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Should I buy or lease my last car?

Hi Ray
I am soon approaching 71 years of age and I have a 2000 Toyota Camry CE with a 180,000 miles on it. I bought it new and maintain it well. I want to drive it until it drops. I am wondering, if at my age, does it make more sense to lease my next car or buy one? The average woman lives to 83.4 years. That gives me about 12-13 years if all goes well. So given my age and potential longevity, should I buy or lease? I know I want another Toyota when I need a new car. Any suggestions as to what Toyota makes sense for me as an older woman and only driver? I loved listening to Cartalk and the “brothers” ~ on NPR on Saturdays. I have done so since 1981. I welcome your wise opinion and thank you in advance. Marilyn

No Ray, here, just active forum members.

Buy it, don’t lease it. You current car lasted 19 years. I’d suggest planning for a replacement long before it “drops” just to get a nice, safe, reliable car.

This car has already lasted far longer than the 12-13 years you THINK you have left. Replace it in 2-3 years and you and the car should be good for another 20-25 years! 100 is a nice round number, don’t you think?


As for what vehicle you should have . The same answer for you as everyone else , what suits you after taking several test drives. Also leasing is the worst way to have a vehicle unless you own a business.

I say replace it now, while it’s presumably still in decent shape, and before the next large bill for maintenance and/or repairs comes due

What shape is the body in . . . pristine, average, dented, scraped, rusted out, etc.?

I presume automatic transmission . . . have you been servicing the fluid and filter every 30K?

If not, it may not last long, unless you’ve recently had it replaced or overhauled

Do you actually need a Camry?

Would a smaller car fulfill your needs, such as a Corolla or Prius?

Be aware that a new 2019 or 2020 Camry will be bigger than your 2000 Camry . . . that is something to consider

I’ll add another few things . . .

I believe you should get a Toyota with automatic climate controls. There’s already enough distractions, and messing around with the blower speed, temperature, etc. shouldn’t be one of them. Any Toyota you’re considering will already have power windows, locks and mirrors, but the automatic climate control usually is part of the LE or XLE package, depending on the specific Toyota you’re considering.

Our family has had lots of Toyotas over the last 40 years or so, and I believe the Camry seats are superior, versus Corolla or anything smaller. You’ll probably also want power controls, adjustable seat height and possibly adjustable lumbar support, depending on your (bad) back.

Any Toyota you’re considering will probably have audio control on the steering wheel. I consider that a big plus. There should be no need to take a hand off the steering wheel to simply turn on the radio, change the volume or radio station, in my opinion.

The more I think about it, the more I think a regular Prius should check off most of your boxes, so to speak. It has controls for the audio and the climate control on the steering wheel. A well equipped one should also have decent seats, and it’ll be very economical to operate, if that’s a concern. And your kids, grandkids or whoever will be able to quickly sell it for a fair price when you’re no longer driving, for whatever reason.

A Camry hybrid would be a very nice car, particularly if you get the XLE trim package, but again, do you need a mid-sized car?

If you go to a showroom looking for a Prius, specifically tell the salesman to show you how to start and operate the shifter. It’s quite a bit different, versus your 2000 Camry. You don’t turn a key, and the shifter is typically on the dash, not between the seats. You could get used to it very quickly, though.

But if you want as little adjustments as possible, a non-hybrid Camry or Corolla will be easier to transition to right now.

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So why not lease? And thanks for your positive feedback. Marilyn

This is a good case for web searching. Just put ( Should I lease a vehicle ) in Google , Bing or Cortana and read the articles and you can decide that it might be for you .

If you own a vehicle and decide to sell it soon not a big deal. Leased and want out early will be expensive.

Good question! A friend of my wife had a similar situation. Her aging vehicle, an Oldsmobile, was becoming unreliable although it still looked good.

She is 80+ years old and in good health. After some deliberation she decided against a new car but bought a mint condition Honda Accord from another senior who gave up driving . The car had low miles and was well maintained.

She paid about 1/3 of what a new car would have cost and got a reliable vehicle. I inspected the car and verified all the maintenance history.

Leasing is very expensive per mile, especially if you cannot charge it to your tax return.

So my recommendation is to keep driving the Camry, the world’s most reliable car and good for 300,000 miles , and when appearance (rust) or reliability calls for a new vehicle, buy a low mileage used car with a proven reliability record. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and some others fir that category.

Don’t let an environmental zealot talk you into an electric car. As a senior you will never drive enough to recoup the extra cost.

If you think you’re going to kick the bucket in the next couple years then lease. But if you plan on staying around 4+ years, then you want to own. It’ll be far cheaper then leasing.

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If you think you’re going to kick the bucket in the next couple years then lease.

Not quite that simple . There might be early cancelation fees lodged against the estate. And if someone has Power of Attorney problems might exist there also .

I’d suggest leasing it so that you ( or your heirs ) won’t have the hassle of selling it when you are no longer driving it. I’m currently driving my last car, on a 3 year lease, since I will no longer need a car at the end of this lease, and will simply bring it back to the dealer, drop off the keys, and take an Uber back home.

I often advise folks to consider leases and have had some good luck. However, for those who like to keep cars a long time, they are really not the best fit. Too many hassles based on my experience. More importantly, please consider a crossover. You will love the easier to get into and out of design. Be aware that the Toyota RAV4 is all-new for this model year. First model years are not always the most reliable. Consider a Mazda CX-5 or a Honda CR-V. Both are a few years into their designs and have top safety scores. Good luck. Here’s hoping you beat the averages and have many more cars to look forward to.

Clark Howard and Suze Orman don’t agree with you

One of my coworkers is quite old, getting close to his 80s, and still works 3 days a week.
He complained that the latest generation of RAV4 makes his hip hurt due to worse access to compare to his prior CX-5.

My two cents. I think you are underestimating the years left. Looking at the IRS table to determine expected life spans for required 401K distributions, they would figure another 27 years. So you never know.

I’m not a fan of leasing for the general public but it will be cheaper per month for the first 3-4 years provided you don’t drive more than 10,000 miles a year. But then you have nothing and if still alive have to start over. Owning in the long run is cheaper. So just depends on your cash flow.

I’d be a little concerned about driving a car until it drops. Cars usually do not just drop in one big puff of smoke, but rather you can have lots of smaller repair bills or a larger transmission issue. Then the car only partially dropped and you end up fixing it for a while. I’d just get rid of it now while it still runs fine. Plus you seldom choose when the car is going to stall so it may not be in a great area, at a great time, with a good climate that day. Then you have to go hurry up and get another car.

A friend of mine in her eighties gave her car to her son and then missed driving so much she went and leased a Honda Civic.

After a year her eyesight deteriorated to the point she could no longer drive. She only had 2000 miles on the car. Because of the low mileage, the dealer paid off the lease and bought the car from Honda but she had to pay the second year of payments on a 3 year lease. She got off lucky. they could have demanded the last year as well.

My dear, you don’t have an expiration date. Seventy-one is young - you’ve got many more years. Get the vehicle you want, buy it how you want, and enjoy for as long as you can.

I’ve never leased a car so I don’t know the advantages of leasing for a private, non-business purpose. Continually leasing is more expensive than owning. And to me lease just means I do not own it. And I’ll have to go through the same decision at the end of the lease term in 3 or 4 or 5 years. Again, I just don’t see the appeal of leasing.

I purchased a 2016 RAV4 used a couple of years ago and I really like it. This is my first Toyota. For me the smaller SUVs provide a compromise of cargo and passenger space, maneuverability, and gas mileage. It’s a little easier to get in and out of than a sedan.

Hi GorehamJ:
I’m curious which conditions you find are worthwhile for folks to lease a vehicle. There’s lots of conflicting information on the subject. So I’m interested in your experience.
Can you elaborate?
Thank you.

buying and selling a car has a net cost. buy high, sell low.
same as a lease. which is renting a car.
but buying and selling it is more flexible. you can buy it today and sell it whenever you want. 2months. 6 months. 18 months
if you buy a car you pay the full tax upfront. if you sell car in 1 yr you dont get a tax refund

They certainly do not fit every situation, but work great in some. Here’s a quick list that comes to mind:

  • Any Affordable EV of any type - Manufacturer’s artificially prop up the leases and offer basically free money, so why not? These vehicles have the highest depreciation in all of the car world, so why own? Plus, they are evolving so rapidly the one today is very different from one 3 to 5 years from now, Why be stuck with it?
  • Newly employed college grads. These folks will start at entry level, but in 3 to five yerars will be able to afford 30% more car. Why not have one with no repair costs while driving and then switch to a better model after getting a raise or promotion?
  • Any business where a new car is seen as a positive. Realtors, any person who has customers in cars.
  • Folks who know in advance they will switch cars every three to five years. There is a reason so many wealthy drivers have leased cars. Because they work for those individuals and the cost is not one of their top priorities.
  • Families who have a commuting college student and can afford the up-front cost. A lease offers no repair costs and puts the student in the safest possible vehicle with the most recent safety and communications content. Upon graduation, the car is turned in for a new lease or pre-owned car.
    I could keep going. I’ve had multiple leases and feel like every one worked for me in my situation. My favorite was a leased Miata. Since I knew my miles would be super low, I got it with a very low monthly payment. At lease end it was worth a lot more than the buyout, so I bought it. I sold it a few years later and it gave me a lot more flexibility than if I had owned it outright.
  • There is a common misconception that leases end up costing the lessee more than they expect, or more than a new car would over the lease period. That isn’t true in the majority of cases. Particularly for folks who carefully review the terms.

And when was the last time one of those was seen ? About the same time as Big Foot .