A spectre is haunting America -- the spectre of car leasing.
The credit crunch led to a massive decline in the ability of car manufacturers and dealers to offer leasing to customers, but as credit markets have begun to function more normally, leasing is making a comeback.
According to data from Edmunds.com, 12.8% of all October car transactions were leases, up from 7.2% in August. That's a gain of 77% in just two months -- although it's still down sharply from the 20.4% share of the market that leases had as recently as March of 2008.
The DriveOn blog at USA Today has more specifics on the data, but here's what consumers need to remember because it's true such a high percentage of the time that it's not even worth mentioning the rare exceptions where maybe it isn't: leasing a car is stupid, stupid, stupid, and if you lease a car you are dumb, dumb, dumb, and you will most likely end up broke, broke, broke.
I know: There are tons of online calculators (like this one, that requires an MBA to understand) that claim to be able to help you calculate whether it makes more sense to lease a car or buy a car. The problem is that debating whether you should buy a car new or lease a new car is like running a spreadsheet on whether it's healthier to smoke crack or snort coke. Crack is whack and a new car in any form is hazardous to your wealth.
Please: buy a used car -- spend as much as you want as long as you can pay cash -- and don't let your hard-earned money be used to subsidize the depreciation of new cars!
Leasing makes a comeback: Run for your lives!!!!