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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)

Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.


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