Angie's List: Pros and cons of leasing a car

CLEVELAND - Auto experts say a brand new car can depreciate in value by up to 20 percent as soon as it's driven off the lot.

An alternative to combat a new vehicle's falling vale is by leasing.

Leasing basics

·         The most basic fact to know about leasing is that it's essentially a long-term rental of a vehicle, usually a brand-new one.

·         A typical lease lasts for 36 months, though some dealerships offer them for one to five years. Monthly lease payments can range from $160 to well over $1,000, depending on a vehicle's make and model.

·         Whether leasing is a good option for you depends on a variety of factors, including how many miles a year you tend to drive and how long you want to keep a car.

Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated car dealerships about the top reasons to lease.

Reasons to lease:

·         Lease payments are generally lower than loan payments.

·         Because most leased cars are brand-new or newer, the driver gets to enjoy the latest features and technology.

·         Leasing agreements may include more coverage under the factory warranty than what a buyer would receive; some may even include regular maintenance/service checks. Also, because leased vehicles tend to be new or newer, maintenance costs are lower than purchased cars that are driven beyond their warranty time frames.

Reasons to buy instead:

·         At the end of the lease agreement, you won't own the car. However, if you like the vehicle, you may decide to buy it when the lease ends.

·         Lease agreements may cap annual mileage at 30,000 miles or less, so they aren't a good idea if you drive more than the average. Driving more miles than allowed on the lease can result in a fee of 10 to 25 cents a mile.

·         If the leased vehicle receives more wear than is permitted within the agreement, you may owe the dealer money to make up the difference.

Angie's List Tips: Before you lease

·         Know what you can afford: Evaluate your financial situation to determine what you can afford and stay within your plan. Call you insurance agent to find out how much you will have to pay.

·         Research the dealer: If you decide to explore the option of leasing, be sure to work with an established, reputable dealer that can also provide maintenance and repair service. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and consult online reviews from a trustworthy source.

·         Avoid focusing only on the monthly payment : Just like when you buy a car, you shouldn't just focus solely on the monthly payment, so don't be afraid to negotiate.

·         Shop around: It pays to shop around – call to see what lease specials dealers are offering.

·         Don't overlook the fine print: Be sure to read and fully understand your lease agreement before you sign it. Also, ask the dealership about gap insurance coverage. If you have it and the leased car is wrecked, the insurance will cover the difference between the car's actual market value and the remaining balance to pay the lease off.

·         Shop around: It pays to shop around – call to see what lease specials dealers are offering.

·         You're in control: If it is not the deal or price you want, be prepared to walk away. Don't let anyone pressure you.

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