Is It Better to Buy or Lease a Car: What's Your Experience?

buy or lease a car
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images A shopper looks at a car at Stewarts Chevrolet Cadillac in Colma, California, on Jan. 30, 2013.
Across the country, car sales have been steadily gaining ground in 2013. But with more and more consumers starting to consider a new car, a classic question is once again rearing its head: is it better to buy or lease?

In the best of times, the question isn't easy, and it requires a new car purchaser to weigh lower payments against potential resale value, out-of-pocket repair costs against extended warranties. Now, however, the lease or buy question is being further complicated by the issue of lingering economic instability. Between sequestration, the debt ceiling debate, the issue of rising taxes and falling wages, it's getting harder and harder to make a long-term economic commitment. And with continued economic crises on the horizon, it doesn't look like things are getting better any time soon.

So which path is wiser? To answer the question, we've decided to ask you -- our readers -- for your thoughts. What are your experiences with buying and leasing? Do you have any great money saving stories to tell? What about horror stories? Are you considering a new car purchase or lease and weighing the alternatives? We'd like to know!

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below; alternately, you can e-mail me at, or send me a Twitter at @bruce1971.

Thanks for your thoughts!

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After I had purchased a "mint" Buick LeSabre and had the engine sieze in the middle of the desert on a trip to Yosemite, I decided to lease new cars after that. Unless you purchase used cars, depreciation will eat your down payment plus some, and the monthly payments will be higher than a lease. Of course, you should not make a down payment on a lease. Find one that requires only the first month payment and doc. fee. If you put a lot of miles on your car, then leasing is not for you. If you keep a car for 8 years or more, then buying makes more sense. The advantages of leasing are low payments (or a nicer car for the money), paying sales tax on the the payments, new car warranty, very little maintenance and zero repairs, gap insurance (if you wreck the car, you cannot be "upside down"), peace of mind, and a pre-determined residual. I have leased a new Toyota pickup for $149/month with zero down, a new Honda Accord EX for $299/month with zero down, an Acura RSX-S for $349/month with zero down. All of these vehicles were worth more than the residual at the end of the lease, so I purchased the Acura for the residual and sold it back to the dealer for a $1000 profit. Was it Warren Buffett who said, "Buy what appreciates; lease what depreciates."

March 19 2013 at 12:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The car market is heading in a direction similar to housing. Many more people are choosing to rent (lease in this case) instead of buying as a long term solution to a short term (hopefully) problem. Those who own will always be in a better situation in the long run if they buy within their means. I see a lot of people leasing $50k cars when they should be buying a $30k car.

March 19 2013 at 9:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jfisher304's comment
Kirk Hilles

Cars are a complex financial thing. You buy a house an it APPRECIATES in value while Cars have a VERY sharp depreciation curve. Keep in mind that we have 15 and 16 year old vehicles, but if you pay $35k and keep it for 10 years and sell it for $15k, you probably are feeling pretty good about it since the loan is long paid off, but if you think about it: you lost $20,000 and divided by 10 years = $2,000 per year average. That's $167 per month in depreciation alone (forgetting repair costs) even at year 10.

January 22 2016 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vadim A.

This is my third lease and I like it. I never put more than a thousand down, which covers the fees, taxes and the first month payment. My monthly payments are half of what I would paid in financing. You have to remember that all car purchases are negotiable, especially leases. If you learn how they are calculated, you will find that there is a lot of wiggle room. When you buy or lease a new car, you have to realize that you are paying for depreciation regardless what option you choose, and a leased car does not depreciate any more than a financed car.

I don't have a love relationship with my cars, so it's not difficult to turn it in at the end of the lease and get a new one. Perhaps I have not met the one.

March 19 2013 at 8:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When i was a kid, the old man liked to buy a new car every 1-2 years, of course always trading in the old one for the new one. So for someone like him, i would think leasing would be the way to go. You drive the car until the end of the lease, say three years and then you turn it in and drive away in another new car. Of course you are paying the depreciation costs, but you dont end of getting stuck with a piece of junk.
The way i like to go, is to look for a near mint pre-owned vehicle with 6 or 7 thousand miles on it and buy it. Now you have a car that looks new, still smells new, is mechanically sound (is also covered under factory warranty) and you dont take a beating on the new car price. Then you still have the option of selling it and buying another car should you want to.
Its time for another car and i was considering leasing, but after the comment i just made, I think i just talked my myself into buying another low milage vehicle again.

March 18 2013 at 9:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to AllproInstall's comment
Kirk Hilles

The difficulty that we found when shopping for our Pilot is that used car values aren't what they used to be (and even when you posted this, LOL). Carmax was selling a 3 year old, 38k mile out-of-warranty Pilot for about $3,000 less than what we paid new! Less than 10% depreciation after 3 years.

January 22 2016 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Leasing means you will always have a car payment every month. Buy it and eventually you won't AND you'll own the car outright. Unless you are fortunate to be able to "write off" the monthly lease payment, buying will always make more sense.

March 18 2013 at 8:27 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

There is a reason that Baskin-Robbins makes 31 flavors: Because everyone has what they like best and that has very little relevance when compared to what another person prefers...

What is better, Lease or Buy is a question that is DECADES old!

If you ask 100 people which is better and why, you are likely to receive 100 different answers.

March 18 2013 at 6:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

From a personal perspective why put thousands up front to lease a car when you can use it as a deposit on a car you buy. The upside of buying is at least you have something that's worth money to trade once you are right side up. If you lease you can kiss your $2995 goodbye at the end of the term.

March 18 2013 at 5:11 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to redwolf0849's comment

I agree and you have nothing at the end of the lease except memories.

March 18 2013 at 7:27 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to accordmee's comment
Vadim A.

Well, you can have the car you just leased for market value or less, if you negotiate. Or, you can get a brand spanking new car. Dealers like repeat customers, so you may get an excellent deal on a return lease.

March 19 2013 at 7:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

I think it depends on the situation. In my case, it was so much cheaper to lease my Caddy ATS, than it was to buy it. I never have to pay for maintenance on it, and at the end of 3 yrs.
i can choose a different car which i might like better. Since i'm only paying for the depeciation plus small interest, it does work out cheaper in my case.

March 18 2013 at 11:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply