When the Lease Temptation Finally Takes Over

July 18th, 2013

2012 Subaru Legacy sedan

“Son, don’t ever lease a car. It’s never a smart decision. You’ll lose money, and you’ll never be able to break the cycle once you start. You’ll have a car payment forever.”

That was my dad’s advice to me ever since he started giving me car advice. That and, “Never buy a Chrysler. Unless you want the engine to blow up.”

Fast-forward a couple decades, and I find out my parents got a new car, a 2012 Subaru Legacy. Then the kicker: “We got a really low lease payment on it,” my dad said.

I just about blew some perfectly good rum and Coke right out my nose.

As it turns out, my brother had found a great lease deal on the same car just a week before. My parents loved the car, loved the payment, and called the same salesman. Within a couple days, they had signed the same deal on the exact same car.

I pressed my dad on what changed in his thinking to finally be open to a lease. His response was interesting. He said, “I loved the car, the price was right, and I’ve been paying monthly payments on used cars all my life. Why not finally get into something new instead?”

Good enough for me. As long as I can remember, my dad bought used cars from private parties. He liked being able to get them cheap compared with dealer prices, customize them, drive without mileage constraints and sell whenever he got the urge to find another used car. It worked for many years, but I guess the lure of that new-car smell and the comfort of being under a manufacturer’s warranty finally won him over.

The conversation ended, as you might assume, when I asked how long before he gets a Chrysler.

“Oh, I’ll never buy another Chrysler,” he said.

Maybe not, Dad, maybe not. But I’ll bet you might lease one.

Which do you prefer: buy new, buy used, or lease?

-tgriffith

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Used Subaru Legacy

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  1. Randy
    July 23rd, 2013 at 06:02 | #1

    With the average new car price hovering around $31,000 and buyers financing for long periods (typically 65 months), leasing can make a lot of sense. When you lease, you’re basically paying the cost of depreciation for the lease period plus interest and fees. There’s a lot of competition in leasing these days (keeping interest and fees low) and the right vehicle will depreciate less.
    Do the math. Lease a $200/month with zero down car for three years, then do it again. After six years, you’ll have paid about $15,000 and driven two new cars. The guy who bought one will own a paid off car woth about $6000 after spending nearly twice as much. The math doesn’t work out as well for the typical luxo barge with high depreciation, but for many vehicles it can be very good to lease rather than buy.

  2. July 19th, 2013 at 09:25 | #2

    I used to be a car dealer and I found that leasing works best in a few situations:
    1) You’re a bad owner. Ie. You tend to get into wrecks a lot, forget to change the oil or perform other maintenance, and/or otherwise abuse a car (ex. you somehow manage to hit every pothole on the road.)
    2) The car you want to drive is not known for its reliability. That Jaguar/Rover/other pretty but horrible vehicle might stir your soul but the thought of possessing at any time sans warranty causes elevated blood pressure.
    3) You have automotive ADD. You buy, sell, or trade a car as often as you buy new tennis shoes. Leasing is actually a safer and usually more cost effective way of allowing a short trade cycle behavior while making the residual value much more predictable.

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