When local businessman Steve Brown needs a replacement pickup truck for his utility-service company, he hesitates to buy new, as it would tie up tens of thousands of dollars at a time, he says.
Instead, the vice president of Applied Professional Services in North Bend participates in fleet leasing, where he leases lightly used vehicles and returns them before they need major repairs.
For Brown, leasing a fleet is a headache-free alternative to long-term ownership.
"We lease a vehicle until it reaches around 90,000 miles, then return it and get a new one," he says. "We avoid the large-dollar repairs, like engines and transmissions, because we don't let the mileage get too high."
Leasing vs. buying
- Northwest Fleet Lease Vice President Ron Carlsen gives his advice for those debating whether to lease or buy.
- You should lease if you:
- • use your car only for commuting, or drive a predictable number of miles every year.
- • own a small business and don't want to tie up your money.
- • want the thrill of driving a new car every two or three years.
- • hate worrying about big repairs.
- You should buy if you:
- • tend to fall in love with your car.
- • don't drive many miles in a given year.
- • don't mind doing your own repairs.
Brown leases through Kent-based Northwest Fleet Lease, which has been leasing service vehicles to small companies since 1983. The company also leases to private owners who want to trade in their commuter car, SUV or sports car every couple years.
"Leasing a used vehicle is less expensive [than leasing a new vehicle] because someone else paid the first year or two worth of depreciation," says company Vice President Ron Carlsen.
For individuals with good credit, leasing is as simple as filling out an application, he says.
Northwest Fleet Lease buys its stock of used vehicles at national auctions, where big rental companies such as Hertz, Avis and U-Haul sell their vehicles with only a few thousand miles on the odometer. Northwest Fleet Lease's vehicles typically have less than 50,000 miles, so the original warranty often still applies.
For Brown, not having to worry about major repairs is his primary reason for leasing. "If a vehicle [breaks] down, then the technician can't bill for his or her time," he says.
"The deprecation on a new vehicle is a consideration. So is trying to sell the vehicle. I'm not a car salesman, so it is difficult to know if you are getting the best deal on a trade-in," he says.
Most of Northwest Fleet Lease's customers are companies like landscapers or electricians, those that employ from 15 to 20 people and need vehicles like a three-quarter-ton truck or a cargo van. Carlsen says these businesses want dependable transportation and guaranteed monthly expenses.
"Corporations will often have their own fleet department; we're the fleet department for small businesses," he says. "We act as their adviser. We tell them what fits their needs, what incentives they can get and how to dispose of the vehicle."
Many customers request canopies or racks, and individuals often want heated leather seats, DVD players or a sunroof. Northwest Fleet Lease uses local businesses to modify vehicles to match their customers' requests.
"We work with you to give you exactly what you need and then go out and get it," Carlsen says. "You find the customer before you find the car."