For over a year, I owned a car that was an absolute money pit. Every couple weeks for the year and half I owned it, there was a new error light and a new expensive problem. The car, a 2005 Mazda 3, was my pride and joy. I put Miata rims on it, and installed a new stereo system; all expensive additions I added thinking the car wouldn’t cause me any trouble.
Every repair that arose I fixed, and I continued to drive the car because I absolutely loved it. While the repairs were expensive, I also didn’t have enough money to buy another car, one potentially with even more problems than the one I currently had. So while I worked part-time and attended classes full time, nearly every paycheck I had went into that car.
This past summer, my car had been behaving, and I was happy to be working a great job and putting lots of money away into savings.
But, that didn’t last long.
I brought my car in for an oil change at the dealership and received a phone call explaining that the entire front end needed to be replaced for safety reasons. What was supposed to be a $30 visit for an oil change, now cost me nearly $1100.
But, it still made sense to fix it. I still didn’t have enough in my bank account to get anything better than what I already had. After this huge repair I was very hopeful this would hold me over until the inspection in March.
That was not the case.
Just two weeks later, with six 3 gallon tubs of ice cream in my trunk on an 85-degree day, my car wouldn’t start in a gas station parking lot. I had gone out to pick up ice cream for the snack bar I was working at that summer and stopped to get gas on my way back.
Turns out, the parking sensor was broken. The car wasn’t registering it was in park and therefore wouldn’t even try to start because it was a safety precaution. This repair ran me an additional $400.
With the summer coming to an end, and nearly no money to show for how much I’d worked, my check engine light came on again. To this day, I assume it had something to do with the transmission. The gears were audibly and physically having a difficult time shifting which I believe caused the check engine light to turn on.
This was it. I was furious. How could I continue to put money into this car every time I was getting ahead in my bank account? Despite loving everything about the car, it just wasn’t worth my money anymore and I needed to find a new car.
But, I was in the same place I had been when I had these reoccurring thoughts over the past year and a half. I needed a reliable car that wouldn’t leave me stranded and that also wouldn’t drain my bank account.
This is when I turned to leasing.
Originally, I had always turned away from leasing because you were paying for a car you wouldn’t get to keep after your payments were completed. I was hesitant, but the Volkswagen dealership was having a promotion on a 2017 Golf that would only cost around $100 a month.
$100 a month? For a BRAND NEW car? That can’t be right, I had thought to myself.
Sure enough, it was. The day after the check engine light turned on in my Mazda I went with my parents to the Volkswagen dealership to pick up the Golf we had seen online the night before.
The way leasing works is you have the car for three years, with a standard monthly payment based on how much you put down when you pick up the car. But, if you are in the market for a car, Volkswagen often runs “Sign & Drive” promotions where you don’t need to put any money down and you still have a low monthly payment.
In my case, the promotion wasn’t running, and the required down payment was $3000. Luckily, they took my hunk of junk for $1500 and I only had to come up with the other half. The irony is that that morning my car had barely made it to the dealership, and I was grateful she at least behaved while they inspected her for trade in value.
Leases require you to maintain low mileage, which is why the payments are so low. For my case, I could pick from 10,000, 12,000 or 15,000 miles a year. Each tier was priced differently, with the higher miles costing more.
I knew that in previous years I was driving close to 15,000 miles a year between commuting to work and school. Ultimately I decided that is was worth the extra money to get the 15,000 miles a year plan. This meant that when my lease is up, I cannot turn the car in with more than 45,000 miles on it or I will be charged a fee per mile that I am over. This is a very small rule I have to abide by considering I am paying for the max miles I can have and I am only driving locally.
People often try to stay away from leasing because you have “nothing to show” at the end of your lease and after all the monthly payments you’ve made. But, I am a college student who is trying to save money, and knowing that every month I have a low payment and nothing will need to be replaced or repaired is enough for me.
On top of that, this is a great option for college students because while you may need a co-signer like I did, you are still earning credit for paying your bill every month on time. And in the age of technology, you can even set your bank account to automatically send the payments to insure your bills are always paid on time. Obviously earning credit is great, but it is especially great for college students because most of us will be graduating with thousands of dollars of debt.
Overall, leasing was the best option for me and has continued to be something I recommend to any of my friends looking for a car. You get a brand new car, with guaranteed no repairs, a low monthly payment, and ultimately more for your money while you’re trying to save.