About Lease Mileage

Lease Mileage - Making a Smart Choice  

There are times when it's smarter to buy a car, and times when it is smarter to lease. There are pros and cons to both, and it really depends on each individual car shopper as to which is the right choice. I've always been a car buyer, in part because I drive a lot, and mileage limits on leases scare me a little.

However, the car I really want isn't due to come out for a while, and my husband and I aren't entirely sure we want to push our plan out that long, especially when we'd be diving right into a brand new model. So now, the topic of leasing has come up, and we need to make sure we're smart.

Most standard car leases allow you to drive around 12,000 miles a year (some as low as 10,000, others as high as 15,000). The reasoning behind this is good. When you return the car in 24-36 months, the car will have under 50,000 miles on it, and the dealer can very easily sell it as a used car. It won't be "worn out" yet. If you were to drive, say, 100,000 miles in those three years, the dealer would have a very hard time reselling the car once returned. Not many buyers, even bargain shoppers, would be in the market for a car with that much road time in such a short time period.

If you don't drive a lot of miles and you love the idea of a new car every couple of years, leases can be a no brainer. But what if you like the idea of a short term commitment, but you know you won't stay under the mileage? A regular lease  may not be the best choice. You can get charged an average of 0.20/mile over when you turn the car in, and that can add up to a really unpleasant number.

However, if you're willing to spend a little more per month, the leasing world doesn't have to be shut off. Some dealerships are offering leases with higher mileage (even up to 30,000 miles a year - although the price reflects it and you'll probably have a hard time finding one) so that those of us with longer commutes, family that requires a road trips, or even just a lot of chauffeuring kids to activities can get in on this.

Best ways to prepare:

1. Figure out how much you drive in an average year. I calculated that I drive an average of just under 18,000/year.

2. Once you have that figure, discuss with the dealer what your options are. They may give you the opportunity to "pre buy" extra miles at a lower price, or they may offer you a higher mileage lease. For example, I might take a 15,000 mile a year lease, but buy another 3000 miles up front at a lower price than what I'd pay at the end.

3. Crunch those numbers to see where you come out the best. We're not sure what we'll end up doing yet, but the best thing we can do now is make sure we're going into all conversations informed, researched and prepared!

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