The Truth Behind The Nissan Leaf's Terrible Resale Value

The Nissan Leaf is almost an elder statesman in the world of EVs. It's been around for over a decade and it's one of the least expensive mass-produced EVs out there. Leafs are plentiful on the used market, and even older models offer enough range for zipping around town. It isn't sleek like a Tesla Model S or as beefy as a Hummer EV, but it gets the job done. While the Leaf is about as utilitarian as a coffeemaker, it's also about as stylish as one. 

Unfortunately, Nissan doesn't carry the same brand clout as Tesla does when it comes to EVs. You're more likely to see a social media post bragging about a brand-new Tesla Model 3 than a new Nissan Leaf. A new Nissan Leaf doesn't bring as much excitement as an F-150 Lightning or Rivian R1T.

Brands aside, the Leaf may not actually be the best deal in the world of EVs. That's because they depreciate in value about as fast as it takes to fully charge the battery.

Guilt by association

According to CarEdge's depreciation calculator, a brand-new Nissan Leaf will drop in value by 13% after just one year of ownership. After five years, it starts to get scary. In that timeframe, a Leaf will lose 44%. That's nearly half the value lost. On the other hand, a Tesla Model 3 owned over five years will depreciate only 21%. Chevy's Bolt EV doesn't fair all that well at 27% over five years, but it still holds value better than the Leaf. 

Why do Leaf values fall off a mountain after you drive it off the lot? You have to take a look at Nissan as a whole. Take the ubiquitous Nissan Altima for example. A new base-model Altima has a starting MSRP of $24,900. After just five years of ownership, that value will tank to just over $16,000. That's about a 35% decrease. A new Honda Accord, a similar midsize sedan, only drops 21% over five years. 

While it's not the Nissan Leaf specifically, it's the badge on the front that causes problems. If you're looking to sell your EV a few years after buying it, the Leaf is not your best bet. But if you plan on driving it until the wheels fall off or the battery fails, a used Leaf might be an excellent EV bargain.