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Buy "New Used" Instead

A Suze Orman exclusive

So do I think the best financial move you can make is almost always to buy a car instead of leasing? You bet I do. In fact, if you are cutting it close financially, you should strategize a step further: buy a new car but make sure it is used. Let me explain. New cars depreciate 20 percent to 30 percent the second you drive them off the lot. So if you really want to be smart, make someone else's mistake your lucky day. Buy what I call a new used car - a vehicle that is one or two years old, but has been well-maintained and doesn't have a ton of miles. It's just like new, except that its price is more like a used car. Once you own that car, own it for as long as you can. There are so many advantages to owning a car for a long time. Your insurance will be lower, DMV fees may be less, and it is easier to forego the expense and bother of cosmetic repairs for every little scratch or ding.

Speaking of repairs, I imagine some of you right now are about to launch the "repairs on old cars are too costly" argument. Come on. Even if you sink $1,000 a year into your "old" car for repairs and maintenance, that's still better than the $4,000 or $5,000 a year you would shell out for leasing a new car.

Your Driving Test
Before you lease a car, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I really need a new car right now, or do I simply want a new one because it is fun and I think I deserve it?
  • If I didn't lease (or could put off buying) a new car right now, can I think of any uses for the money I didn't spend which would significantly improve my finances?
  • If I decide I really want to lease a car, why am I insisting it be such an expensive car? Who am I trying to impress, and why?

You can also give yourself a math quiz. The car experts at www.Edmunds.com have plenty of information to help you weigh whether leasing makes sense, including a nifty calculator that will estimate the cost of buying vs. leasing.

The Stupidest Financial Mistake I Ever Made
And just so you know, whenever I am asked what is the most stupid financial move I ever made in my entire life, I don't have to think very long. It was when I leased my 1987 730i BMW. I leased because I wanted to impress my love interest at the time with this fancy-schmancy car that I couldn't afford to buy. And the fact that I couldn't afford it was about the last thing I wanted anyone, let alone my partner, to know. It was stupid financially and emotionally. I was trying to impress people rather than do what was right for me. I have learned plenty since then. Including how important it is to be honest with yourself so you don't end up in a financial mess. Owning up to the truth of your personal situation can give you a great new lease - on life - which is the only kind of lease I would ever recommend without reservation.

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