When you think about searching for a new car to lease, do you already start to feel exhausted?
Many people get burned by long, frustrating buying or leasing processes. However, getting a car doesn’t have to be an epic journey in itself.
Follow these tips to streamline the search for a car lease, and you’ll be on the road before you know it.
1. Make a list (or a few) of important features
Before you can start searching for the right car, you need to know what you’re looking for.
An easy way is to make a list of must-have features, functions and qualities.
How many people must be able to ride comfortably in your car? How much storage space do you need? Does it need to be able to tow, and if so, how much?
Do you need strong off-roading capabilities? What safety features or other new technology are you not willing to go without?
Coming up with a detailed list will give you some direction. But if it’s too detailed, you may get stuck forever in search of some mythical vehicle that perfectly fulfills all your desires and expectations. This car doesn’t exist.
I recommend creating three lists. The first is a short list of essential qualifications, the “must have” category.
Next make a “should have” list, features that are important but you could live without if the vehicle is otherwise perfect.
Finally, a “would like” list: things you are keeping your eye out for but not holding your breath.
These lists will inform your search and, if you end up working with a dealership or auto broker, help them understand exactly what you’re looking for.
3. Do your research online
Online research is now the primary source of information for car customers. For many people, it’s also the most time-consuming part of the car leasing process, but it’s extremely important to make sure you end up with the right deal and paying a fair price.
On the internet, you have a much wider spectrum of information at your fingertips. You can easily compare specs, features, and reviews from dozens of makes and models. You’re also much more able to get an objective, unbiased view of different cars.
If you go straight to a dealership, without a clear picture of what you want and an idea of what’s out there, unfortunately in many places you’ll end up getting ripped off. Unscrupulous salespeople will just try to push you into paying too much for an expensive vehicle that maybe doesn’t even fit your needs.
Come instead with a few vehicles already in mind and a sense of what you should pay. There are many websites that make it easy for shoppers to find the information they need. A few popular ones:
Another aspect of online research is to check out any incentive programs that you may qualify for. Incentives or rebates are basically discounts offered to customers based on various qualifications.
For example, loyalty programs for people who have already bought or leased a car from the same brand, or “conquest cash” for people who previously had a car from a competing brand. Recent college graduates or army veterans can also enjoy incentives from many car companies.
Find this out beforehand and you’ll save time (and money) in negotiations.
3. Calculate mileage
For leasing a car, one of the most important considerations is mileage.
Most lease contracts specify the maximum mileage you can drive, typically 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year. Any distance over this and you will have to pay an excess mileage fee. This may be $0.15-0.30/mile.
It sounds small but believe me, these pennies can add up fast!
Before you get yourself into a mess, calculate your approximate monthly mileage, based on your commute, driving distance for errands and other routes you commonly take. From this you can extrapolate your annual average.
Of course, take into consideration any long trips you plan to go on during the year.
If your expected miles look to be higher than the standard limit, you can try negotiating for a high-mileage lease.
Not many people know about this option, so often they resort to purchasing a vehicle instead if they think they will exceed the limit for leasing.
For a high-mileage lease, you will stay have to pay more for the miles as an uptick in your monthly payments. The increase in your monthly payments may be substantial, but if you really cover a lot of miles, it will still be cheaper than if you pay per mile as a fee at the end of the lease period.
Knowing your needs and options doesn’t only save money, it will save negotiating time and hassle. Putting all your requirements out clearly from the start makes everything smoother.
4. Check your credit
Another piece to have lined up before you go to the dealer is your financial status.
Your credit rating determines what leases you can get approved for and what rates you’ll get. Customers with good credit can often get zero-down lease deals, with no down payment, while if your credit isn’t so good you’ll probably have to pay something upfront.
Do you know your credit score?
When you try to lease a car, the dealership will run a credit check, but if you’ve never paid much attention to your credit you may be in for some unpleasant surprises.
Rather than wait until you’ve already gotten your heart set on a vehicle and started negotiating, check your credit rating. There are many resources online to do this easily and for free.
Once you know your credit score, come to the dealer or broker with this information and they will only show you deals that you actually qualify for.
5. Work with auto broker
The single biggest time-saver in car leasing is to get help from an expert.
This may be either an auto broker or a dealership.
The idea behind auto brokers is that you are not a professional car leaser, so why should you go head-to-head with professional car sellers?
An auto broker’s whole business is finding the ideal car for their clients and negotiating with the dealers. Because they’re experts in the field, they probably know much better than you what vehicle will best suit your needs.
Instead of logging hours online researching and comparing vehicles, you just come to them with your requirements and they handle all the nitty-gritty.
While you may get led astray by pushy salespeople, auto brokers are very capable of cutting through the jargon and getting the best deal. Unlike dealers, their interests are in satisfying their clients, not moving the most expensive vehicle out of the lot.
Some auto brokers are individuals working out of their own office. You can also go to a full-service auto brokerage like Capital Motor Cars with a whole team on call.
The main disadvantage of working through an auto broker is that they will charge a fee, which may outweigh any savings on the vehicle itself. (This fee should be flat and settled beforehand.)
Going straight to the dealer is simpler, since you’re not getting a third party involved, but you may not have as much support and take the risk of getting ripped off.
Contrary to popular belief, leasing a car doesn’t have to be a headache. If you do your homework – or hire a trustworthy auto broker to do it for you – you can find the right car while going about your life as usual.
Most important is to know what you want and who can help you get it. From there, everything else will follow easily.