4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Leasing a Car
Two years ago on a snowy March day, I was cruising down the interstate in my beloved two-door Ford Escort. I drove wrapped in a bundle of layers, a hat and an ear wrap, and socks on my hands under mittens because the heat had stopped working months ago. Suddenly, my engine made a suspicious thudding sound, and seconds later smoke started streaming out of the hood. I pulled over and jumped out of the car—I was scared it was about to blow up. It didn’t, but it was a goner. Dead.
I stood on the side of the interstate in the snow, clutching my backpack in shock. Eventually, a tow truck came out and the mechanic was kind enough to drive me back to town, where he left my car and me at the Ford dealership. Ford took one look at my car and declared that the poor thing was so dead they would only give me $200 for it.
I felt a loss (and not just a nostalgic one) because it was my first car, but also because I was still in school and worked a part-time, minimum-wage job. I couldn’t afford to buy a new car. My only options were either becoming “that” friend who always needed a ride, or dusting off my Razor scooter.
A friend mentioned I should look into leasing a car. I had never thought about leasing before, but I soon discovered this was the perfect way to go for me at the time. Leasing isn’t right for everyone, but if you’re wondering if it could work for you, here are four questions to ask yourself.
1. “Am I Pinching Pennies?”
If your budget is super tight, leasing makes sense. Lease payments are usually cheaper than buying a car. It’s also a good idea to shop around for a lease that fits your budget. Go to multiple dealerships, compare prices, and prepare to negotiate the price.
2. “Do I Drive a Lot?”
When you sign a lease, you basically buy a certain amount of miles you can use within the time of the lease. For example, my lease allows me to use up to 24,000 miles within two years. That’s 1,000 a month. This is great if you don’t drive a ton. If you’re someone who likes road trips or has to commute for work, however, this may not work for you.
3. “Can I Keep Up With Car Maintenance?”
If you’re someone who cannot keep their car in good shape, a lease may not be a good idea for you. Your contract will define what you’re responsible for when it comes to damage fees like scratches, chipped paint, torn fabric, or dents. Typically, you’ll have to pay a fee. If you’re prone to accidents, it’s something to consider.
4. “Is My Future Unpredictable?”
My decision to lease was also affected by my iffy future. I didn’t know for sure what I planned on doing after graduating from college, but moving was a possibility — and if I moved to a city like Boston, I wouldn’t need a car because of the public transportation. For this reason, I was more interested in something that I could lease for a couple of years and be done with if I did move to a new city.
You might hear often that renting is like throwing your money away, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need if your present is a little unstable or uncertain and you can only make short-term commitments. Buying a car is a lot of responsibility and something you want to make sure you’re ready for.