What Nissan Leaf Years to Avoid?

The Nissan Leaf might be marketed as a cool, eco-friendly electric car to appeal to mainstream drivers, but many drivers over the years have dealt with problems and defects associated with their vehicles. 

Keep reading if you want to find out about the top five Nissan Leaf years you should avoid if you’re on the market for a new or used electric vehicle! 

  1. The 2011 Nissan Leaf – First Generation

First up, we have the 2011 Nissan Leaf, which was part of the first generation of the vehicle and was the first-ever model year of the car. It is often the case that the first model of a vehicle to be released has the most problems since they haven’t had as much user feedback, and the Nissan Leaf is no exception. According to CarComplaints, the 2011 Leaf is the model year with the most overall complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The amount of NHTSA complaints this particular model has totals a whopping 110.

Out of these 110 complaints, it seems that the car’s electrical system has the most issues, totaling 28 complaints about electrical problems alone. These include issues with battery capacity loss, poor miles per charge, and even problems with the vehicle not starting at all. These kinds of problems are especially worrying considering the Nissan Leaf is an electric powered vehicle and are considered to be in the ‘severe’ category in terms of issues a car can have. 

This model year of the Nissan Leaf also has problems with a variety of other aspects, including brake problems, issues with the airbags and seatbelts, and problems with the fuel system. These range from the ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ category in terms of the severity rating, and many of these issues will set you back a lot of money to get repaired. For example, addressing the common problem with the seatbelts and airbags consists of replacing the vehicle’s seats, which is estimated to cost around $970 for every seat you need to replace

  1. The 2018 Nissan Leaf – Second Generation

Next up, we have the 2018 Nissan Leaf, which was the first model year of the second generation of the vehicle. The Leaf has only had two generations so far, the first generation from 2011-2017 and the second generation from 2018-present. You might notice that the 2018 Leaf is the only one of its generation on this list, and there’s a reason for that. The second generation of the vehicle saw massive improvements, and most auto experts agree that if you’re looking to purchase this type of car, you should try to make sure it’s from the second generation

Although the second gen Nissan Leaf is greatly improved, that doesn’t mean its 2018 model year is without its issues. This model has had 35 NHTSA complaints so far, and has even had an official recall in 2019. This recall affected over 1.2 million Nissan Leaf vehicles, and had to do with faulty back-up cameras not displaying images. If back-up cameras don’t display images properly, it increases the risk of a crash, so to many Nissan Leaf owners this was both inconvenient and a safety issue.

Other problems with the 2018 Leaf mostly consist of issues with the brake system, something noted in many other model years and generations of this same vehicle. 2018 Leaf drivers have reported problems with unintended braking as well as the service brakes and electronic stability control. 

  1. The 2013 Nissan Leaf – First Generation

Next is the 2013 Nissan Leaf, which is again part of the first generation of cars produced by Nissan in this style. Many auto experts advise you to skip out on the 2013 model of the car, and when looking at common problems it’s not hard to see why. There have been a whopping 112 NHTSA complaints for this model, as well as four official recalls.

Out of the four official recalls issued for this particular model, the 2013 Nissan Leaf had two that were widespread and severe. In 2014, 989,701 vehicles were recalled due to issues with the airbags failing to detect whether someone was sitting in the passenger seat, which could result in the airbags not deploying in the case of an accident. In 2016, over 3.2 million vehicles were recalled over this same issue, making the 2013 model of the vehicle an inadvisable purchase that should be avoided.

In addition to the recalls for the Leaf, there are also a number of general complaints and concerns that are fairly serious in nature. These include brake problems, electrical problems, issues with the wheels and hubs, and seat belt/airbag related problems similar to those involved in the recall. One report claimed that the range on their 2013 Leaf decreased dramatically in low temperatures, which ended up costing a whopping $4,000 to fix! 

  1. The 2012 Nissan Leaf – First Generation

Up next we have the 2012 Nissan Leaf, which was also part of the first generation of vehicles manufactured for this line. Thankfully, this model of the Leaf didn’t have any official recalls, but that doesn’t mean it was without its problems. The 2012 Leaf has had 60 NHTSA complaints, some of which involve unsafe and severe problems with customers’ vehicles. 

Some of the main problems people have had with their 2012 Leaf include electrical problems, brake issues, and problems with the engine. While the 2013 Leaf’s range decreased dramatically in low temperatures, there are reports of the 2012 Leaf doing exactly the same thing in hot weather states. These issues with the battery started to happen for people between 25,000 and 50,000 miles, which is considered pretty early to have severe problems with a vehicle.

There have also been reported problems with the brakes not working properly on this model as well as engine problems including a battery issue, a vehicle speed control issue, and a problem with the hybrid propulsion system. All of these common problems with the 2012 Leaf are pretty severe, and as a result if you’re looking to buy a used Leaf it might be best to skip over this model and generation.

  1. The 2015 Nissan Leaf – First Generation

Finally, we have the 2015 Nissan Leaf, which was also part of the first generation of the vehicle. Although there were higher numbers of problems reported for other years, CarComplaints has actually ranked the 2015 Leaf as the worst model year of all “because of other possible factors such as higher repair cost or more problems at a lower mileage.”

The 2015 Leaf has 90 NHTSA complaints as well as 3 official recalls, and it seems like this model is the most difficult and expensive to repair out of all the Nissan Leaf model years and generations. The most significant recall for this vehicle took place in 2016, when over 3.2 million vehicles were recalled due to the passenger side air bag not deploying properly. This is both an inconvenient and alarming recall for Nissan Leaf drivers, as if your car experiences this issue it could increase risk of injury in case of an accident.

In addition to this model year of the Leaf being recalled a few times, people had very severe and widespread issues with the brakes. There were 53 NHTSA complaints about the brakes alone, and the biggest issue is that these problems were happening very early into the car’s lifetime with high repair costs. It’s estimated that the average mileage for these brakes issues to start happening was just 8,650 miles, and that the average repair cost for this problem was a whopping $4,000. For this reason, the 2015 Leaf is considered to be the most problematic model year of this Nissan line and should be avoided as much as possible.


Overall, the Nissan Leaf has problems with many of its model years, and these are the top five that you should avoid if you’re on the market for a used Nissan Leaf. 

While it might be better to skip this vehicle altogether in your search, if you have your heart set on buying a Leaf it’s definitely best to stick to the second generation.

Be sure to stay updated on the latest car trends as well—

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