Let's talk about saving you more than a few bucks. We can do this with a one-time reprise of an Inquirer feature I used to write called Coming Off Lease.
Coming Off Lease was about buying three-year-old vehicles, typically cars returned to dealers upon the expiration of their leases. There are good reasons to purchase these guys.
First of all, you are saving serious money. Since the worst depreciation occurs in the first three years, you are letting someone else take that hit by buying the car at the end of that period. Second, you are getting a relatively low-mileage automobile, since most lessees try to keep the miles below the usual 36,000 lease limit to avoid significant penalties. That, in turn, usually motivates the dealer to certify the car and put an extended warranty on it.
In addition to avoiding the ever-rising cost of new cars, you are also cashing in on their ever-increasing durability. So that three-year-old, if properly treated, should be your houseguest for some time.
It's also true that buying an ex-leaser allows you to move upmarket at the same bucks you'd expend on a lesser new car.
The intrinsic advantages are augmented, at the moment, by the fact that plentiful used-car supplies are depressing prices.
Let's check out a few examples from various car segments to get an idea of the savings. We'll list the base price of typically high-end 2016 or 2017 models, then compare that with the average price a new-car dealer would charge for a clean 2014 model with 36,000 miles on it:
Kia Cadenza. Introduced as a 2014, this quiet, comfortable, and competent newcomer was the automaker's first full-size sedan, as well as its most technologically advanced and most expensive vehicle. The Cadenza lists for $44,090, plus shipping, as a 2016 model, and has an average retail of $22,350 as a 2014.
Buick LaCrosse Premier AWD. This large, entry-level luxury sedan, refreshed for 2014, weighs in at $43,265 for 2017. The comparable 2014 model has an average retail of $23,250.
The 2014 LaCrosse's refresh was extensive, ranging from the usual exterior and interior cosmetics to upgrades in interior quality and electronic safety devices. The V-6 in the Premier AWD affords decent mileage for a large car, but the mild hybrid drivetrain in cheaper models affords extraordinary EPA mileage estimates for 25 city and 36 highway.
Nissan Altima 3.5 SL. This top-of-the-line V-6 version of the automaker's midsize sedan carries a list price of $32,690 for 2017, but you can get the comparable 2014 SL V6 for an average retail of $17,025.
The Altima was redesigned for 2013, and even the $21,500 base model looks enough like Infiniti's $47,700 M37 large sedan to warrant a paternity test. So the 2014 appears richer than it is, and benefits from the redesign's boosts in mileage, handling, engine performance, and cabin comfort.
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. An all-new vehicle for 2014, the Cherokee is either a smallish midsize crossover or a largish compact. But whatever you want to call it, it is very able in AWD form when things get slippery, and a superb off-roader as the specially equipped, top-of-the-line Trailhawk.
Given the way it looks and what it will do, the 2017 Trailhawk is a solid value at $31,195. But then again, you can get virtually the same thing - admittedly minus the automaker's original three-year warranty - when you buy a low-mileage 2014 model for an average retail of $23,900.