Car leasing lessons that could save you thousands

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7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda has the story.

Leasing is one of the most popular ways to buy a car, but it's also the most involved and confusing. One New Jersey woman made some critical mistakes that threatened to cost her tens of thousands until 7 On Your Side stepped in.

"I felt like I was going to have a stroke, my hands started shaking I was a wreck," said Jennie Soto, car lessee. Soto is beyond angry at the car dealer who leased her a new Ford Escape last year. She's shouting but not getting answers as to why she paid off the car lease months ago, yet no one knows what happened to her pay-off check.

"They don't pick up the phones. They don't return emails," Soto said.
Just after signing the three-year lease, Soto realized she was going to run way over the lease's mileage limit, 31,500.

"So I said, let me try my best to pay it off," Soto said.

She secured a loan from her credit union to buy/finance the car. It sent the dealer a check in May for the balance, about $31,000. But months later, Ford Motor Credit is still sending her bills for monthly payments.

The dealership said the check was returned because it stopped payment on it.

"Ford Motor Credit is harassing me for payment and I'm already paying a bank. I can't do double payments. It's impossible, I live paycheck to paycheck," Soto said.

Plus, her bank was looking for the car title.

"They're telling me if they don't get a title of the car soon they're going to freeze my assets in the bank. I'm all around stressed," Soto said.

So 7 On Your Side contacted Jersey City Ford. A second check went out, but even that didn't clear when it's bank "did not honor this payment."
7 On Your Side paid a visit to Jersey City Ford. A finance manager blamed its own bank for bouncing the second check, but it did apologize to Soto saying the dealership's customer service, in this case, fell short.

Ford Motor Credit finally got a check that wasn't rubber, and Soto and her family burned some rubber to Six Flags to celebrate.

The big takeaway - before you lease, estimate your mileage. Soto racks up over 60 miles a day in her commute. Standard leases allow about 10 to 12,000 miles per year. If you average more, think twice about leasing.

Limit down payments to less than $2,000. Jennie paid that plus a trade in. That's too much.

Next, compare your costs of a lease versus buying and financing. Soto realized too late the lease wasn't a good fit. She lost thousands getting out of it.
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