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Left Coast / Right Coast: Leasing a new car

Many of you have probably leased a new car. However, if you have not done this in the past year (our last lease was three years old) be prepared for an absolute onslaught of legalese.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

Many of you have probably leased a new car. However, if you have not done this in the past year (our last lease was three years old) be prepared for an absolute onslaught of legalese.

For example, our lease had a separate form for just about everything. One said we give our permission for information furnished to them to be disclosed to third parties. Now I am sure some of that disclosure is so the dealer can provide information to the manufacturer (who actually retains ownership of the car) for credit approval.

What is sort of outrageous about this is that we just completed two three-year leases – with the same dealer and manufacturer (with not a single of the 72 payments ever being late). So one might legitimately ask why we had to go through another detailed credit check. I don’t actually know what our credit score is, but I imagine it is quite high. So really all the manufacturer’s finance arm should have had to do was look up our credit rating – that plus the 72 months of timely lease payments and conclude that we are “about zero risk.

Next, we wanted to keep our existing license plates and transfer them over to the new car. So the dealer was able to re-register the new car with the old license plates. Reason is our old plate had only six numbers (getting increasingly rare – as most new plates have seven numbers/letters).

Now it turns out the new car is the same make and model as the old one, as well as the same color. But the dealer said: Under no circumstances should you put the old plates on your new car – until after you’ve received the new registration.” I didn’t understand this. Say I got pulled over. The old registration would say the “make, model and color – just three years newer.” I calculated in my head what the odds were if an officer pulled me over and I produced the old registration and certificate of insurance that he/she might notice that the year was three years off and if they checked the VIN number, the old number would come up rather than the new car’s number. I thought “little risk.” However my salesman explained that if I did get pulled over, when they ran the plate in their computer system, the old registration would have reported that the vehicle was “STOLEN!”

So instead of mounting the old plate one time, we have to suffer the indignity of having that ugly paper temporary plate scotch taped to the rear window (where among other things, it blocks part of one’s vision to the rear).

But, to the dealer’s credit, the car had a full tank (of premium fuel), the tire pressures were set to the somewhat higher pressure I like to run, and the car was beautifully detailed. Fortunately, the rain let up for my drive home from the dealer – preserving the clean exterior.

My last complaint has to do with the state of technology in modern cars. Turns out both my old and new model have a feature called “automatic stop/start.” When you come to a stop at a light, the engine shuts off. As soon as you step on the accelerator, the engine re-starts and off you go.

Only problem is if your car is in drive (true most of the time when you come to a complete stop), the car tends to “lurch forward.” Somewhat disarming and something I simply do not like. With the old car, the dealer can set the feature to remain off or on all the time. There is a button you can use to over-ride the feature if it happens to be turned on. Well the Federal Government entered the fray with a regulation that says the dealer cannot “turn off the feature permanently.”

Fortunately the manufacturer found a work around (guaranteed the Government will change the rule as soon as they find this out). The system “remembers” how you had the feature set up (either off or on) so when you shut the car off, it remembers your previous setting.

Last point about technology. It took both my salesperson as well as someone from the service department to do two things:

1. Pre-set the radio to the stations we listen to (under a button). It was somewhat like programming a computer. I’d like to strangle the engineer who decided this was a “normal” procedure.

2. It also took both of them to “pair” my cell phone to the car so I could use the steering wheel buttons to a. look up contacts in my phone’s phone book and b. allow me to answer the phone and use it in a “hands free” manner. Again I claim this is technology run amok.

A few very nice features on the new car:

1. A heated steering wheel (and I defy anyone to find the off-on switch – it is so well hidden as to almost be useless).

2. A back up camera (this will soon be standard equipment on all new cars).

3. A blind spot detector. If you try to change lanes when there is a car in your blind spot (either side), the steering wheel vibrates. A very nice idea.

Oh well, when we lease another car in three years (if we do), I can guarantee we will have absolutely no idea how to actually use the damn thing.

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