By on September 17, 2015

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Aaron Cole’s articles about the ridiculous incentives available for purchasing a Leaf in Colorado piqued my interest, mostly because: I live in Colorado; and, I like the idea of paying way less than half of MSRP for a new car.

We moved to an inner-ring suburb of Denver about a year ago with a family of six and the requisite three-row crossover: a leased Mazda CX-9. Yet, ever since I bought my Volvo V70R with the way-back seat, we use the Volvo almost exclusively for hauling the family around town. We also bought an RV for long road trips. For the last year or so, the CX-9 has just been a really thirsty, oversized runabout.

I’ve idly thought about picking up something like a Chevrolet Volt for a while, but never pulled the trigger because often my wife has the four kids with her, and the Volt only seats four.

For some reason I thought the Leaf had the same problem, but after I read Aaron’s article I did a little more research and realized it actually seats five, which made it a possiblity. But several questions remained:

  • Would my wife actually go for it?
  • Is it even feasible to get out of the last year of the Mazda lease without taking a bath financially?
  • Would the Leaf be able to handle our needs?
  • Are all the incentives Aaron mentioned actually available and do they all stack together?

The first question was actually the easiest. My wife loved the idea from the beginning. She almost never drives more than 30-40 miles a day, would greatly prefer a smaller car and she hates filling the car with gas.

Range anxiety? Not my girl.

It seems like every time I use her car it’s running on fumes and I have to fill it up for her. After showing her a picture of the Leaf in “Morning Sky Blue,” she deemed it “cute” and was all in.

Which brings us to the second real question: How do I get rid of a Mazda crossover with a cracked windshield, plenty of wear and tear and nearly a year left on a zero-down lease? I honestly figured this would blow up the deal. I mean, this is why Dave Ramsey and the Internet say leasing is an awful idea, right? There was only one way to find out. I got a lease buy-out quote from Mazda finance and headed to my friendly neighborhood CarMax.

After politely pointing out the dings and dents — including some minor hail damage we didn’t know about — I was expecting a serious low-ball offer. To my surprise, the offer was only a few hundred dollars less than our buy-out. Totally doable.

Next, for the Leaf itself. A zero-option Leaf S has an MSRP with shipping/destination fees of just under $30,000, but nearly every Leaf S we found in Denver had the “Charge Package.” This upgrades the on-board charger from 3.3 kW to 6.6 kW (which is very useful) and adds a CHAdeMO fast DC-to-DC charger (which is less useful, at least in Denver where there are only a handful of compatible chargers around).

The SV includes nicer seat fabric, alloys, navigation, the CARWINGS telematics system and the 6.6 kW charger (but not the CHAdeMO port) for not much more money than the S with Charge Package. We decided that was our target. The only dealer with a Morning Sky Blue SV in stock was 30 miles away in the People’s Republic of Boulder, so we grabbed our CarMax purchase offer and headed in that direction.

We took a quick test drive in the Leaf, my wife pronounced it “fine,” and we moved on to talking turkey.

The final question: Is it really possible to get a Leaf as cheaply as Aaron’s article suggests? Short answer: Yes.

More specifically:

  • The $5,000 Nissan rebate and no interest for 72 months can be combined;
  • Dealers are offering discounts way below invoice;
  • The exact amount of the Colorado rebate is MSRP based and requires math — mine will be just under $5,000;
  • Both federal and state rebates come in at tax time, not purchase time.

Another way to look at it is that Nissan and the dealer discounted the car by more than 25 percent of MSRP and tax credits covered more than half of the remainder. Thanks everybody!

The cherry on the cake? Nissan of Boulder offered $1,000 more than CarMax for the trade-in, so I ended up with positive equity on the lease buy out. I plan to use that check to help pay for installing a Level 2 charger.

So far, the wife and kids love the car. It’s obviously not for everyone, but if you have access to similar incentives and don’t need Tesla level range on your EV, the current Leaf deals are going to be hard to beat.

Submitted by Jason Arrington, who is now my hero. Thanks Jason! — Aaron

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63 Comments on “How I Bought A Ridiculously Cheap Brand-new Nissan Leaf...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    If I didn’t have to display a front plate I’d be tempted to drive a Leaf so I could craft some rodent teeth for under the front bumper.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    How old are your kids? Can you do three-across with car seats?

    • 0 avatar
      AlfaRomasochist

      I have 1 kid still in a booster, but there’s plenty of room for the 3 of them. There’s a weird angular hump in the middle that could be kind of annoying on a long trip – but you can’t do a long trip in this car anyway, so we decided that wasn’t a deal breaker.

      I’d say there’s at least as much room for rear seat passengers as in our V70R, maybe a bit more.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice article. The economics are certainly there, you also should combine your estimated fuel savings vs electricity cost and factor that in with depreciation.

  • avatar

    #1 People don’t have the money or credit to buy the houses they want in the neighborhood they want

    #2 They are getting into luxury car loans and ended up underwater due to the depreciation occurring faster than their payments.

    #3 They are choosing ICE over EV partly because EV is still too expensive and gimmicky

    #4 Nissan is GIVING these away. Nobody wants them. You can make cases for buying them as cars for teen-drivers – but you’d be better off with a small car that actually uses gas unless you have a charging infrastructure at home, at their school and at their job.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Essentially without the charging infrastructure its a street legal golf cart with a better range and safety protections. Perfect for teenagers as it limits their range, and for someone who lives near their place of employment (or is perpetually unemployed on the dole!). Seriously though this is a great secondary car, if you own one real car such as a SRT Hellcat, you can use it for fun and the Leaf for DD/beater duties.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It depends on how you feel about your teenager. I knew a homecoming queen that drove a pre-GM Saab 900 with range anxiety. You never knew when it was going to cease to proceed. It got her raped.

      • 0 avatar
        AlfaRomasochist

        My oldest is a little over a year away from her learner’s permit. We thought the same thing – this will be a perfect teenager car.

        • 0 avatar
          rudiger

          While this might be a good choice for a college student who didn’t live too far off campus (allowing for plenty of battery reserve) and ample places to charge, I can’t see it being all that great for a high-schooler who just got their license. Does anyone really think someone that young will actually consider ‘range anxiety’ and be able to gauge how much reserve battery they safely have to make it back home from wherever their imaginative young minds might want to take them?

          IOW, high-school teenager + EV = ‘lots’ of calls home for dad to come get them due to a completely discharged battery. A much better choice would be something in the bottom-feeder Kei-car class, i.e., Spark, Mirage, etc. that runs on gas.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @BTSR – as far as point #4 goes, if your kid is looking at college anytime soon, many universities offer preferential parking for EV’s with charging. Our local state university here in Orlando, UCF, is infamous for its horrific (lack of parking). When I was a student there, you typically gave yourself at least 30-45 minutes to find a parking spot if you wanted to be anywhere near your class. A good friend, who is currently about to finish his Ph.D there, almost leased a Leaf just so he could get the EV parking. If he wasn’t so close to being done with academia, he probably would have gotten the Leaf or another plug in vehicle (he test drove and liked the Fusion Energi).

  • avatar
    srh

    Maybe it’s in there somewhere and I missed it, but I don’t see:

    1. How much the MSRP was for the Leaf purchased
    2. What was the OTD price paid?

    My interpretation of this:
    “Another way to look at it is that Nissan and the dealer discounted the car by more than 25 percent of MSRP and tax credits covered more than half of the remainder.”

    is that the price paid (ignoring trade, of course) was around 35% of MSRP. Is that correct?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This article desperately needs a chart with the info you request.

    • 0 avatar
      sparc

      this article had a lot of promise until it basically excluded everything that the title claimed. No way to determine you got a good deal without any real numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      SomeGuy

      I can’t stand it when people hold stuff like this close to the vest. We aren’t asking for your salary or SSN. Just gives us the hard numbers on the car. It could potentially help someone else looking at these.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        On a similar note, why do people hide their license plates when putting a picture of their car online to sell it? Do they not realize anyone can see their plate when they are driving around or parked outside? If you wanted to use someone’s license plate for something (how can you if youre not the police?), you could just write it down while sitting behind them at a redlight.

        I love the ones where they give a very accurate (address sometimes) description of where they live, their full name, home and cell numbers, their work schedule and their email address, but yet block the license plate with their finger, which also covers up 1/4-1/2 of the car. What are you hiding? Is it stolen? Is it about to be repoed?

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          In my state you can request info of the owner of a car with the license plate number. The state does send the owner a post card stating the info of the person making the request and it does take a little time for processing but you can still get the name and address of a person with the license plate number.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      The MSRP on the SV trim is $32,100. The CO tax credit is based on MSRP minus the federal tax credit and minus the $5K Nissan rebate, and should be $4700 for this purchase. So he’s at 32100-7500-5000-4700= $14,900 with 0%/72mo before whatever additional dealer discounts he got but didn’t specify. Then there’s tax/tags/title/junk fees added back on and whatever he’s paying for the charger at home.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Its going to be worth 10-12 in one and a half model years.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        Thanks; that’s very helpful (and interesting). That’s close enough to splurge money that if I lived in Colorado, I could see picking one up just to give the whole electric car thing a try.

      • 0 avatar
        AlfaRomasochist

        I debated how much of this to put in the article – I didn’t want it to devolve into a microanalysis of my negotiating skills, and every deal is different. But for those who are interested:

        MSRP of the car (SV with destination + nothing else + floor mats): $33010
        CO tax credit: $4922
        Federal tax credit: $7500
        Nissan rebate: $5000
        Dealer discount: Just over $4000

        I paid right at $24,000 plus sales tax / mandatory fees, and will get more than half of that amount back at tax time. The sales tax was based on the price before the Nissan rebate and tax credits, so keep that in mind.

        Depending on how you do the math a bare bones S (if you can find one) could be under $10k easily after rebates but before taxes and fees.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        And then the same governments that gave him $12K to buy the car will start complaining about lost gas tax revenue. More government, more problems.

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          “More government, more problems.”

          Try Somalia. No pesky gas taxes there! It must be heaven!

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            They have VAT, also a government and a constitution. They granted tax breaks to oil companies that drill there, has nothing to do with consumers.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            CJin’s point is an interesting one, though. With so much discussion recently about how the gas tax isn’t covering road repair, it should at least spur dialogue as to whether these types of incentives ought to be continued for cars that don’t contribute anything to road repair at all, as they use no gas.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Common sense arguments have no place for people who think Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, rather than taking from the tax collectors and returning to the people that created the wealth in the first place.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Morning Sky Blue” should vary depending on sales region. In Montana, it’s this color. In Shanghai, you’d be getting a hazy graphite-yellow metallic.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I should move to Colorado. But, not for Nissan Leaf discounts.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I too am very curious about the actual out of pocket $ here .

    Not a chance in hell I’d buy one but it’s nice to see the Consumer get a break now and then .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      The guy who bought the car got a break; all the rest of us subsidized his purchase to the tune of over $12,000. What he did not pay the rest of us will have to (at least those of us who pay taxes). In addition, our author will not be paying gas taxes to maintain the roads he drives on.

      Combined with tax credits for four children plus a mortgage interest deduction and our Leaf buyer may be a net income recipient from the government. That’s not a criticism of the author; if our federal and state governments decide to pay people to buy certain cars I don’t blame him for taking advantage of it. But it is hard to argue that it is a wise or sustainable policy.

      That is not so much the “Consumer getting a break” as offloading your costs onto everybody else.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    What number is the state sales tax calculated on?

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Excellent question, but considering how these discounts apply, I think we know:

      The state and fed tax credits are just that – from the language of the author, they do not alter the purchase price. The 5k from Nissan is stated as a rebate, therefore would not alter the actual purchase price.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      • 0 avatar
        DeeDub

        So sales tax on the original $30K!

        Edit – anyone know how the lease buyout affects it? Trade in values are subtracted from the purchase price when calculating sales tax. Is that still the case here? I’d guess so, as technically he’s buying the car from Mazda and then trading it in to Nissan, but I don’t really know.

        • 0 avatar
          AlfaRomasochist

          Sales tax was based on the MSRP – dealer discount.

          There are two numbers for the lease buyout; one for an individual which includes sales tax, another for a dealer which does not. It didn’t impact the sales tax calculation at all. They paid the dealer buyout to Mazda credit and cut me a check for the remainder.

  • avatar
    mchan1

    Congratulations!

    Keep us posted with the real-life costs and reality of living with an EV.

    We’d like to know how well or poorly the EV will handle during the winter (i.e. cold temps and snow/ice).

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Funny how stories about Tesla and its government incentives always draw lots of political fire from staunch free-market advocates here on TTAC, yet a heavily subsidized Nissan Leaf draws nary a peep. Just sayin’.

    I think most likely it’s because the Tesla is a luxury vehicle, whereas the Leaf is much more of an Everyman’s car, so suddenly politics get throw out the window in the pursuit of a good deal.

    Personally, I understand people being opposed to incentives for Teslas. I have pretty mixed feelings about that myself. And I still favor EV credits and incentives for lower-end vehicles like the Leaf. Judging from the lack of outrage here, I guess most others on TTAC feel the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      I don’t believe that the political fire Tesla draws stems from it’s luxury car status – it’s the price of the car that has most scratching their heads as to why an $80k car is getting tax incentives.

      I haven’t heard much fuss about the $45k Mercedes B-Class electric subsidies. Perhaps if it was selling, people would view that in the same way.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Am I correct in assuming the Colorado tax “rebate” is on CO income tax (don’t even know if CO has an income tax)? What if you don’t owe as much as $5k income tax, does it go to an income tax refund?

    So you have to live in CO and file a state income tax return in order to get the CO credit, is this correct?

  • avatar
    merkidemis

    Also note that you can get used 2011’s with under 50K on them for around $8,000.

  • avatar
    heidenseek

    Can someone clarify how the state and federal tax credits for EV’s work? If I owe less than the State or Federal rebates do I get the difference back as a refund or is that money “lost”?

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