How to Find the Right Dealer to Lease Your Car From? Leasing a car isn’t something to take lightly. You’re entering a contract, borrowing money, and making a purchase which will have a real impact on your life. You want to make sure you’re working with the right dealer to make the process pleasant, the right dealer for your financial situation, the right dealer for quality service and reliable vehicles. That means taking the time to assess a variety of aspects and choosing very carefully after thorough consideration.
We’re going to look at four distinct aspects you’ll want to consider, to find the right dealer:
- Vehicles. The cars available from that dealer, and whether they match your needs and price range.
- Service. The staff of the dealer, and their ability to service you adequately without frustration.
- Finance. Prices, finance options, and related concerns you may have.
- Support. Secondary services, such as maintenance, and conveniences, such as easy payment gateways and customer service reps.
Some aspects will be unique to your own needs and considerations, to help you find the ‘right’ dealer versus the ‘wrong’ dealer. Others will be simple assessments based on objective criteria — ’good’ dealers and ‘bad’ dealers. All of it is important if you want to lease a car under the best terms and conditions.
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The first set of factors is, of course, the cars on the lot (and, potentially, the cars off the lot). There’s not much point looking at anything else about a dealer if the product isn’t something you’d be interested in spending money on.
A simple question to ask, before you even consider anything else—does the dealer you’re looking at have the models you’re interested in leasing? Unless you’re simply interested in getting a nice car at a fair price, and don’t have specific preferences beyond that, you’ll want to go in with some idea of the models you’d like to drive away in. While most dealers will specialize in particular manufacturers or sets of manufacturers, others may specialize in a particular type of vehicle; high-end or low-end, family vehicles or sports cars, electrics and hybrids, etc.
New vs. Used
You’ll need to find a dealer offering new or pre-owned vehicles as appropriate for your situation. Keep in mind that there’s a wide range between ‘dealer who also offers pre-owned vehicles’ and ‘dubious tiny back lot of junkers’. You want to lease a pre-owned vehicle from the former, not the latter, if at all possible. Remember, you want to obtain value from your lease—that won’t happen if you’re looking at a vehicle which will be lucky to last a month past your last payment on it.
This is of course only a factor if you’re looking at leasing a pre-owned car—otherwise, the condition of the vehicle is a matter of manufacture quality. A new car will be equally good or bad in the hands of a good or bad dealer, but if you’re leasing a pre-owned vehicle, quality becomes a much more important factor in assessing. A quick glance around the lot should make it clear how much the dealer cares about the basic upkeep of their cars, but you won’t be able to get a picture of what things look like ‘under the hood’ without doing a bit of homework.
If you’re looking for a particular package on a particular model, you’ll need to be especially picky about the dealer you’re looking to lease from. Unless you get really lucky, this usually means making a special order from the manufacturer. Some dealers can handle this, but if you’re looking for someone who only cares to sell what’s on the lot—be it new or used—then you’re looking at a very different situation.
So the cars look good. How about the service from the dealer? You don’t want to lease a car from a dealer that makes you dread every interaction for the next few years.
It can be difficult to assess the professionalism of a dealer, but there are a few key factors to look for. First and foremost, a dealer who can keep appointments and communicates honestly is likely more professional than one that’s consistently late. You can also put together a good understanding of professionalism based on the way the dealer speaks to you, but this is a bit less reliable than obvious signals such as punctuality and general reliability.
Transparency should be a high priority in your relationship with any business you intend to be involved with for a decent period of time. Since leasing a car is almost always a long-term contract, you’re going to want to make sure surprises are at a minimum. That means clear, easily understood language in anything you sign, straightforward charges and fees, and a general lack of obfuscation by obscurity. If you end up looking at a charge or expense you never expected to pay for, then you’re dealing with a dealer you want to avoid at all costs.
If you can’t find anyone with anything nice to say about a dealer, that’s a very bad sign. While any business will collect some number of complaints from disgruntled customers, it’s easy to look and spot trends and warning signs in aggregate. If you see some complaint from multiple people, and no satisfactory response from the dealer in any public forum, then there’s probably a grain of truth to the complaint.
On the other hand, don’t take positive experiences with too much faith. A customer who never comes into any amount of conflict with a dealer, due to good luck, may have a very different experience compared to one who sees the ugly side. Use your judgment. Even great dealers have the occasional problem crop up, and awful dealers aren’t awful 100% of the time.
An excellent dealer may offer sub-par maintenance services or work with disreputable financing companies. Make sure you investigate any services intertwined with the dealer, if you intend to take advantage of those services. Of course, working with low-quality partners reflects poorly itself upon the dealer, so it’s worth taking into account either way.
Prices, financing options, trade-ins, these are factors that determine whether you can actually afford to lease a great car from a great dealer. None of the other factors matter if the dealer charges twice what they should, after all.
Whether you’re leasing new or pre-owned vehicles, you’re going to want to compare what you’re expected to pay against other dealers available to you, the objective value of the vehicle according to sources like the Blue Book, etc. Make sure you’re not getting tricked; the price for a specific model can vary greatly across different variants, optional packages, etc. A price should make sense for the exact car you’re looking at, not a similar car with different features.
An entire article could be dedicated solely to navigating the waters of finance options at a car dealer, so make sure you read carefully and dig deep on the terms and conditions of any financing agreement you consider signing. Ask plenty of questions about anything you don’t understand, and trust your instincts—if it doesn’t sound right, you owe yourself a quick Google at the very least to make sure things are above board. If a third party will be involved, you owe it to yourself to investigate that third party in detail, too.
If you’re looking to trade a vehicle in, it’s something important to consider in assessing a dealer. There are two broad factors to consider: whether the dealer takes trade-ins at all, and whether they give a fair value for any vehicle they might take off your hands.
A good dealer to lease from shouldn’t hesitate to communicate the terms of a lease clearly and thoroughly. Any opacity in a dealer should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. You also want to keep an eye out for extra charges for irrelevant services and various tacked on fees that should have been mentioned earlier. If a dealer tries to sneak extra charges past you, they’re probably trying to sneak other dishonesty past you as well.
Leasing a car isn’t over in a single day. For the duration of the lease, you may need to interact with the dealer for payments, maintenance and repairs, and a variety of other reasons. So it’s important to assess the support available for these various tasks.
Your experience as a customer with a dealer can be highly indicative of what to expect from a long-term relationship such as a lease. If it’s easy to get someone on the phone, easy to discuss matters, easy to navigate the website to make a payment, that’s a good sign. If you struggle to get someone to answer your calls, inquiries bounce around or come back with vague answers, and there’s not a hint of convenience in any of the systems, that’s a bad sign.
Maintenance and repairs
Will you be able to keep your vehicle in good condition by working with the dealer’s in-house team, or will you need to find your own mechanic? While this may not matter for many looking to lease, it’s something important to understand—especially if you’re leasing a newer vehicle with a large number of proprietary, difficult-to-maintain systems and parts. Pay extra attention to this factor if you’re buying a high-end luxury or sports vehicle, any hybrid or electric car, and similarly complex vehicles. It can be nearly impossible to find a good certified mechanic for some newer models, leaving you no option but the dealer’s in-house offerings—whatever quality or cost may be involved.
When leasing a car from a dealer, you want to be able to get in touch if necessary with a minimum of fuss. Ideally, this means a phone number you can call and reach someone consistently at the very least. Better dealers may also accept and respond quickly to emails, texts, messages through social media, and web forms. IF you have a preferred form of contact, it may be worth it to ascertain whether a particular dealer will communicate with you in that medium.
For the most part, quality will follow a good reputation. If you hear good things about a dealer from someone that’s leased a car from that dealer, it’s probably a good sign. Especially if it’s someone in similar circumstances to yourself. Just remember: a good dealer is a good dealer even when something goes wrong.