2012 Nissan Leaf: A Delightful Mutant Catches My Attention

I’d been researching used cars online for months now, but I hadn’t really narrowed down my list. It’s times like this when I really miss my dad more than I usually do.

“Look. Just ask your dad what kind of car you should get,” a friend told me. She, too, had lost her dad recently and talks with him all the time. “He’ll give you a sign. He really will.”

I no sooner said, “Dad, I’m really hitting the wall on this car thing. Too many to choose from. Could you help me out here?”

Immediately afterward I saw it. A blue Nissan Leaf, parked by itself near one of the local shops. I shit you not. The normally jammed parking strip was nearly empty, save for the car and two others.


2012 Nissan Leaf SV sunning itself in captivity at my local CarMax. Identical to the one I saw on the street immediately after asking my dad for a little sign.

Well played, Dad.

Indeed. I’d been snubbing alt. fuel cars for the past few years. Ugly. Gutless. Too expensive. Driven by smug greenies.

My dad, on the other hand, loved alt-fuel technology, and swore up and down 25 years ago that alt. fuel engines would be the norm.

I headed to my local CarMax pronto for a no-hassle test drive, and walked away a true believer.

In which a jaded car gal eats her words

I got into the Leaf and pressed a button. It clicked, hummed and chimed itself to life. The dashboard was easy to read and provided readouts of battery power, usage, and mph, and mpg equivalent, among other things.

I was surprised at how solid this little car was. High-quality materials, controls within easy reach, and the oddest egg-shaped gear selector I’d ever seen. A push of a button puts it in “Park.” and a nudge puts it in drive.

I put the car through its paces, fully expecting it to be gutless and unenthusiastic. I was dead wrong. While it certainly won’t blow the lane markers off the highway, I was impressed with its power, finesse, and composure.

There was no engine noise, just a quiet whirring sound as the Leaf idled, and a silent, silky smooth ride while driving. I fell in love with this little mutant quickly.

I was impressed with the NHTSA safety ratings, it strong reliability record, and its overall handling.


Take me to your leader…er, garage.

An EV the Rest of Us can afford

The price range for a used 2012 Nissan Leaf SV (the model I tested) hovers around the $9,000-$10,000 range. That’s a fairly steep depreciation from the MSRP of $34,000 new, so that gave me pause.

Time for a little further research.

Still, I could buy a much smaller, cheaply-made car for the price of a used Leaf, and get a lot less car for the buck, and be disappointed in the long run.

The Leaf comes with its own charging kit, and it plugs in to any 120v outlet. Overnight charging takes about 12-17 hours. Battery range varies, depending on the terrain driven, and whether or not I’d run the heat or A/C.

Range anxiety really is a thing, according to a neighbor who drives a Fiat 500e.

I think I can make that adjustment.




When Wheels Become Wings




In the little over a year I’ve been without a car, I’ve lost a lot of my independence. Forget about spontaneous runs to the grocery store for one last ingredient for dinner, to hell with meeting up with friends the next town over, and doctor’s and vet appointments need to be planned well in advance so I can borrow a car or beg a ride.

I’ve had my wings clipped to be sure.

Waking up sick or waking up to a sick pet? Nope. Can’t happen. Not in the schedule. Buses don’t run at 3AM and most cab companies around here don’t transport pets anyway.

My dream of owning a car again was torpedoed by a recent emergency vet appointment that drained my down payment funds. Money well spent to be sure, but a major setback nonetheless.

BFF to the rescue

My BFF texted me recently. I can use her car while she and her daughter are out of town.


My houseguest for the next few days will be a 2007 Scion Xb. I remember this car when it was brand-new, a mere baby with paper license plates and new car smell;  it now sports over 236,000 well-loved miles on the odometer.

Enough about that.

For the next few days, I will have some spontaneity back in my life. Instead of scheduling my entire life around either the bus schedule or the availability of a hastily borrowed car, I can relax for a change.

Getting my life back…if even for a week

I was bored, running low on TP and needed a Target run. I grabbed the key, hopped in, and away I went. For the first time I can remember, I wandered the aisles forever. Afterward, I drifted around the other stores in the mall.

I didn’t have to worry about delaying the neighbor from whom I bummed a ride, and I didn’t have to worry about getting a car back  at the precise moment I promised. I could breathe.

A co-worker sweetly offered me a ride home yesterday. It felt good to say “Cool. Thank you, but I have a car this week!” She was happy not because she was no longer tied to giving me a lift home, but because I was happy. She’s been in my shoes.

I’ve already made runs to the local market and to the drug store just because I can. I have my pet’s follow-up appointment scheduled. I’m making plans to meet up with friends who I’ve not seen in ages.

I  felt the tension leave my entire body when I realized that although I was running five minutes late, I didn’t have to worry about missing the bus. There is a car in my carport. I can get to work unhurried and unsullied by rapid transit funk.

If I need to run to the store, I can do so. If I need to run to the vet’s office, I can be there in five minutes. If a friend wants to meet up, done and done.

If I get stressed out and need to hit the local roads, I can. Driving along the local coast was my go-to stress relief in my car-owning days. Screw yoga. I want to drive. And now I can, even if for a week. I will take what I can get.

Here’s the car!” my friend said. Nope. Here are my wings.