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Should You Buy or Lease Your Next Automobile?

It’s the classic dilemma that faces every car buyer out there: Pay cash upfront or forego the ownership and pay monthly lease payments instead?

Buy or lease your next car?

There is no slam-dunk answer. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks, and it all depends on a set of financial and personal considerations.

  • Your finances
    Affordability is clearly key, and you need to ask the question of how stable is your job and how healthy is your general financial situation. The short-term monthly-cost of leasing is significantly lower than the monthly payments when buying: you only pay for “the portion” of the vehicle’s cost that you use up during the time you drive it.

    If you have a lot of cash upfront, then you can opt to pay the down payment, sales taxes - in cash or rolled into a loan - and the interest rate determined by your loan company. Buying effectively gives you ownership of the car.

    However, if you want to get into a luxury model but can’t afford the upfront cash, then perhaps you’re a good candidate for leasing. Unlike buying, it gives you the option of not having to fork over the down payment upfront, leaving you to pay a lower money factor that is generally similar to the interest rate on a financing loan.

    However, these benefits have a price: terminating a lease early or defaulting on your monthly lease payments will result in stiff financial penalties and can ruin your credit. You need to make sure you carve out the monthly lease payment in your budget for the foreseeable future, at least for the duration of the lease.

  • Your own particular lifestyle choices and preferences.
    Think about what the car means to you: are you the sort of person to bond with the car or would you rather have the excitement of something new?

    If you want to drive a car for more than fives years, negotiate carefully and buy the car you like. If, on the other hand, you don’t like the idea of ownership and prefer to drive a new car every two to three years then you should lease.

    Next, factor your transportation needs: How many miles do you drive a year? How properly do you maintain your cars? If you answer, “I drive 40,000 miles a year and I don’t really care much about my cars as I don’t mind dealing with repair bills”, then you’re probably better off buying. Leasing is based on the assumption of limited-mileage, usually no more than 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year, and wear-and-tear considerations. Unless you can keep within the prescribed mileage limits and keep the car in a good condition at the end of your lease, you might incur hefty end-of-lease costs.

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