I would say it’s possible that I have commitment problems, but this ring on my finger and baby on my hip make that a false statement. Although I guess it’s possible that I do have a fear of long term relationships – with my car that is.
Yup. When it comes to cars, I’m a serial dater. Do I love the idea of having a ten-year old car, all paid off and with a decade of great memories filling the interior like an outdated ten-disk CD changer? Sure do. But when it comes to my cars, I tend to be more of the “variety is the spice of life” type of driver. Some years I’m rugged – I want an SUV that can handle the backroads and campsites around my rural home. Other years, I’ve been a city dweller – commuting and carousing through the concrete jungle in a slick sedan that’s easy to park and sweet on fuel savings. And now I’m a parent, which is a whole new ballgame no matter what zip code you’re in.
Now of course, there are going to be a lot of people who say that by leasing my car, I’m throwing money out the window (aka – my kid’s not going to out-of-state college if I keep this up). There may be some truth to the fact that owning a car is inherently cheaper – after all, if you buy used, you can get great deals on used car financing and you’ll pay less money upfront. Of course, you better hope that car is in as good as condition as the seller promised you – otherwise, those college savings are going straight into repairing your pre-used lemon.
As for buying new – well, yeah, that’s basically throwing money out the window once you factor in depreciation and all that jazz, so don’t do that. If you’re dead-set on buying, do lots of research and then buy used. However, if you’re like me, the problem is future planning – how do I know that the car that works for me today will be the car that works for me in just a few years… heck, maybe even a few months?
I don’t. And that’s where leasing comes in.
Leasing: For When Life Re(leases) A Curveball
By leasing my cars, I have the ability to adjust my car to my life. Say you live on the beach and you drive a Jeep Wrangler. Totally awesome – until you need to fit a carseat in that puppy. Next thing you know, you need to sell that Wrangler and get into something a little more family friendly, right? So you sell the Wrangler and put the money you’ve made into a nice family car… say, a Toyota Civic – safe, fuel efficient, and kid-friendly. All good, right? Right.
Until you decide to have another kid.
And you wind up with twins.
See what I mean? Life throws you curveballs and if you’re leasing, it’s so easy just to trade that old car in for a brand new model that fits your needs – like the three-row SUV you’re gonna need to cart all those munchkins to soccer practice.
And it’s not all about having kids either. What if your hobbies change? Might be tricky to put a kayak on that Fiat 500. Or, what if you suddenly develop a keen interest in electric vehicles, but oh no! You’re driving a gas guzzler. Wouldn’t it be so much easier just to wait until your lease is up then get into whatever new hybrid is just hitting the market? Brand new technology, updated features… all without having to advertise your car or haggle with whatever buyer you’ve found on Craigslist.
Let Go of Your Financial Leash with a Lease
Let’s get back to the crux of the matter: money. Yes, I concede that you can get a fantastic deal if you’re willing to hunt around for a solid used car. If I were to buy, this would be the only route I would go, actually. However, it’s important to note that a lease payment is not actually always going to be more expensive than your loan payment, since you’re only paying the residual value (and some fees, yada, yada, yada). This is especially true when it comes to buying new. Of course, when the lease is over you’ll have no equity to parlay into buying a new car, but if you continue to lease, generally dealers are pretty kind to repeat customers.
Where do you have to be careful when it comes to leasing your car? Going over the miles. Yup – if you opt to lease your family car, you better have a rough estimate of how many miles you plan to drive each year and work out your lease terms accordingly. Don’t lie and say you’re only going to drive 10,000 miles each year if you’re really planning on 20,000 – you’ll pay for it in the end when the dealer assesses your car and assigns a fee based on your overage.
Of course, that’s the other thing with leasing – pre-kids, I had a little more money to burn. So I drove a car with a higher lease payment because bells and whistles were important to me and I didn’t realize that you need to start saving for diapers when you’re actually still in diapers (those things are crazy expensive, if you didn’t already know). But when I realized I had one on the way, I was right about to trade in my car, so I worked with the dealer to lock down a lower monthly lease payment. You don’t get that flexibility once you own – for the most part, your monthly payment is static.
Leasing: Because Life’s an Adventure
Is leasing for everyone? No. Some people have a very clear view of their life and needs and so they own a car that suits them perfectly. Others, like me, aren’t always sure where life is going to lead and have a hard time envisioning what the years will bring. If you’re not sure where you’re going to be in the next few years, or even who you’re going to be with in the next few years, don’t tie yourself down. Get yourself into a lease and let life happen – without your car holding you back.