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Is It Better To Buy Or Lease a New Car?

Should you lease or buy your next car? You’ll always save by buying a used car and driving it as long as possible. But if you “have to have” a new car, there are pros and cons to both buying and leasing to consider.

Is It Better To Buy Or Lease a New Car-If you’ve ever gone car shopping, you’ve probably been given the opportunity to lease a car.

On the surface, a car lease seems too good to be true. You get to drive home in a brand new car for a lower monthly payment than if you got a loan to buy the car. Then, in two or three years, you have the option of buying out the lease and keeping the car or trading in for another new car. What’s not to like? Why wouldn’t it be better to lease?

Car leases are the subject of great passion for a number of financial writers. Ask these guys whether it’s better to buy or lease a car, and most will look you straight in the eye and say: “Never ever lease a car!”

Don’t agree? Test out the numbers in our buy vs. lease calculator and see for yourself — all other factors being equal, leasing almost always costs more in the long run.

OK. So what if it’s a little more expensive? Who needs to own a car? It’s a depreciating asset, anyway. What if you just want to drive it, not worry about maintenance or ownership, and just pay for that luxury?

If that’s how you feel, then a lease will certainly be attractive. You must simply realize that:

  1. Car leases are a luxury and
  2. You will pay extra for that luxury.

I can recommend leasing to somebody who is debt-free, financially successful, and can afford the luxury. Perhaps that person is savvy enough to know that by investing money she would’ve spent on a car, she may come out ahead when that money earns a good return in the stock market.

On paper, leasing a car and investing the cash you would’ve used to buy makes sense. But this requires you have the discipline to: 1) Actually invest the money, not spend it on something else and 2) Keep the money invested for decades. We humans are rarely so rational.

Over the long run, you will always pay less if you buy a used car and keep it as long as possible.

The only way you can change this calculus in favor of leasing is if you buy brand new cars and trade them in too soon, in which case leasing may save money. Bottom line: New cars are never a good financial move, but if you “have to have” a new car every few years, leasing is the way to go. If you crave a new car every once and a while and want to minimize the financial fallout, try to drive it for 10 years or more.

Let’s look at the other pros and cons of a car lease:

The upside to leasing

Brand New Car

Leasing is about luxury and convenience. You get the luxury of a new car and the convenience of not having to worry about maintenance. That’s not to say you can go two years without an oil change, but because the car is new, you hopefully won’t have to worry about any major repairs, which would be covered by warranty if they were to occur.

Lower Monthly Payment

In most cases, the monthly payments on a lease are less than if you get a loan to buy the car at normal interest rates over three or four years. Keep in mind that most leases do require down payments equivalent to those required to buy.

Less Commitment

Leases make sense if you only need a car for a defined period of time, such as a two-year job assignment. Or, let’s say you need to replace a car now but your family is growing and you know you might need a bigger car in two or three years. A lease can help you bridge that time period.

Business Deductions

Leases can be attractive to business owners because you can deduct a portion of your lease payments based on how much you drive the car for business.

The downside to leasing

You don’t own anything

You never own anything when you lease. Although leasing may seem less expensive over the next two years, in the long run, you’ll always have a monthly payment. Yes, cars depreciate. But if you keep them long enough you’ll still have something of value that you can sell.

You can only drive so far

If you drive a lot, a lease is not for you. Dealers make money on leases because they collect your lease payments and then can resell the car as a two- or three-year-old certified used car. But the more miles on the car when you turn it in, the less a dealer can sell it for. Most car leases will charge something like 12 cents for each mile you drive over a certain limit. Most leases set a cap between 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year.

You’ll need excellent credit

Leases require top-notch credit. Although you can get a car loan even with bad credit, that’s not the case with a lease.

You can’t customize your car

The dealer will charge you for any excessive wear-and-tear on the leased car when you turn it in. That means dents or dings or interior damage from smoking or pets. It also means you can’t customize a leased car.

It’s not easy to to get out of a lease

If you buy a car and six months later lose your job or need a different type of vehicle, you always have the option of selling it. It’s more difficult to get out of a lease. You can’t just end the lease early…at least not without harming your credit.

Negotiating a lease is complicated

Understanding how leases are priced is more complicated than understanding a sale. I didn’t even fully understand them when I worked at a car dealership and I was selling them!

Lease prices depend, in part, on:

  • Capitalized cost: Similar to the initial price of the vehicle.
  • Term: The length of the lease.
  • Mileage allowance: How many miles are included each year.
  • Your credit score.
  • Money factor: This is the confusing one. The money factor is similar to an interest rate, so the lower, the better. A lease money factor is a very small number such as .00315. Multiply the money factor by 2,400 to get something you can understand as an interest rate. In this example, 7.5 percent.
  • Residual value: The car’s “value” at the end of the lease. A higher residual value can lower your monthly payment, but make it harder to get out of the lease if you need to. A lower residual value means higher monthly payments but a lower buy-out option at the end. While it’s unusual that it would be a good deal to buy the car you leased when your term is up, a lower residual could make it easier to sell the lease or trade-in the lease mid-term.

How to decide

When it doubt, buy, don’t lease, your next car. Keep in mind that according to Cars.com, 80 percent of people buy their cars. You won’t be alone.

Used cars make the most financial sense, but if you must buy new, you should consider leasing if there’s a good chance you won’t keep the car for five years or more.

There are a few other situations in which leasing might make sense:

  • If you’re debt-free, successful, and like the idea of a new car with minimal maintenance and are able and willing to pay for that convenience. In other words, know what you’re getting into. It’s all about conscious spending. If you have the money and spending it on a new car lease makes you happy, go for it.
  • If you plan on investing a lump sum of cash that you would’ve spent on the car.
  • If you use your car for business and deduct car depreciation as a business expense, leasing may offer a bigger tax break. Consult your tax advisor first.

Before you leave your opinions on the buy or lease debate in the comments (and I hope you do), remember there are always exceptions. Maybe, for example, you only need a car for two years and don’t want to worry about selling it when you’re done. And in some cases, in-demand used cars are worth so much at the end of a lease, lessees actually come out ahead! (Don’t count on it though.)

So…what say you? Do you think it’s better to buy or lease a car? Let us know in the comments!

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 36. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 36.

  1. Elaine Deutsch says:

    I always bought BMW’s and kept them for years. He last one started breaking down at 60k and I said, no more. I leased an Acura ILX and it is a piece of junk. I cannot wait for my lease to be up. Yes, I could have sold it if I had bought it but I didn’t know if I would like the car. With all the advanced electronics now on all cars, they don’t seem t last like they used to. I am due to return my leases Acura in Nov and think I will lease again. I don’t want to deal with a busted motherboard in 3 years that costs thousands to repair. I may be wrong but i think not. I used to be totally anti-lease but feel like it’s the way to go now.

  2. amy says:

    We have a leased vehicle now. Previously we have always financed cars. We chose to lease this time because we are in a pretty good financial position, and we don’t want to be driving old cars that break down all the time. We live rural and do a lot of driving, and we have kids, and we live where there are long winters. A car that breaks down all the time would be a real problem for us.
    So we leased because financing a car only makes sense if you are going to keep the car for its entire useful life. We only want to keep a car until it starts being a pain in the ass, lol.
    We are consciously paying for this luxury, and are thankful all the time that we dont have to drive old junkers like our parents had to!

  3. Noah Gekiere says:

    I’m not entirely familiar with the process so I have some questions.
    1. Currently in college and the monthly payments are intriguing. Would it make sense to get a 2 year lease and after that is up, buy a used car? It will be my first car I buy and was set on buying a used with a loan, but if I can only have monthly payments of $130, that doesn’t seem bad, and is cheaper OVER the 2 years (not beyond I understand that). By the time my lease will be up too, I’ll have graduated and hopefully will have a job.
    2. I have employee discount with my dad through Ford, should that factor into my decision, or is leasing just that bad of an idea for someone getting their first car?

    • amy says:

      sounds like a good idea to lease then. there’s not a lot you can get cheaper than 130 a month (unless you buy a piece of junk). As the article says, it may be tricky to get approved for a lease depending on your situation. they like to give them out to people with established credit.

  4. James Anderson says:

    It’s great that you’ve touched on the advantages of leasing a car. What caught my attention was when you said that leasing gives one the opportunity to use a new car without having to worry about maintenance. My wife and I are thinking of leasing a Lexus so that we a vehicle that we can use going to work. Since both of us have little budget to buy a new car, we’ll be going for this option. We’ll definitely check around for companies that provide leasing for our preferred car brand.

  5. Jerry K says:

    A couple advantages to leasing not mentioned in your article

    1. Most leases give you the option to purchase your vehicle at the end of term for the residual value. If the residual value is higher than the market value –don’t buy it. If the lessor overestimates the residual you win because you will pay less in depreciation. If you buy rather than lease the depreciation is all yours. Leasing defers the buying decision until the end of lease.

    2. If you buy a car and in a year have a 15000 accident and the vehicle is repaired — the value is significantly reduced at trade in time
    If the car was leased you return at end of lease and walk away and the lessor has a vehicle that is worth much less than the residual. You win big.

  6. David Denson says:

    Both have it pros and cons. One should only decide which is preferable to ones budget. Thanks for posting this great content.

  7. Michelle says:

    I wonder if this article should be updated? I’ve heard more financial advisors actually recommend that you lease depreciating assets, never buy them. Obviously if you are on a budget and would like to have no payment someday, then buying a used economy car is the better option. But if you’ve made the right choices everywhere else, and like the idea of having new cars, then leasing does make sense in my POW. Also, I think it should also be mentioned somewhere that some car brands sink in value while some actually stay very positive in terms of equity. This gets into a very complicated subject, but i’ve actually made money by trading my lease in early to go towards a new car, and also avoided a money pit by leasing a luxury car that drops in value so fast, versus buying it and being negative in my equity until it finally got paid off.

  8. Jimmy says:

    I have always liked the idea of leasing a car. Just when you start to get tired of your old ride, you turn it in and get a new one! With that being said, I have never been able to convince myself that it was a “financially smart” decision. Life without a car payment is so freeing!

    • Bren says:

      While on the other hand, Im financing a car which I thought I shouldve gone leasing instead.. Simply bcoz of the idea “new car every 3-5years”. That way you know that what you’re driving is technologically updated.. But at the end of it all, “Life without a car payment is so freeing.!”

  9. Financial Slacker says:

    I have always bought, never leased. I like the flexibility of being able to keep a purchased car much longer and drive without a car payment if circumstances dictate. But if things are going well and I want a new car, I can always trade it in or sell it and buy something new.

    I have also started only buying used cars. We find a two or three year old higher end vehicle that has too many miles for its age and buy it at a substantial discount. We don’t put too many miles on our cars, so after a few years, the mileage is back in line with the age of the car. And we can sell or trade it without taking a hit.

    I admit that I do like driving nicer cars, but I don’t like paying for them.

    • Jason says:

      It sounds like a lease is a perfect option for you then. Trading in equates to lost value. If you continue to purchase newer vehicles every few years you would actually have a better experience leasing brand new cars, and just getting a new one again in 2-3 years. You also specifically stated, you don’t put too many miles on your car so you will probably remain under the allotted yearly mileage allowance. And you like nicer cars!

      • Zee says:

        I bought a luxury car (0 percent financing) and after roughly 2 years wanted a new one. I regret buying since the lease payments would have been much less. Now I am thinking of getting a sensible car (aka non luxury) and am so torn between leasing versus buying. I can afford to buy this car outright and I will probably want a new one in 2 years. Any advice?

  10. Honey says:

    Hello everyone!

    My husband and I are planning on buying our first car. We have been driving a 10 year old, gently used Hyundai Elantra (2005) for the last 5 years. We drive about 20, 000 miles a year. We drive A LOT!. Recently, we have started feeling that the mileage and the repairs for this car are falling down. We have set our minds on a Tucson 2016. The only bank we inquired ( a credit union) says they will offer 2.98%. I have the following questions:

    1. Being first time car buyers, we are not sure if we should negotiate with the same bank for a lower rate Or shop around. Would it affect our credit scores every time we shop for a car loan?

    2. My biggest fear is if we loose our jobs after buying the car, what happens to the loan payments? Can we sell the car and pay off the remaining loan? I bet the resale value wouldn’t match up what we owe. Right?

    I am looking forward to suggestions from experienced buyers.

    Thank you for time!

    • sabarish says:

      1. You should give a try to negotiate a better rate, but i feel 2.98% is far better than other lenders issue for others, considering a “best” credit score. Unless they run a check on your history , which i guess every lender does it, your score won’t drop down.
      2, If you loan payment becomes delinquent, I’m sure your lender will report it to the bureaus, eventually impacting your history. Yes, the resale value won’t match the amount you owe, however, GAP (if you have one) should take care of it. Everyone has this fear when this month’s paycheck becomes the last but it is unfortunate. But this has implications with lease as well. Turning down a lease is far complicated and most expensive than selling your car.

  11. Joe says:

    You say you have to have top notch credit to get a lease, but I was just approved for a lease with 0 down for 36 months where I couldn’t even get financed for less they 500 down and would have an apr of over 20% making the payments on a $15000 care nearly $500 for 72 months

    • sabarish says:

      Well, congratulation on your lease offer. Be advised that if a dealer hooks you up with a lease no down it is a sign that he is digging a ditch for you with much higher payments. You haven’t done the math yet. You might have to work on your credit score.

      • KCatty says:

        Sinking money into a down payment on a lease is a terrible idea. If that car gets totaled in an accident, that down payment is gone. Your gap coverage will pay off the lease but not your down payment. Much better to keep the money in your pocket and pay the higher monthly payment.

  12. Mark burlison says:

    I’m a BIG fan of leases…..notice NO one talks much about buying out the lease!! I buy Honda’s which have a very high resale! That’s important in leading! You want a car that deapprrciates as little as possible! Hondas are very expensive to buy used! The buyout number is extremely important!! Leased a 2015 Honda Civic…payment was 169.00 for 36 months ….buyout was 12,000.00 dollars. Try finding a 3 year old used Honda Civic for 12,000.00!! Also I have owned it and taken care of it and I know the owner well, lol!! I’ve got a super low payment and a great buyout in 3 years! This things will run for 300,000 miles…250,000 for SURE! So NO your not always throwing your money away on a lease!! Also great point by another person!! NEVER put money down!! I totaled my vehicle in a lease that I put 5000.00 down on the lease!! Was a nightmare trying to get fair number from the insurance company!! AND it was my 5000.00 down that got ate up!!!

    • Jason says:

      THANK YOU! I try to convince people that leasing is almost always the better option. Vehicles get totaled every day and it is terrible when you have to fight your insurance company, (whereas with a lease, and GAP coverage, they pay it off). The other thing people forget is the ability to chose a different vehicle in 3 years. If I think back to where I was three years ago, I definitely am in a much different place. I will most likely be in a better financial situation in 3 years if I choose to purchase a vehicle. And if I expand my family, the 2015 Civic may not be the best choice anymore, and maybe 2-3 kids later the odyssey is the better option. Toyotas are also excellent cars to lease because of their remarkably high resale value.

    • sandy says:

      how do you get away with not putting money down?

  13. Joe says:

    The way I look at it the dealers wouldn’t push leasing if it wasn’t good for them. Now they bait with sign and drive. You save a lot of depreciation with leasing but a vehicle worth something when you buy it should eat that up.Probably used is best next to cash if you have it.

  14. jrasero23 says:

    Prior to this I financed my last two cars. This time I leased a luxury car (Acura RDX). I was never a fan of leasing before but there are some major benefits if you fall under a few categories.

    The first is how much you drive? My advice always buy the millage ahead of time if you think you might be cutting it close at the end of a lease. If you do over 12k a year you always have the option of buying 15k or even 20k in some cases but at this point if you drive this much you are killing the residual value thus killing the low monthly payments

    Do you take car of your car? I don’t just mean the occasional car wash but do you street park? Do you do the scheduled maintain? Do you normally buy OEM parts? Do you have kids and/or pets? If you have a car now, examine it and see how many scratches, dents, stains, missing parts, or repairs you have on your car. If your car is pretty clean without just a cosmetic mark here and there leasing might be good for you, but if you have a cracked windshield, bent rims, and peeling paint move on.

    What insurance coverage do you have? Insurance tends to run higher for leases but I personally found leasing lowered my rates, but remember with a lease you are required to cover a minimum amount of coverage with collision/comprehensive. Also, since you never have equity during the cars lease period if the car is lost/stolen/wrecked you will possibly only be reimbursed what the cars market value is, not what you owe. So before you lease look in GAP insurance or find a leasing company like Acura financial that provides it for free with every new lease.

    How long do you plan to own the car? 24, 27, 30, 33, 36 months? If you fall into this timetable leasing might be an option. I highly recommend not going over 36 months since cars loose immense value after 3 years and some warranties only cover 4 to 5 years of comprehensive warranty. Also, short leases are beneficial because if you tend to trade in your car a lot you will not be penalized as much or any and a lot can happen in a year financial let alone 36-48 months.

    Cost. Leasing will pretty much always cost more than owning BUT there are some cars you really never want to own such as a Nissan Leaf or high end Mercedes. Why? Well it comes down to repairs and incentives. Owning a hybrid/electric car or Luxury/Sports car out of warranty can be a money pit. New hybrid battery at least $5000. New shock computer on a Mercedes E class $900 and that is per shock without labor. Plus some companies like Toyota or BMW offer free maintenance and roadside assistance for the majority if not the entirety of the lease. Also there are some cars you just don’t want to lease since they have poor residual values like Lincoln or Hyundai, but on the flip side buying these cars off lease make great used car options.

    Tips on leasing: two perspectives, look to lease shortly after a new model is released so when you return the car you have the best possible chance at equity. Or lease the car when a right before or when a new model is introduced because retail prices will be at their lowest and incentives will be at their highest. Always now the factory invoice price and use sites likes TrueCar to find out what other people are paying. Never ever pay MSRP unless the car was just released or is a hot car. There is a debate on whether to put money down or just wrap it into a lease and use the money you would have used on a down payment towards subsidizing your monthly this if your cars gets wrecked/stolen you never get that back. Which is really logical BUT people are forgetting that Americans have a hard time saving. Can you really not touch that $3000 and just use it to lower your bill each month? Also I get a huge kick out of people who say just put it in an IRA or CD, because most Americans don’t manage their own money and secondly if you have enough money to invest financially, than why are you leasing?

    It’s true leasing costs more in the long run compared to financing but the question isn’t yes or no but how much? For simply terms lets compare 6 years of leasing vs. 6 years financing and 3 years leasing and 3 years financing vs. 6 years financing:

    Let’s take a 2015 Corolla L, True Car NYC price $17,806

    LEASING FOR 6 YEARS
    a 36 month lease with $1500 down (20%), 15k miles a year. Taxes (NYC) and did NOT include fees comes to $225 a month. You can do better but for comparison let’s say $225. 36 months would be $8100 plus the $1500 money down= $9600
    Let’s say you turn in the car and you get the same deal for another 36 months and $1500 down. Another $9600 or a total of $19,200

    VS.

    FINANCING 6 YEARS
    Toyota is offer 0% for 60 months but since we are comparing 6 years let’s say you get a competitive 1.9% for 72 months.
    Taxes, Did NOT include fees, $1500 down the car comes to $263 a month for the next 6 years or $18,936

    So 6 years leasing versus 6 years financing is $264 roughly.

    3 YEARS LEASING AND 3 YEARS FINANCING
    Let’s say you lease for three years with $1500 down at $225. Your buyback price is $11,572 after 3 years. Let’s say you love the car or let’s say you went over millage and don’t want to pay the fees. You get a lone for 2.5% for 36 months. You put another 20% down $2300. Taxes included but NOT including fees your monthly is $297 or $10,692 for 36 months. 72 months total $9600 + $10,692= $20,292

    So lease to buy compared to 6 years financing is $1,356.

    So as you can see leasing will roughly always cost for but the question you must ask yourself is what does $264-$1356 mean to you over 6 years?

    Sometimes buying back your lease can be beneficial because assigning residual value at the beginning of a lease is really an educated guess and sometimes manufactures undershoot or guess too low. In this case at the end of the lease a car’s market value should be higher than the buyout/residual value price, thus you have equity. Also even if your residual/buyback is higher than the market value it still might be worth a look to buy because you might have excess miles or damage and the fee to turn it in would be crazy. Or buying the same car at a dealer still would be more than the buyback. Or the fact that you know the cars history top to bottom and even buying a CPO car is a gamble.

  15. Brooke says:

    We just leased a Nissan Leaf because the payments are equal to our monthly gas bill+$36 and it was only $300 down after tax rebates We kept my husband’s paid-for ’97 Subaru as back-up so we still have a paid for car when the lease runs out yet get to drive a new car for 39 months without worrying about maintenance. We needed the fixed, known costs especially with the purchase of our new home next year. We see no cons to this. Are we missing something?

  16. Jignesh says:

    Hi David excellent article.
    Till Now I did not have any car. Now since few days I am thinking to have one. I have 3 option. used car, new card or lease. my friend suggested me to lease a car as you will have new car every 3 years and low monthly payments. I told him that I have one option to buy used cat 70K miles and 2006 Honda Civic EX in 8000 dollars. He told me that in most case you can drive 120K miles on any good car after that you will have lot of problems and eventually you need to sell that car or junk it. If you drive 10000 mile every year you will end up using 50000 miles in 5 years then after you have to sell or junk that car. now In lease, i will be having $100/month Honda CIVIC 2012 model. Finally I am agree to lease it.

    Now I have some questions!!!!

    1.I am not sure that after 2 year where will be my job. My job is safe in NY but lets see I get good salary and I need to move in other state what will be the situation if I lease the car?
    2. On lease, Dealer will give me 12000 miles per year, actually I don’t use car much, I think I will use 5000 miles a year. in this case what is the best thing- lease the car or buy a car?( I guess Buying is good deal)
    3.My friend suggested me that after 5-6 years if you want to sell any car you will loose 50% of original price but If i used less mile then i can get more resell value right?

    What do you think on these questions?

    It will be helpfull to me to decide if you reply ASAP.

    Thank

    Jignesh

    • David Weliver says:

      If there is any change you will be between jobs and/or will have trouble making a lease payment in the next 3 years, I would NOT lease. Given your situation, if I were you I’d go with the used Civic…seems like a good pick. Good luck.

  17. Anna says:

    Leasing is definitely tricky, but it’s a good option for some people.

    Last year, my boyfriend’s car completely broke down, and mine started to have trouble. We decided to junk his out, put all the money we had saved (for buying a car) into fixing up mine for him to drive, and then we leased a new car for me to drive for no money down.

    I did a lot of research when it comes to leasing, and found a couple of really useful rules:

    1. A down payment on a lease is NEVER necessary, and you should NEVER give any money to a dealer up front for a lease. A lease is a form of financing, but it is NOT A LOAN. You do not save money by paying it off faster. You will pay a fixed amount of money over your lease term, and that down payment is just to lower your monthly payment. If you have $3000 for a down payment, just put it into a savings account to pay your lease out of for a while.

    Reason being: Most leases come with a built-in ‘gap insurance’ so if your car gets totaled before the lease term is up, you won’t have to pay for the rest of the lease. However, that means if you put down $3000 at the start of your lease, and your payments are $200 a month, that $3000 was 15 months worth of payments that you paid for for nothing. You won’t get it back.

    The only reason the car dealerships try to get a down payment out of leases is for the up front cash, and the fact that they count on people not understanding how leases work. If they tell you that you NEED to pay a down payment, walk away. Find another dealer. If they’re calling it a security deposit because your credit isn’t good enough, you shouldn’t be leasing anyway.

    2. Don’t negotiate the monthly payment. Negotiate the cap cost of the car. If you bring down the total price of the car, it may naturally bring down the monthly payment, but more importantly, it brings down the price you’re going to pay in the end. There are plenty of ways for the dealership to make the monthly payments look really low while still screwing you in the long run.

    3. Really take into consideration how much you drive. If you live 10 miles from work, it’s REALLY difficult to keep a car under 10,000 miles a year. I lived 14 miles from my work, negotiated to get 15,000 miles per year, and with a few road trips, I was having a really difficult time staying under that. Luckily, I only live 3 miles from my job now, so I have PLENTY of miles for road trips.

    4. Insurance. My lease requires a pretty hefty insurance policy with a $500 deductible. I went from paying $60 a month for my Jetta, to $180 for my Mazda.

    But, I feel that my leasing experience has been pretty positive. Here’s what I got:
    2012 Mazda 3 – minimal options.
    I get 15,000 miles per year.
    I didn’t pay a single penny the day I drove off the lot (or for the next 30 days).
    My monthly payments are $215.

    I don’t plan on keeping the car at the end for the 42-month term, but if I do, the buy-out will be $9000 and good luck finding a 4-year old Mazda 3 with 60,000 miles on it for under that price.

  18. Chase Miller says:

    Another good option is buying a lightly used car (2-3 Years Old). If you aren’t in a hurry, then you can often get a great car at an used car price.

    Chase Miller

  19. Drew says:

    It really depends on what kind of car(s) you are driving and how often you trade in cars. Leasing makes sense if you plan on getting a new luxury car every 1-3 years. Buying makes sense if you plan on keeping the car for the working life of the car (5+ years).

    If you “must have” the newest Porsche, Lexus, BMW, or other high-end car at any given time, then leasing is for you. If you are going to trade in your car every 2 years anyway, then you have already decided to make payments forever, so why not make the lower payment, avoid high up-keep costs, and not worry about having to trade in or sell the car?

    However, if you are like most everyone else, and you plan on driving the car until it falls apart, then you should always buy and buy slightly used certified pre-owned. The rent-to-own pitch is a classic sales trap, just like rent-to-own TVs don’t make sense. Even if you buy a new car that is not high-end, like a Ford or Honda, buying is the better deal. Unlike high end cars, economy cars depreciate much faster, so the leasing terms are worse.

  20. Maria says:

    To buy a used car is a definately more beneficial and during these financial times it is more wise to do so.

  21. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I’m not a big fan of buying a new car at all. Definitely like paying cash for used (but dependable) cars.

  22. Kat says:

    Thank you for responding to my e-mail and also posting this article! Like I wrote in the e-mail, I’m only 20(still transitioning from being a teenager to an actual adult lol) I am currently working part time, soon to be full time expecting to make 60K and I’m still driving my first car, which my mom got for me. I’ll be graduating from trade school in two months and I thought what would be a better graduation present for myself than a new car? Didn’t know whether it was better to lease or finance a car, but now I know that I am going to go with financing! My fiancé leased a car when we were about 16 or 17 and looking back I think he’s crazy! I told him he should have financed then he could still have the car. Another question I have is what % of the car price should somebody consider saving up to use as a down payment? I was thinking if I financed a $14,000 car it would be a big help to put down $7,000. My fiancé’s mother is opinionated and doesn’t think I should get new car and says why wouldn’t I want to be payment free? I currently don’t pay any bills, but will be moving out in three months and by then I’ll be working full-time, what is your opinion on this? Should I wait another year to get a new car or should I just spread my wings and get into the real world? Any input would be great from everybody

    • Nicole says:

      Kat,

      As someone who is 25 and still driving the car my parents bought for me in high school, I say keep you first car for as long as you reasonably can (i.e. it’s in good condition and you’re not pouring tons of money into repairs). You never know what’s going to happen in life and what unexpected costs might pop up, especially this early in setting out on your own. I graduated with absolutely zero debt from college, but had a sudden loss of income for six months that I was able to pull through without any outside help because of my additional savings and reduced monthly costs from a lack of any car payment. So, if you can, wait it out for awhile and see where you stand in 6 months to a year.

      That said, if (or when) you decide to get a new car, I suggest buying a good quality car that you know will last you for quite a while. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying new, especially if you can’t really vet the quality of a used option, but I suggest a hefty down payment (as much as you can reasonably afford) and financing a small remaining portion to build your credit. Hope this helps!

      • Kat says:

        My car runs good, I suppose, but has major window problems and the A/C doesn’t work right. Also it has the loudest gas smell, but other than that it gets me from A to B. I was thinking that I would save up until at least April, pay off my student loans, and then get a car. But then again I was thinking about waiting because I am about to move out for the first time and I have no idea what that is going to bring me. I’m pretty good about researching things before I do them so I was going to go with a used Kia Rio with not too many miles. My step-dad has always been telling me I should get a secure credit card to build up more credit, I have no idea what that is. Reading this article again along with your response, I think I actually will wait at least a year or two until everything in my life is solid. Thank you for your input!!!

        • Drew says:

          Kat,

          You need to get your car fixed, especially if you are smelling gas, that can be dangerous if it is fuel leak. My rule of thumb is to keep a car until it needs a repair that is more than the car is worth. That is the time to dump the car and get a new car. So use kbb.com to figure out what your car is worth (trade in value) and then see how much it is to fix your A/C and the gas smell. If the repairs are more than your car is worth, then skip the repairs & trade it in on another car.

          As David pointed out, leasing really only makes sense if you can afford the luxury. It also really only makes sense if you are getting a luxury car like a Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, etc. that you only want for a year or two because it allows you to have a luxury car for a lot less than buying. If you are looking at Kias, then you should try to buy it and own it as long as you can so that you can get your finances in order over the next 5+ years. I also would not buy a new car, but look for low milage (<20k miles) certified pre-owned cars. The way cars are engineered and built these days, 20k is still basically new. It will save you $5-6k and if it is certified pre-owned it will come with a warranty for major repairs. Also, DO NOT buy an extended warranty that the dealership offers! It is a waste of money because they are usually only good for 3-5 years and up to 50k miles, and cars these days really don't run into problems until 50k + miles.

          As far as financing goes, it depends on what rate you get. If it is low (<4%) then it is better to finance most of the car since it really is not costing you much in interest and it will free up more money for you to invest or spend on all of the expenses that come with a new career (wardrobe, furniture, rent, etc.).

          Also, a secured credit card is a card where you pre-pay money ahead of time into your account and can only spend up to that amount (you can't borrow money and then pay like a normal card). It is basically like a debit card or gift card, but it gets reported to the credit bureaus and builds your credit. They usually have high fees and are for people with bad credit or no credit.

  23. Jimmy says:

    Great article David!!

    Last year I was contemplating whether to purchase or lease an Acura TSX. I ended up purchasing because I felt it is was the best financial decision for me. Although my payments are higher than if I would have leased, I believe owning a car will save me the most money long-term. For example, I will save on monthly payments once my car is paid off. I will have equity in case of an emergency and not to mention Honda is proven to make reliable and long-lasting cars, so I don’t anticipate many repair bills. Overall, I believe purchasing is the best long-term decision.

  24. Keisha says:

    My boyfriend leased a car at the very start of our relationship before things were serious enough for him to consult me on major financial decisions. While I would have said no!!! to the car lease, he did get a “lease to own” deal and the monthly payments for the last 3 years have gone toward the cost of the car if we buy it at the end of the lease. Buying the car will be more expensive than if we just bought an older used car like I want to, but he is paranoid about used cars (his mom bought some real lemons when he was a kid) and it wasn’t worth the constant money/car fights and he’s agreed to live on the bare minimum for the next few years as we pay off student loans and a car loan. Certainly not ideal, but he picked a good car we’ll have for years and we’ve saved up enough for the loan down payment that our monthly payments won’t increase.

    • David Weliver says:

      You bring up a great point Keisha about how emotional these decisions can be.

      You say your boyfriend “…is paranoid about used cars (his mom bought some real lemons when he was a kid)”. Those kind of memories would totally make someone biased towards buying new or leasing in a way that others might not understand.

  25. Brad says:

    good article. Im actually going to sign a lease here in the next day or so. I am self employed though and can write off 75% of the montly payment since I use it for business 75% of the time. I need as many deductions as I can get. If I didnt have my company I would buy my cars.
    Brad

  26. Becky says:

    In full disclosure, my husband and I have two cars, one owned (paid in full) and one leased, so I can see both sides of the financial picture.

    We have a great deal on our lease, at $199/month with nothing down and nothing due when we return it. At that price, your implied cost over 10 years is about $24,000. Buying the same exact car brand new has a sticker price in that same price range before taxes (which probably cancel out most negotiations). Admittedly, after a few leases over 10 years, you have no equity or residual value, but we also have no maintenance costs under the terms of our lease, so that’s 10 years of not paying for brake tune-ups, oil changes, or significant repairs.

    I’m not saying that a lease is a perfect answer, due to some of the other downsides already mentioned in the article, not to mention there’s no guarantee at the end of your lease that you’ll be able to find another deal in that price range. It’s also assuming you’d otherwise be looking at a brand new car. However, I do think that when you shop around and find a good price, a lease could be a decent financial option. That’s no different than any other purchase – shop smart and run the numbers before locking yourself into any big purchase/contract.

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