As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we’re discussing what to do if you go over the mileage restrictions on your lease, balancing the CarMax cost with the solid warranty, and the best route for short term car ownership.
This story was originally published on September 20, 2019
First up, car leases come with mileage restrictions, often something like 30,000 miles over the term of the deal. But what are your options if you are over the miles on the lease?
“I am writing in because I currently have a lease on a 2017 Civic Si sedan that ends in September of next year. It was originally a lease to buy option and we use it for the family car. I have clocked a little over 70k miles on it and am seeking advice on what to do.
The wife wants a bigger SUV type vehicle while I am panicking about the $4,000+ fee for the over mileage. I am pretty dang sure the dealer won’t cut us a deal with the mileage over by well over half the agreement…. What should I do? Turn the lease into a buy option as originally agreed? Eat the cost and jump brands to get what she wants? Or try and hope the dealer works a deal if we stick with that brand?”
First of all, your mileage overage balance is with the leasing company, not the dealership. You are essentially in a situation where you are “underwater” meaning the value of the car is way under what you “owe” on it.
There are really only two ways out of this. First, you can buy out your lease and hold onto the car for a while. The longer you keep it the more likely you will get into equilibrium between your trade-in value and your loan balance. Option 2 is you pay the overage and get something else.
Now a Honda dealer may be willing to roll over part or some of your penalty into the next lease, though given your mileage I don’t know if another lease is wise. You can roll it over into a purchase but that also puts you into another underwater situation.
Next up, is it worth paying the CarMax premium on a cool but somewhat unreliable car to get the warranty?
“I’m thinking about buying a used Jaguar XKR. I’ve found a few, but with a supercharged British luxury grand tourer, I’m worried about maintenance and reliability. I’ve found one at CarMax, but we all know they charge a premium for their vehicles. I like that they have the option for their extended warranty service, but again, it’s expensive.
I’ve heard about extended warranty scams and ‘service plans’ that really don’t cover anything near what they claim. What’s the best option for an extended warranty on something like this? Bite the bullet and go to CarMax, or is there another way?”
There are a number of decent third party warranties out there, but you gotta do your research. Often large credit unions, or even AAA, offer warranties that are pretty solid.
I would say if you can find a similar car not at CarMax for less, and a quality warranty that could be the better option. However since this is not a common car, finding a comparable option might be a challenge, so if the cost plus the MaxCare works for your budget, that could be the way to go.
Lastly, what is the best option if someone only needs a car for a short time but doesn’t want to pay for rentals and ride-share?
“My daughter recently moved home from Chicago to save money. Her dream is to obtain her Master’s degree in Germany, and she needs at least $15,000 in order to start the admissions process. Her goal is to have everything wrapped up by next summer, so she can start her first semester in October 2020.
She didn’t need a car in Chicago, but now she does. She’s gotten a new job, and her plan is to find a sub-lease on a car that has 12 months left on the lease. Is this a good idea, and is it doable?
I’m trying to get her to buy a cheap used car, then sell it before she leaves for Germany. What is her best option? Any advice would be appreciated.“
Websites like Swapalease and LeaseTrader can offer some good options for folks looking to get out of their lease and only have a year or so left. The trick here is to find a lease that has a reasonable payment, determining the exact amount of time your daughter needs, and a remaining mileage allotment that allows her to drive around.
Often cars are on these sites because people got over their head with leasing and are looking to offload a bad deal, or original lessee outpaced their allotment of miles and there’s not much left. You will need to do some math on some of these deals.
A quality pre-owned car that has already taken some depreciation but will continue to hold value, such as a popular crossover like a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, would give you more flexibility in terms of ownership time and miles.