First Car Deals – Buying Your First Car

Ford sign-and-drive dealsBuying a first car can be an exciting event in one’s life. However, in the excitement of the moment, it’s too easy to make mistakes that are irreversible. So, it makes a lot of sense to be smart and do your homework first.

Some common mistakes made by people buying a first car are:

1. Buying a car that doesn’t really meet their needs — for example, buying a small sports car when a larger 4-door sedan would have been more practical

2. Buying more car than they can afford, when considering monthly payments, insurance, fuel, and maintenance

3. Buying a car that doesn’t meet expectations in terms of quality, reliability, performance, fuel efficiency, or driving comfort

4. Paying too much, when other people are paying less for the same car — and paying too much for loan or lease financing

Many of the above mistakes are made simply because buyers often make quick emotional decisions rather than thought-based, logical decisions.  They don’t spend enough time considering the reality of their needs, their finances, and their expectations — and following up with sufficient and proper research to make a good decision.

So what are the steps needed to make for a successful first car purchase?


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Great Car Deals – Secret Factor

best car dealsEveryone wants a great new-car deal.

But whether you actually get a good deal can depend on a number of factors such as:

However, there is another factor that can be even more important:

So, what is days supply?

Car companies manufacture vehicles in anticipation of near-future sales. They attempt to predict just how many vehicles of each model they will sell, which determines how many they make. Sometimes their predictions are wrong and they end up with a over-supply of certain makes and model vehicles.

Typically, 30-60 days supply of vehicles is about right. It’s enough to make sure they don’t get caught with no vehicles to sell, but not enough to cause a problem. However, when supply reaches 75-100 days, it’s time for something to be done to help move them.

The “something” is that dealers are more willing to negotiate and manufacturers are more likely to offer rebates and other incentives to make those vehicle models more attractive to customers. Therefore it’s good to know which makes and models currently have excessive days supply.

Following are new vehicles that currently have inventory in excess of 75 days supply, and are most likely to make good deals:


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Secret Rebates Make Best Car Deals

dealer cash incentivesOn this web site we typically talk about the best car puchase deals, the best finance deals, and the best lease deals. However, there’s a kind of “hidden” rebate that can make any of these deals even better.

We’re talking about factory-to-dealer rebates, sometimes called “dealer cash” or “dealer marketing support.” It’s money that the car manufacturer provides directly to dealers to help them sell specific vehicles. Dealers can use the money any way they wish, such as for advertising or sales events, but more often it goes to customers in the form of a price discount.

Factory-to-dealer rebates are offered month-to-month and only on selected models and styles. The rebates may vary between regions of the country.

At the time of this writing, the largest factory-to-dealer rebates are on leftover 2012 models. The money helps dealers offer large price discounts to customers, which helps get rid of the older models. Therefore, customers looking for a brand new car might find last year’s model significantly less expensive than an almost identical current-year model. However, since inventory is limited, customers may have a hard time finding just the right style, color, and options they want. In fact, some dealers might have none of the leftover models at all.


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Five Ways to Get Best Car Deals – Explained

best car dealsGetting the best car deals is not difficult but many people don’t know how to go about it. They end up spending much more money than they could have otherwise. Here are five things that will help you get the best deals:

1. Buy last year’s leftover models

Right now,  last year’s model cars are great deals as dealers and manufacturers need to get rid of leftover inventory and make room for new models. Since car makers only redesign cars about every 4-5 years, it’s likely that last year’s model of the car you want is almost identical to this year’s model — but at a much better price.

Manufacturers add “incentives” to make the leftovers more attractive to customers. These incentives can come in the form of large cash rebates, bonuses, low-interest loans, or special lease deals — or a combination of all the above. Although good deals are available on these vehicles, choices of colors and styles may be limited, especially later in the year.

Therefore, if you want to take advantage of “clearance” sales such as these, and you want a particular color, style, and options, it’s best to buy early and not hold out for possible better deals later.

2. Minimize your cost and dealers’ profit

Many people spend hours with a dealer negotiating a great price on the new car they want and then end up losing their great deal in the Finance Manager’s office. Finance Managers are charged with maximizing a dealer’s profit on every car deal. First, if you are trading a car, the dealer will offer you the lowest possible price, to increase his profit on the overall deal.

If you don’t know the fair value of your trade-in vehicle and insist on being paid that value, you can lose the advantage of the great price you negotiated for the new car.

Second, the Finance Manager will try to sell you a variety of “add-on” products and services, most of which are overpriced (for high profit) and unnecessary. He might offer extended warranties, insurance, security devices, paint and fabric protection, or service contracts. Each of these items, if purchased, increases dealer profits and reduces the value of a customer’s deal.


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Best Cars – Lowest Prices

best car pricesThere’s no question that cars are expensive. For most people automobiles are the second-most expensive thing they will buy in their lives — after a home. Because cars eventually wear out and must be replaced every so often, many people will actually spend more on automobiles than on places to live during their lifetime.

Today’s average price for a new vehicle is about $35,000, a number that rises every year. This means the average-priced new car is beyond affordability for many folks who need one.

However, even though the average price is $35,000, there are still many excellent new cars with prices under $25,000.

Consumer Reports magazine, in its April 2014 annual Auto Issue, lists the under-$25,000 vehicles it considers the best in class, based on its own testing. Here are some of the results:

Chevrolet Sonic LT – $18,290

Honda Civic EX – $21,605

Honda Civic Si – $23,175

Hyundai Elantra SE – $19,010

Kia Rio EX – $18,450

Mazda3 i Touring – $21,740

Subaru Impreza Premium – $23,065

Toyota Corolla LE Plus – $20,652

Honda Accord LX $23,270

Hyundai Sonata GLS $22,495


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Lease Vehicles – Which Are Best?

good lease vehicleIf you understand how car leasing works (if you don’t, go to LeaseGuide.com), you know that vehicles with projected high resale values make the best lease vehicles.

That’s because future resale value — called residual value in leasing — is one of the primary factors in determining monthly lease payments. The higher the residual value, the lower the lease payment.

Some car brands, such as Honda and BMW, consistently have high resale values compared to original MSRP (sticker price). Any vehicle whose resale value after 3 years is 55% or more of its MSRP is a good lease choice.

Kelly Blue Book has just announced its annual Best Resale Value Awards which names the makes and models that are expected to retain the highest percentage of  original list price — which means those vehicles are good purchase choices as well as good lease vehicles.

Here are the highlights of the announcement:


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Good Car Deal – or Not?

1. A car dealer offers you what seems like a good price on a brand new car. Is it a good deal or not? Should you expect to do better?

There are two prices that are important to know when buying a new car. One is the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) or “sticker” price shown on the car’s window sticker — retail price. The other is the “invoice” price — the price a dealer pays a car manufacturer for the car — wholesale price. With no other factors involved, a dealer can sell a car for a price anywhere between MSRP and invoice, depending how much profit he wants to make.

Many customers think dealers should sell cars at cost, which is ridiculous because any business has to make a profit to pay the bills and stay in operation.

Having said the above, dealers often get “help” from their manufacturer in the form of “holdbacks”, bonuses for making sales goals, and factory-to-dealer cash to help sell particular models and styles. Manufacturers also frequently offer direct customer rebates and bonuses.

Given this kind of help from the factory, dealers can often sell cars for prices that are below invoice price — with little or no money from their own pockets.


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Understanding Car Lease Deals

Lease payment seems low but is it a good deal or not?

Let’s look at an actual car lease ad

honda deals 2Here is an actual newspaper promotional advertisement for lease deals from the Honda web site. We’ll focus on the ad for the Accord Sedan for $199 a month, for 36 months, with $2499 due at signing.

This ad is typical of most lease ads for other vehicle makes/models.

Are the advertised lease deals actually good deals? How can you tell? What do you need to watch for in the fine print.

The car lease ads normally seen on TV, in newspapers, and on car company web sites are generally limited-time promotional deals, and are genuinely good deals.

However, it’s necessary to read the fine print in the ads to determine the conditions under which the offer is being made.

What the ad says

$199 a month, 36 months, $2499 due at signing – Monthly payments will be $199 — plus sales tax (in most states) — for 3 years. Of the $2499 due at time of lease signing, $199 is for the first month’s payment (lease payments are always at beginning of month), which leaves $2300 as down payment (cap cost reduction).

36 month closed-end lease for a Honda Accord Sedan CVT LX. This indicates this is a closed-end “walk-away” lease, which is a normal consumer lease, not a commercial or business lease. The lease expires in 36 months at which time the car must be returned, or purchased. Only this specific model vehicle is being offered in this lease. The lease can’t be extended or changed to include some other model. The ad will also specify the time period during which the special deal is being offered.


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New Cars Versus Used Cars

Used car dealsThis web site focuses almost exclusively on buying and leasing brand new cars but we realize that previously-owned used cars are the best solution for many people.

To set the stage for our discussion of used cars and getting great deals, let’s first point out that there are many more variables to consider when buying a used car than when buying or leasing a new car. With used cars, there’s the matter of condition, age, mileage, maintenance history, clear titles, accident incidents, price valuation, problem disclosure, and repair history —  all of which are not factors when buying a brand new car.

When you buy or lease a brand new car, the MSRP price is stated on the legally required sticker on the side window. Every dealer in the country who sells that same car has the same “sticker” price (although selling prices may vary). Therefore values of new cars are fixed, unlike values of used cars, which are highly variable depending on market conditions, region of the country, mechanical condition, mileage, and other factors already mentioned. Furthermore, with a little searching online at web sites such as Edmunds, you can find a dealer’s invoice price for any vehicle, the price he paid the manufacturer. There’s no way to do that for used cars.


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Best Car Deals Depend on Inventory

car inventory and days supplyIf you’re looking for good new-car deals, you only need to look at the number of vehicles sitting on dealers’ lots and in manufacturers’ storage.

If it’s large number, you can expect to get good deals as the companies attempt to reduce the supply to more normal levels. The longer a dealer has a car on his lot, the more money it costs him, and the less money he makes when he sells it.

New-car inventory is measured in “days supply.” Dealers and manufacturers like to have enough supply on hand so that they don’t run out during normal sales periods, but not so much that it affects costs and possibly manufacturing schedules.

It’s a fine line that must be walked. Manufacturers try to predict how many vehicles are needed, based on dealer orders, and have that supply waiting. However, this is not a perfect world and predictions are not always accurate. This means that, often, dealers and car companies have more vehicles on hand than they can sell in a reasonable time.  Generally, having more than about 90 days supply is considered excessive.

In that case, it’s time to offer customers some good deals to help sell vehicles and get inventory back on track again.

So, the key to knowing where to get the best deals depends on knowing which vehicles have more than a reasonable number of days supply., which can change from month to month but usually takes several months to change significantly, if it changes at all.

At the time of this writing, the following vehicle makes and models are in substantial over-supply situation, which means you can expect to get some good deals if any of these are the vehicle you want.


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Predicting Future Best Car Deals

best car dealsAs any reader of this web site knows, new car incentives come and go, month to month. A particular car make and model can have great incentives one month and none the next.

So what is going on that makes it work like this? Can we somehow predict when good incentives will be offered, and on what brands and models?

Yes, we can, with some degree of accuracy, predict car deals in the near future. However, we can’t say exactly how good the deals will be.

We base our predictions on what the car industry calls “days supply.” When cars are built at the factories, there are expectations as to how fast those cars will sell at dealers. They like to have about 60 days of supply in the pipeline or on dealers’ lots to make sure they have enough to feed demand.

However, as it happens sometimes, sales don’t happen as fast as expected and supplies pile up — up to 90 or even 120 days supply.  Not good. Too many cars. The car companies must find a way to increase sales to reduce the over-supply problem. New incentives are often the answer. Make the deals attractive enough and sales will increase, which reduces supply. Problem solved.


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Looking for Best Car Deals

great car dealsOn this web site we typically focus your attention on special promotional new-car offers each month which include rebates, bonuses, low-interest loans, and special lease deals. These are usually good deals that are well worth considering for anyone looking for a new car.

However, it is very possible to get great deals on other cars that don’t have advertised incentives, if certain conditions exist.

How? What conditions?

Let’s start with a little explanation.

Car manufacturers build cars in anticipation of customer demand in the coming months. Some months they build too many, and some months, too few. It’s when they build too many that it becomes a problem. In that case, cars are accumulated in the car maker’s shipping lots and on dealer’s sales lots.  Too many cars in inventory means something has to be done to sell them more quickly.


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Best Deals Are On Best Cars

best car valueGetting a great deal on a not-so-great car is not really a great deal at all.

If a car is uncomfortable to drive, is not dependable, has lack-luster performance, or doesn’t fully meet the needs of the buyer, it’s not a good buy, regardless of what kind of bargain price is paid.

The best car deals are those that offer good “value.” That is, cars that provide the best combination of features, performance, driveability, safety, and comfort — for the least money. Some cars don’t offer much and are inexpensive, which is understandable. Others, such as many luxury models, offer a lot but also cost a lot, which is also understandable.

However, there are many other cars that provide most of what high-end cars offer, yet have relatively low prices. These cars have the best “value” and make the best deals overall.

Consumer Reports magazine publishes its Annual Auto Issue in April each year (on newsstands now, as of the time of this writing). They report the results of new-car testing and evaluations, as well as used-car reliability surveys. This magazine (and web site) is an essential tool for anyone thinking of buying a car.

The highest scoring new vehicles are those that have the best value. Let’s take a look at them now.


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Five Steps to a New Car Deal

5 steps to new car dealMany of us know that the process of buying or leasing a new car, and getting a good deal, is often long, tiring, and stressful. And that’s just the part in the dealer’s store. Of the five steps we’ll discuss, four occur in the dealer’s place of business and can unnecessarily take hours of your life away, if you let it.

1. Research – This is the stage where you do your homework to determine the type or even the make and model of vehicle you want. You have many resources that can help. There are car company web sites, Consumer Reports magazine and website, car magazine web sites, and car owner web sites.

Then there are web sites such as Edmunds.com where you can not only find data about all car makes and models, but also get pricing information.

You should also go to local dealers and test drive the vehicles you think you might be interested in. Don’t take your checkbook, however, because it’s not time to buy just yet.

In this stage of the car buying or leasing process, you can (and should) take your time, and gather as much information as you can to make a smart decision. The more time you spend at this stage, the less time you’ll spend in the dealer’s office.


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Where Are the Best Used Car Deals

Used car dealsWhen buying a used car, it can be somewhat difficult to know what is a good deal and what isn’t because there are many more factors involved than when buying a brand new car.

If you are looking for a relatively new used car, don’t automatically assume that a brand new car of the same make and model will be more expensive.

Car manufactures frequently offer limited-time rebates, bonuses, low-interest loans, and discounts that can make new-car deals better than similar used-car deals. We recommend Edmunds.com as the online place to look for those deals. The prices there will automatically include any available manufacturer incentives.

Furthermore, finding the best deals is more difficult since there are no established manufacturer-set MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) for used cars as there is for new cars. The same car, same age, same mileage, same condition can be different prices at different dealers, in different cities, in different parts of the country. Prices are set at the discretion of the dealer or seller. Those prices might be high, low, fair, unreasonable, or anywhere in between.


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New Lexus Zero-Down Leases Announced

Although $0-down car leases are not uncommon, very few car companies actually do it. Honda and Acura are frequent players, as are Mazda and Subaru. But not Lexus — until now.

Lexus has announced new zero-down leases on a number of its popular 2016 models including the following:

IS 200T
GS 200T
GS 350
ES 350
IS 350 F Sport

For more details on these and other nothing-down lease deals, see Zero Down Car Leases are Back. Be aware that special manufacturer-sponsored limited-time deals such as these can vary, depending the part of the country.

What does it mean to get a zero-down lease deal?

A zero-down lease can mean different things, depending on who is offering it. Details can vary.

Generally, a nothing-down lease means no cap cost reduction, which is otherwise known as a down payment. However, a down payment is only a part of the total amount due at lease signing. There is also the first month’s payment as well as official tax, tag, and title fees. There can also be a security deposit with some leases.

In the case of the Lexus lease deals mentioned above, there is no down payment (cap cost reduction), no first month’s payment, and no security deposit.


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Understand How Auto Loans Work and Get the Best Deals

auto-loanUnless you are paying hard cash for your new or used car, your auto loan financing can make the difference between a great deal and a bad deal.

An inexperienced car buyer might assume that an auto loan is nothing more than working out an affordable monthly payment amount with his dealer.

However, an affordable payment doesn’t make it a good deal. In fact, it can be a terrible deal. With more knowledge about how car loans work, the buyer can almost certainly get either a much lower payment or buy more car for the same payment.

Auto loans are based on a number of important factors, all of which affect the monthly payment amount. Let’s take a quick look at those factors now:

Loan amount – the amount you borrow, including negotiated car price, taxes, and any extras

Down payment – cash that you pay up front to reduce the amount of your loan, and reduce payment amount

Loan term – the length of your loan, in months

Interest rate – determines the amount of finance charges added to the cost of your car loan


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Bad Credit Car Deals

car deals - credit scoreMany people suffered credit problems during the recent recession and subsequently found it difficult, if not impossible, to get car loans and leases.

That is changing — for the better.

Financial companies that are associated with car dealers and manufacturers, such as Honda Finance, Toyota Finance, and Ford Credit, are now easing credit requirements that have been tight since 2009. They are providing loans and leases to credit-challenged people who couldn’t qualify even as recently as a year ago.

One thing that has changed, and improved, is the way in which auto finance lenders look at potential borrowers. In the past, a bad credit score was a bad credit score — and that was it.

Now, they take a closer look at why and how the customer came to have poor credit. If a customer’s credit issues were caused by a single incidence such as a foreclosure on a home caused by job loss, or unpaid hospital bills caused by an unfortunate accident., the customer has a much better chance now of being approved and getting a good interest rate.

It also helps if a customer has had previous car loans or leases and has always made payments on time with no defaults or repossessions. Car dealers and finance companies have access to special auto-specific credit scores that can take priority over other credit factors.


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Nissan Leaf – Best Deal Ever – Ever

Nissan Leaf lease dealYou know — the Nissan Leaf EV, the small and cute 100% electric car that uses no gas and produces no polluting exhaust. Owners love them and have created clubs and owners groups to share their enthusiasm.

Right now, Nissan is offering an incredible lease deal on the Nissan Leaf that is the best car lease deal we have ever seen in 25 years in the automotive industry. We plugged the deal into our Lease Deal Calculator and came up with a score of 404, the highest score we’ve seen.

Normal lease scores are typically under 100, with some special leases scoring as high as 140 (see Outstanding Infiniti Lease Deals). But this Nissan Leaf deal scores 404 !!! Wow.

Here are the details. You lease a 2015 Nissan Leaf EV for 36 months with a lease payment of $199/month and a mileage allowance of 36,000 miles, and pay $1999 down (cap cost reduction) plus your first month’s payment of $249 at the time of signing.

As part of the deal, you get a rebate credit of $7675, which is applied as additional down payment, which reduces the monthly lease payment amount. Of the $7675, Nissan is giving customers the $7500 they receive as a tax credit from the Federal government, plus $175. This tax credit is available to owners of new all-electric vehicle. When leasing, the vehicle belongs to, and is owned by, the leasing company (Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation), who gets the $7500 credit. However, Nissan is giving the $7500 back to those who lease, as a rebate that is applied as down payment.


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Credit Scores Affect Your Car Deal

car deals - credit scoreYour credit score is a numerical representation of your credit history report, which includes details of all your credit accounts and loans, and how good you’ve been about paying them. It also reports any defaults, repossessions, or bankruptcies.

Credit scores, which for most people falls between 400 (poor) and 800 (excellent), are a major factor in determining the cost of buying or leasing an automobile.  It determines what interest rate you’ll pay, or even if you can get approved at all. It also determines if you will be allowed to take advantage of special new-car incentives, such as 0% APR loan and lease offers.

You have three credit reports and credit scores, one set from each of the three major credit agencies in the U.S. — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. When you buy a car with a loan, or lease a car, the dealer and finance company checks your credit score with one or more of the three agencies. Scores can be slightly different (sometimes, more than slightly) from each agency and you can’t control which agency a dealer or finance company uses.


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There’s More to a Car Deal Than Price

car buyer dealsAs automobile consumers, we tend to focus on price or monthly payment as the most important factor of any deal. However, there are other factors that should be considered as well.

Add-on costs

When you buy a brand new car, you always take the trip into the F&I (Finance and Insurance) manager’s office to sign your papers. But while you’re being held captive there, you’re presented with the “opportunity” to purchase a variety of expensive “add-on” products such as extended warranties, credit insurance, gap insurance, paint sealant, fabric protection, rust proofing, or security systems. These are all high-profit items for the dealer and are usually not worth the cost. If you choose to buy them, any deal you might have gotten on the price of the car is seriously eroded.  A good deal can turn bad in the blink of the eye.

Dealer fees

There are always a variety of fees when buying a car. Some are added by the dealer, others are charged by the finance company (if you need a loan or lease), and others are official fees and taxes required by the state/county/city where you live. Of course official fees are what they are — they can’t be negotiated out of a deal and don’t affect the deal, although if you negotiate a good price on your car, you pay less sales tax. And you can’t negotiate fees imposed by a bank or finance company because dealers don’t have the authority to do so.


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Looking for Great Car Deals? How’s Your Credit?

car deals - credit scoreMost advertised promotional car deals have small print that says something like, “Only applies to well qualified customers,” or “Offer only available to Tier A applicants, ” or ” Only for qualifed lessees.”

What does it mean? How does it affect your ability to get those good deals?

When auto makers put together monthly promotional incentives, such as rebates, low-interest loans, 0% APR loans, special lease deals, and factory-to-dealer cash; they put conditions on exactly who qualifies.

Although rebates and dealer cash are usually available to anyone, special finance rates and lease deals are only available to customers who have good credit. Some deals even specify just how good the credit has to be — typically a credit score of 700 or 720, or higher.

If your credit score is below the required level, you probably will not qualify. If you don’t know your score before you visit your dealer to take advantage of a special deal, you might become a little embarrassed when you discover that your score doesn’t qualify you.

It’s always good to know your credit score before you go for a car deal, even if it’s not a special promotional deal. We recommend a reputable online service that provides credit reports and credit scores. What’s your FICO score? Find out now when you check your credit report for $1 at Experian.com!   Your car dealer and his finance company will use your credit score to determine the finance rate you’ll be charged for your loan or lease.


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New Car – Lease or Buy – Explained

lease vs buyWhen getting a new car, is it better to buy or lease? Lease vs buy? What are the pros and cons of each?

It’s a question we hear all the time.

However, the answer is not that simple. One way is better for some people, the other way is better for others.

Both leasing and buying with a loan are forms of auto financing. Leasing is not renting, as some people mistakenly think.

With leasing you finance the entire value of the car, just like with a loan, but you only pay off the amount that the car’s value will depreciate during the lease term. All cars decrease in value over time, whether they are leased or purchased. At the end of the lease, you pay off the remaining balance by returning the car to the lease company, or by purchasing it.

An average car will depreciate in value by about 50% over a period of three years. That’s why lease payments are about 50% lower than loan payments for the same car, same term.


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Why Lease a Honda?

cheapest car lease dealsHonda is one of the most “lease-friendly” car brands in the U.S.. If you are looking for a good car lease deal, you won’t go wrong with a Honda.

Why it that, you might ask? Why is Honda such a good brand to lease?

Let’s briefly list some of the reasons and then explain them.

1. High residual values

2. Low money factor (finance rate)

3. Frequent special limited-time lease deals

4. Lenient lease-end “wear and tear” policy

5. No lease-end disposition fee

6. Reasonable front-end acquisition fee

7. GAP protection is included in lease

Let’s explain:

1. High residual values – The Honda brand has legendary reliability. High reliability means high resale values. High resale values means high lease-end residual values. Finally, high residual values mean low monthly payments. The best “leasable” cars are those with the highest residual values.


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New Lease Guide Site

LeaseGuide.com home pageOur sister web site, LeaseGuide.com, has just been completely redesigned and updated. It’s definitely worth a visit for anyone who is thinking about the possibility of leasing their next car — or are wondering if leasing is right for them — or is currently leasing.

The site was started about 15 years ago and became the most authoritative and most visited web site about car leasing. Although it was partially updated many times over the years, this is the first time it has been totally redesigned and updated.

So, what does it have to offer?

First, is the Lease Guide which is a 15-part comprehensive guidebook to car leasing. It covers everything from simply explaining the concept of leasing, to how to determine who should lease and who shouldn’t, to the pros and cons of leasing, to how leasing actually works, to explaining the “secret” lease payment formula, to how to handle the end of a lease.


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