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Car Leasing: Do's and Don'ts - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

To buy or to lease, that is the question. One could say that my first experience leasing a car didn’t turn out too well for me. I went way over my miles, drove my tires until they were balder than bald, and had to purchase a new battery. Aren’t leases supposed to limit your time spent at car dealerships to oil changes and tire rotations?

Sometimes life happens and you’re put into situations that you didn’t see coming back when you decided to lease. That’s exactly what happened to me. I went from working about two miles away from my apartment to a new job that was approximately 130 miles roundtrip. The excess mileage caused me to go about 3,000 miles over my allotted miles while also forcing me to purchase new tires and a new battery. Just on the miles alone, I racked up a bill that would have allowed me to take a few vacations.

One would probably assume that I decided to purchase a car after I turned in my lease, right? After all, why would I want to put myself in the same situation that just cost me a few vacations? The short answer is that you live and you learn. My first time leasing a car was a bad experience, although I learned valuable lessons that helped me when it came time to lease again.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did. If you’re considering leasing a car, take a look at the pointers I have before you make any decisions.

Overestimate Miles Needed

While all leases are different, most charge the lessee $0.25 per mile that they drive over the agreed-upon mileage. At this rate, if you drive 1,000 miles over what your lease states, you’ll be forced to pay $250 at the end of the lease, along with any other charges you may incur. Luckily for me, my old lease only charged $0.15 per mile. Unluckily for me, my odometer read a few thousand miles over my allowed mileage.

When leasing a car, it’s important to figure out how much you drive over the course of a year. Most leases average between 12,000-15,000 miles per year. If you break it down by day, you only get approximately 33 miles per day if you go with a 12,000-mile lease. If you go with 15,000 miles, you up your average to 41 miles per day. With so few miles to play with, driving a long distance is a no-no. For instance, if you drive 200 miles in one day, you just put six days worth of miles on your car (with a 12,000-mile lease). Don’t get caught paying big fees at the end of the lease. If you estimate you drive 13,500 miles per year, I recommend upping your yearly total to 15,000. By doing this, you’ll save yourself a lot of money in the end.

Car Maintenance

Some people (most notably, myself) get the idea in their head that because the car is brand new when first leased, it’s okay to skip an oil change or tire rotation. In my case, both were terrible ideas. In fact, I skipped so many tire rotations that my steering wheel began to shake whenever I drove over 45 mph. After a few months, I decided to go get my tires rotated to stop the steering wheel from shaking. However, a worker at the dealership informed me that my tires were so bald that he couldn’t legally change them. I either had to get new tires or drive off with the real possibility that my tires could blow at any second.

I also skipped out on a few oil changes. During the winter, my car didn’t start on three different occasions. After finally taking my car in to get inspected, I was told that if I would have just taken it in for an oil change, they would have been able to tell me that I needed a new battery. Instead, I stranded myself on three separate occasions. It’s simple. Take the car in for its regularly scheduled maintenance and there’s a good chance you’ll avoid dealing with these problems in the long run.

Fix Problems Before Turning In

If your tires are bad, you’re better off going to buy a set of used tires rather than turning your car back into the dealership and having them charge you for a set of brand new tires. In my old car, part of my visor above the passenger side door fell off. The dealership charged me $92 to have it replaced. In reality, I could have fixed it for about $5 myself.   

With all the money I spent on overage fees and damages during my first lease, some people may think I’m crazy for leasing another car. However, this time around, I paid for more miles up front, take my car in for checkups on a regular basis and will fix any damages before I turn the car in. I learned my lesson the first time around.

Does anyone out there have any other tips on how to save money when it comes to leasing? Let us know in the comments below!



This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Leasing vs owning has nothing to do with maintenance. Your wheel wasn’t shaking because you missed a tire rotation, it was shaking because you probably destroyed them by riding them bald and under inflated. When you do a lease, your mileage is on the contract. By going over the allowed mileage, the car is worth less money. Pretty simple stuff. If your tires were so bald that the mechanic wouldn’t rotate them shows you have no regard for your safety and more importantly the safety of others. Sounds like you shouldn’t be behind a wheel if you do not understand the importance of routine maintenance. This has nothing to do with leasing it has to do with no being a responsible driver.

    1. Hi Arlene:

      I’m not an expert in car lease agreements, but tires strike me as something that may or may not be covered with your maintenance or warranty package. I would check and see if they are covered. If they are, I would take it to the dealership so they can do the maintenance. Otherwise, you can probably take it anywhere to do a tire check.


  2. We lease 2016 Kia did oil change but don’t have a Proof so now during hurricane Irma car stuck Kia said due to poor maintenance they can not replace engine , we called casumer rights they said we lost woranty you have to pay $ 7000.00 .we ask if we can repaired our own they said No

    1. Hi Penny:

      There are a couple of things here. If you have any proof of the service record, even just that the appointments were made, something like that might help. I would also think about contacting with their customer service people. These companies usually have an office of the executive where things are escalated to the highest level of leadership. It might be worth a try to contact them because they may be able to find a way to help you under the circumstances. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s worth a shot.


  3. We leased Hondas and changed dealers when our first source wanted to charge us for anything that went wrong during the 3 years. Our wipers broke, and they would not cover that! Be careful that you go to a dealer who doesn’t try and charge you for everything like battery, starter, wipers!

  4. I lease cars here’s the trick: used re-tread tires off eBay and 1 oil change thru zippy lube before you turn the car in. Dealer schmuck never notices. Of course poor schmuck who buys a after-lease vehicle… haha

  5. If I need change a winter tries, who has to pay the cost, because my leasing car ” Subaru ” and the tries are not cheap

  6. I leased a lexus today for 36 months, it comes with 2 complimentary Scheduled Maintenance, but there is 2 more maintenance which is not covered . I was wondering what will happen if (beside “oil changes”) I skip those 2 inspections and rotation ….

    1. Hi Homan:

      My advice would be to contact your salesman and get further clarification on their policies. My concern is that if it’s scheduled maintenance that they plan for you to have, they’ll be less likely to give you a break if the car is in less than perfect condition when you turn it in. I would just make sure they are clear with you.

      Kevin Graham

  7. My question about leasing is when you have to go on for oil changes/maintenance do they charge you or is that part of the leasing agreement? Thanks!

    1. I am wondering this same question. Have you gotten any clarification with that? It’s our first time leasing a car so we’re rookies/newbies to it all!

      1. Hi Liz:

        That’s something that can usually be negotiated as part of the lease agreement. I would talk to different dealers and see what they’re willing to do for you.

        Kevin Graham

  8. Thank you so much. The mileage breakdown and advice on keeping up with repairs was just what I’ve needed. I just leased a 2015 Nissan Sentra so I want to do things right and this has helped to ensure that. Thank you again!

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