By Rosanne Hart | Tuesday August 2, 2011
Just the thought of marching my Manolos into a car dealership sends shivers down my spine.
But about every 36 to 40 months or so, I suck it up and brace myself for hashing out the “Buy vs Lease Cars” battle in my own head. Then inevitably I come to the same conclusion, and march on down to the dealership to get myself the best deal this side of the Mississippi on a new car lease.
Why lease a car, and not buy one? For Yours Truly, there’s rarely been a question over the 25-plus years I have been in business. Even through crash #1 in ’87, crash #2 when the tech bubble burst, and yes, through the worst financial disaster since The Great Depression: The 2008 Wall Street Meltdown.
Leasing, my smart, shrewd and very bossy CPA told me, made financial sense, particularly for business owners. So when I weighed the question of whether to buy a car or lease a car, I had to keep in mind that the lease could be expensed by the company, along with the car insurance, maintenance, toll tags and gas. Essentially, I was paying for my car with “before tax” dollars, and not out of my meager, taxed personal income!
I could have leased any new car. But no!
This freeway-phobic fashionista had to have something akin to a German tank, thanks to a previous run-in with a Mac truck on a 5-lane freeway that peeled the top off my car, totaling the Buick. Saved by lots of steel, and no doubt a few angels in heaven, I vowed to drive only cars weighing at least 2 tons.
German cars have a history of being built for the Autobahn, where speeds in excess of 90 to 100 miles an hour are common. With tons of steel, engineering built to last beyond the American car industry’s planned 3-year obsolescence, German cars were as close to the tank as I was going to get.
But there was a glitch: German cars are not cheap. Hence another case for leasing in the “buy or lease a car” conundrum. Rates on leasing a new car, particularly right before the new models break, are often quite attractive. They can sometimes be as much as 50% less than a car payment for the same new car, making it more affordable for Her Highness here to drive a BMW, Audi or even a Mercedes.
A car is as much transportation as it is a statement of style and success in my line of work. Stepping out in Manolos from a used Taurus just won’t cut it when you’re trying to impress a high-end retail client in a top-10 urban market like Dallas, LA, Atlanta or Miami.
Unlike buying, leasing eliminates some (not all, mind you) of the headache of buying, then re-selling, or trading in your car. It skips a couple of anxiety-ridden steps. When your lease is up, you merely trot right back into the dealership, hand them your keys, say “Toodles” and go on your merry way to finding your next set of wheels.
But be warned: do not go over the mileage limit. I negotiate my leases to accommodate driving 15,000 miles a year to avoid that problem because I practically live in my car. Also, do not turn in a damaged car. Repair door dings, keyed door panels, or windshield nicks to avoid hefty turn-in charges.
My absolute favorite rationale for leasing in the buy-vs-lease-cars debate is cash flow. The savings on a lease payment versus a larger car payment can be used to invest in building your business (as I did), or socking those extra dollars away for the kids’ education, traveling, building an investment portfolio for your “golden years,” or simply scoring more Manolos.
Of course, you can always drop a cool $25-grand or more on a new car, or less on a used car, and drive it ‘til the wheels fall off. What a thought! Suze (Orman) loves that idea (bla!). Got your own thoughts about the buy vs lease cars debate? Let’s hear ‘em in the comments section.
For now, I’ll stick to my plan: bargain hard for the best deal on a lease and walk away with a car I’ll love driving in every day, and won’t worry (too much) about meeting up with a Mac in my Manolos.
A small-town Nebraska girl, Rosanne Hart graduated with a BS in Journalism from Kansas State University. At the age of 30, with a $1000 line of credit, she founded a national fashion/beauty PR/Ad agency, The Hart Agency, Inc., in Dallas. Despite her initial inability to balance a checkbook, and having flunked college accounting, she pulled it together and built The Hart Agency into a $1.5M venture, with offices in New York and Dallas, handling fashion clients and Fortune 500 accounts. An advocate for women-owned businesses, she is a founding member of The Texas Women’s Venture Fund, the Dallas Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and mentor to young women.
Her two sons keep her humble. She writes a blog on money matters under her alter-ego Spexy Lady and says outrageous things on Twitter: @thespexylady.
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