Rental Car versus Leasing in Florida

My wife and I are watching Sports Center on TV in Clearwater Beach when an ad came on from Clearwater Toyota stating you could lease a Corolla LE for as little as $109 per month. We're visiting for a few weeks as we're currently renting a car to get around town. We'll continue periodic visits during the winter to avoid the frozen tundra up north. Back to the ad, this lease price piqued our interest so, a few days later, my wife decide to visit Clearwater Toyota just off Hwy 19 to read the fine print.


Our salesperson was Matt who was conscientious and attentive to our needs and was able to show us the Toyota Corolla LE which was the vehicle that qualified for the offer. We also were interested in the Camry LE which apparently also had competitive rates.


Compliments of Clearwater Toyota

Initially, we were told the monthly lease price would be $109 with $2,500 down, in addition we were told with taxes and title fees, the total would be roughly $4,000). With the inexpensive lease price, we were more than intrigued. Matt also introduced us to the manager, Brent, who confirmed the monthly lease price Matt had mentioned to us. As we surveyed several cars in the showroom, he brought us to the outdoor lot to see additional LE Corollas available.


Even though we weren't going to buy that day, we wanted to gauge what the monthly cost would be for a 3 year lease so we asked for a detailed worksheet.


About 10 minutes later, Matt brought us the 36 month lease payments with the actual money down amount which didn't exactly align to our earlier expectation. Cash down of $2,500 would mean a $211 lease price, for a lease of $131, cash down would be $5,223 and the lowest lease price of $108 per month would be $6,000 cash down. If you crunch the numbers, the monthly payments would be $280, $276 and $274 respectively. Anyway, you're not saving much money by putting more money down ($6,000/$274) versus less money down ($2,500/$280). A total outlay of $10,000 or so for 3 years. In our estimation, for another $10,000 you could own this well built car and not have to worry about lease payments.


Compliments of Clearwater Toyota

In lieu of having this leased car located in Florida where insurance is more expensive than in many other states, strong insurance protection would cost around $1,600 annually. Adding this amount of $133 to the monthly payments would work out to around $400 per month. In other words, a little more than the advertised amount of $109 per month advertised during Sports Center.


Now back to the rental cars, depending on the supply and demand equation, it's challenging to know what way to turn. If you can rent a sub-compact car for $25 per day, you could rent for 16 days per month for the entire year to equal the monthly lease payment (and not have to worry about insurance). However, if you rent during busier times in Clearwater, such as December or March, you may pay $50 per day for a similar vehicle. At that rate, you could only rent a vehicle for 8 days per month. In other words, if rental car prices remained at $50 per day throughout the year and your visits were longer than 8-9 days, leasing may be the way to go. One other strike against leasing is getting to and from the Tampa International Airport, whether you use Uber or a shuttle, the approximate cost is $30 - 50 each way.


Time will tell how we proceed. I guess it's important to kick the tires and dig very deep into the details in other to be a well-informed and conscientious consumer.

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I'm a photographer, observer, writer, traveler with a unique perspective on life, travel, work, customer service & the print medium.