Life Events

Buying or Leasing Your Next Car

Which is better, buying or leasing my next car?
It depends on factors such as 1) what kind of deal you can make with the dealership, 2) the typical mileage you put on your car, 3) how much you wear down a car, and 4) the primary use for the car.

To determine whether leasing or buying is best, compare the costs and other issues involved in a lease or purchase. The following factors should be considered:
  • Beginning costs
  • Continual costs
  • Total costs
  • Is there a possibility of deduction of any of the costs due to the car being used for business
  • How important is it to have ownership of the car
When buying a car, how can I get the "best buy"?
You first need to decide on the type, size and options of the car you would like (such as manual, automatic windows, airbags).

You then need to decide what the car dealer has to pay for the car of your choice - the "invoice cost". The difference between the sticker price and the invoice price can be negotiated.

You can obtain this information two different ways. The best way is to look at an auto pricing service supplied by a consumer group or an auto magazine. For instance, Consumer Reports New Car Price Service (800-933-5555), at a price of $12 per model will give you details of the invoice price and the sticker price that can be adjusted for options or rebates as well as tell you how to use the data for negotiating. This is the best way because it gives you the most recent information.

Another way is to use pricing guides that can be found on the Internet. Two popular sites are Intellichoice (www.intellichoice.com) or Edmund's New Car Prices (www.edmunds.com). You may also be able to obtain these books at the library and they will give you an idea about the information that you need instead of exact data.

If you have a trade-in, you will want to find the value of that car too. You can use the N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide (check your local library or www.nada.org) to look up your used car.

Now it's time to begin negotiating with dealers. Because you know the invoice price, you can use that information to bargain for the lowest mark-up from the dealer's cost.

An amount like $300 to $500 above the dealer's cost is a sensible mark-up, unless the car you want to buy is either difficult to get or very popular.

Any attempts by the dealership to sell you rustproofing, undercoating, or other extras should be refused. You may want to invest in an extended warranty, depending on the model's repair history.
How can I negotiate for a new car?
Keep in mind that you are not just looking for a car. You also have to select a dealer with whom you will continue a long-term relationship with, as you usually have to service your car at the dealership. If you aren't comfortable with the dealership, go somewhere else.

A good time to try for a good bargain on a car is the last Saturday of September, October, or December.

Before you start looking for a car, learn about the financing options. You can be prepared when the dealer starts to discuss financing if you are aware of what the banks are charging.

Some points you will want to highlight during the negotiations are:
  • You are aware of the exact model and options you want
  • You are shopping around and will get quotes from other dealerships
  • You will not be talking about financing or trade-ins until the dealer has given an offer and make sure not to mention a trade-in until the price has been negotiated
  • You are fully aware of the invoice cost of the car
  • Lastly, go to other dealerships even if you think you have a great price.
Do I negotiate on a car lease the same as I could on a car purchase?
Like a loan, the monthly lease payment is reliant on the term of the lease, the implied interest rate and the initial "purchase price" of the car. The "lease-end" or "residual" value varies from a loan, but is still important. This is the value that is expected at the end of the lease term.

You are paying the difference between the initial purchase price and the residual value in a lease. The lowest purchase price should be negotiated, which will lower the cost of leasing. If you don't intend to buy the car at the end of the lease term and it is closed-end, you might want to negotiate a higher residual value. Make sure that your expected mileage during the lease aligns with the allowed mileage in the agreement. If it doesn't, you may pay significant penalties when you turn the vehicle back in to the dealer.
What is included in the initial costs of leasing a car?
Learn what the total initial costs will be when determining if you want to lease or buy. You will use this total amount to compare to the cost of buying.

Initial costs are the amount you will need to come up with for the down payment when you lease a car. The security deposit, the first and last lease payments, the "capitalized cost reductions," the sales taxes, title fees, license fees, and insurance are included. Usually the initial costs amount to less than the down payment that is necessary to purchase a car. During the bargaining with the dealer, all initial costs are open for negotiation.

The Lessor must disclose all up-front, continuing, and ending costs in a standard, understandable format according to the Federal Consumer Leasing Act.
What should I ask about the car lease?
Here are a few questions that should be answered before you sign a car lease:

  • What types of leases are obtainable and what are their differences? (Two were explained previously, but dealers may have variations.)
  • What will the initial costs of leasing be?
  • What will the continuing costs of leasing be?
  • Will my initial cost or continuing costs decrease due to a trade-in?
  • Can I exceed the specific mileage in my lease?
  • If I take an early termination or a purchase option, how will my mileage allowance be enforced?
  • If I fall behind in my payments or want to stop leasing, can I sublease?
  • If I want to terminate my lease before the agreement is up, what happens?
  • Do I have options at the end of my lease?
  • What can I expect to pay at the end of the lease?

Getting Married

How does legal treatment differ between married and unmarried couples?
Unmarried couples don't:
  • Inherit each other's property automatically. Married couples have the state intestacy laws to support them if they do not have a will. Under the law, the surviving spouse will inherit (at the minimum) a fraction of the deceased spouse's property.
  • Have the privilege to speak for one another in a medical crisis. In the case that your life partner loses capacity or consciousness, someone will have to make the go-ahead decision for a medical purpose. It should be you, but if you haven't filed certain paperwork, you may not have the ability to do so.
  • Have the privilege to handle one another's finances in a crisis. A married couple that jointly own assets is less affected by this problem than an unmarried couple.
How should unmarried couples protect their estate and financial holdings?
Here are some important steps to take for couples that are unmarried:
  • Draft wills. The chances of the intentions being followed through with after a death are greater if both partners make wills. Without wills, the probability of the unmarried surviving partner having no rights is more likely.
  • Think about owning property together. This is a way to guarantee that property will pass to the other joint owner at the time of the other's death due to the right of survivorship.
  • Make a durable power of attorney. This will permit the partner to sign papers and checks and take care of other financial issues on his/her behalf should one become incapacitated.
  • Make a health care proxy. Also known as a medical power of attorney, this permits the partner to talk on your behalf to make medical decisions, should you become injured. Have a living will. This lets your wishes regarding artificial feeding and other measures to prolong your life be known.
Who needs to be notified if a spouse changes their name after marriage?
All organizations that you had correspondence with while using your unmarried name should be notified. You can begin with the following list:
  • The Social Security Administration
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Post Office
  • Investment and bank accounts
  • Employer
  • Voter's registration office
  • School alumni offices
  • Credit cards and loans
  • Club memberships
  • Retirement accounts
  • Subscriptions
  • Passport office
  • Insurance agents
Should I update my will when I get married?
Definitely. When an important life event occurs such as marriage, it should be updated. If not, your spouse and other beneficiaries will not get what is meant for them at the time of your death.
After marriage, what are the tax implications?
You are entitled to file a joint income tax return upon marriage. Although this simplifies the filing process, you will more than likely discover that your tax bill is either higher or lower than when you were single. It's higher when you file together, as more of your income is taxed in the higher tax brackets. This is commonly known as the marriage tax penalty. In 2003, a tax law that intended to reduce the marriage penalty went into effect, but this law didn't get rid of the penalty for higher bracket taxpayers.

Once married, you may not file separately in an attempt to avoid the marriage penalty. Actually, filing as married filing separately can raise your taxes. For the optimal filing status for your situation you should speak with your tax advisor.
Can married couples hold property?
Yes. After marriage, there are many ways of owning property. They differ from state to state.
  • Sole tenancy, which is when one individual has ownership. The property is passed on in accordance with the will at death.
  • Joint tenancy, with the privilege of survivorship. Two or more people have equal ownership. The property is passed to the joint owner upon death. This should be used to effectively avoid probate.
  • Tenancy in common, property has joint ownership with the privilege of survivorship. The property is passed on according to your will upon death.
  • Tenancy by the entirety, like joint tenancy, with privilege of survivorship. This doesn't allow a spouse to get rid of the property without the other's consent and is only possible for spouses.
  • Community property, property that is gained through marriage that has equal ownership. States such as AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, and WI allow community property