.”

      Yes and No. If you are plugging into a 110 or 220 circuit you are using the Nissan charger since it is built into the vehicle. The over priced box on the wall for the 220v home “charger” is nothing more than a switch to make the plug live when it senses that it is plugged into a vehicle. The vehicle’s on board charger is what regulates the actual charging of the battery. Do you really think that they would void the warranty if you use a public charging station?

      If you want to use a DC fast charger then there isn’t a “Nissan branded charger” available, those are currently only available at public charging stations where a higher voltage supply is available. Those are actually controlled by the vehicle despite the fact that the charging circuity is in that off vehicle box. Again do you really think Nissan would be so bold as to put DC fast charging port on the vehicle if using that port would void the warranty.

      Certainly there are dealers that will tell you that you must buy the Nissan charger from them but they are outright lying to the customer if they tell them that using another charger will void the warranty.

      One of the people I know that has a Leaf uses a Volt charger since it was available at a lower price and the other uses a non-Nissan charger, not sure of the brand because that is the one that he could get subsidized.

      • 0 avatar
        TL

        Should have been clearer on what charger I was talking about. I was referring to the 220v home charger (aka the “over priced box on the wall”).

        My source for the information is a friend who is on his second Leaf. His first one was one of the first year models which included a free 220v home charger from Nissan for those who pre-ordered them. Two years later he traded it in and got Leaf #2 which was leased. When it went in to the dealership to solve a range issue he was told that his home charger had fried the onboard charger, and any use of a non-Nissan home charger would void the warranty of the battery and charging system. Despite being provided by Nissan, his original home charger was considered an aftermarket accessory for warranty purposes.

    • 0 avatar

      Where did you read you MUST use Nissan chargers to retain warranty?

      Does that mean if you use a public charging station the warranty goes bye bye?

      Does that mean the 8,000 or so LEAF customers who got a Blink unit as part of the EVProject are out of warranty? I think not. Nissan partnered in the EVProject.

  • avatar
    Atum

    My dad considered one of these, but he works on the other side of the perimeter, the Leaf has a low ride height, and there are long charging times.

    A few months after buying the RAV4, the Leaf S came out, and now they’re EVERYWHERE (Town Center probably has a stash of S models behind that Marriott or whatever the hotel by the dealership is called). And there are places with HOV stickers? I know there’s the Peach Pass for those unlucky folks in Gwinnett, but I thought HOV was just two or more people in the car.

    BTW, there’s a Mini dealership coming to Kennesaw. I didn’t know Minis were that popular; Global Imports did its purpose, I thought.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    I have a friend with a Leaf and he leased his, since the deal included a free home charging station and he was concerned about obsolescence. His Leaf is going off lease in a few months so he is actually looking at a replacement vehicle. One of his considerations is battery technology since the new Leaf has more range and faster charging than his old one. He is also looking at plug in hybrids since it would allow him do do longer trips.
    As an aside he also bought a Think City because in Portland Oregon there was a brief window where you could get end of run Thinks for $7500.
    Portland is a good place for electric cars because the climate is mild, electricity is cheap and there are lots of charging stations. This may explain why the Portland Metro are is one of the largest markets for the Leaf outside of California.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Great article, and I have been saying this all along… looking at the EV as an appliance or a service rather than a vehicle can make sense to many people. Around here the 0-down lease deal works out to just under $300/mo, and we don’t have any state tax benefit for EVs in Florida, just the federal subsidy. I don’t think it’s fair to include insurance in the mix because that varies widely by location and driver. My insurance quote for the Leaf was right at $300 for 6 months, so still close to your estimate. Since most all leases are figured at 1000/mo of driving, that’s a great number to use to calculate the fuel comparison.

    So our Honda Civic is leased at $230/mo with nothing down too. I spend right about 90/mo on gas, depending on how much gas is going for, and it is driven typically 900 miles per month, so we are getting all our mileage use out of it. The insurance runs $360 every 6 months, so all together I am out $380/mo total running costs per month. But… I have no range anxiety, and if I don’t drive it for whatever reason I don’t have to buy gas.

    The way I see it, the sweet spot for an EV lease is $250/mo or less with nothing down. I have a few friends who drive trucks or Wranglers, they spend $200-300/mo on gas alone. If they could commute in an EV instead they would come very close to breaking even just for not driving the truck every day. Of course insurance would throw those numbers off, but when you get into reduced wear and tear, higher resale values over the same time due to less miles on the car, etc, it would be a close tradeoff.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Just a comment on the insurance side: In my opinion, USAA is a poor carrier to use for estimating insurance rates. Because of USAA’s market composition, it affects their loss history and that finds its way into its actuarial decisions and rate-making.

    This is good for you as someone who qualifies for USAA, but it means that the rate gap between the Leaf and the Sentra is likely to be different for people who are stuck with the general market.

    • 0 avatar

      You may not like USAA WildCat but the insurance via Nationwide for my LEAF isn’t anything out of the ordinary.

      Most of the true cost of car insurance is liability for property and medical, for the other guy. The cost of collision insurance is primarily a factor of the insureds track record and credit score/history plus the risk profile of a particular vehicle (ie sports car vs family car).

      For insurance the difference between a Sentra and a LEAF is pretty small, they are both compact cars and not sporty by any means.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        I never said I didn’t like USAA.

        In fact, the only way I don’t “like” them is in the professional sense that when I was servicing policies for a competitor, not once in 8 years could I beat USAA’s rates. I actually respect them quite a bit, my friends who use USAA have no complaints and I like the way they represent themselves as an advertiser.

        Although you’re generally correct in that BI and PD coverage make up the bulk of the cost, that isn’t always the case (I know some zip codes in Florida where UM/UIM coverage is actually higher than BI). The risk profile of the vehicle usually begins with data from POLK in the form of vehicle “symbols” which represent their compiled data on a particular year/make/model/engine, and if that was the beginning and ending of it, then it wouldn’t matter if the customer carried USAA or Nationwide.

        However, many carriers use POLK data only as a basis and then develop custom symbols based on their own experience — like the carrier I used to do frontline underwriting for. By their very nature, these modified symbols will be a reflection of the carrier’s customer base.

        Although each carrier’s customer base will be a little bit different based on market segmentation and tiering model, your Nationwides and GEICOs and State Farms all pull from the same universe of customers. USAA’s military service requirement means that they have a much smaller and very specific universe of customers to pull from, who tend to have a better loss ratio than the general public, similar to companies with programs which cater specifically to pilots.

        As I don’t have access to USAA’s rating rules I can’t say whether they use straight POLK symbols, whether they modify POLK symbols, or have their own proprietary rating mechanism. I just wanted to point out the possibility that Steven’s insurance experience MIGHT not generalize well because he isn’t using a company which sells to the general public.

        That having been said, I agree with your assertion that the BI/PD coverage profile between the Sentra and Leaf is going to be similar. But the collision coverage profile is based in part on cost of repair, both for parts and for labor, and if you have a vehicle that requires special tools or training to work on, that’s going to be considered.


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  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India