Theo Thimou, Clark.com
If you’re looking at buying a new car, the word “leasing” has probably crossed your mind.
Dealerships push leases pretty heavily, particularly at “End of the Year” sales events, so you might be tempted to lease a new vehicle rather than buy new or used wheels.
The decision is often a financial one, but the numbers when it comes to leasing aren’t as great as they seem at first glance.
Auto leasing vs. buying by the numbers
Lease transfer marketplace SwapaLease.com is out with new numbers that show a growing spread between the cost of leasing a new car versus taking out a five or six-year loan to purchase it.
The column in yellow is the monthly payment on a lease. The lease terms presented here range anywhere from 24 months (Tacoma 2×4 Double Cab Pre Runner SWB) to 39 months (Nissan Armada SL 4×4).
The blue column shows your month payment for a five-year loan on these select vehicles at a 3.5% interest rate.
And the red column shows what your payment would look like if you stretch that five-year loan out to six years with a 3.75% interest rate on a 72-month repayment term.
Here a few observations about leasing vs. buying
First off, you can see why longer loan terms are popular with consumers who want to buy a vehicle rather than lease it.
By stretching the loan out just 12 months longer (60 months vs. 72 months), it would seem that you can fit more car into your budget with a lower monthly payment.
But don’t fall for this trap. There are some compelling reasons beyond just the obvious ones why longer loan terms are actually very bad for your wallet.
In fact, consumer expert Clark Howard says that you should never take out an auto loan for longer than 42 months. So you can forget about 60 and 72-month terms!
Second, you have to watch the allowed mileage on leases.
Most leases only allow you to drive 12,000 miles a year before they nickel and dime you with overage charges. (Luxury leases, like those shown here from Mercedes-Benz, are worse and only permit 10,000 miles annually).
That means it’s imperative for you to know your driving patterns before you consider signing a lease — or you’ll suffer some unexpected financial repercussions.
If you drive 15,000+ miles annually and your lease only allows for 12,000 miles each year, it’s not uncommon to pay 20 cents for every mile you drive over your allowance. That could mean an extra $600 annually or $50 monthly that you have to come up with!
When you think of it in those terms, a $199/monthly lease for a Toyota Carolla SEsuddently doesn’t look so good if that becomes $249 every month because you drive too much!
Finally, let’s not forget about the excessive wear-and-tear assessments dealers like to levy if you don’t return the vehicle in pristine condition at the end of the lease.
The average leased vehicle could get hit with wear-and-tear charges to the tune of nearly $2,000.
That’s ain’t no nickel and diming; that’s some serious money!
What’s Clark’s take?
As for Clark, he is almost never a fan of leasing — except in a couple of circumstances.
The first exception is if you like new wheels all the time and you only want to worry about gas, oil changes and routine maintenance on your vehicle. Then it’s fine to lease a new car every two or three years, but no longer than that.
The second instance is when luxury automakers offer factory-subsidized leases where they eat a lot of the cost. The luxury nameplates hate to cheapen their brands with a “sale,” so often they offer such leases to help move extra product.
But as we said before, watch those smaller mileage allowances on luxury leases.
Leasing may seem like a pretty sweet deal from a monthly payment perspective, but you have to know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line.
Be sure your understand the financial commitment because there’s more to it than meets the eye.
If you’re in a lease right now, consider paying the residual at the end of the lease term and buying the vehicle outright. That’s one way to turn a bad lease into a good thing.
Another way to get out of a lease is to find someone else to take it over for you. SwapaLease.com can help you on that front.