Why Leasing a Car is (Almost) ALWAYS a Terrible Idea
A recent Forbes survey found that purchasing a car is one of the most expensive—and most stressful—expenses in a typical person’s lifetime, right up there with a home, children, and higher education. But a girl’s gotta get to work, right? Just take it from me: do not lease a vehicle. Ever.
Leasing a car is the biggest scam out there. You want a fancy new car but can’t afford one? Too bad; don’t lie to yourself by leasing. Instead, purchase one outright that’s within your budget.
Falling into a lease trap is normal, because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. After all, it’s more popular now than ever. It’s so much a part of our culture to lease that it’s not even questioned. But that doesn’t make it right for you. And I don’t want to hear the excuse: “But it’s SO convenient.” Because how convenient is it to be broke and wheel-less when you can’t keep up with those steep monthly payments?
Consumer Reports backs me up and says leasing is actually the MOST expensive way to get a car. Why? Because you’re essentially buying a used car at its new car price!
Let’s assume that you are leasing a car for $500 a month (which is higher than the national average but easy for math). Let’s say you get a fifty-month car lease. That means you’re spending $25,000 before giving it back after those four-ish years. Now cars depreciate a lot—15-20% the second you drive them off the lot—but the car company will estimate that it will depreciate less than what you paid, say $20,000, which is a lot but not the $25,000 you paid. So that $5,000 is their profit.
Why do you think car companies do this? Because they are making a ton of money off it—it’s why they came up with the idea! They are actually making more money renting their cars to you than they are selling them. The most common transportation faux pas is dumping too much money into leasing when you could have used that lump sum to buy a car a couple of times over.
For this to really hit home, calculate how much you are spending on a lease and think of that full amount as your opportunity cost, or the potential value of your money over time if you were doing something else with it like paying off debt, building savings or investing. Is tying up $500 a month or $25,000 over five years worth it? Would that $25,000 be better spent buying a cheap car, with the rest going toward something else? Get the idea out of your head that leasing is cheaper. It’s not.