Author Topic: lease or buy a car? in DC area  (Read 3029 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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lease or buy a car? in DC area
« on: May 24, 2017, 03:07:51 PM »
Hi all, I'm looking at either buying or leasing a car.

About me in a nutshell: 28, Single, no kids, Co-inhabiting with boyfriend of over four years/ Live and work in Washington DC. I make 62,500 a year pre tax, about $45,000 after tax. I have a Roth 401k at 12%, matched by current employer at 5%. I've got about $50,000 in various assets (CDs, mutual funds, saving accounts etc. other IRAs etc.) and have zero debt as I  just paid off my student loans this month.

My dilemma.
I have literally never owned a car.  I have a drivers license and drove my parents car back in high school and that's about my car ownership experience. I've driven zipcars and smart cards and all the car sharing options. I live in DC and work in the same area and I'm looking to get a car for the weekend get aways. Part of the downside of living in DC is the fact that most of the cool hip kids my age go out and blow their money on brunches and avocado toast etc. The things I like to do are free or close to it (hiking, birdwatching, kayaking, swimming, bike riding on my Walmart rollback $175 mountain hybrid, walks) plus the occasional splurge on wine or beer tastings. Getting to the these types of things really needs a car since it's maybe 1 hour by car to Shenandoah and less time to local state parks, and maybe 3 hours if accessible at all by public transit. Renting a car is crazy expensive from Union Station or the nearby airports due the price markups and the zipcars are great for an hour, not so great for a full day or two.

The big part of me wants to go to the local mazda dealer, where I found a deal for $169 a month for 2016 mazda 3 with 10,000 miles a year and I would negotiate the down-payment down or completely away. It's appealing because I don't have a clue on how to take car of a car. Never even changed oil. I'm leaning towards the lease since I don't know the first thing about any of this and at least the amount is set and can be budgeted for each month vs. random breakdown and unable to fix. I'd love your thoughts.

Also let me know if it's helpful context for a full breakdown of expenses/assets etc as indicated in the Full Case Study pinned post - happy to edit and drop in. Not sure how much detail is too much detail!

« Last Edit: May 24, 2017, 03:10:07 PM by guessingatgreen »

Mr. Green

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Re: lease or buy a car? in DC area
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2017, 03:50:26 PM »
Do door dings or bumper scuffs make you angry? If so, don't buy a new car and habitually park it in DC. My sister lived there for years (she just moved out of the city a couple months ago) and it's impossible to avoid unless you have private parking. The suck part is the damage is hardly enough to merit dealing with insurance (because of deductibles) so you just get screwed. I don't know how lenient dealers are with leased cars and damange but I would expect to get dinged on that at the end of the lease. Pun intended.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: lease or buy a car? in DC area
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2017, 08:25:27 PM »
Have you calculated how much you spend on zipcar etc per year? You might still come out ahead with renting. There is also car sharing like turo.

Tetsuya Hondo

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Re: lease or buy a car? in DC area
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2017, 10:25:19 AM »
I would find friends that like to do those things and catch a ride with them.

If you're really considering the lease, also factor in your insurance costs, which probably won't be cheap for a 20-something person in DC, gas, maintenance, paying the deductible when someone smashes out your window on a side street in Columbia Heights (or wherever), etc. Also, dealers can be very picky about the condition of cars when they return from lease. I guarantee you'll have repairs to make or pay for from scrapes and dents from parallel parking around DC. Factor that in too. And do you have parking already? Will you have to rent/buy a space? Don't forget tags, registration, any extra taxes or District fees, etc.

And advertised leases never ever work out as advertised. You'll show up at the dealer and they'll explain that that lease if for the car in back that comes without seats. If you want seats, that'll be another $125/month. Etc. Etc.

Even if you can get the car for $169/mo and nothing down, I would still budget at least $500/mo for monthly ownership.

If you paid $10,000 for a used Prius and financed it all, you would have roughly the same monthly payment and have a little equity leftover when/if you're ever done with it. But then, you still have most of the other car expenses.

I dunno. You can get a lot of zipcar and Uber rides for all that.


  • Stubble
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Re: lease or buy a car? in DC area
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2017, 11:37:03 AM »
I live in DC and unless you can get a used car for about $3k or less you definitely come out ahead with renting.

Picking up rental cars at union station or the airport is a sucker's game. There are a ton of smaller car rental locations in the city that are much cheaper. I've had luck at the following locations:
1908 L Street, though picking up and dropping off at busy times can be a bear because of traffic
Georgia Ave near Howard
Silver Spring near the metro
Hertz location at the Omni in Woodley Park (Picking up a car here tomorrow!)
Enterprise in Woodley Park

Other tips you might already be using: get a Costco membership which usually provides 30% off plus a free additional driver. Get a credit card that has free rental car insurance. Join all the loyalty programs, I think Avis and National's are the easiest to accumulate free rental days.


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Re: lease or buy a car? in DC area
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2017, 09:32:08 PM »
« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 11:03:13 PM by aspiringnomad »


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