To rent or to buy and sell - short term car needs
October 29, 2018 5:58 PM   Subscribe

I just accepted a 5-6 month long project in an area I do not live inanymore. I will need to setup temporary housing as well as acquire a vehicle for the duration. Do I do a long term rental? Should I buy a car and sell it at the offset? More details inside.

So this is all based in suburban NY, so prices will be significantly higher than other parts of the country I'm sure. I'm not looking to buy a beater and hope it runs for the duration or need to worry about maintaining it. So if I purchase it will need to be <5 yrs old I'm figuring, with <= 100k miles. I'm also going to be in the Northeast and not showing up for work due to a storm is not acceptable so 4x4 SUV or wagon will also be needed.

So I'm using 5 months as my base to calculate and with looking at all the major players in the rental industry, a 5 month intermediate SUV rental will run me approx $6000.

To purchase a comparable vehicle, I'm looking in the 10 - 14k range. These are dealer prices, not CPO, but thoroughly inspected and relatively trustworthy. Of course there will be additonals of insurance and basic upkeep that will probably be ~$1000 additional.

So is it worth it to buy a vehicle, deal with the hassle of trying to resell it at the end to potentially save a few dollars? Or do I just rent and forget about it, taking the $6000 as necessary expenditure? I will be receiving a per diem to cover my costs, I'm just trying to maximize my potentials.
posted by wile e to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (8 answers total)
I've got possibly the perfect solution for you: a lease takeover.

Read all about leasing and lease takeover on this page. That website is about electric vehicles, but it applies to any car. Just skip any mention of EVs and tax credits or whatever.

A lease takeoever is great for when you need a car for a relatively short period but don't want to be saddled with selling it later.

You may find that the shortest leases you can find are over 6 months, like 10 or 11 months. I think this is because the banks don't do transfers that close to lease end.

I just did a quick search in the NYC area for a generic compact SUV (Jeep Compass) and there were plenty of them at around $200 per month.
posted by intermod at 6:46 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've looked into lease takeovers, and you are right it is seemingly a perfect fit baring I find a short enough lease. The problem that I have found in the research, is that the leasing companies do not particularly like lease sharing and the process can take sometimes up to a few months to process. Even if it were to take 3 weeks, I would be without a car for that duration and would require to rent, adding more complication to my already complicated affair.

Thanks for the suggestion though, I do like the idea if I had more time.
posted by wile e at 5:04 AM on October 30, 2018

You can do better than that on a rental. The easiest way is if you or a family member work for a large company. They will have a friends and family code that gets their capped/discounted rate with whichever company or companies they contract with.

Even a non-discounted mini-lease shouldn't cost $6000 for 22 weeks. Talk to the manager at one of the neighborhood locations and you'll likely be able to get something for $600-$700 a month. You can do better buying and reselling the right used car, but there's more risk and hassle involved. If a rental breaks, you at worst go get another one and waste half an hour of your life. And you can get a different car for a bit if you want/need something different for a bit.

If the issue is insurance, that can be worked out without paying a rental company a mountain of cash. Amex's paid rental insurance covers everything but liability on most everything you can get from a national agency for up to 30 or 45 days per rental for $15, for example.
posted by wierdo at 8:30 AM on October 30, 2018

FWIW, Zipcar now offers "Zipcar for Commuters" in several places, including the NY/NJ area. Price depends on your commute distance, but using a 10 mile commute in that area comes out to about $500/mo, about half your intermediate SUV rental price.
posted by hanov3r at 12:22 PM on October 30, 2018

If you decide to rent, be aware that the collision damage waiver insurance provided by your credit card it typically limited to rentals of two to four weeks maximum, depending on the card. You may be able to get around this by using multiple cards, or by returning the car and taking out a new rental contract periodically.

Even so, I would be inclined to rent for a short term project. You are likely to lose a lot on buying and selling including sales tax.
posted by JackFlash at 1:57 PM on October 30, 2018

FWIW, ZipCar is way crappier about dealing with crashes than even their owner, Avis. They kindly suspended my account for almost six months after a crash in which I was not at fault. And they charged me the full deductible up front, despite the other driver getting a nice failure to yield ticket and admitting on scene that he intentionally crashed into me. Then they came back and said I didn't get to keep my account for some reason they refused to divulge, so sad for me about the $75 in prepaid credit had at the time and the $40 they owed me for gas I had to pay for when their fleet card wasn't working on a couple of occasions. (And I had a squeaky clean driving record, no tickets in over three years and no prior auto insurance claims, ever, so their decision was and still is rather baffling)

Overall they're fine, it's not like I had to do anything aside from submit a few documents and provide an account of the incident, I just wouldn't use them in any situation where suddenly finding myself unable to use their service would put me in a bind or where I had to give them very much money up front.
posted by wierdo at 7:12 PM on October 30, 2018

Thank you everyone for your comments. Zipcar is not an option for where I will be working, nor for my needs.

I do think I will rent as I don't think I'll win out with the purchasing either. Between sales tax, devaluation, maintenance, and insurance costs I'll probably end up spending more than the rental anyway.

wierdo/JackFlash thanks for pointing out the time limitations on CC insurance. I'll be using Chase Sapphire Preferred and it has a 31 day limit, so I think I'll end up setting up 1 month rentals.
posted by wile e at 2:25 AM on October 31, 2018

Check the fine print about back to back rentals. You may have to switch locations/companies, go without for a day, or alternate cards to ensure coverage. Some of them are pretty sneaky in the fine print. Typically you have to call and have them email the full terms to get more than the website summary, which probably leaves out exclusions for certain vehicle types.

That said, I've heard Sapphire has pretty good rental coverage, though I'm not certain it is a primary policy, though that makes no difference to you if you don't have other coverage that would apply. The vast majority of credit card coverages are secondary, and only one card from one issuer that I know of (though I can't remember which, I'm vaguely remembering a brokerage affiliate card that does) provides liability coverage of any kind.

One other option is to get nonowners insurance that includes comprehensive and collision on rentals. One of NY or NJ (I forget which) allows it, if that's helpful for your situation. The nice thing about going that route is that you (can) get better liability coverage that way.
posted by wierdo at 3:44 AM on October 31, 2018

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