Skip to comments.New Wheels: Is It Better to Lease or Buy?
Posted on 05/31/2012 8:19:42 AM PDT by Kaslin
Dear Carrie: I've been out of school for just under a year and have a nice steady job. I need a new car, but I don't know if I should buy or lease. I'm earning a decent income, but I don't have much saved. Your advice, please? --A Reader
Dear Reader: This is a good question for someone in your situation -- or for anyone looking to buy a car. And actually there are three car-buying choices: buy outright, buy over time or lease. Buying a quality used car outright and driving it for many years is probably the most cost effective over the long run. However, the need for a large amount of cash upfront makes that impractical for many people.
The problem with leasing or buying over time is that you end up financing (that is, paying interest on) a depreciating asset. That said, these two options do give you the chance to get on the road with less of an initial financial commitment. However, there's more to consider than your cash outlay when deciding whether buying or leasing is the better choice.
WHEN A LEASE MAKES SENSE
The biggest advantage to leasing a car is that it will initially cost you less. There are plenty of low- and no-down-payment deals out there. On top of that, monthly payments are usually lower than if you financed the same car. That's because lease payments aren't based on the value of the car, but rather on the depreciation of the car over the time of the lease. So leasing a lower cost car could be quite economical, especially in the short run.
For this reason, a lease might make sense if you think you'll be in a better position to buy in a couple of years. Most leases are for two to four years. At the end of the lease, you simply turn the car back in and either purchase or lease a different one. (This also makes leasing attractive for people who know that they will want a new car every few years.) One caveat is that the car must be kept in excellent condition or you may pay a penalty.
If you use your car for business, there's another plus. You may be able to write most of your lease payments off your taxes.
While all this sounds good so far, there are some disadvantages that you should consider. First, leasing is kind of like paying rent. At the end of the lease, you don't own anything. Beyond that, leases are restrictive. There is a mileage limitation, usually 12,000-15,000 miles per year. Drive more and you'll have to pay extra at the end of the lease. Also, you're pretty much locked into the time frame. If your life circumstances change, it can be very costly to get out of a lease early. (On the other hand, though, you will likely be able to extend your lease if you want to keep the car longer.)
Another possible issue is insurance. Should your car get totaled or stolen, the insurance company will only pay the value of the car at the time, not what's left on your lease. Many lease agreements offer gap insurance to cover such a situation, but if not, you could come up short.
WHAT ABOUT BUYING OVER TIME?
If you think you want to keep your car longer term or if you're uncomfortable with the restrictions of a lease, buying over time is another viable option. In today's car buying environment, it's possible to finance a purchase with nothing down and zero percent financing for a certain time period. This could make the initial purchase easier on your checkbook. But be aware that with these types of offers, the dealer often compensates for upfront savings with longer loan terms. The plus side is that when the loan is paid off, you'll own your car.
WEIGHING YOUR CHOICES
From a purely economical standpoint, it probably makes the most sense to buy a good used car -- preferably one still on warranty with very low mileage -- and keep it for several years. That way you get the pleasure of driving a fairly new car without financing the depreciation that happens as soon as you drive it off the lot. Plus, you'll have something to show for your money.
If you choose to lease, be sure to work with a reputable automobile dealer or leasing company. Read the lease agreement carefully. Find out if it offers gap insurance, what the charge is if you go over the mileage limit, and what the terms are should you decide to buy at the end of the lease.
There's no right or wrong choice. It depends on your current cash situation plus what you want from a car both now and in the future. Before you start shopping, I'd suggest running different scenarios on an online buy vs. lease calculator to compare both upfront and long-term costs. Seeing the actual numbers might be the ultimate deciding factor.
I thought the verdict was in that leasing is the worst idea ever...
Buy a good clean used car.
Drive it for several years.
Sell it and buy another good clean used car.
Never buy new.
Or why not buy a cheap used car, run it into the ground and buy another cheap used car?
The last 4 'new' cars that I've bought have all been program cars from new car dealers. I bought a 2010 Chrysler 300, loaded, in 2010 that was a retired rental with 18,000 miles on it. It had probably been on the road for about a year. I got new car financing from my CU at under 3% and paid nearly half the sticker price on a comparable car. I got a nearly brand new car after someone else paid the first 2 years depreciation.
Dave Ramsey would be so pleased...LOL. I have a great 150 ford truck that runs like a top - I have had leased trucks too, but they cost way more to operate.
Leasing is the second worst idea ever. Obama is first!
“I’ve been out of school for just under a year and have a nice steady job. I need a new car”
The writer does not ‘need’ a ‘new’ car...and certainly shouldn’t even consider a lease.
Just buy a used car, and leave the new car buying to others.
Buy a 4-year old car at 1/3 the price, pay it off in 2 years, pocket the 3 years of interest and someone else eats the depreciation. You can get 250K-300K on the newer cars easily. Even if you have some repairs, you’re way ahead on costs.
I used to think that used cars were the way to go. The only problem is that you never quite know when they will go down on you.
If you can afford it- a VERY inexpensive new car will give you dependable transportation. You get the warranty with a new car and repair bills with a used car.
It is no fun to get stuck on the road when you are on the way to work, an important appointment, or an emergency. You can buy used, but make sure you have a very good relationship with your mechanic.
This has worked well for me. In the last 20 years I have bought two low-milage used cars. One I drove for 8 years and the current one I have had for 12 years and it still runs great, looks nice. Drove both as paid off for half of the time I have had them.
After 40 years of marriage I don’t need a chick magnet and I find no status in a vehicle. A car is a utility that should be reliable and low cost over the long term.
Buy used (just off a two year lease is usually a good buy), pay cash. Make car ‘payments’ to your savings while you drive it ‘til it falls apart. Lather, rinse, repeat.
“Or why not buy a cheap used car, run it into the ground and buy another cheap used car?”
I’ve gone retro with a ‘67 Camaro and ‘57 Bel Air. They will both be driveable indefinitely because the repairs are less than new cars (parts easily available and not so complicated). I take it in the shorts on gas, but I am working on getting mileage up (mostly new transmissions). Best part is I no longer have a depreciating asset, they are appreciating. Also, since repairs are always done with better than stock, I will end up with top of the line vehicles. And everyone drools over them.
I could never lease a car. My commute is 120 miles a day.
All depends on how long you’re going to keep it. If you won’t keep it long enough to pay off the loan lease because in the end that’s what you’re doing anyway. Even if you only intend to keep it a little longer, lease. If on the other hand you intend to keep it for at least 2 years longer than the loan buy. In the end it really boils down to how much you’re into preventative maintenance, if you get things fixed right away buy, if you ignore it until it’s a catastrophic failure lease that way you get rid of the car before the catastrophic failure hits.
I’m a 200,000 mile guy, always buy. Well “always” being twice so far, don’t have to buy often if you keep things for 10 years or more.
I am currently near the end of my first car lease and plan
to lease again. I used to buy used and keep forever. I enjoy the no worry new car warranty. As long as interest rates are so low, I am not paying much of a premium for this luxury and peace of mind.
The only thing dumber than leasing a car is borrowing to buy one. With a lease, you don’t pay as much interest to buy the use of the car. And generally the cap reduction is lower than the down payment you’d make on a comparable time buy. So you end up with a lot more car for the money with a lease. The vehicle is always covered by warranty and you walk away from it at the end (or buy it if it’s a closed-end lease). Leasing makes more sense than a time buy.
But neither make as much sense — financially — as buying used and drving the wheels off.
Whenever I go shopping for a car, the salesmen always push leasing over buying. That alone tells me that you are correct.
I’m pretty sure that every tire manufacture and retailer will require to purchase the wheels. /sarc
Just about every car these days has one or more enthusiast forums.
If you spend a little time there, it’s pretty easy to find the common things that are likely to go wrong or have gone wrong with a model you’re considering. There’s always someone who puts a bunch of mileage or abuse on a car and they get to be first to discover the shortcomings.
Plus, a lot of times, the OEMs quietly fix things and don’t make big announcements about them. Word gets around quickly on the enthusiast boards, along manufacturer service bulletins, and recalls.
With that info in hand, applied to a low-mileage used model, you can make a pretty good guestimate of what’s likely to go wrong, and how much it will cost to fix it. Every car is just a machine, some parts are going to wear out or break sooner than others. It’s just a matter of finding out which ones for that model are the likliest and then determining what the downstream costs will be (if it hasn’t been taken care of already). On a lot of vehicles, some troublesome parts get revised and replaced as people complain to the dealer, but the manufacturer doesn’t necessarily broadcast that they’ll fix it unless it becomes a safety issue.
Expensive parts can be a negotiating tool if you buy from a dealer, maybe to get them to pre-emptively replace a likely future failure part for less than it would cost you later in order to get the sale. This works especially well if there’s a manufacturer service bulletin that you can reference. Or if you’re considering buying a used car warranty, knowing what your costs will be can help you evaluate it better.
With things that commonly break, the aftermarket usually steps in pretty quickly too if you wait a few years until the problem surfaces.
Democrats lease, Republicans own. If someone is a Democrat they are better off wrecking someone else’s property.
My system is to buy a high mileage 2-3 year old car and run it till it dies. I’ve been doing that for over 25 years and have never had a lemon. We’ve never sold a car for over $1,000.
My current car is a 2006 Pontiac Vibe. I bought it in late 2009 with 142,000 miles. I’ll be passing 200,000 next week. Beside gas and oil changes, a set of front brakes is all I’ve done to it.
Buying new is a good idea if you wait until late summer when dealers are desperate to sell them because they want to make room for next year's model. The benefit over used cars is that you'll likely get 2-3 years with very little maintenance whereas a used car has already gone through that period, as a generality.
In this girl's situation and in the current economy, I would suggest buying used on time (you still want to build credit) in payments that ought to be easily affordable. It should never be a sizable chunk of your monthly income or it is too much.
What’s with the need for a down payment, balloon payments, or costs over normal wear and tear?
Yes, I’m self-employed, but I’ve leased three cars without ever having to pay any of those.
My son bought an 06 BMW 325i like this one (one owner) yesterday. 90,000 miles on it. Traded in his SUV gas hog. 2 yr. warranty. He brought it over last night. Drives like a dream. Leather and all the goodies. Amazing machine.
Buy a two or three year old used car that someone turned in as a lease. Do not buy a used rental car.
Do a little research on Consumer Reports/Edmunds/KBB regarding the best used cars in your price range.
Then drive it until it starts costing you too much in repairs to maintain. This is usually between 100-150K miles depending on the automaker.
Leasing cars is only for businesses that need to have a new car and can right off the business expense on their taxes.
That way, you don't have to worry about mileage, as long as you consider what the residual value of the car will be after you finish using it, knowing how much mileage you'll put on it.
You then only have to pay interest on the value of the car less the residual.
After the lease expires, you can either buy the car for the residual value or sell it for that and give it to the bank.
Your payments will be about half of what a dealership will charge to lease the car to you.
Last car I bought was a two year old Certified Used car.
It had 21k miles on it and was literally immaculate. It was a lease turn-in, so the previous owner took care of it to avoid penalties. Paid just over 20K for it (2K under high book). New, it cost around 30K.
Bumper to bumper warranty to 86k miles (3 year, 36K factory, 5 year /50K Certified Used warranty). At about 25K miles, had a breather valve go bad and made a whistling sound when driving, but otherwise safe to drive. Even though I bought it out of state, the dealer sent out a flatbed and had the car towed it to the local dealer, where the breather was replaced for free.
They’ll even come out and change a tire if I get a flat.
For value and peace of mind, it has been the best car purchase I’ve ever made.
Depending on where you are, there aren't a whole lot of car dealers who will make that "certified" deal with the customer. The only one I know of out here are the Mercedes dealerships and you are looking at increased insurance costs IF you manage to find a deal you like.
For a young person starting out, an economy car will still cost less than that $20,000 price you paid and give him a warranty that lasts at least 3 years and sometimes longer depending on the manufacturer. That, along with lower payments, lower gas costs, and less breakdown time make it a better deal for most young people. We have a relative who owned a used car lot and said the same as you. We owned at least 3 used cars and two of them made us crazy.
After the last one, I only have bought new cars and have been happy I have. Especially when something went wrong.
Thanks for posting. I am going through this now. My wife totaled her 97 Civic. It was like new inside and out. Havent had collision insurance on it for 6 years so after her accident we just parted the car out.
I drive a 98 Explorer with 160K on it but it is seems to be reliable. So have been looking for a car for her. She drives less than 5K miles a year. She didnt even have to get emissions test. I am disabled and on SS and she is retired.
Been looking at all the options and I did find something interesting. Leasetrader.com. Doin’ my research on it now. I cant make a mistake. We are on very limited income although it is reliable. Looks like another alternative.
You’re lucky. I was between careers for a couple of years and worked for a dealership in the leasing department. Those are standard practice.
This reminded me of the Web site, http://www.automanagement.com/
Depending on your circumstance, this could be an option.
that's my motto- I rarely give up a car until it has over 200k on it and that's usually either due to it rusted apart or a deer or welfare deadbeat hit me. Even then, if it's safely driveable, I'm doing it.
Bottom line is you’re probably never going to MAKE money buying a car. All you can do is try to LOSE as little as possible.
We had to drive about 300 miles to get this deal, which we found on Autotrader.com. You can set Certified Used as search criteria, set your maximum price and go from there. We had several cars lined up in the area, and when we made our best deal, we thanked the salesman and told him we were leaving to go look at the others. That salesman then bent over backward to keep us from going! Ended up knocking an additional $1000 off the price. They were already competitive, so we took the deal.
The same model, in a lower trim line, locally, was anywhere from $2K to 4K more. With no warranty.
We made it into a weekend; went shopping, visited museums and ate at some fancy restaurants. Drove in on a Friday evening, left on a Sunday. Nice weekend getaway for me and the misses. Plus, we got to cruise around in a new (to us) car.
We’re not particularly young, and the car we had before was a smaller, “economy” type car. But, we had to have something larger, as my 6’0” 13 year old was having problems fitting in the back seat.
And, for the same coverage, our insurance went down.
We ended up with a much nicer near-luxury type car that is comfortable for traveling, with all the bells and whistles, on which someone else already took the major depreciation hit. Plus we got some peace of mind to boot.
With the exception of the time I bought a 3 year old Jaguar with 24K on it, I’ve generally had good luck with used cars. But, that Jag was one headache after another. When the warranty was up, I traded it the same month!
Remember the old joke?
“Lots of smart people lease cars!”
“Yeah, to stupid people!”
I agree. My first car was about 9 years old. It was a great beginner's car. You get dings, dents etc. but hey, you learn in it. you also learn how to handle it if your car breaks down, changing tires, etc. etc.
They are generally low mileage, and have been well taken care of. Our last purchase was in September of 2002 for a lease-return Ford Expedition. It was 2 years old and had 21,000 miles on it. We still have it, and it has 158,000 miles on it, and running strong. It still looks good, too, because hubby has always kept it clean and polished.
We also have a lease-return 2003 Buick Century that we bought in 2005 with 23,000 miles on it. Great little car, and we only paid $9K.