On a recent weeknight, Mrs. Sam and I were having dinner and talking about how to get back on our path to Financial Independence. We had fallen off the wagon and were looking for some easy wins to move the needle. As we wrapped up dinner, we had bounced around several ideas, but nothing that sparked us. We need inspiration. So, where do you turn when you need some good FI advice? Mr. Money Mustache of course! I threw the MMM YouTube channel on the TV and proceeded to clean up and scrub some dishes.
A few minutes passed and I looked up from my sudsy hands when the video on screen caught my attention. It was called: Top 6 Cars for Smart People. MMM went on to describe several frugal cars and share tips for buying used car on Craigslist. We were intrigued. One of the cars in particular caught our eye… the Nissan LEAF. The seed was planted. Much conversation ensued about our current, shiny, like-new Ford Fusion what we could get for it. We talked about taking trips and daily driving. We talked about what other people would say. We talked about the fun and adventure of trying something new. We write to you now, about a month later – the proud owners of a 2013 Nissan LEAF. AND WE LOVE IT!
So, read on to hear 5 reasons that made us trade our shiny, paid-for, comfortable, reliable Ford Fusion for our very first electric car.
Reason #1 – Saving Money on Gas & Oil Changes
This is the obvious low-hanging fruit of buying an EV. We were putting 2-3 tanks of gas in our Ford Fusion at $35 each for a monthly average of $87.5 in gas.
With our 2013 LEAF, we get about 50-60 miles of range on a charge to 80% full (I’ll share more details on all the mathy stuff in a later post). Mrs. Sam drives less than that on an average day, but assuming that worst-case scenario our daily charging costs are $1.38 or $41.40 per month. This gives us a monthly fuel savings of about $46.
It gets better than that though. We love driving our LEAF. It’s comfortable and fun to drive. It easily holds 4 adults and all the groceries or beach supplies we need. Given this, we are now driving my gas-powered car FAR LESS than we were before. We don’t have enough data to be sure yet, but I estimate we will save another tank of gas per month just from not driving my car. Chock up another $35.
Electric cars also don’t need oil changes. We were putting fancy synthetic oil in our Ford twice a year. That’s another $120 saved from oil changes.
Running total… $1,092 per year in savings. Not too shabby.
Reason #2 – We Don’t Need Two Full Size Gas Guzzling Cars
We live in a suburban hotbed of grocery stores, nail salons and Mexican restaurants. We have 3 major grocery store chains, 3 pharmacies and 2 major hardware stores within 5 miles of us. There are two large shopping malls within 6 miles of us. Mrs. Sam mostly works from home and I have 15 mile round trip commute. Living in these circumstances, we had no way to justify having two full size family sedans sitting in our driveway. We even considered selling our Ford and going down to one car.
As mentioned, our LEAF gets 50-60 miles on an average charge. So far, this has been plenty for Mrs. Sam’s daily driving needs. It’s been more than enough for all of our weekend grocery-getting and family visitation needs. We’ve made trips to the beach, we’ve even gone for joy rides because we had so much battery to spare after a recent trip to see family in town.
Our backup plan is of course my car. If we need to take longer trips or if we exceed the 50 mile battery range then we can always take my car.
Reason #3 – We Made a Profit
In our opinion, buying a new car is a financial mistake. We did not buy our Ford new, but it was less than two years old when we bought it from a CarMax. In hindsight we paid way too much and made the further mistake of buying from a dealer and paying more unnecessary fees and mark up. However, the benefit of such a mistake was that we were driving around on plenty of equity. The KBB on our Ford was around $12,000 for private party sale
Now when looking for an EV there are plenty of high-dollar, fancy options. A new LEAF can easily set you back $30,000. Then there’s the Tesla option, ranging upwards from $35,000. But our goal was to save money, so we dismissed these spendy options quickly. In the end we found a 2013 LEAF with nearly 80% of its original battery life for $7,150. We sold our Fusion for $11,500, netting us just under $4,000 after tax, title fees and registration. Let me just restate that… we profited $4,000 by getting a different car.
Reason #4 – It Was An Adventure
Selling our perfectly good, paid for gas car and buying something new and uncertain was definitely kinda risky. As always, we did plenty of research and read all the forums, but EV batteries and ranges can be a bit daunting to figure out. Not to mention all the calculations you start to do about how far it is to your favorite spots and whether you’ll be able to get there on a single charge. This was made worse by the limited availability of LEAFs in our local area and the need to move quickly to scoop up a quality car if we found it. When we saw the ad for our LEAF we jumped on it and brought a cashiers check to the test drive!
After several weeks of EV ownership, all of our fears of shoddy batteries, 30 mile range and getting stranded on the side of the road have subsided. We don’t miss our old car at all. We’re just enjoying our LEAF, not stopping at gas stations and not missing a beat.
Reason #5 – We Like Being a Little Different
Although there are quite a few Teslas running around town, the EV community is still fairly small. We’ve only seen 6 LEAFs in our area and it’s kind of neat having something in common with the few other EV owners on the road.
Of course, we get lots of questions from friends and family about how far we can go, how it all works, how much it costs to charge it and everything else you can think of. It’s a lot of fun to introduce friends and family to our LEAF and watch their awe when we start it up for a test drive and they remark on absent sound of a running combustion engine as we pull out of the driveway.
It’s been fun for us to learn all the ins and outs of driving an EV. There are lots of neat EV-only features like GPS with range indications telling you how far you can make it and showing charging stations on the map. For a stats nerd like me, running all the numbers and calculating charge rates, driving range and money saved has been a fun project in and of itself.
While we’re only a month or so in right now, we think selling our gas car for an EV was a great decision. We expect to get at least another 3-5 years of useful life out of our LEAF. There are promising developments in EV battery tech that may make it much more affordable to replace in the future, extending it’s life even longer. All told this has been a fun adventure and helped us move closer to our goal of financial independence.