Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is, Vol. 1
My enthusiasm for Nissan’s dirt-cheap Leaf in Colorado is well documented. Here in the Centennial State, we have 100 ways to make a 2015 Nissan Leaf affordable for poor journalists like me — thank you, Beer Baron Governor.
For me, the specter of a brand-new car for less than $10,000 is too good to pass up — and even good enough to delay my quest for the best Alfa Romeo Milano in the U.S. That even felt weird to type.
So on Thursday afternoon, I packed up the girlfriend, my expectations for a rock-bottom priced Nissan Leaf and hit the local dealership for a rendezvous with the least-expensive new car in America.
First, a note: my Leaf-buying experience isn’t typical. I don’t need a new car, and I don’t particularly want one either. Classic cars is something I do, not something I want to do and thanks to many years of syndicating a column about new cars around the Intermountain West, I’m never at a deficit for cars in the driveway. I’m lucky. I can admit that.
But when a friend pointed out how ludicrous the deal for a Nissan Leaf in Colorado was, I couldn’t resist. Some quick maths from Thursday:
$29,010 — Base price
-$7,500 — Federal tax credit
-$5,200 — Colorado tax credit
-$5,000 — NMAC finance credit
– No interest for 72 months
– Free charging for two years
= $11,310 before you factor in dealer desperation to move a year-old electric car off their lot while gasoline is at a historically low price.
I’m ready to party like it’s 2009.
So at 1:57 p.m. I arrived at my nearest Nissan dealer lot (we’ll call it something synonymous with CarCountry) and started sniffing. As a seasoned, grizzled, jerk-of-an-auto-journalist, I’ve had my fair share of turns behind a Leaf wheel; this was about discovering the girlfriend’s threshold for automotive malaise (even Nissan hems and haws about the Leaf’s driving dynamics).
In the corner, buried beneath an afternoon shadow and about a month’s worth of dead bugs and prairie-blown dirt was my prize: a bone-stock, silver 2015 Nissan Leaf S with hubcaps and $1,398 in questionable dealer markups.
“Can we drive this one?” I asked Bob, our Nissan sherpa for the afternoon.
“Let me go get the keys,” he replied.
“Here are our drivers’ licenses,” I said.
“I can see you’ve done this before.”
Yup. And before we talk monthly payments, we’ll talk about that $799 “Perma Plate Protection” option you’ve installed without asking me, Bob.
(To be fair, it would have taken an extraordinary feat for me to open my pocketbook, made no easier by the Dealer Handling fees and Perma Plate Protection tacked on to the other side of the sticker. I wasn’t out to sit in a dealer’s coffee room for four hours, and I certainly wasn’t in the mood to waste Bob’s time.)
I keenly looked for the assembly sticker on the door jamb to affirm my suspicion that Denver dealers were more than desperate to get rid of their stocks of Leaf models. Despite Bob’s assertion — and the apparent dust on the car — that Nissan dealers just couldn’t keep Leafs on the lot, this particular model had been assembled in February and probably had sat on the lot for nearly that long.
As we hopped into the car, the math set in: these heated seats, this radio, this 24 kWH battery and its 70-something mile range (probably not 100, like Bob claimed) could all be mine for less than a Mitsubishi Mirage.
“I could really afford this today,” I said under my breath.
* * * * *
“How do you like driving it?” I asked my girlfriend from the rear seat.
“I can’t tell if it’s running,” she said.
As we sped up and down one of Denver’s busiest arterials, I struggled to remember what driving one actually felt like. How invasive was the regenerative braking? How much range did the seat warmers eat? Who cares when the car is 10-freaking-grand?
More than 99 percent of my working day is spent thinking about cars, not necessarily buying one. When it’s my money, for my car, I want the best deal and I want to make sure that I’m getting my money’s worth. As I eyed the sticker for the S from the inside, I couldn’t help but feel attracted to the dead Leafs running (silently): the 2015 SV and SL models that became instantly outdated Thursday. I could get Nav and Pearl White Paint for a firm handshake and free coffee.
A 2015 Pearl White SV (with the same questionable perma plate protection and dealer handling fees) awaited our return from the test drive.
“How did you like driving it?” I asked my girlfriend.
“I didn’t hate it.”
“Let’s look at this white one.”
For his part, Bob asked if I’d like to talk numbers. “No,” I said. “Not if we’re starting off talking about ‘perma plating’ and ‘dealer fees’ for the first two hours,” I thought. “Thank you though,” I added.
I’m one of those people who can’t know the details without pulling the trigger. If I see the puppy in the window, I’ll buy it. If I know what the car could cost me every month, I’ll start paying it. In short: I’m a sucker. As we left the dealership, in search of another lot for another Leaf, I asked my girlfriend — who’d drive the car most — her thoughts.
“How do you feel about having a Leaf?” I asked.
“I’d be OK with it. How far does it go on gas when the battery runs out?” she asked.
“It doesn’t.” I replied.
“Oh. Um, wow. Oh boy, I didn’t know that.”
We have a ways to go before the end of the month.
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