Used Nissan LEAFs Becoming Extremely Common At Dealers?

How common are Nissan LEAFs becoming on the used car market in the US? What do you have to look out for if you’re considering purchasing one? Do unscrupulous resellers sometimes reset the battery bar display to show old degraded batteries as being new?

Nissan Leafs BarcelonaGood questions, and ones with pretty interesting answers. Along the same lines, were you aware that there’s an apparently widespread practice of shipping old LEAFs from hot battery-degrading environments where Nissan has been sued by LEAF owners to colder ones (where the degradation will slow down substantially)?

These subjects recently came to our attention via a topic posting by “MSEV” on the Tesla Motors Club forums — relating to the apparent change in used Nissan LEAF availability during the last 6 or so months.

Here’s the original posting:

Late last summer I was thinking I would not do what is necessary to buy a Model S so I was looking at the Leaf. Drove a new one, liked it, looked at used ones through CarMax, found one, had it shipped to my city, drove it, decided to get a Model S. (Hmmm…) When I was looking at that point, let’s say half a year ago or so, there were not many and the prices ranged quite a bit at CarMax. For fun, I looked at used Leafs yesterday at CarMax: at least three times as many, many of them older (2012s), and significantly lower priced.
More used Leafs are hitting the market?
Many leases are running out?

There were a number of interesting points brought up in reply to these questions, including: fast degradation of LEAF batteries in hot climates; the specifics of Nissan’s battery replacement program; reports of dealers/resellers fiddling with the battery display to cover up degradation; and the shipping of LEAFs used in hot climates to cold ones; amongst other things.

I’m going to highlight a couple of the most interesting comments below:

“RobStark” commented:

“So a 2012 Leaf will have ‘little range’? Like how much?”

No one can answer that with certainty. And there are reports of dealers putting bars back on the range display. I guess this has not been made a crime yet similar to altering odometers. But I would definitely not get a LEAF from Arizona-New Mexico-Texas.

Commentator “Yggsandril” noted:

A few thousand used Leafs have made their way to Norway from the US. They often have a bar missing, but the degradation almost stops here in the colder weather, so there’s many years left to get out of the battery. The cheapest used US 2011 Leaf I can find right now is priced at 18.5k USD, so there’s certainly a profit to be made.

“dhanson865” made the very good point that:

If you can get a 3 or 4 bar loser with less than 59,000 miles on it and you are willing to do the battery swap dance you get a free battery when it loses the 4th bar before 60,000 miles. I’ve seen 3 bar losers with 30,000 miles on them for $12,000 lately. Done right that can be a $12,000 car with a new battery for free.

I’ve also seen some 0 bar or 1 bar losers with 15,000 miles on them around $13,000. If that car doesn’t come from the warm states and you don’t want to do the battery swap dance (time is money to you) then paying a few extra dollars to avoid the free battery from warranty replacement is a valid trade off.

Either way if you plan to try and take advantage of the warranty or not you need to have a phone/tablet that can run leafspy pro and be sure you know how to check the battery status in terms other than bars on the dash. And if you think you might want a free battery you better make sure the car is OK in that it does NOT have the b0133 code on the dealer printout if you check with Nissan.

He also provided the specifics on how dealers can potentially mislead buyers via display resets:

There is a diagnostic reset that has to be performed any time a major component fails or is replaced / swapped. The dealer can reset the system to have no data and it defaults to 12 bars showing, then relearns the real state of the battery over the next few weeks/months. It’ll go back to the correct value eventually but an unsuspecting buyer could get swindled.

Essentially it requires a Consult+ or similar dealer tool to send the wipe / reset command, so your shadetree mechanic can’t do it and tiny lot used car dealers aren’t likely to do it either. But an unscrupulous Nissan dealer can do it and then sell the car at auction and it can end up anywhere in the world in two weeks time so you don’t have any assurance that a random used leaf hasn’t had that done if it came from a hot area unless you get out the android / leafspy pro and check the battery status or do a proper real world range test.


Excellent comments! I admit to having been unaware of the potential to fidget with the system display before reading this — and also the fact that it isn’t illegal.

Hmm. Reports of that sort of unscrupulousness are relatively rare so far, though, so perhaps it isn’t that common? Either way, that’s a loophole that should be fixed, and put in line with the rules concerning altering odometer readings.

Any of our readers have any experiences buying used Nissan LEAFs that you can share?

Related: Nissan LEAF Review

Image Credit: Zachary Shahan | EV Obsession | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0)

9 thoughts on “Used Nissan LEAFs Becoming Extremely Common At Dealers?

  1. Bought a used 2011 Leaf after driving a leased one for 2 years. Upon leaving the dealership range remaining was 65 miles. By the time I got home it read 29. (10.5 mile distance) Now I know “miles remaining” can vary based on many factors but this spooked me. I left work a day later with 105 miles remaining (never saw it that high on my 2013) but was down to 40 by the time I got home. (11mile distance) Something was screwy and I decided to return it. Dealer was great in accepting the return but I think I dodged a bullet.

    1. Super sketchy. What a shame that you can’t buy a used LEAF and count on this stuff being accurate. Sounds like what they were saying above — was reset and slowly adjusting to show accurate range.

      1. No. The range meters in the early Leafs were well lets say not accurate. The instrumentation problems with these cars was corrected in the 2013 MY. We have learned to divide the reading on the guess meter by 2 or 4 depending on the season and not to drop below 3 bars or you run the risk of getting towed home.

    2. My 2011 Leaf does the same thing. With a full charge the Range Meter ( AKA guess meter ) always shows 89 to 105 miles but we usually get 25 miles winter and 50 miles summer per charge. Complaints to my local Nissan dealer about this meter have fallen on def. ears. Sure wish I could return my Leaf!!!!

  2. There was a 2011 LEAF sold at a Nissan dealer in Tacoma, Washington that had all 12 capacity bars showing. Within weeks it was missing 3 bars. The buyer brought it to a different Nissan dealer, who ran some checks on the battery and it actually lost its 4th capacity bar while this testing was being done.

    It turns out this was a LEAF from Southern California. We located the previous owner and it had lost 3 bars when they traded it in. Indeed, records show that Tacoma Nissan purchased it at auction with 3 bars missing, then someone at that Tacoma Nissan dealer reset it exactly as stated in this article.

    Lucky for the new owner, the other Nissan dealer, now having shown that 4 capacity bars are missing, replaced the battery under the battery capacity warranty.

  3. What Nissan will need to do is put a guaranty on the battery packs to move those used cars because there is no indicators as to how long the battery will last.

    1. There already is a capacity loss warranty which covers about half the advertised life of the battery.

  4. 2011 Leafs don’t have battery heaters, pre-2014 Leafs have very inefficent heaters, and the current Leafs still don’t have proper battery thermal management. Pre-2015 Leafs degraded due to hot weather, too…

    This unfortunately means that battery degradation is going to be a big issue for used Leafs. It isn’t an issue at all for Tesla, thanks to battery thermal management.

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