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Is Leasing A Car The Right Option?

Aug 17, 2007
Leasing a new car or truck can be a complicated and frustrating experience. All the offers being advertised look great on the surface, but is leasing really the best option for everyone? Basically, the answer is no. Leasing can be a wonderful alternative to sinking a large down payment and 60 months worth of payments into a vehicle you have no intention of keeping for very long. But, for those who intend to keep that new car or truck for the long haul, leasing may actually cost more.

The Benefits of Leasing:
Leasing a vehicle generally makes a lot of sense if you don't exceed the mileage allowance offered by the leasing company (usually between 10,000 and 15,000 miles a year); you keep the vehicle in good shape (inside and out); or you plan to get a new vehicle within a few years regardless of the lease. Leases can be very good options for single executives who need a higher-end vehicle, without having to shell out big bucks on the sticker price; seniors who don't do a lot of traveling by car and who want the luxury of a bigger vehicle, minus the cost; and those who simply can't afford the monthly payments any other way.

When To Avoid Leasing:
For others, however, leasing may turn into a financial nightmare when its time to return their vehicle. Some people who should avoid leasing include:

-Those who drive over the mileage allowance (or who may find themselves with longer commutes partway into a lease). The cost of additional mileage can be high. Most leasing companies charge between a dime and a quarter for every mile over the lease limit. Add just 5,000 miles a year onto a 3-year lease and it could cost an additional $3,800.00!

-Drivers who are hard on vehicles. Some people just seem to always be bumping, nicking or scratching parts of their car. Those prone to breaking, scratching, and denting their vehicles should consider leasing very carefully. When a lease is returned, every scratch, ding and dent will cost you - no matter how small.

-People with children. No matter how careful they are, children still have the tendency to spill drinks, and otherwise abuse upholstery. Most leasing companies charge extra for what they consider excess wear on the car's interior. That can mean paying for extreme stains and rips, or can mean paying for virtually any sign that car has been used. Some parents have even reported being charged for uneven fading on upholstery where car seats were installed. What you're charged for is entirely up to the discretion of the dealer, which can add hundreds more to your lease end fees.

-People who regularly tie things to the car roof. Do you travel with a car top carrier? Do you like to go antiquing in the summer? Do you often tie bikes or boats to the back or top of your car? Be careful when leasing. Attaching things to a vehicle almost always results in some sort of small scratch or wearing. This too, can cost big bucks when the vehicle is returned.

It seems clear: anyone who is the least bit hard on a vehicle should be wary of leasing. In a recent report distributed by a top consumer agency, more than one third of all lease owners complained about high excessive wear penalties and fees at the end of their lease. Avoid these unnecessary costs by reading the lease carefully, and clarifying anything that you aren't sure about.
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