Trade in my leased (body damage) car for a new one?
May 30, 2009 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Single girl. Two large dogs. 19 months left on a leased sedan now complete with body damage, and the real need for a larger car. Are there any good options?

About 2-1/2 years ago, I leased a Subaru sedan. It was, at the time, great for me. Fast forward to now, and I've moved to an area where ground clearance is important. I also need more room for my two large dogs: the interior of my sedan is ok-ish for now, but I'm worried what they'd do to the car over the next 19 months.

I went to the dealership yesterday and they were ready to purchase my leased sedan for its purchase quote (getting me out of the lease entirely) and sell me a new used '09 Forester at their sticker price with a few extras. This sounded pretty good to me.

Then they looked at my leased sedan, and instead of buying my car for the purchase quote price, they said they would buy it for around $10k - leaving me $5k to put on top of the price of the Forester, making my monthly payments pretty ghastly.

I told them there was bumper damage and one ding, but there was other damage I was oblivious to. One of the wheels is damaged from being scratched against a curb (boyfriend admitted he did this), and there are actually about 6-8 dings all over the car doors. There are small scratches, and the windshield has a noticeable mini chunk out of it (I did take it to Novus and had it fixed, but you can still see it.) The dealership told me I'd have to get all of this fixed before I turn the car in to the leasing company, and that it's either pay now or pay then.

I'm not sure what to do now. I don't have cash on hand to get all of these repairs done. I did get a quote from a body shop weeks ago for the bumper damage and one of the dings - bumper $1,000 and the one ding I was aware of was $500. Multiply that by 6-8.

Keeping the sedan through the end of its lease freaks me out because I wonder how much more damage I'm going to do to it and how much damage my dogs are doing to do to it.

The idea of owning my own car as opposed to leasing it just feels so much better right now. But the adding that $5k makes the monthly payments, while do-able, difficult.

I now understand why people say leasing is a bad idea! At least for people like me.
posted by alma to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
I wanted to add that the Kelly Blue Book trade-in value for a car in the condition of my sedan does seem to be the same amount that the dealership is offering me for it.
posted by alma at 11:33 AM on May 30, 2009

We have two large dogs (labs). While I understand your car needs with dogs, I agree you should probably be owning your vehicle. That said, paying sticker or above right now is ridiculous!

Is there a way for you to buy a used car? We bought an old Volvo 240 in nice shape for transporting our large dogs. They love it! And then we have our cars (for us to go back and forth to work). Keep this in mind as an option.
posted by 6:1 at 12:18 PM on May 30, 2009

FWIW--we picked up the car on Craig's List.
posted by 6:1 at 12:19 PM on May 30, 2009

I would buy a used car, but I'm stuck in this lease...with the body damage, my options are even more limited. :(
posted by alma at 12:35 PM on May 30, 2009

You need a larger car, but do you need a new larger car?

Also, did you try bargaining? The deal they proposed to you may have sounded good to you, but I guarantee it was better for them.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:36 PM on May 30, 2009

You want a new car. A new car would be a convenience for you and the pups. Unless you're going to crate the dogs while they are in the car, they're going to treat the new car exactly like this one. In others words, in 2 years the Forester is going to look like your sedan does now. For people who are cosmetically hard on cars, leasing is not a good option.

You can't afford this convenience unless you are able to bargain heavily. Lucky for you, the economy is making car dealerships pretty desperate to move inventory. You're getting toward the end of the model year and you're at the end of the month. They should be willing to work with you. Honestly, they are playing you. "Gee, now that we've sold you on the idea of a new car, we found some damage on your ugly worthless old trade. We can't honor our offer, but you still love this new Forester right? Right?"

You're getting played in pretty much textbook car dealer bargaining.
posted by 26.2 at 1:20 PM on May 30, 2009

Does your lease have an option to buy? If so, you could buy it outright, then sell it privately (that is, not through a dealership), then buy a different car.
posted by Houstonian at 1:22 PM on May 30, 2009


Can you offer me any bargaining tips? They asked me what I'd like my monthly payment to be on a used '09 Forester with 13k miles. I said $350. They said sure, then looked at my car, and came back with $516/month. $350-$400 is my comfort zone. I'd actually be fine with a used 06'-08' Forester, but they don't have any.

Unfortunately, I think to sell my car privately and get enough $$ for it, I'd have to have all the body work done.

I'm just scared about what this leased car is going to look like in 2011 if I keep driving it!
posted by alma at 1:46 PM on May 30, 2009

Honestly, the best tip is to walk away for a bit. Tell them that you're buying a car that will cost you $350 dollars a month. If that's a Forester from their lot - great! If not, that's fine too. Don't let them play the 7 year car note game to lower your payment. In fact, have alternate financing available from your bank. That's annoying to them because they don't get a piece of the interest. However, it also means you're a serious buyer who's not going fall through in the box. They will sometimes beat your loan terms simply to keep you on their car lot.

The biggest hit on buying a new car is you're on the dirty end of the depreciation curve. If you buy another new car, you'll start the depreciation curve all over again. Make sure that they know you've done your homework and that you aren't desperate to purchase anything. You have a perfectly acceptable car right now. It's not ideal for your needs, but it is certainly acceptable.

Honestly, they need customers more than you need their Forester. You're best option is to simply withhold your transaction until they come in with a better offer. That may be a used Forester, a sweet interest rate, a better offer for your car.
posted by 26.2 at 4:03 PM on May 30, 2009

Do you plan to do a lot of traveling with both of your dogs simulataneously, or are you just concerned about having to haul one or both to the vet on occasion? If it's just a matter of occasionlly having to transport one of the pooches, put a blanket or other thick covering on the back seat (tuck in in securely) before letting doggy in. I had leased cars (Lincoln Continentals) over the course of six years, during which time I'd adopted a retired racing greyhound. Because of his size, I first contemplated getting a mini-van or some such larger vehicle, but as time went on, I found that he really, really HATED going anywhere in the car, so if I was only going to take him for his vet appointments, the sedan would do. It had leather seats, so I covered the back seat with an old quilt whenever we had to take Trai to the vet (he'd start out laying on the back seat, then would go onto the floor and stick his nose over the front seat in my face and pant like he was having a heart attack for most of the journey.)

It's none of my business, but it sounds like you're awfully hard on cars, leased or otherwise. When I leased my cars, my biggest worry was going over the mileage allowance. I never got any noticeable dings, even upon occasion when I found a shopping cart nudged into my driver's side door after returning from a grocery expedition. I did get a star in my windshield while commuting to work once and a truck threw a stone at me. But the local collision shop fixed it so that it was undectable. In each case when I turned in my leased vehicle, I had no extra charges other than excess mileage, and that was after careful inspection (because the dealer is ever-anxious to keep your security deposit). I lived and worked in Detroit and the metro area and never accumulated six to eight "dings" on my car. Your dealer squawked about a tire scrape?! (You mentioned that your boyfriend rubbed it against a curb; unless he hit the curb at 30mph or more and knocked that wheel out of alignment, this seems like a very picky imperfection.) Wipe off the scrape marks before you return your vehicle. Overall, my advice is that unless you plan many road trips with both of your dogs, keep your car until the end of the lease, and then turn it in and pay any penalties they assess. No doubt these charges will be less than them buying you out of your lease.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:13 PM on May 30, 2009

I don't understand the need for a new car. You need a car with ground clearance, that tells me that the roads you are driving on are conducive to car damage, flying stones, branches, etc, etc, plus the dogs on the inside which will do even more damage to the car. If you need a bigger car, start looking in the used market, take your time, there are plenty of deals out there. Same for your current car, sell it privately. You'll probably get more for it than the dealer is willing to give you for trade-in anyway.

New cars are a huge expense, for which you never ever get any money back. Seriously think about how much money you want to spend, and find a used car within your budget. This is not about monthly payments, but a total amount of money you are willing to part with for a car. You can get a loan from your bank.
posted by defcom1 at 5:36 PM on May 30, 2009

Oh, and then nice dealership will sell you a new car at sticker price! Sticker price is a starting point for bargaining. Please do some reasearch online to see what you can get the car for. Look at places like etc. for information. You are currently getting screwed.
posted by defcom1 at 5:39 PM on May 30, 2009

I'm just scared about what this leased car is going to look like in 2011 if I keep driving it!

You might look into protecting the car as much as possible from the dogs. I use and LOVE Dura-Gear car seat covers.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:35 PM on May 30, 2009

I'm guessing the sedan you leased was an Impreza? If so, I can understand the space crunch.
If you do decide to go ahead and trade out your lease to buy the Forester, Subarus are tough vehicles, and tend to hold their value pretty well, so don't be afraid to stand your ground on what you feel the used vehicle is worth.
When I bought my '09 Forester in August of last year, I did all the Edmunds research, but the most valuable piece of information I got was the Consumer Reports new car price report, which included info that Edmunds research did not. I think it was $9.95, but it was money well spent because it gave me a better sense of the actual dealer cost.
This Edmunds thread about recent Forester prices paid was also very helpful.
The only other thing I would warn you about regarding the Forester is part availability due to the redesign w/the 09 model. I got hit in some icy weather in December and it took about 8 weeks to get the body repairs done because the shop had difficulty getting new parts. Maybe that's changed in the last few months.
Good luck with your bargaining. I love my Forester, and so do my 3 doggies.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:44 PM on May 30, 2009

6:1 is on the right track, I think.
posted by megatherium at 7:48 PM on May 30, 2009

Thanks, everyone. This really helps.

I think I am going to get a quote from another body shop on the damage, and at least fix the bumper. Then try another dealership, and maybe then private party. It didn't even occur to me to get financing through my bank.

I honestly don't know how all the dings happened! I'm not /that/ reckless! I will work extra hard to protect the interior. At least, so far, the dogs haven't caused the worst damage...

You're right, I don't *need* a new car - a 2005 or 2006 Forester would be fine with me. It may just take some waiting.
posted by alma at 11:09 PM on May 30, 2009

I'd wait to have the dings fixed until you're about ready to turn in the car. You may accumulate more dings over the next 19 months, and it's going to be cheaper to have them all done at once.

Have a look at this site for getting out of your lease. I've never used it. But, it looks like it's legit.

Can you offer me any bargaining tips? They asked me what I'd like my monthly payment to be on a used '09 Forester with 13k miles. I said $350.

This is a car salesman trick--they're trying to make more money by selling you a shitty high-interest or long-term loan. First, negotiate your total price... like, the literal total price you're going to pay for the car. Every time they ask about payments, tell them how much you want to pay for the car. Every time they ask if you'll be paying cash or if you want financing, tell them how much you want to pay for the car. Every time they tell you they can't go any lower, unless it's low enough, tell them how much you want to pay for the car.

Now, once you've worked out your total price and gotten it all signed and official, then you start negotiating about financing.
posted by Netzapper at 2:32 AM on May 31, 2009

Also, never buy a car by home much you can pay a month, EVER! Go by the price of the car. Don't fall for the trick "how much can you afford a month"? This is the oldest trick in the book! They need you worse than them. We bought our old Volvo 240 (1991) for about $2K. Yes, it had a lot of miles on. But we use it to haul the dogs to and from the park and (when needed) the vet. My husband also drives it a lot. It had 200,000 mi. on it, but our independent volvo mechanic checked it out first. We've had it over a year and it works like a charm. Best. Investment. Ever.
posted by 6:1 at 7:53 AM on May 31, 2009

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The more I read about buying a car from a dealership, the more terrified I become. And I feel like an idiot because of my experience at the dealership - clearly, they were never going to buy my leased car for the purchase quote.

At this point, I'm either going to live with this car or buy it and sell it privately OR use it as a trade-in. I think if I come in with this car under lease, they can tell I'm screwed.
posted by alma at 11:29 AM on May 31, 2009

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