Need advice on a potential buy vs lease situation

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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As some of you may recall, I have a 2011 Mazda3, now with about 151k on it. It works "fine" but there are some issues and now my check engine is back on again. Had a mechanic come over to take a look and the evap leak error has come back plus now I have a tranny pressure sensor that's busted. He wasn't able to look under my car but said to get to the sensor he'd need to pull the pan down and drain the fluid, etc etc. On top of that, my car is shaking again at high way speeds which could just be the tires, BUT I had all 4 tires replaced last October, and I've probably only put 4-5k miles on them, I feel like they can't be busted after such a short period of time. It's possible the bearings are wearing out, which another mechanic said was in fact happening (the one who did said tires in October).

So my state inspection is coming up in October, and you can't pass with a check engine on. Since I already replaced the solenoid and gas cap on my car, I really have no idea why the evap error is back. I've spent already over $400 trying to fix it. Now having the sensor replaced... I don't know if draining all the fluid out of the tranny which hasn't had the fluid replaced ever (100% my fault, bad owner) is going to cause any issues either. Top it off with a potential new set of tires or even worse (bearing(s)) I'm looking at probably spending more money than my car is worth right now on repairs. Oh and to top it off, my car electronic locks don't work anymore, I have to unlock and lock the car manually with the key.

Last detail - sorry I know this is kind of long - , due to covid I basically work from home now. Since March, I think I've driven less than 1500 miles. I think I've filled up my gas tank just 4 times now that I think about it. So to me, it seems like doing the repairs may still be worth it... but I don't know if this is just a bandaid and then other issues will pop up in another 6-12 months. Buying a new makes little sense unless it's a beater, but I don't want a beat up car that's less safe than something new (I have a new baby now). This is where leasing possibly makes a little more sense? Get a bare bones car on as cheap of a lease as I can with lower-ish miles contract to save money and not worry about repairs and if car is safe. If what I'm living now is basically the new normal, I don't see myself driving more than 5-6k miles a year unless my company forces us back into the office, which is a really hard sell if you ask me. My only other thought was buy a newer car but with a ton of miles on it to save money.
 
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NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
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If by cheap you mean those $100 leases I see for Civics sometimes it may work out for you. But generally speaking it's probalby still cheaper to get your car fixed and keep driving it. Maybe find a different mechanic. Wobble due to wheel bearings is possible but they would also be fairly noisy if that was the case.

Also, it would be hard to sell your car for much of anything with the current issues. Consider it is a 10 year old car...stuff is wearing out. I've probably spent at least $3k in the last year on our 15 year old car. We like it and it's still much cheaper than buying something else.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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If by cheap you mean those $100 leases I see for Civics sometimes it may work out for you. But generally speaking it's probalby still cheaper to get your car fixed and keep driving it. Maybe find a different mechanic. Wobble due to wheel bearings is possible but they would also be fairly noisy if that was the case.

Also, it would be hard to sell your car for much of anything with the current issues. Consider it is a 10 year old car...stuff is wearing out. I've probably spent at least $3k in the last year on our 15 year old car. We like it and it's still much cheaper than buying something else.
Yeah I mean I feel like buying a car is like buying a phone or electronic device - There's never a "good" time to buy a product that depreciates by 50% in like 5 minutes.

I'm trying to balance having a safe and reliable car (and man it might be nice to have electronic locks again.. but meh, having money is probably nicer) with practicality. Also, if the shaking is the wheels, this would be the 3rd time in the past few years the tires would have crapped out well in advance of the expected life cycle.. .it could be something with the car itself is causing this?

Lastly, let's pretend for whatever reason the mechanics cant get the check engine to go off or it would cost over $3k (twice the cars value) to ensure I pass the inspection. If leasing a $100 bucks a month is unlikely, what's the next best thing? A 2 or 3 year old car with 100k on it already or something else?
 

rstrohkirch

Platinum Member
May 31, 2005
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What's your budget?

Driving 5-6K a year while also being OK with keeping a car 8-10 years is a better candidate for purchasing over leasing. If you're OK with having a forever payment of $200ish dollars then leasing gets you free maintenance at the miles you drive. As well as the newest tech/changes every 3 years.

Where as on the purchasing side you could do something like a $200-250 a month payment and get a 3 year off lease CPO vehicle that was $24K new but is now $15K or so. After 6 years it's paid off and you'll have a vehicle that is 9 years old with about 75k miles. Using something like a Toyota Corolla for example, this vehicle would still be worth around 9K. Which means your total cost of ownership over 6 years was only around 1K a year not including maintenance.
 
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NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
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I don't buy your tires "failing". Something else is wrong. I think you need to find a different mechanic.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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What's your budget?

Driving 5-6K a year while also being OK with keeping a car 8-10 years is a better candidate for purchasing over leasing. If you're OK with having a forever payment of $200ish dollars then leasing gets you free maintenance at the miles you drive. As well as the newest tech/changes every 3 years.

Where as on the purchasing side you could do something like a $200-250 a month payment and get a 3 year off lease CPO vehicle that was $24K new but is now $15K or so. After 6 years it's paid off and you'll have a vehicle that is 9 years old with about 75k miles. Using something like a Toyota Corolla for example, this vehicle would still be worth around 9K. Which means your total cost of ownership over 6 years was only around 1K a year not including maintenance.
That is a good question on budget. We don't exactly know how much child care will be so I'd ideally like to pay for something in all cash, or maybe not have more than a $100 dollar a month payment. I would expect insurance to go up a touch from what I pay now, which is barely nothing. So maybe, all in $12k?

To be honest over the past few yrs I've been spending almost $1k a year on the car between brakes, oil changes, the insane amount of tires I've gone through, etc. I can't put a dollar amount on it but I have rented a few cars for work trips in the past year and man... having A) a working radio (because mine totally shit the bed) was cool, b) door locks that work and c) safety features like blind spot monitoring, back up camera, etc, have been reeeaalllly nice. Every time I go back to the Mazda, I get a little depressed.
 

deadlyapp

Diamond Member
Apr 25, 2004
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Shaking at speed is more than likely your overall suspension failing - especially if you've got that many miles and haven't replaced things in it.

Either way, does the transmission pressure sensor throw the check engine light? You can probably find a pull-a-part shop and get it cheaper than brand new.

Evap leak shouldn't be too hard to track down. Pressure test the system and listen for the sound - or use the smoke testers.

Edit:
Just saw your most recent post. I'd just try to get rid of the thing if it's really costing you that much as-is. You probably won't get more than 1-2k out of it considering it can't be registered or titled until fixed.

I'd think about getting a bare bones used car - Hertz is offloading tons of product and they all have around 30-40k miles on them and you can probably find some decent ones in the 8-12k range, finance them at a 3-4% APR (if your credit is good), and pay only $150-175/mo over a 5 year loan.
 
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z1ggy

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May 17, 2008
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I don't buy your tires "failing". Something else is wrong. I think you need to find a different mechanic.
It's happened to me 3 times or so... i can't remember what they are referred to but the inner metal "rings" which support the tire keep cracking. We have a lot of potholes here on the highways and that's possibly what happened. I wish I could find the picture but my alignment was also so bad at one point I wore away the entire inside edge of the tire down to some weird looking rubbery/metal stuff.

If it's not tires and it's not bearings... what else can cause the *entire car*, not the steering wheel, to shake at higher speeds?
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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Shaking at speed is more than likely your overall suspension failing - especially if you've got that many miles and haven't replaced things in it.

Either way, does the transmission pressure sensor throw the check engine light? You can probably find a pull-a-part shop and get it cheaper than brand new.

Evap leak shouldn't be too hard to track down. Pressure test the system and listen for the sound - or use the smoke testers.
did the smoke test for evap. It actually passed the test and they couldn't find the leak... like I said, I replaced the solenoid valves and the gas cap.

And yes the transmission sensor failure is also causing the CEL, in addition to the "minor evap leak".
 

deadlyapp

Diamond Member
Apr 25, 2004
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Shaking at speed is more than likely your overall suspension failing - especially if you've got that many miles and haven't replaced things in it.

Either way, does the transmission pressure sensor throw the check engine light? You can probably find a pull-a-part shop and get it cheaper than brand new.

Evap leak shouldn't be too hard to track down. Pressure test the system and listen for the sound - or use the smoke testers.
It's happened to me 3 times or so... i can't remember what they are referred to but the inner metal "rings" which support the tire keep cracking. We have a lot of potholes here on the highways and that's possibly what happened. I wish I could find the picture but my alignment was also so bad at one point I wore away the entire inside edge of the tire down to some weird looking rubbery/metal stuff.

If it's not tires and it's not bearings... what else can cause the *entire car*, not the steering wheel, to shake at higher speeds?
Tie rods, control arm bushings, sway bar bushings (probably less likely at high speed and no issues during cornering), ball joints.

Your rims/wheels also could be bent or ruined - have the rims been thoroughly checked by the shop? What type of tires are you buying?
 

rstrohkirch

Platinum Member
May 31, 2005
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Just some random notes.

Your car is worth about 4K assuming it was working fine. Considering its condition it would be worth the most at a dealership that gave minimum dollar trade-ins of at least 2K.

A 12K budget is more like a $180 month payment.

With current interest rates you'd be paying about $20 a month in interest over a 6 year loan on a car that cost $14k
 

ondma

Platinum Member
Mar 18, 2018
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I will leave it to you to decide on whether to keep the Mazda. One thing that makes a newer car attractive though is the availability of a lot of new safety and driver assistance features. Too bad that a check engine light makes it a fail for the state inspection. It could be a minor problem that causes a lot of hassle/cost to fix. The state I live in used to require inspections, but now amazingly does not.

As for lease vs buy, that is a tough call. I only leased once, and regretted it. The vehicle I leased was our only car, and we put on a lot more miles than I expected. Thus at the end of the lease, I was faced with either buying the car off lease or paying a hefty mileage surcharge. I went ahead and bought the car, so I ended up making payments on a relatively cheap Civic for 7 years (3 year lease and 4 year loan to purchase after that). So if you do lease, be sure that your situation will not unexpectedly require more driving or that you have another car to use in order to keep the mileage down on the leased vehicle. As others mentioned, a reasonable alternative might be buying a used off lease vehicle. You would get most of the recent safety/driver assistance advances and save considerable cost.
 

manly

Lifer
Jan 25, 2000
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Leasing is almost never the answer. Yes some of the basic car leases are "affordable" and there are certain jobs where it makes a ton of sense (mainly for small business tax write-offs). But what is leasing? It's mainly paying the leasing company for the new car depreciation; although some brands hike the RV/reduce the depreciation to goose sales.

As rstrohkirch explained, normally the correct answer is to buy a used car, and choose the MY/mileage that suits your budget. For those who want somewhat newer tech, off-lease 3-5 years old is a fair compromise. If you're trying to optimize for value, somewhere around 6-7 years old would be sensible. Although they say the U.S. average is 15k miles annually, in general I would aim for less than 12k miles driven per year. The main achievement is avoiding the steepest part of the depreciation curve, which is in the first 2-3 years. Note that by definition, leasing means you are paying the steepest part of this curve! Also keep in mind that cars today are better than ever, and an 8 year old car with 100k miles can still have a lot of life left in it depending on how it's been cared for.

The only issue is that I've read used car prices have shot through the roof in 2020 due to some confluence of factors (apparently new car production and sales have tanked, commuters are avoiding public transit, and there is a huge shortage of used cars). So based on that, the better value play might be to fix your car and keep it another few years.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
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But the flip size is they say the Hertz sell-off is hurting the used car market overall.

I can't put my finger on the cause of the OP's issues being due to the car itself or the driver. If he keeps damaging the belts of his tires that seems to imply he's aiming for potholes LOL. SoCal is not known for the best kept roads and generally speaking I've yet to damage a tire hitting things...and most of my cars have run 40 series tires. Admittedly I have bent a wheel before but the tire itself was fine.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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Tie rods, control arm bushings, sway bar bushings (probably less likely at high speed and no issues during cornering), ball joints.

Your rims/wheels also could be bent or ruined - have the rims been thoroughly checked by the shop? What type of tires are you buying?
RE: Type of tires - No clue.. whatever the next level up from the cheaptest is. Usually, I go to Tirerack, find something that's in the $120/tire range with excellent reviews, show the guy in the shop and say "match these or I'm just buying them and I'll bring them to pepboys, etc" and usually that works out.

Just some random notes.

Your car is worth about 4K assuming it was working fine. Considering its condition it would be worth the most at a dealership that gave minimum dollar trade-ins of at least 2K.

A 12K budget is more like a $180 month payment.

With current interest rates you'd be paying about $20 a month in interest over a 6 year loan on a car that cost $14k
I went on KBB and I got a value of $500 -$1500 for trade in. My car has been in a minor accident, although it never went through insurance so not sure it would show up on a CARFAX or not. I doubt it's worth $4k with the radio/speakers 0% working, electronic locks don't work (have to use your hand or a key) and it shaking like a mofo on the highway. It might be worth that much in fully functioning form, which I'd have to take into consideration.

But the flip size is they say the Hertz sell-off is hurting the used car market overall.

I can't put my finger on the cause of the OP's issues being due to the car itself or the driver. If he keeps damaging the belts of his tires that seems to imply he's aiming for potholes LOL. SoCal is not known for the best kept roads and generally speaking I've yet to damage a tire hitting things...and most of my cars have run 40 series tires. Admittedly I have bent a wheel before but the tire itself was fine.
Rims have been checked last year when I got all 4 tires changed... none were cracked, all the weights were present, etc. My guess would be then suspension is off on some way. I could probably rotate the front tires to the rear and then drive again to see if it happens just to test if the front tires had the belts blown.
 

deadlyapp

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Apr 25, 2004
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I don't care how bad of a driver you may be - there's no way in hell a driver singlehandedly can kill a pair of tires in 6-12 months.There's definitely something significant off with your suspension - but any slightly reputable shop should have caught any suspension issues with the car on a lift or if you've had a whole car alignment at some point during this process.

Only other thing I could think of would be really worn springs/dampers causing the tire to hit the bump stops or fender well and basically shredding the tire over time.
 

killster1

Banned
Mar 15, 2007
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I don't care how bad of a driver you may be - there's no way in hell a driver singlehandedly can kill a pair of tires in 6-12 months.There's definitely something significant off with your suspension - but any slightly reputable shop should have caught any suspension issues with the car on a lift or if you've had a whole car alignment at some point during this process.

Only other thing I could think of would be really worn springs/dampers causing the tire to hit the bump stops or fender well and basically shredding the tire over time.
i kill tires in a year np! but we didnt say how many miles you would put in 12 months either. I also take turns so fast that i lose control and start sliding and usually drive 90-110mph, i use Michelin premier tires, run them till about 2cm-3cm of tread left, if this was up to be id buy a used honda on craigslist with 10,000-20,000 miles and call it a day. Yes i think its your suspension too. not sure about those new hondas with turbos tho, mine is just a 2.4l 2016 that i got for 13,000 with 9,500 miles on it all taxes paid.
 
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repoman0

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i kill tires in a year np! but we didnt say how many miles you would put in 12 months either. I also take turns so fast that i lose control and start sliding and usually drive 90-110mph, i use Michelin premier tires, run them till about 2cm-3cm of tread left, if this was up to be id buy a used honda on craigslist with 10,000-20,000 miles and call it a day. Yes i think its your suspension too. not sure about those new hondas with turbos tho, mine is just a 2.4l 2016 that i got for 13,000 with 9,500 miles on it all taxes paid.

Every post I read from this guy is dumber than the last. I always think it’s impossible but he somehow pulls through.
 

rstrohkirch

Platinum Member
May 31, 2005
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*Me looking at my summers that were new 5 months ago and now at 2.5mm tread depth*
:cool:

*Me looking up the price of new ones*
:(
 
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killster1

Banned
Mar 15, 2007
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Every post I read from this guy is dumber than the last. I always think it’s impossible but he somehow pulls through.
way to contribute to the thread glad i could amuse you.. (maybe its my driving that is stupid or choice of tires or buying a used car :p ) dont care tho its how i roll, nothing forcing you to do anything the same.
 

Dranoche

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Jul 6, 2009
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Does the shaking go away above a certain speed? Is there any excessive play in the steering wheel or do turns feel funny in any way? Any clunking sounds when you turn? Is there any clunking sound when turning? Since the tires are fairly new it might be hard to notice at this point but is there any obvious wear pattern?

I would pull each tire and check the sidewalls on all the tires for any bulges, and check the rims for any damage. Look for scattered wear on the tires that could indicate a balance or suspension issue. I doubt it's alignment. I also doubt it's a wheel bearing; you would probably hear it, kind of a grinding noise that goes up and down with your speed. I'm guessing struts. Whatever it is, it could accelerate the wheel bearing finally going out, along with other suspension components that may be nearing their end of life.

Faulty leak detection pump could be throwing the CEL if everything else with the evap system looks good.

If power locks are completely not working on any door, lock or unlock, probably need to replace a fuse or have the fob reprogrammed.

The transmission fluid is fine. Most modern cars don't have any interval for replacing transmission fluid except when work is done requiring it to be drained.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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Does the shaking go away above a certain speed? Is there any excessive play in the steering wheel or do turns feel funny in any way? Any clunking sounds when you turn? Is there any clunking sound when turning? Since the tires are fairly new it might be hard to notice at this point but is there any obvious wear pattern?

I would pull each tire and check the sidewalls on all the tires for any bulges, and check the rims for any damage. Look for scattered wear on the tires that could indicate a balance or suspension issue. I doubt it's alignment. I also doubt it's a wheel bearing; you would probably hear it, kind of a grinding noise that goes up and down with your speed. I'm guessing struts. Whatever it is, it could accelerate the wheel bearing finally going out, along with other suspension components that may be nearing their end of life.

Faulty leak detection pump could be throwing the CEL if everything else with the evap system looks good.

If power locks are completely not working on any door, lock or unlock, probably need to replace a fuse or have the fob reprogrammed.

The transmission fluid is fine. Most modern cars don't have any interval for replacing transmission fluid except when work is done requiring it to be drained.
Yes the shaking does actually seem to go away a bit once I get over about 60-62mph. I'd say around 70mph, the ride is "fairly" decent again. Mazda3 has never been a quite or smooth car, but at least at that point I don't feel like my brain is jiggling around in my skull anymore.

No steering wheel play, no clunks/bumps, etc when turning or stopped. I checked the front tires as best I could by turning the wheel all the way to both sides while I parked the car a few times and I don't notice anything weird or crazy. No bubbles or obvious signs of damage.

Noted about the other things.. Thanks. As far as tranny goes, I believe my owner's manual says to change the fluid at 75k, 150k, etc. I also pulled the dipstick and the fluid is essentially black... not sure if that's a sign of excessive wear going on in the gears but I would guess black lube isn't ever good??
 

Dranoche

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Jul 6, 2009
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Yes the shaking does actually seem to go away a bit once I get over about 60-62mph. I'd say around 70mph, the ride is "fairly" decent again. Mazda3 has never been a quite or smooth car, but at least at that point I don't feel like my brain is jiggling around in my skull anymore.

No steering wheel play, no clunks/bumps, etc when turning or stopped. I checked the front tires as best I could by turning the wheel all the way to both sides while I parked the car a few times and I don't notice anything weird or crazy. No bubbles or obvious signs of damage.

Noted about the other things.. Thanks. As far as tranny goes, I believe my owner's manual says to change the fluid at 75k, 150k, etc. I also pulled the dipstick and the fluid is essentially black... not sure if that's a sign of excessive wear going on in the gears but I would guess black lube isn't ever good??
If it goes away then it could be tire balance issue. Maybe some wheel weights came off.

Mazda ATF seems to go dark fairly quickly. It's dark due to suspended clutch material and heat. If there's obvious wear on the gears there will be some metal shavings or specks in the fluid. Shouldn't hurt anything to replace it. It's technically possible to end up with some issues in some extreme cases where the new fluid dislodges buildup and clogs a passage or the clutch packs are worn and start slipping because they were effectively relying on extra friction from the old fluid, but that isn't common. If the manual says to replace it then I would do it. If the manual just says inspect and it still seems to be shifting fine then I would keep it in the back of your mind to do at some point, but prioritize the other issues.
 

z1ggy

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May 17, 2008
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So i had it looked at by 2 mechanics and they both said the same thing: root cause are rear shocks. Result is, both my rear tires were worn really wacky... imagine not having round tires but tires that had like 100 different edges, like a extreme version of an octagon.

For the CEL, we are going to replace the canister and the tranny pressure sensor which should hopefully clear those codes. For the fluid... like mentioned, it could dislodge particles and clog some stuff up, but we didn't see any particles in the fluid, so maybe we will change the fluid.

Also my serp. belt is about to break, so we are doing that too. All in all, I need 2 new shocks, 2 new tires, new evap canister, new tranny pressure sensor, new serp belt. I'm guessing this will cost about $1500-1800 in parts and labor.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
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Rear shocks makes sense. IMHO probably best to replace shocks at 80-100k. They may not be blown but you'll definitely notice the improvement with new ones.

Anytime you have emissions codes I'd check for worn hoses. It could be something as simple as a cracked hose causing that code. An OEM evap canister is nearly $200. Seems like an expensive gamble. Might consider a junkyard part if it isn't too hard to change. Aftermarket canister is $100 on RockAuto. Point is, given you are nursing the car along anyway not sure I'd splurge on OEM parts at this point.