Why Do Brands Advertise Lease Deals For Cars That Don't Exist?

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Screenshot: BMW.com

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 two leasing problems. The first is finding a deal for a car that doesn’t exist, and the second is how to handle a mold problem in your leased vehicle.


First up, why do so many brands advertise lease deals on cars that you can’t really find on the lot?

“My dad has been looking for a new convertible on lease to replace his C300 convertible, and I’ve been helping him search. We keep finding lease programs on BMW 2-Series convertibles, Z4s, Mercedes SLCs, and Jaguar F-Types in our area advertised on corporate websites - however the area dealers don’t have any of these models in stock, nor do they anticipate getting them anytime soon. In the case of the Jaguar, some dealers have F-Types, but they are not the base model (which is what the national program is for).

So far it has just led to dealers trying to bait and switch him into other cars that he doesn’t want (BMW 2-series sedan, MB CLA, etc), and he is likely going to let his current lease expire.

Why even bother offering lease incentives for cars that don’t exist?”

Recently I discussed why leases are more frustrating than shopping for a purchase, and these advertised “specials” are a big part of the problem. The key thing to remember about advertisements is that their purpose is to get you in the door. Often the ads on automaker websites are for lower-spec or base model cars, which lets them advertise the lowest payment possible.

Folks get frustrated when they get that number in their head, then go to the dealer only to find out that the car is not in the inventory. The cars that the dealer has available usually command a much higher payment. My first rule of advice with leasing is to not put stock in any advertised payment. It’s rare that those “specials” reflect reality.

It’s possible that those base-model cars exist somewhere, they just aren’t on the ground locally. What your dad can do is run a wide-net search to see which dealers have these “low spec” models and do business with that store, even if it means a remote deal and shipping.

The other potential option is to do a factory order for a car. In some cases, you can negotiate and lock-in the lease program for a car that is ordered.

What the best way to handle mold damage in a leased car?

“ I have a leased Acura. The lease is ending. However, I found mold in the car caused by a drain hose that was not properly connected by the shop that fixed the car a year and a half ago. My insurance is having the network mechanic shop repair the damage and clean the mold, since it was all their fault.

I think I should have the car totaled instead, when I consider that I’m in my 60s and have underlying health problems. My other question is: Will the dealer be unwilling to take the car back if I turn it in when the lease expires in a few days? The dealer does know about the mold problem.”


So I wouldn’t worry too much about having the car “totaled” especially since your lease is due to expire in a few days. If you still had a few years left on it that may be a different story. If the insurance company is going to fix the problem, I would have them remedy the issue and turn the car in. It’s likely the dealer won’t find out, but even if they do you have documentation with your insurance provider that indicates the car was cleaned/repaired.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!



I really don’t get why dealers (and manufactures) still use the misleading lease payment thing. When I sold cars, almost every single time someone came in looking for the advertised $499/month payment and were presented with the real numbers being $100-200 more, they got mad and left. We almost never converted those customers because they instantly lost all trust (understandably) and often could not afford the higher payment. It was so self-defeating, because you’d lose a customer for life all in hopes of the dealer pocketing an extra grand or two in gross.

If dealerships were run with the idea that customers are human beings and not walking dollar signs it would make the experience of buying a car 1000x better and would honestly probably lead to higher long term profits for the dealer.