Nissan Leaf years to avoid — most common problems
Learn about the Nissan Leaf years to avoid and make an informed decision for your next electric vehicle purchase.
Nissan was one of the first car manufacturers to leap into the world of hybrid vehicles, and their compact hatchback Nissan Leaf was one of the models that started it all. It made a great city driving option with enough interior space to fit four passengers and a decent battery range.
Still, there are some Nissan Leaf years to avoid and our team wanted to give you a heads-up on these through this guide. We’ll go over the main years you should avoid, and common problems of the model in general, and recommend you some of the best Nissan Leaf model years.
Why you can trust REREV’s advice on which car model years to avoid: Our car experts look at official data, ask real drivers what they think, and talk to experienced mechanics to make sure our list is useful. This reliable info can make buying a car easier for you. Want to know how we do it? Find out more about our research methodology.
Most common Nissan Leaf problems
As one of the first mass-production electric vehicles, Nissan Leaf came with a few issues. To help you get the best one on the used car market, we went the extra step to give you an overview of all the main problems. So, let’s save the verdict for last and start with one of the most common issues that the model had over the years – the braking system fault.
This issue involved sudden engagement of the brakes and you probably don’t need an additional explanation as to why this can be a great issue. There’s also the issue of the hybrid system inverter and this problem caused the sudden shutdown of the vehicle,
Besides these two safety-related issues, drivers have reported lower visibility problems and these were mostly associated with the faulty defogger. Finally, there are problems with the airbag system and a few electrical issues that mostly plagued the 2016 Leaf. Overall, these are mostly the main listed issues based on NHTSA reports and there shouldn’t be many other frequent issues with this model.
Braking system problems
Over the years, drivers have reported multiple problems associated with the braking system of the Nissan Leaf. First, there’s the sudden brake engagement which posed a safety threat. Along with that issue, there’s also the matter of a faulty electronic brake booster relay.
As one of the main bad brake booster symptoms, the braking distance got longer and drivers reported that they needed to apply additional pressure to come to a safe stop. Luckily, Nissan recognized this issue and scheduled a recall in 2016 to reprogram the brake control unit software. The recall mostly included 2013 to 2015 Leaf models.
Hybrid inverter problems
One of the worst problems with the 2014 Nissan Leaf was the faulty hybrid propulsion inverter that caused sudden shutdowns. It caused additional problems with the motor control unit circuit board and you can guess that that doesn’t mean anything good for the owners.
Once again, Nissan had to deal with this problem through a recall, so 2014′ Leaf owners got notified about the correction in 2014. After a completely free replacement of the inverter, the propulsion system was up and running once again without any sudden shutdowns. So, if you are considering the 2014 Leaf as your new car, make sure to check if it has gone through the recall.
Many drivers also complained about the lower visibility while driving due to misleading owners’ manual instructions on using the defogger. Because of this, the vehicles failed to comply with the driving safety standards and reduced defogger performance caused additional issues.
We know this may sound like only a slight problem, but if you can’t use the defogger properly, it’s a bad thing for the overall driving visibility.
Airbag system failure
Finally, it’s essential that you are aware of the airbag faults that were sadly pretty frequent with these vehicles. It all started with the faulty passenger seat occupancy sensor which led to failures in airbag deployment in case of an accident.
The problem was common for the 2013 Leaf and it continued with the frontal airbag system fault in the following production year. The final recall of the airbags happened in 2017 and involved 2015-2017 Nissan Leaf models. This recall was scheduled due to a malfunctioned factory-installed airbag module and owners got theirs replaced during the recall action.
Which Nissan Leaf years to avoid?
Even though you may think that Nissan Leaf had excessive issues over the yeras due to the listed problems, there weren’t that many model years that should be avoided. The Leaf was produced in two generations, so our team thought it would be best to discuss the worst model years one generation at a time.
First-generation Nissan Leaf (2011-2013 model years)
Based on the reports by Nissan Leaf drivers, the 2011 to 2013 models were the worst for this model. These models received the most problems and the 2011 model was the worst-rated one yet. It had countless issues with the propulsion system, brakes, and airbags.
There’s also the issue of excessive tire wear and which led to drivers not having sufficient tire tread depth for tackling different road conditions. It’s assumed that this issue was due to improper wheel alignment and suspension system problems, but Nissan never released an official recall action for dealing with this.
Things didn’t get much better with the following 2012 and 2013 models either, so we suggest you avoid these model years of the first generation.
Second-generation Nissan Leaf (2018 model year)
The second generation of the Leaf came with significant improvements over the first one, and these were not only aesthetical. While the car looked much better with the facelift, mechanical systems were more or less sorted out.
Still, we can say that the 2018 model seems the worst out of all the second-gen models based on driver complaints. This model had quite a few issues, starting with faulty brakes, electrical problems, and wheel hub problems. Overall, the 2018 model wasn’t nearly as unreliable as the 2011 or 2013 one, but it’s still worth avoiding this one if you wish to get the most out of the second-gen Nissan Leaf.
Best Nissan Leaf years
Besides these problematic model years we just reviewed, some models were pretty much coming without any excessive issues. You just need regular maintenance to service these models properly, so here’s a complete list of the best Nissan Leaf years:
- 2014 Nissan Leaf
- 2016 Nissan Leaf
- 2017 Nissan Leaf
- 2019 Nissan Leaf
- 2020 Nissan Leaf
- 2021 Nissan Leaf
- 2022 Nissan Leaf
If you are going with the first-gen Leaf, the 2014 model year is much more reliable than the 2011 and 2013 ones. There were only some braking system issues reported for this model, along with the inverter issue that got sorted out through the recall.
Still, it marked the least driver complaints out of all the first-gen model years. On the other hand, pretty much all the second-gen Leaf models are safe to go with. If you wish to go into more detail, it’s enough to steer away from the 2018 model to cut the worries to the bare minimum.
Is Nissan Leaf worth buying?
If you are looking for a cost-effective solution for a compact electric car, Nissan Leaf is one of the best options on the used car market. It has everything it takes to be a great companion through the busy public roads and even some highway trips.
The crucial thing here is to avoid the model years that received quite a bit of complaints, such as 2011, 2012, and 2013 Leaf. We suggest you go with the models with the least driver complaints including 2014, 2017, and 2020 models. Our team put extra effort into this guide to help you avoid the worst model years, so hopefully, it will serve you well on the road to getting the best Leaf model possible.
What is the best year for Nissan Leaf to buy?
The best year for Nissan Leaf to buy is the 2014 model which received the least complaints from previous owners.
Are older Nissan LEAFs reliable?
Older Nissan Leaf isn’t as reliable as new ones, especially if you consider 2011 to 2013 models.
Which year Nissan Leaf has the longest range?
The Nissan Leaf Plus has the longest range with up to 150 miles on a single charge.
How many years does a Nissan Leaf battery last?
Nissan Leaf’s battery can last from 8 to 10 years with proper maintenance.