Our vehicle lease was up this month, and we’ve been hard-pressed to find a new one. We’ve been looking off and on for the past month and a half, and by all rights should have been looking far sooner than that. With the pandemic, there’s been a meteoric shift in how many new cars are built, what they contain, and how they’re sold.
Considering all that, we were a bit naive about the whole thing, thinking that it was going to be like years past, there would be scads of new cars to choose from and so on. Going to dealer lots was a real eye opener. The lots were mostly empty, and what new cars were there were few and far between. Even looking online one could see that many car dealerships had shifted to a used car mantra, since so few of the new ones were there to be had.
Historically, we don’t have what someone might consider ‘brand loyalty’. The only car makers that we’ve leased from more than once would be Subaru & Ford (we’ve had 2 Foresters). In the last 20 years, we’ve leased from Ford, GMC, Nissan, Jeep & Subaru. Consequently, each time we’re aiming for something new and interesting, so that the next 3 years aren’t ‘more of the same. Ergo, we were going a bit further afield, though we tend to stay with the same dealership we’ve been leasing from since 2000. Fortunately, they have a large variety of brands to choose from so that does make it a bit easier, and all the lots communicate with one another, so if we bring back a Nissan to a Hyundai lot, we don’t have to pay to have it transferred back home, no matter the distance.
This year we were looking at Fords, Hyundais, Nissans and Subarus. It just seemed that these brands had the larger (if such a thing can be claimed) number of vehicles to choose from. We’ve been leasing SUVs all this time; the only other one we leased was a Ford Ranger in 2000, but that was a bit of a disaster since it was a short box, with a small cab and while it allowed us the freedom to move from one house to another (after we fired the movers) it just wasn’t practical as a ‘family’ vehicle. Back then ‘King cabs’ existed, but ‘Crew cabs’ weren’t as prevalent as they are now. And generally if you get a crew cab truck, you tend to end up with a shorter bed. So and SUV is a better choice for us.
We started out at the Nissan dealership; talked to a salesman about the 2022 Murano, and then test drove a 2022 Rogue. In 2019 when we leased the Murano we had, we tried out a Rogue and it seemed a bit cramped to both of us. The Murano was larger inside but not as large as an Armada or Pathfinder, so that fit our needs rather handily. Too, they had a Platinum (top of the line) model in gunmetal gray (a nice touch) and it had all the bells & whistles you could expect. It served us well and we really liked it. So much in fact we were seriously considering buying the car when the lease was done.
The Rogue was nice, but it really didn’t feel quite right to either of us. My wife had seen a 2022 Bronco on one of the dealer’s websites, and I myself had been liking the Hyundai Santa Fe ever since I rented one to do a long drive to VA in 2017. Unfortunately the dealership didn’t have any Santa Fe’s (some were in transit, but there wasn’t a hard date on when they would be delivered), so at that time it was a non-issue.
We looked over the Broncos at a different lot, and test drove an ‘Outer Banks’ model. My initial thought about the Bronco was that it was very compact, but on the inside it wasn’t as small as I was originally fearing. We went up to a local camping area, swapped out drivers (I tend to do the bulk of our driving, but occasionally my wife does take the wheel, so she needed to be comfortable behind it) and she took it for a spin around a parking lot. We liked it, but not enough to make a commitment. Too, the bells & whistles on the vehicle were a little sparse. The dealer did have one other Bronco, but it was referred to as the ‘Badlands’ model, which was more suited for off-roading (heavier suspension, big knobby tires, larger ground clearance, all the things you would need for spending time up in the woods), not driving to the store for food. Naturally, IT had the bells and whistles we were looking for. Like all salespeople so far, this one warned us that we needed to make a decision soon, as he couldn’t hold either vehicle for us, they were on a first come, first served basis. Understood.
A couple of weeks later, we had contacted Nissan and gotten a 2 month extension on our lease. The stipulation we had to agree to though was; the option of buying the car outright was no longer on the table, we HAD to turn it in. No ifs, ands, or buts. At the very least it gave us another month to search and to dither. We checked the Ford dealership and the Broncos were still there, but something else caught my wife’s eye. A 2022 BMW 330i sedan that only had 7800 miles on the odometer. At a reasonable price too. I wasn’t certain that she was serious; since as I mentioned above we normally only lease SUVs. She asked me to check the CARFAX on it, and we discovered that it was a short term lease (1 month!) and it came from Ohio. Whoever leased it apparently wasn’t happy with it, as they returned it to the dealer in Cleveland and the vehicle went to auction about a month later. For whatever reason, the Ford dealer had purchased it and put it on their lot.
Just for the heck of it, we called the salesperson we had dealt with, asked about the Bronco, and asked if the BMW could be leased. He was with another customer and said he’d get back to us ASAP. In the meantime we were going to be heading to another lot to look at a Subaru Outback. So between the two lots and salespeople we finally determined the BMW was NOT available for lease (one wonders why) and the only Bronco he had left was the Badlands version. Definitely a non-starter. I told him that regardless of whether we made out well with the Subaru I’d be calling him at the end of the day to let him know where we stood.
We got to the Subaru dealership and the salesman we were working with (Anthony) had the Outback ready for us and in front of the building. We chatted a bit, he took my driver’s license to get a copy for our test drive. Coming back, he had the key fob with him and we took a short drive in it. I have to say, it hit all the notes for us, even when we were at a 4-way stop and the engine cut out unexpectedly. Apparently the car has a feature where this happens if you stop for too long, say at a stop sign and the engine would be idling too much. When you lift your foot from the brake it starts up again. This feature can be disabled if it becomes too unnerving. After driving for about 4-5 miles (we hit construction) we decided it was too nice to pass up.
We went back to the dealership and talked about replacing the Murano with this Outback. It didn’t take too long, the only fly in the ointment was my wife had forgotten to unlock her credit reports, and they were unable to access them. They were able to extrapolate what her credit number was (suffice it to say, she has a near perfect credit rating, I’ve always been insanely jealous of it) and we signed a base agreement to lease the vehicle. Since it was a Friday, we weren’t interested in swapping out the cars that day, the Murano needed to be hoed out, things removed, and I wanted to give it a once over with the vacuum as it had been over a year since I’d done it last. Definitely want to make a good impression, not hand over a sloppy car. Too, I had a dashcam I needed to remove, my EZPASS stickers and so on. Monday seemed like the better choice and Anthony was (finally) agreeable to the whole plan.
This past Monday, we met at the dealership in the evening, swapped out the cars and we drove the Outback home. It’s sitting in the driveway, and it’s ours until 2025. Hopefully, things will be a little easier when it’s time to choose our next car.