Money Fix: Post-Sandy car leasing tips

After Sandy, the lower down payments and monthly

After Sandy, the lower down payments and monthly costs of car leasing are looking better to consumers. Photo Credit: iStock

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After Sandy's damage, many people are hunting for new wheels, and suddenly car leasing's lower down payment and monthly costs look good.

"You can get a lease with no money down and may not have to make a payment for 30 days," says Philip Reed, senior consumer adviser for car website Ed munds.com. A new Toyota Camry can go for less than $250 per month; a Hyundai Elantra less than $200, says Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst at Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, Calif. Tempting, but proceed with caution. Some tips:

NEGOTIATE.  "We visited Honda dealerships and found salesmen who were unwilling to negotiate," says Debra Caruso of Glen Cove, whose minivan was crushed by a fallen tree. "One told us, 'We don't have to negotiate; there's a high demand for cars right now.'"

But Reed says stick to your guns. Go for a zero down payment, or $1,000 tops. "Put down as little as possible. If you get in a wreck soon after signing your lease, you lose your down payment." You might get a better deal 20 to 30 miles out of the city, he adds.

KNOW THYSELF. If you're on the road a lot, the typical 12,000 miles per year allowed may not work. Drive more and incur penalties of up to 25 cents a mile, says David Jacobson, chief executive of GrooveCar Inc., a resource for credit union members.

AVOID SURPRISES. Ask your agent about insuring a leased car. Rates can be higher. Read your contract carefully, looking for early termination fees and other potential penalties and charges.

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