18 September 2017

Zwarte Lief

A little over five months ago, my wife and I acquired a new (to us) vehicle: this 2013 Nissan LEAF SV. This was not only our newest vehicle yet, but also the first electric car that either of us has owned, so we'll be updating on our experience as we go along.

I'll be upfront and admit that we didn't get the best possible deal on the car. While the dealer ad promised a price of $6500, after arriving at the dealership, we learned that that was the cash-only price and we would instead have to pay an extra $1000 for the privilege of financing which came out to a few cents over $9500 after all the taxes and fees were added up. Unfortunately, we weren't really in a position to negotiate. As they say, "beggars can't be choosers" and we had few options at the time. After putting down $500, we left with a car and a payment of a little under $170/month.

As noted above, we acquired a Nissan Leaf which we've cheekily assigned the name of "Zwarte Lief". ("Zwarte lief" means "black darling" in my wife's native language and is also a bit of a play on words since the car is black.) The car had a hair over 30,100 miles when we bought it, but since that time, we've added more than 12000 miles to the odometer and are on track to probably double the mileage it had when we bought it within a year. This is despite the relatively limitations of a first-generation electric car that is rated for just 84 miles on a full charge.

Zwarte Lief is already saving us a bunch of money. The most significant area of savings is via fuel. As a fully electric car, Zwarte Lief uses no gasoline at all (some electric cars like the Chevy Volt or BMW i3 REX can operate solely on electricity, but have gasoline-powered range extenders) which means that we no longer have to make any stops at a gas station at all. Previously, we were spending over $200/month on gas, so this represents a not insignificant improvement to our finances. Additionally, while some public chargers do cost money and electricity at home isn't free either, there are charging opportunities that are completely free to use. In total, charging costs are in the neighborhood of $20/month, or around 10% of what we were spending on gas. So although we now have a car payment, we're still saving money based on the fuel costs alone.

However, we're not just saving money based on fuel costs. Our previous car was a well-worn 2000 Toyota Camry. The paint was oxidized and fading. The interior was falling apart and the rear windows wouldn't close completely, which resulted in water everywhere whenever it rained. The engine was beginning to exhibit signs of needing more attention and I had to replace the alternator and the battery in the months leading up to the purchase of Zwarte Lief (and ended up destroying a pair of good jeans in the process too). Electrical quirks were also present and not everything worked as it should. In other words, the Camry would've required at least half as much as Zwarte Lief was advertised for in maintenance just to be made presentable and mechanically sound. After taking stock of the situation, it became clear that there was no benefit to continuing to throw good (and scarce) money after bad and cut our losses, finally selling the Camry to a junk yard for $330.

Needless to say, we look forward to the continued opportunity to save that Zwarte Lief offers us and I am rather strongly inclined to say that we will never buy another car (for our main transportation, anyway) that isn't fully electric. They're simple and easy to use and the savings are immense, perfect for those on a budget. Of course, there are some limitations, but we're willing to trade them to save money and those limitations will likely also be reduced in the future. Speaking of the future, we'll provide a six-month review of Zwarte Lief and the general experience of owning an EV in the, you guessed it, future.

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