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Wheels Of Fortune

The Pros And Cons Of Leasing Versus Buying The Family Vehicle

Every dude would love to cruise around in some low-slung, high-velocity vehicle. Bonus points if it growls and has a bangin’ sound system. But that won’t do for a family man. Not only will a rear-facing car seat cramp your hot rod style (and any passengers, frankly), you’ll also learn quickly how easy it is for your ride to smell like urine and chicken nugget barf. Vroom.

So it’s time to get a slow, roomy whip. Preferably one that makes it easy to install and remove children and their bag loads of crap. Also, something comfy enough to make you forget the inescapable meltdown happening mere feet behind your head. But the question is, should you buy or lease the family vehicle? There are pros and cons to each approach.

Leasing Pros

Snagging a new vehicle from your local dealer’s lot is super easy when it comes to leasing. If your credit is good you probably won’t even need to provide a down payment to drive your truckster away. That means you can have the latest bells, whistles, and W. Plus:

Repairs

Because lease terms top out at 3 years, your car is covered by the manufacturer’s bumper to bumper warranty. That means, when something goes wrong, it’ll get taken care of without you having to scramble for tons of scratch. Which means 3 years of sweet free dealership coffee. Yum.

Lower Payments

Monthly payments for leases are generally much smaller than those for car loans. That’s because you’re only paying for a portion of the car. Technically, you’re on the hook for the difference between the current value of the car and its expected value at the end of the lease terms. So, according to the DMV, if you’re getting into a family SUV at $30K and its expected value in 3 years is $16.5K then you’ll only be paying based on $13,500.

No Depreciation Worries

The value of your vehicle at the end of your lease is set when you drive it off the lot. You do not have to worry about depreciation. If the value of the car goes below what was expected, that is not your problem. And those are the best problems to not have.

Safety

Leasing means that you will always be driving a car with the latest safety innovations. That could be airbag developments, assisted braking and collision avoidance or whatever they come up with next. Like, full car clairvoyance that tells you today is simply not your day to drive.

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Leasing Cons

Having the latest, shiny model of an emasculating mini-van is awesome. But there are drawbacks, if you consider never actually owning a low-horsepower embodiment of practicality and prudence a “drawback.” Here are some others:

Set Miles

If you ever plan on taking a road trip, you’ll have to be wary of how that fits into your mileage agreement. Leases typically include mileage caps between 12,000 to 15,000 miles. Overage charges really add up. So if you’re driving your kid around the neighborhood to get them to sleep, that could turn into some very expensive shut-eye.

Maintenance

While repairs under warranty are covered, maintenance (and everything not under warranty) is on you. The dealership will expect you to return the car having had all the recommended oil changes, tire rotations and check ups. And you’d better document those just so you have proof.

Interior Considerations

Kids, particularly little kids, are hell on upholstery. Not only does the dealership expect you to return the car in good working condition, they expect it to look pretty much the way it was when you drove it off the lot. They will not take kindly to juice stains, goldfish in the crevices and that distinct new-kid smell. Welcome to 3 years of being the most neurotic driver in the world.

Buying Pros

Purchasing a family vehicle can come with a ton of conflicting emotions. To start with, it’s yours for as long as you want to drive it. And if you want to use the side panels as a canvas to airbrush a centaur fighting a dragon while a buxom princess in a leather bikini looks on? Have at it, bro. Here are some extra pros:

Big Mess? No Problem.

You can basically let your kids get nuts in your new ride. It literally does not matter unless you want to unload it somewhere down the line. That means juice spills are less a personal crisis and more of a minor annoyance.

Equity

If you can keep your loan term short and pay off the car quickly, you have full equity. And the longer you roll, the more actual value you get out of it. Also, if you keep it around until your kid grows up, you have something they can drive.

Go Anywhere

Without a mileage penalty, the road is yours. Head wherever you want to go on those family road trips without fear of repercussions. Unless you go somewhere that your family hates. In which case, there will be plenty of repercussions.

little miss sunshine car scene

Buying Cons

While buying allows you to eventually own your vehicle outright, there’s a possibility you’ll be saddled with something you don’t like for a long time. So better get used to your crappy cupholders now. Here are some other things that could piss you off:

Depreciation

It happens the second you leave the lot. Your car is immediately worth less than you bought it for. Depending on the length of your loan term, it’s completely possible that the value of your car could be far less than what you’re paying, essentially putting you underwater on your loan. Glub glub.

Down Payments

Depending on your credit score and the price of your car, you’ll need to get some dough together before you buy your new ride. This means you might have to save up for awhile, which will drastically reduce your hot wings budget.

Repairs

After the warranty expires, you’ll be responsible for all of the repairs on your vehicle. That can turn out to be a tidy sum if you purchase a car prone to breakdowns. That makes your pre-purchasing research very important.

With all of this in mind, the most important part is to get into a vehicle that is safe and can grow with your family. Sadly, you may have to wait until your midlife crisis rolls around before getting into a hot little sports car. Or figure out how to attach a car seat to the trunk of a Porsche convertible without the cops knowing.