The Car Dilemma


I took my car in once for routine service but also asked them if they could check out the steering wheel. Over the course of ownership the back of the steering wheel got really rough, it was hard to tell if it was faded leather or something caked onto it but it didn’t feel nice to the touch. The dealer said the only solution was to replace it completely for 3000 bucks to which I said fuck that I’ll just live with it. Fast forward a year, I notice I’m able to scrape it off a little with a coin (which meant it was some sort of gunk, not normal wear and tear) After a quick google I saw a video on how to remove it. 5 minutes with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and I had a good as new steering wheel.

And then don’t forget to get the Net Present Value of all future cashflows and suddenly there is a lot of math involved. I say get a new car, but then again I like new cars and always see myself with a payment to make because I don’t want a car passed 5 years.


Maybe but very unlikely that he’s facing $2700 a year every year for the next five years. His car has under 100K miles.

Applying the reverse logic, $2700 now, could easily result in limited major work for five years. Plus he can drop collision insurance (no point) and save a couple $k. After five years it will be worth $1,700 (if not more, old Volvos are great cars and in demand in the college age set). Alternatively a new car will depreciate $2,700 on the first day of ownership, and after 5 years cost $20K in depreciation. So $20K vs $0.


Obviously figuring out how much your car is going to cost you is a difficult task to say the least. That’s part of the problem with old cars. You never know. Personally I’m waiting on my car until a couple years worth of “I might as well have been making car payment” years. So far, it hasn’t happened.

The other part, well, if you are afraid of depreciation then never buy anything ever again. Only one of the vehicles in this scenario will be worth “real money”, depreciation or not.

Full disclosure, as hinted to above, even with my 130k 2004 Mazda3 I am not planning to replace it until I have more money coming in.


Leasing is even worse when you hit a rough spot. At least if you buy the car and aren’t upside down you can sell the sucker.

Then again, there’s that saying “If it drives, floats, or flies, lease it.” There’s another category often included in the list (well, by Vin Diesel I guess), but these are the appropriate ones here.


Five years is a long time on a daily driver, though it doesn’t sound like Woolen is driving it that heavily. Within that time frame would probably be timing belt, struts/shocks, perhaps a water pump, and perhaps an engine mount, beyond normal tires/brakes/rotors/fluids.

What you see on this thread are two sides, people that love no car payment and have been successful with that model, and people who’ve been bitten by making the wrong decision on a car that didn’t live up to the deal.

The car I made the wrong gamble on was a Mazdaspeed 3. :(

Leasing is great for finding great deals on low mileage used cars that you can still walk away with a warranty on. I prefer my cars purchased to have been lease turn-ins. I save the initial sticker shock, and I get a relatively well cared for car.


I very much want to second this. My car was totaled a few months back and I found some killer deals for cars just off lease – $45-50k sticker price sedans with 1-2 years of service and ~20k miles for roughly half off.

If you haven’t bought a new car in a while the sheer number of safety (and comfort) features that are standard these days are at least worth looking into. Backup cameras are a godsend.


I just did the same last year, picked up a loaded lease turn in with 22K miles and saved well over a third of it’s sticker price from new. Fully warrantied, still. One additional tip, if you stay within 3 years of new, a bank will generally give you a better loan rate, should you finance any part of that.

I’ll also second the safety features. I gained a ton on my new vehicle and I’m not sure I could go back now: backup camera, lane departure warning, collision avoidance braking assist, and blind spot warning. Combine that will all kinds of new entertainment options and a car that is more friendly to drive and I really am glad I moved on from my last vehicle.


Any particular way you all are fond of for finding these just off lease vehicles?


They weren’t explicitly listed as such but you can get a good idea when a local dealership gets in half a dozen vehicles of similar make/model/mileage in short order. CarFax usually will mention if a vehicle was a lease, assuming the dealership offers free CarFax reports online.

The short, boring answer: I set up a filter on CarGurus for cars 2016 or newer with under 30k miles (and a few other criteria I had) and checked it every couple days.


Typically they mark them as factory warrantied. You’ll also see third party warranty, those are not the same and not necessarily lease turn-ins. Dealerships get these returns and need to move them out, so you can frequently find several good deals if you’re willing to wait and shop over time. CarFax does have a note, but I really only get to that point at the end. Asking any dealership for a CarFax on something puts you on their contact list. A dealership will often offer that they have maintenance records for the vehicles lifetime, meaning, it was probably a lease and handled by their dealership, or referenced through their dealer network. Some salespeople also know that lease returns are searched out and will offer that tidbit if you ask.

Since you’re looking only at dealerships, that cuts down a lot of other places you might normally have in your car search.

Other general advice: Create a google voice number and alternate email prior to your search. You can disable both once you’re done.


Easiest way is to buy cars from three years ago. Model year 2015 cars that are showing up on dealer lots now are almost all lease returns.


Oh, no argument about buying cars off lease. The actual leasing, though, is more of a toss-up. I’ve leased two cars in my life and the experience pretty much put me off that form of transaction.

Were I to be in the market for another car, I’d definitely start with low-mileage used cars preferably off lease. Unfortunately, for people like me that’s less viable than for others, as I have very particular desires in a car, and the types of cars I would consider buying are rarely the ones being leased in any great numbers if at all. If you are pretty flexible, though, and just want a car in a particular class (small SUV, mid-size truck, family sedan, etc.) it’s a happy hunting ground.

Fun fact: about 70% of ALL BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis are leased. Dealerships usually have a fair number of off-lease used cars for sale, with often very low mileage. While most of them are pretty boring–basic C 300s, A4s, or 320is–you can occasionally find a gem in the mix. Buying used like this is particularly good with the luxury brands, especially German, because depreciation slams them hard and by going used someone else already stopped that bullet.


Thank you, tylertoo. I miss my brother every day. He died unexpectedly and none of us were able to say goodbye.

Thanks for the advice everyone. There’s some good tips from skipper and those who mention after-lease vehicles. That does sound promising.

My employment situation isn’t exactly long-term currently, so as much as a newer vehicle sounds appealing, I’m going to roll the dice on the repair. The turbocharger was knocked out back in January, so the car’s been running otherwise fine since. I had the dealer diagnose it back in June, and they said that it’s not a critical issue, which is why I’ve waited. So knock on wood, hopefully the rest of the car holds out. But I do need to get the repair done, as it’ll have to be emission tested sooner than later for the license renewal, and all they do is plug into the onboard computer. If it’s throwing up faults, it won’t pass.

I do like the car, and as I mentioned, it’s an ideal car for Seattle and its winters. So, hopefully…


As you may have heard, I need a new car. Since @Woolen_Horde was nice enough to start a thread on the subject, I figured I’d get some hivemind feedback too.

The old car was a 2010 Toyota Yaris. It was originally about $18k, and I’m getting around $6500 out of my insurance for the loss. I’m looking to stay in the same general class of car, though I have no real preference of make or model. My general philosophy of car ownership is “drive it until it dies” so I’m not looking at leases or worried about major resale value in a few years.

Currently I’m looking at three major options:

  1. Get a shiny new 2017. At a discount, of course, this being the end of the year. Dealers are unloading anything they have left right now, so I’m looking at probably $17-18k for another Yaris or a comparable model like a Chevy Cruze.
    Pros: Brand new car, best warranty options, cool features like push-button start and bluetooth audio, much less intensive maintenance schedule than older models.
    Cons: Most expensive up front, going to take the biggest depreciation hit

  2. Buy a lightly used model from a year or two ago. For instance, there’s a 2015 Chevy Cruze at the dealership down the road with about 25k miles on it. Listed at $13.5k. Similar deals to be found at other dealers in the area.
    Pros: Not paying the “drive new car off the lot depreciation”, good chunk of original warranty still left, certified by the dealer so unlikely to have any hidden issues
    Cons: Slightly older model so doesn’t have all the newest features, oil changes and other maintenance are recommended more often than in the newest models

  3. Buy an older used car comparable to my old Yaris. For instance, a local used car dealer has a 2011 Ford Focus with only 40k miles on it (was a low-mileage lease vehicle) for about $7.5k.
    Pros: I barely have to spend anything above the insurance payout
    Cons: No real warranties or any kind of guarantee that the car will hold up for a significant period of time, probably a decent amount of maintenance cost

Currently I’m leaning toward option #2, but it’s really tempting to go with #1. The only real reason to go with #3 is to minimize immediate cash expenditure, but I’m capable of paying for a newer model and it seems reasonable to do so now, rather than having to do this again in a few years. Anyone have thoughts or advice?


I’m not good enough at this for actual advice, but my thoughts are:
If you are comfortably capable of paying cash for the new car, and plan to drive it until it dies, I’d do that.

You get the full warranty, depreciation doesn’t factor in since you won’t be selling it, and you know what you’re starting out with; a new car. If you take good care of it, hell, it could go for decades. I have a 1997 Ford Explorer that is now showing body rust, and needs minor repairs, but is still basically running strong.

Whereas, even a lightly-used newer car with a warranty remaining is a higher risk, just because you really don’t know where it’s been, or what it’s been through (i.e. did it tow a camper or boat a lot?). True, it’s a low risk, but I worry about stuff like that. When the warranty runs out, I’d start losing sleep.

And the older car you get, the higher the risk. Cars have so many things that can go wrong, even the most competent mechanic won’t be able to check absolutely everything, especially inside the engine. And transmissions can fail even more suddenly; working fine one day, non-functional the next. And the general fix for transmission failure is almost always to replace the entire transmission, which is almost as expensive as a new engine in some cases.

Just my two cents. And that assumes you’re able to pay cash.
If you need to get a loan, that would reformulate the entire thing, and my post would be moot.


Skip option 3 entirely. You’re getting a car one year newer than what you just had, no warranty, no great feature gain, and if I’m not mistaken, worse gas mileage.

Personally I would skip option 1 entirely as well, since you’re the one taking the surcharge on a new car. Even a car one year old would get you more for your money, depending on the brand and model. There are a lot of people that want a new car for various reasons though, so if you’re inclined to want something not spoiled by others, option 1 is what you should aim for. Depreciation is a complex term for what amounts to paying more. The value of a car plummets more in years 1-3, typically. You’ll have a bigger sales tax burden on a more expensive car. If your state has it, you’ll also carry a bigger property tax burden on a more expensive car.

Option 2, however, is poised to give you better bang for your buck. You have the ability to shop models and trimmings at multiple dealerships and still probably get something warrantied. If you step up far enough that you need a loan, you can use your insurance money toward playing with a loan rate (higher down will mean better rate possibilities) or lowering the payment if you want to spread out the loan term length.

Here is an example on loan rates from a credit union (assuming good credit):
Note that the lower term gets you a better rate. Also note that, “Late model used vehicle,” part, which equates to a vehicle 2015 or newer, with less than 30K miles. Since it’s the end of the year, verify with a bank if that means 2016 or newer, my guess is it might.

Things to do beforehand:

  1. Know your big three credit scores.
  2. Approach your own banks for a loan, first.
  3. Shop dealerships for similar deals. Have that information in your pocket.
    “Well, you know, dealership-X has a Cruze for XXX amount. I appreciate your time today but you just want too much for this vehicle.”
  4. Shop online first. Barter online as well. Save the high pressure in-office for the final end.


Thanks for your thoughts, fellas. I went out and talked to a few other dealers today. Current front-runner is mostly #1 with a bit of #2 - a 2017 Ford Focus for $16k. It’s new, but has a few miles from being used as a demo car, and since they’re trying to move the 2017s out there’s a hefty rebate. I’m paying cash, so I get the full rebate instead of a “fewer up-front dollars and lower interest rate” deal.

I’m going to toss that Focus out in front of the other dealers to see if they can better it somehow. If not, I’ll probably bite on it next week sometime.


The Focus is a solid car, in general. I had a 2005 ST, before the ST version got really, well, ST-ified. I found the car reliable, reasonably good to drive (with the manual at least), and tolerably well built. The new Focius is technically fine, though I loathe Ford’s interiors on everything but the Mustang, especially the dashboard. At that price point, for a new car, if you can live with the interior look, it’s probably a solid choice.

I rather agree that buying a six or seven year old used car, especially a car that wasn’t very expensive to begin with, is a bit like rolling the dice. I would definitely consider seeing what sixteen large gets you in a late model used car, though. If you want to move up to a different class of car, you might find a Fusion or an Accord in that range for instance. But I do love me a new car, myself.


Sorry to hear about the death of the '10 Yaris, @ineffablebob. That’s what my gf drives and although it’s tiny and the lowest-possible base model version of the car, it’s been reliable, gas efficient, and entirely drivable for the last 8 or whatever years. My '10 Dodge Journey is already acting up something fierce which is super frustrating, but alas, American made.

We’re both very much “does it move me from point A to point B?” type people, with the acknowledgment that one of us should have a larger vehicle for moves and the other can get something reasonably gas efficient, so arguments like interior look and the like don’t hold much water with us. . . but her previous car was an early 00s Focus that she loved dearly and was loathe to let go when the time finally came. Solid little car :)


Don’t know how much you’re locked in on that Ford Focus, but I test drove a 2016 Honda Civic back when they were just coming out and came away pretty impressed. It was just a little too small for my personal use case so I didn’t buy it, but if you’re looking for something roughly the size of a Yaris then I doubt the interior volume will be a problem. It was almost as big on the inside as my old 2003 Accord. The back seat was big enough for my wife (5’6" tall) to ride around comfortably with a couple of inches of extra leg room so actual adults could use it probably up to around 6 feet tall. Driving it was a decently comfortable experience for the class of car and the 40mpg highway rating is hard to complain about. If you can find a good deal on a 2016 or newer model it might be worth a look.