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.