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PRACTICAL VIEW

Questions to Ask Before You Lease

March 24, 1994|CONSTANCE WALKER

Buying or leasing a car is a decision best made for individual circumstances. What is a great deal for a neighbor could be a mistake for you.

Here are some questions the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Reports magazine and CNW Marketing Research, an Oregon automotive research firm, suggest you ask to determine whether to buy or lease:

* How much do you drive? Leases are not the right choice for people who put many miles on their cars, unless the driving can be written off as a business expense. Most contracts allow 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year before assessing an excess mileage charge, usually 10 cents a mile.

* How much do you have for a down payment? If you have a lot of cash, buying is probably cheaper in the long run. But a lease might make sense if you don't have much money up front, you want to spend your cash on other things or you believe your money could be used more profitably if invested elsewhere.

* How do you take care of your car? If you don't take meticulous care of your car, you shouldn't lease. Charges for excessive wear and tear can be substantial and negate any benefit of a lease.

* What kind of car do you want? Lease deals are better with mid- to upper-priced cars and those that hold their value better.

* How long do you want to keep the car? If you like to drive your car until it dies in your driveway, you are better off buying it. If you are cruising the showrooms every two or three years for the latest model, leasing may be the way to go.

* Do you have good credit? Because there is little or no down payment required with a lease, consumers face higher standards of credit when leasing than when buying.

* Are you prepared to stick with the lease for its entire term? You will pay dearly for breaking a lease contract.

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