To lease or not to lease, a question as old as mankind. Whether ’tis wiser to buy new, buy used or lease. In 51 years of driving, I have never bought a new car. I thought, too much depreciation, and a used car could be a money pit. So, after being a leasing virgin, I decided this was the way to go.

What follows is my education in the murky world of the lease.

Why Murky?

I say murky because the great price you see is never the price that you get. An advertisement that the price is $239 per month payment sounds GREAT…right? But, once you walk through the door of the dealership you quickly learn that it is NEVER, EVER, EVER going to actually be $239. NO, it’s not. The number in that ad you saw on TV or the internet doesn’t include taxes, dealer fees, title, any service contracts, lemon law, tire and battery fees, and rental surcharges. There is also a termination fee, an amount that will vary – usually a few hundred dollars just to RETURN the car to the dealer once your lease is complete. Wait, you have to pay to give it back to them? You sure do.

It’s all in the fine print and there is ALWAYS FINE PRINT!

My car leasing experience

I went in to look at a $159 per month lease on a Subaru and left with $250 payments. But, I was prepared…I had read the fine print and done the math. I can’t stress this enough…


But, in its favor, I also left with a brand new car for 39 months….totally warrantied. For me, peace of mind is worth a lot. Thirty-nine months of worry-free driving – I love it.

Here’s how I got there

As I said above, I went into the dealer after seeing an ad for a $159 per month lease with $3995 down. BUT, when we sat down, that $3995, it quickly turned into $5550 down. This WASN’T what the advertisement stated. What followed was a dizzying, head-spinning series of numbers that brought the monthly payment to $250 per month, and NOT the $159. But, I was prepared. I had done the math and expected to pay more. What I was not expecting was the BAIT and SWITCH process that proceeded.

In order to decide on a car and what it really costs, I created a homemade spreadsheet with a list of cars that I was interested in test driving (and to see just how honest the dealers that I was about to visit would be).

Car                                   Payment            Months          Miles per yr                Downpayment

Toyota Highlander             $239                            36                    12,000                                 $3338

Remember that the price of $239 does not include the tax (I paid 7% here in St. Lucie County, Florida). To find out what you’ll really pay per month you’ll have to get out your calculators.

Here’s how I figure the cost

EXAMPLE: Price $239 x 36 months = $8604, Downpayment = $3238 = $11,842. Multiply that number by the state tax (for me it’s .07) = $12,671.  Divide the $12,671 by the 36 months that I’ll be driving the car and my cost before the dealer fees etc. equals $352 per month and not $239. Please note that all numbers are approximate, and do not include the mega-list that includes your turn-in fee, dealer fee, gap insurance and all of those smaller fees imposed by the dealer &/or your state.

The car dealerships

In your search for a car, you’ll undoubtedly visit a number of dealerships, each with a very different approach to car buying/leasing. I’ll describe the three that I visited.

The first that I visited was Dyer Subaru whom I found to be very low key and knowledgable. The dealer that I spoke with inspired a lot of confidence in the car that I looked at and was upfront about all of the costs of the vehicle. He spent time explaining it all, right down to the notorious “turn-in” fee.

The second dealership that I walked in to was Bev Smith Kia/Toyota. Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I had a very bad experience there. I don’t want to say anything bad about the salesman, he was a nice kid but had very little knowledge about the cars and the prices. A salesman’s main job there seems to be to get the customer to come in and sit at a desk so that the manager/closer can come over and bully you into a purchase. I must have told him at the very least 10 times that I was just shopping (I began my search here), but that didn’t stop them from trying to shake me down for $30,000. NOTE TO DEALERS, keep your work area clean. The work station trash-can was overflowing onto the floor…YUCK.

Finally, I went to Coconut Creek Subaru/Hyundai/Lincoln. We got there and ventured into the showroom where we promptly….were IGNORED for 30 minutes (not even a “someone will be with your shortly” or acknowledgment that we were even there). Eventually, a salesman approached. My son and I test-drove two different models and the associate knew the vehicles inside and out. We headed back to his workspace where he knew the numbers inside out as well. He was very accommodating and very experienced. We made our choice and after the usual haggling a deal was struck.

BUT, it all took too long. We had been at the dealership for FIVE HOURS and I don’t know why. All I know is that by the end of the process I would have pleaded guilty to the Lindbergh baby murder (maybe that’s the sales tactic). After 5 hours I can attest to the fact that you are pretty much willing to do anything that they tell you to do.

The winner for me was Coconut Creek Subaru (yes, even after that wait and a long day). The dealership was clean and it was easy to look over the cars in while we waited and the staff knowledgable without being overly pushy.

What car did I end up with?

I leased a 2019 Subaru Outback premium and yes, I’m happy…at least for the next 39 months.

I’d love to hear about your leasing wins and any tips you may have. Please leave them in the comments, so that we can ALL learn what to do and not to do when leasing a car.