Should An Older Couple Buy Or Lease When They Foresee Giving Up Driving?

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As Jalopnik’s resident car-buying expert and a professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve picked a few of your questions and will try to help out. This week we are discussing whether or not an older couple should buy or lease what will likely be their last car and the best way to off-load a fairly new truck.

First up, if an older couple is likely to stop driving in a few years, would it be best to buy or lease what they predict will be their last car?

“My wife and I are in our 80s. Still healthy, but that could change in a heartbeat. Our old car (2011 Chevy HHR) is just over 50k reliable miles but 10 years old is 10 years old and stuff ages.

So the question is: What are the issues of buy vs. lease for a car that’s going to outlive you or your ability to drive?”


Thinking about no longer being able to drive is not an easy topic, but I will say it’s very responsible of you to recognize that day may come. Your Chevy could keep on kicking for another few years, so unless major repairs are needed, it may be worth investing in keeping that HHR running. That’s especially true since you feel you don’t need it to last another 10 years.

That said, if you do decide that you want something newer, the lease versus buy question is always a complicated one. Without having an understanding of your needs and budget, I am working with limited information. But it seems to me that a purchase would give you more flexibility in your situation. With a lease, you are essentially stuck in that car for a multiyear term. What happens if you both decide that driving is no longer safe in the second year of the lease? Or on the flip side, what if you feel you still want to drive once the lease has concluded? Then you’d either have to lease again, putting you back in the cycle, or buy another car.


If you buy a car that is both reasonable for your budget and is known to hold its value, you could sell that car at any time or keep it as long as you need to.

Next, what is the best way to offload a fairly new car if the payments are dragging on your finances?

I had a 2003 Silverado Z71 that still ran great despite having 198k miles on it, but I opted for a new 2019 Silverado. I traded the ’03 and also put $4,000 down. So my payment on the 2019 is $740/mo. (I borrowed roughly $40,000.)

Then came COVID-19.

My business basically fell off the table and even now I am barely getting by, despite moving three months of truck payments to the end of the loan from GM Financial. My question is: How do I get out of this truck and the payments that are sapping me due to a very slow work schedule?

I sorely miss my 2003 Silverado, which had many more options than my ’19.

I still have my work van for my carpet-cleaning company, but how do I unload the ’19 Silverado? Because I use the van a lot, the new truck only has 17k miles on it after 16 months of ownership.

Should I attempt a private sale? Or should I bring it to a place like CarMax?

If I simply use my work van for a while, I can easily save and purchase a decent used vehicle pretty quickly. But this truck, combined with a monthly $180 insurance premium, has basically put me in the poorhouse. I am not going to allow a repo, of course.”


With the economic impact of COVID-19, your situation is not unique. Many Americans have seen huge reductions in income because of business closures, loss of customers or other factors. Having a hefty car payment when your cash flow has been slashed is not an ideal place to be, but the good news is that the used-car market is still fairly strong. So you might be able to get rid of your truck with minimal pain.

While a private sale will usually net you a higher figure, doing so with a loan balance presents some challenges, though these are not insurmountable. If you do decide to explore a private sale I would also suggest you shop it around to other outlets like CarMax, your local Chevy dealer and the online outfits like Carvana and Vroom. Keep in mind that whatever best case scenario is offered on your truck, if that number is lower than your loan balance you would need to come to the table with the balance to clear the loan.


Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at!