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Buy or Lease for Student far from home

Our 21-yr old daughter will be attending college in Pasadena–we live on the east coast, so it’s a haul. She needs a car–we’d like to minimize cost–we are considering leasing a used car, but would welcome educated opinions on the best way to do this–lease or buy? Remember, low dollars, short term (2 yrs or so) are our primary goals THANKS!!!

Leasing is almost always the most expensive way to go when all is said and done.

Does she have a car now that might be usable?

I am normally against leasing for the long term, but leasing a used car sounds like a train wreck in the making. I would, however, consider a three year lease if the montly payments are right, for this situation. Reason is your daughter will need a car after schooling and into the job market. A three or four year lease of an appropriate new car might fill the fill, if the lease payment is right. Warranty will cover the first 36K miles or so, and under a used car lease, I assume you are liable for all mechanical issues from the start.

Co-signing for and co-owning a new car (Corolla, Mazda 3, Civic, etc) with her would be a second option. That avoids mechanical repair issues that are hard to resolve long distances. Major repairs are covered under warranty for all or most of the duration. In retrospect, I should have accomplished this option for my son. We spent a lot of time and money on some less than desirable used cars for him, and when the $$ totals were in, I could have nearly purchased a new car outright and had a better quality car to sell at the end, with less pain and inconvenience all around.

Are you certain she really needs a car? I lived two years in Pasadena. It’s a civilized, urban city. There are buses, cabs. Shops should be within walking distance, wherever she lives. Other students will invite her to the beach in their own cars.

My advice? Put those thousands of dollars in purchasing fees, tax, license & insurance, gas, oil, and repairs, into a bus & taxi fund. Save the unused portion and tell Darling Daughter she can have a brand new car when she graduates.

I agree with you–but I’ve been outvoted–husband agrees with daughter. I even called the school (Art Center) and they were pretty reluctant to say the public transport was an option–told me “most of the students drive”.

I was thinking of leasing a newer model–perhaps re-leasing a 2006 or 2007 that has come into a dealer off lease.

The only time I have seen leasing pencil out was when the car was used for business (easily documentable business expense), and then only when the lease was competitive with interest rates at the time. Lots of folks get burned badly on excess miles.

A daughter far from home is a very different consideration from a son. You dare not put her in an old clunker because young girls think nothing of driving home alone at 3AM after study session. The no-car option is also a concern because she may hesitate only a moment before taking public transit home after the same study session, and we all know who she might encounter on public transportation in the middle of the night.

You’d have to be crazy to do a lease with a girl in college. Speaking as someone who attended one of the biggest schools in new england, a college car gets absolutely trashed. And the thing is it’s not by you! I’ve seen cars smashed into, broken into, keyed, used as coasters, covered in paint, door-dinged to death and stolen. A leased car will be in for some major contract violations.

This is easy-get a used Honda or Toyota and she’ll be fine. I always recommend a used Honda Civic EX-affordable, plentiful, and her peers will actually approve of it. Good Luck.

Agree! Buy her an econobox and resell it after the 2 years are up.

One possible problem with a lease is mileage. You have to be certain that she does not exceed the mileage limit or it will cost extra. The weather is often so nice in LA that a day trip to Santa Barbara, San Diego, or into the desert might be tempting. It’s OK to do that, but the miles will add up. There is no such problem with an owned car.

Purchasing an high depreciation recent used car is the best plan. Look for something with inexpensive insurance and a warranty left. Once the two years is up she may hold onto the ride when she completes school.