A car is one of the biggest ticket items that the average person has. It’s a huge financial decision to make, so you need to make sure you pick the right option for getting the car. The two major methods are leasing or buying a car.
We’ve always advocated for buying instead of leasing cars. In this guide, we’ll give you 10 reasons why you should buy a car instead of leasing it.
Quick Definitions: Leasing vs Buying
Before jumping into it, let’s give you a quick definition of what a lease is and what buying a car entails.
A lease is offered directly from car dealerships. It’s essentially a program that allows you to rent a car for a long time. They’ll offer different lease terms from 18 months to 39 months. When the term is over, you stop paying the monthly lease payment and you give them back the car and the keys.
When you first sign a lease agreement, you are agreeing to a certain amount of money down, and certain monthly payment. Those payments continue until the lease is up.
Buying a car is something that more people are familiar with. You find a party who has a car and you give them money or agree to a monthly payment plan until the car is totally paid off. Meanwhile, you can operate the vehicle and do whatever you’d like to it.
A car can be bought through a dealership, through a third party, or directly from a private seller. For financed bought cars, the payment term is usually somewhere between 5 and 10 years.
10 Reasons to Buy A Car Instead of Leasing It
There are a lot of opinions when it comes to owning and operating a vehicle. You could talk to three different people that give you three vastly different opinions. We want to make the decision a little easier for you by giving you 10 digestible reasons why we choose buying over leasing.
#1: It’s Less Expensive If You Buy Used
If you buy a used car, you’re saving a boatload of money over leasing any car. As you probably know, cars come with a pretty big depreciation value. This means that cars quickly lose their upfront value simply by being driven.
The rule of thumb is that a car that’s 4 or 5 years old is only worth 50% of its initial sticker price. This means you immediately save half the value just by getting a slightly used car.
Since cars last an average of 12 years, this isn’t a huge deal. If you take care of your car, it will last even longer. Leased options are typically only available on brand-new cars which boast a huge MSRP.
#2: The Car Is Yours
Perhaps the best reason to buy instead of a lease is the fact that the car is yours. It just feels different driving a car that you own – there’s no fear of messing something up and then other people getting mad at you.
It’s sort of like borrowing a power tool from a neighbor versus owning the power tool. You just treat it differently and don’t get to truly enjoy it.
#3: Modify Your Car Freely
Fellow mod enthusiasts, listen up. With a lease, there is no option to modify your car. The dealership expects to take the car back in the exact same condition that it left the showroom floor in.
This means if you put on window tint, a custom muffler, any car body mods, or aesthetic upgrades, they need to be removed before your lease is over.
With a purchased car, this doesn’t apply. You’re free to do whatever you want to your car (granted it’s legal). This allows you to customize your driving experience and get the most from your vehicle. This reason alone is enough for plenty of people to only buy and never lease.
#4: Quickly Sell and Replace Your Car
There are a million reasons why someone might want to replace their car. Getting a higher-paying job, losing a job, major life changes, a big move across the country or globe, or simply getting tired of a vehicle. With a bought car, your vehicle will never slow you down as you move through life.
With a lease, it’s really hard to get rid of the car prematurely. There are only a few reasons, like getting relocated due to active military status, that will let you break a lease early. Otherwise, you’ll be on the hook for all the money you owe or you’ll take a massive hit to your credit score.
If you just stop making payments on the lease and give it back to the dealership they won’t accept it, the car will get repossessed, you’ll get a fat bill in the mail, and your credit will get knocked down a lot.
You can try subletting the car to another person. That means that they take over your contract and pay the remaining months. However, there are a lot of stipulations to this idea as well. Some dealerships don’t allow subletting at all, others only allow it during certain months of the lease agreement.
Long story short, it’s very hard to get out of a lease early without a lot of issues. A bought car, on the other hand, is as easy as transferring over your laundry. If the car is paid off, it’s a matter of finding a buyer and finding another car you like. If you’re still making payments, you can take out a personal loan to pay off the car, get money from the buyer, and pay off most of the loan then find another car.
You don’t have to wait at all for this change, either. You can decide to sell your car the day after you buy it if you really want to.
#5: No Limit to Your Mileage
Most leases come with a maximum number of miles you can add to the odometer each year. Standard leases allow you to choose between 10, 12, and 15 thousand miles per year. If you go even one mile over the limit, you’ll start paying out of pocket after you turn in your vehicle.
Extra miles usually cost around 25 cents per mile. That means that adding a thousand extra miles results in a charge of $250 at the end of your lease term. You can see how quickly this adds up if you really go overboard.
A bought car has no mileage limit. You can put hundreds of thousands of miles on your car annually with no additional fee from the person you got the car from. This is great news for people who like to travel or business people who are always hitting the road.
#6: The Payments Eventually End
Habitual lessees will jump from one leased car to another if leasing is their preference. For these people, the payments never end. Every single month there’s a bill in the mail for their vehicle. With enough leases in a row, this could mean 20, 30, even 40 years of paying for a car every month.
Obviously, the payments stop on a bought car once the vehicle is paid off. If you buy the car with cash upfront, that means you don’t have to make a payment on the car. This frees up more cash each month to do whatever you want.
The only payments you’ll have to make are due to maintenance, but leased cars have the same charges.
#7: Leases Still Require Paid Maintenance
A big myth in the car world is that leasing a car comes with zero maintenance. The assumption is that the dealership will swipe their card if anything ever happens to your car. Meanwhile, the driver gets to enjoy a maintenance-free world.
That’s unfortunately not the case. With the exception of special oil change programs, the person leasing the car will be on the hook for every bit of maintenance. Some lease agreements are pretty strict about how often the car needs maintenance and oil changes. This could result in actually spending more on maintenance.
To be fair, leased and bought cars typically offer the same warranties for new options. These warranties don’t cover routine maintenance though, and they eventually end.
#8: Avoid Stupid “Excessive Wear” Charges
A lot of people get screwed when they turn their car in at the end of the lease agreement. At that point, the dealership will conduct an inspection of the car and determine what damage was done. Anything that’s deemed “excessive wear” will then be the lessee’s problem to deal with.
The dealership will charge you for this type of wear, and there’s really no way to fight it. There’s also no defined limit to how much they can charge you. You might get a bill for thousands of dollars due to scratches and dents you thought were standard wear-and-tear.
Keep in mind, this is a human doing the inspection and determining the charges arbitrarily. All you need is a PO’ed inspector who’s having a bad day and you’ll be hit with a massive fee.
This is yet another way that leases become more expensive than buying a car. With a bought car, you can hit the side with a sledgehammer and won’t owe anyone additional money. We have no idea why you would ever do that, but we won’t stop you.
#9: Allow Others to Drive Your Car
Did you know that a lot of leases only allow one person to drive the vehicle? The lease will bind a single driver to the agreement, and it will specify that the insurance only covers the car when that driver is behind the wheel.
This could lead to a very painful and expensive problem in the future. The only way to avoid it is to refuse to let others drive your car.
With a bought car, it’s a lot easier. The insurance doesn’t care about who’s driving the car, it will still protect the vehicle through the registered person’s name. There’s no legally binding document that disallows your friend or spouse to drive your car.
That means you can drink at a bar and let a sober friend drive you home if you have a bought car, but not if it’s a lease.
#10: You Can Buy from Private Sellers
A bought car also unlocks the ability to purchase through a private seller. If you didn’t know, a private seller is an individual who is listing their own vehicle for purchase directly through them. It avoids the need to go to a used car lot and deal with those salespeople.
With a lease, your only option is to go directly through a dealership. Purchasing a car allows you to pick and choose which option you want to go with. In general, a private sale will offer a much lower price for the exact same vehicle that’s sold from a dealership.
Dealerships only make money if they sell cars for more than they’re worth. They have to keep the lights on and pay their workers, so it makes sense. A private seller doesn’t have all those added expenses and is usually a lot easier to negotiate with, too.
Depending on why the person wants to sell their car, you could talk them into accepting thousands of dollars less than the listed price and everyone will walk away happy.
Pro Tip: Never Buy a Car After Leasing It
Some people consider getting the best of both worlds and buying a car they just leased. Car dealerships offer a “lease to buy” program in which they give you a quote at the end of your lease to purchase the car.
Keep in mind, this quote is almost always insulting. They believe that the driver created a personal bond with the car, so they’d be more willing to pay more for the car.
There’s a luxury in knowing that you were the only owner of the car and you already know everything about the vehicle. However, this luxury isn’t worth the extra money they try to charge you.
The truth is that this model actually presents the worst of both options. First off, you’re paying for the lease which means you eat up all the depreciation and give extra cash to line the dealer’s pockets. Then, you’re paying an inflated price to purchase the car, yet again giving the dealership extra cash.
In most cases, you can’t even negotiate the buyout price. If you fall in love with your car during the lease, simply look for a private seller of the same car after you turn in your keys. You’ll save a lot of money.
Now you know more about buying versus leasing a car. We typically suggest buying a car. Our 10 reasons should help you defend your choice and make the right selection. Check out the rest of our blog for more car buying tips, and make sure you have the right tools and accessories to keep your car running forever.