What’s Going On – December 2013

I know it’s been a while since I posted a new message. Some of you are probably wondering if I went MIA again. It is safe to say that I’m still checking my messages and watching for website activity. If you have questions, feel free to ask them and I will do my best to answer them.


I have been in the mist of at least 10 concurrent projects at work, so it’s been tough to sit down and find time to write to you all. I haven’t had much time to car shop either which really sucks because I only have until month end to take care of things. The good news is that I made some progress today by sending off a few quote requests. With that in mind, let’s move into my next topic…

My Holiday Wishlist

So I went to the LA Auto Show last week with the family and spent a solid 3.5 hours there. My little girl tagged along and hung in there like a champ. Unlike past years, I didn’t take any pictures because having a stroller and family members tagging along really makes it tough to take photos. The good news is that there really wasn’t all that much new stuff. For those of you intrigued by the MBZ CLA, I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t all that impressed by it. The interior really disappointed me because it did not scream “Mercedes-Benz”. On the flip-side, I was really impressed by the Audi A3 sedan. Fit and finish was impressive. I can only imagine how the S3 variant drives…*drool*. Unfortunately for me, these cars are just WAY TOO SMALL. Very tight quarters. Maybe I’m just getting old (and large), but it’s not all that easy to get in and out of those cars now. Anyway, going back to the real point, this auto show was really an opportunity for me to check out vehicles on my “lease” list and hopefully get some feedback from the wife. Without any further delay, here’s what I’ve been working towards…

Top Choices (in order)

2014 Chevy Volt (quoted)
2014 Ford Fusion Titanium
2013 Infiniti G37 Journey Sedan (quoted)
2014 VW Passat TDI
2014 Honda Accord EXL V6
2014 Volvo S60 T5 Premium
2013 Lexus CT200h (quoted)
2013 VW GTI Wolfsburg
2014 VW Golf TDI

The hope here is to get a real low payment, most bang for the buck and lowest operating cost (in that order). Fuel efficiency would be nice since the Pilot isn’t exactly a gas-sipper, but not crucial since my commute is only about 10 miles each way.

VOLT Update

In any case, I got an initial offer for the Chevy Volt tonight that looks like this:

MSRP: $35, 156.00
Your Price: $31,156.00

Drive-Off: $774.06
Payment: 361.26 (includes sales tax of 9%)
Rate: 0.00091

$500 Costco Cash Card (This promotions is going on for many GM vehicles through early January 2014)

Dealer “forgot” to disclose the residual, but I’m not too worried about it. As I said, it’s an initial offer so I’m just going to bring down the hammer after I test drive the car. No sense getting into the nitty-gritty if I end up disliking the car, right?

Got my hands on it…58.245%, not too shabby. So the key now would be to obtain the full $9000 credits ($7500 FED + $1500 CA) and they can sell the car for MSRP for all I care.

Stay-tuned folks! It’s going to be a busy month of December 🙂

G37 Update

Got a quote for the G37 Journey $811 at signing, $375 a month tax included. 62% / .00084 at 36mo/12k. Looks like there’s a lot more wiggle room.

CT200h Update

Received the quote with no lease rate information, but I was able to estimate the possible numbers…$550 at signing, $395 per month tax included. Based on those payments and the assumption that the residual hasn’t changed much since Oct (61%), I calculated the MF being about .00033. I will get confirmation tomorrow.

S60 T5 Update

VOLVO December numbers are in so check them out! I didn’t get a quote yet, but they look good! I will ask for a quote next week. Check back for an updated.



How to Measure the Tread Depth on Your Tires

At the end of every lease, the inspection company that comes out to check your vehicle will no doubt check your tires tread depth. Here is a link that provides some information on how to measure the tire tread of your tires (courtesy of TireRack). If you don’t feel like clicking the link, here’s a quick except on how to do it…

U.S. coins can be substituted for a tire tread depth gauge as tires wear to the critical final few 32nds of an inch of their remaining tread depth.

Place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32″ of tread depth remaining.

Place a quarter into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Washington’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 4/32″ of tread depth remaining.

Place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If the top of the Lincoln Memorial is always covered by the tread, you have more than 6/32″ of tread depth remaining.

Once you have determined the approximate remaining tread depth in the first location, you can complete your measurement of each tire by placing the coin into additional locations at lease 15 inches apart around the tire’s central circumferential groove, as well as in its inner and outer grooves. This will help detect uneven wear caused by mechanical or service conditions.

The Law

According to most states’ laws, tires are legally worn out when they have worn down to 2/32″ of remaining tread depth. To help warn drivers that their tires have reached that point, tires sold in North America are required to have indicators molded into their tread design called “wear bars” which run across their tread pattern from their outside shoulder to inside shoulder. Wear bars are designed to visually connect the elements of the tire’s tread pattern and warn drivers when their tires no longer meet minimum tread depth requirements.

Common Sense

However, as a tire wears it’s important to realize that the tire’s ability to perform in rain and snow will be reduced. With 2/32″ of remaining tread depth, resistance to hydroplaning in the rain at highway speeds has been significantly reduced, and traction in snow has been virtually eliminated.

If rain and wet roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 4/32″ of remaining tread depth. Since water can’t be compressed, you need enough tread depth to allow rain to escape through the tire’s grooves. If the water can’t escape fast enough, your vehicle’s tires will be forced to hydroplane (float) on top of the water, losing traction.

If snow-covered roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 6/32″ of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. You need more tread depth in snow because your tires need to compress the snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. If there isn’t sufficient tread depth, the “bites” of snow your tires can take on each revolution will be reduced to “nibbles,” and your vehicle’s traction and mobility will be sacrificed. Because tread depth is such an important element for snow traction, winter tires usually start with noticeably deeper tread depths than typical All-Season or summer tires. Some winter tires even have a second series of “wear bars” molded in their tread pattern indicating approximately 6/32″ remaining tread depth to warn you when your tires no longer meet the desired tread depth.

Now, if you are a more visual learner, you probably want to click on the link since it comes with neat little pictures of how the tire tread is measured using coins. I know that this information may seem somewhat self-serving for TireRack (since they sell tires and all), but we can’t deny the importance of having good tires and not getting hammered with fees at lease-end.



If you are a RIDE with G regular, you have probably heard me talk about “lease-to-buy” numerous times, specially when it comes to Mercedes-Benz models. The whole concept of “lease-to-buy” refers to the idea of leasing with the intention of purchasing the car at lease-end. It is a very good way of getting into a nice ride with little or no money down and save some money should you decide to buyout the car. In this post, I will examine some key aspects of “lease-to-buy” and how it can save you some money compared to other leases and traditional financing.

When you lease a car, you normally want a high residual value and a low money factor since this combination yields the lowest monthly payments. This is because when your depreciation and money factor are low, your payments stay low. In a “lease-to-buy” scenario, you want the majority of your payments to go towards the depreciation of the lease loan so the payoff price at the end of your lease is lower. The best way to accomplish this is to find a car with a low residual value and a low money factor. This will ensure that the bulk of your monthly payments go towards the car, instead of the financing charge.

For the sake of comparison, lets take the CLK350 coupe vs the BMW 528xi Sedan. I know they are different classes of cars, but this is purely a numbers comparison, so bear with me.

2009 Mercedes CLK350 Coupe
36-month | 15k miles | residual 44% | .00008 base money factor (0.192% APR)

MSRP $48,975
Invoice $45,608
Monthly $668 (depreciation) + $5 (finance charge) = $673 + tax
Payoff $21,549 + tax

2009 BMW 528xi Sedan
36-month | 15k miles | residual 58% | .00175 base money factor (4.2% APR)

MSRP $48,925
Invoice $45,075
Monthly $463 (depreciation) + $128 (finance charge) = $592 + tax
Payoff $28,376 + tax

At first glance, you will notice the higher payments on the CLK350, don’t panic. It ends up being about $81 more per month on the CLK, which boils down to about $2,916 over the course of three years. Not bad considering the difference between the BMW and MB’s payoff is about $6,827 ($28376-$21549). That’s a savings of about $3,911, should you decide to buy the CLK instead of the 528xi at lease-end. As you can see, certain cars should never be bought at the end of a lease, specifically those with high money factors and high residual values. Now, if you plan to lease forever, then the BMW is clearly the better choice due to the lower monthly payments.

Here are a few things to look out for before you decide whether you want to “lease-to-buy”:

  1. Make sure the money factor is much lower than the best purchase financing rate that’s available. You can find out what APR your money factor is by multiplying the money factor by 2400.
  2. At lease-end, you will need to either pay the entire payoff balance upfront OR secure a low rate for the remainder of your loan to keep some of those savings. Keep in mind that your car would be considered “used”, which means low rates on loans may be a bit tough to get. The upside to this is that you aren’t taking out a loan on a $48,000 car.

Lastly, some cars are being heavily discounted from month-to-month, such as the CLK in April 2009. The monthly payments may very well be less than the $673 + tax that I estimated depending on how much you can lower your gross cap cost. The bottom line is this, you can save money even if you decide to buyout your car at lease end, you just need to know what to look for and plan ahead.

Can You Mod a Leased Vehicle?

Can You Mod a Leased Vehicle?

The short answer to that question is “YES”. Leasing is like “Rent-To-Own”, so if you decide to make expensive modifications to your leased vehicle and would consider purchasing your car at lease-end (or before that), mod away.

If you decide to return the vehicle at lease-end, you must return the vehicle to “factory condition”. Not to say the dealer will penalize your putting a new intake and exhaust system into your leased vehicle (as long as its installed properly), but they certainly won’t pay you back for all the money you spent modifying it.. The lesson here is to modify with caution and make sure your modifications (if very expensive) can be easily removed without damaging the vehicle.

Does modifying your car automatically void your warranty?

The quick answer is “NO”. However, you need to understand that if your vehicle is damaged due to the modification you made, the manufacturer CAN and WILL (if they can prove the modification was the cause) void your warranty. Again, performance modifications should be down with caution regardless of whether you lease or own.

The safest modifications are typically the “visual” ones, like new rims and tint. Performance modifications can be risky, so only do so if you will consider keeping the car after the lease matures or have the money to make the necessary repairs if something catastrophic happens.

Use common sense when you modify a leased vehicle. I would recommend making sure nothing expensive is “permanent” if you plan on returning the car in the end. Also note that if you do make exterior modifications, do them “tastefully” or there could be some penalties/fees.

Turn-in Inspections SUCK!

On Monday I called up my leasing bank (US Bank) and request for a turn-in inspection. I’m about 2.5 months from the last payment of my lease, so I figured that it’d be safe to do it. Oh boy was I wrong! They told me that I have to be within 45 days of turn-in date and the inspection is only valid for up to 60 days. I don’t understand why there’s that 2-month window if I can’t turn it in any sooner than 45 days before the turn-in date. Basically, I have to have pay-off the entire lease before I can actually get my inspection. So if i want to get it inspected now, I have to payoff the balance of the loan. That really pisses me off. This pretty much ruins my plan you see. I was trying to do find out how much damage and wear and tear I’m responsible for and see if it makes more sense to trade-in the car (and take some negative equity if necessary) instead of waiting until lease end and paying for the disposition fee ($395) and whatever damage/wear and tear there is. Normally, I take excellent care of my rides, but the Mazda3 in particular went through an accident 1 week after I got it, wasn’t put back together properly (Curse you Mercury Insurance and your cheap repair shops). Add in the fact that it’s been dinged to death in parking lots and this ride just makes my blood boil, not in a good way.