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My current situation:

  • I live in UK
  • I'll be soon moving to Europe
  • I'll be back in UK in approx. 2 years
  • I don't own a car at the moment

When in Europe, I'll be needing a car. However, I'm not sure if buying (and if so - a new or a used one) a car is the best option (financially) for me, as I'll be getting rid of the car after 2 years (or maybe I should take it with me and convert it?). I'm considering the following options:

  1. Buying a new one - The biggest advantage is I know what I buy, the car is new, I probably won't have to care too much about something breaking unexpectedly. On the other hand, after 2 years I assume it'd be worth much much less.
  2. Buying a used one - Would be cheaper and I probably wouldn't lose so much money selling it after I move out. However, I'm concerned with buying a pig in a poke, especially as I'm no car expert.
  3. Leasing - no prior experience, not sure what to expect.

What I care for the most is safety and car's reliability, my budget isn't especially tight, but it wouldn't hurt to save some money.

Which option could offer the best trateoff? Or is there any other I haven't thought about?

Disclaimer: I have found similar questions but none of them was about getting a car for a short time. If, however, you find this question a duplicate, please refer me to the original question.

  • I, personally, would not want to hassle with selling a car while I'm leaving a country. I'd probably lease. – quid Mar 29 '16 at 20:03
  • Buying a new car almost never makes sense financially, certainly not if you don't intend to keep it "forever". Lease is worth considering specifically in this sort of " two years and done " situation. You should probably check out public transportation in your destination countries... – keshlam Mar 29 '16 at 20:13
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    I live in UK + I'll be moving to Europe -> does not compute. – Eric Mar 29 '16 at 21:21
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    @Eric it's a common figure of speech. I've recently bought a bunch of "UK to Europe" power socket adapters for example – Hipolith Mar 29 '16 at 23:07
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    @Eric it's very common in the UK to use "Europe" to mean "continental Europe". – Vicky Mar 30 '16 at 9:41
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Any one of your three options is viable and has its advantages and disadvantages.

Personally, I would go for the used option, but I am can-do kind of person. If you don't like micro-managing a car, you may prefer leasing. A new car is sort of the middle of the road option.

Leasing will be most expensive and most liability. If you have an accident, the leasing arrangements are designed to extract money from you... heavily. Even a minor accident can require you to pay for expensive repairs, usually much more expensive than if you had your own car fixed. So, not only will you pay more per month, but your accident liability will be a lot higher.

With your own car, you will need to sell it (or bring it back to the UK) obviously.

A used car will be the cheapest option. A non-descript used car from the local area can also make you "blend in" and be less like to be targeted by a criminal as an outsider. As long as you stay away from dealers and buy the car from a private person of good reputation, you have an odds-on chance of getting a decent car. Make sure you check out the person and make sure they are "real". Some dealers, called "curbstoners", try to pretend to be original owners. You can always spot such frauds because the title will be new. Make sure the same owner has had the car for at least 3-4 years and that it says that on the title. Also, try to buy from somebody who is financially well off--they have less reason to try to screw you. Students, people under 30 and working class are bad people to buy from. Married professionals over age 35 are the right kind of person to buy from.

  • I won't downvote you but leasing is not necessarily the most expensive option. I know you can get a Vauxhall Mokka on a lease deal for around £80 a month for 2 years. How much would depreciation be on a new one of those over the same period? A lot more than that! Problem with leasing is the mileage allowances can be quite low so not suitable for everyone. – davidjwest May 31 '16 at 11:54
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    Not downvoting, but consider the stereotypes you're relying on (and recommending to others). What is it about unmarried people, or students, etc. that make them unreliable people from which to buy a car? You're encouraging the use of irrelevant demographic information to make snap judgments about trustworthiness in a transaction. That is prejudice, make no mistake, and it is not benign. It deserves attention. – Rose Hartman Jan 18 '18 at 20:30
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    @RoseHartman This site is about MONEY. If you want to discuss politics, psychology and sociology there are other sites for that. – Five Bagger Jan 18 '18 at 20:38
  • @davidjwest Leases are more expensive than buying a car as a simple fact. Obviously the leasing company tries to hide the costs so it looks like it is cheaper, but in fact it is much more expensive. The leasing company would not make profit otherwise. Think about it: the leasing company finances the car themselves, so when you lease, you are not only paying for that financing, but paying the expenses and profit of the leasing company as well. Leasing companies have MANY strategies for hiding costs. ($200 for floor mats on return--not kidding, that happened) – Five Bagger Jan 18 '18 at 20:57
  • @FiveBagger You and I are both talking about who (and who not) to buy a car from, not politics; I object to what I infer to be your reasoning for which sellers to avoid. I commented because I think you could improve your answer by either explaining or removing the recommendations you make to discriminate against some sellers for reasons that have nothing to do with their financial situation or car experience. – Rose Hartman Jan 19 '18 at 19:05
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Your short-term time frame makes buying used the best option, but it seems you already are aware of that.

Look into a certified pre-owned model if you are concerned about lemons. You will usually get some sort of warranty.

However, be aware that any car can be a headache with repairs.

I would not recommend a lease because basically you are still paying for the depreciation on the car plus interest. Generally, this is the most expensive way to drive a car. You may find the numbers look good for a lease but beware of the 'gotchas' in the terms that can put you way over budget (over mileage, wear and tear, etc.).

My best recommendation is to buy gently used with cash. This gives you the most flexibility and best resale value. If you finance a late-model vehicle, be aware that depreciation can leave you upside-down on your loan. That would put you in the position of having to shell out cash just to get rid of the car.

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    If you view a lease as paying extra for the convenience of not having to sell the car, than maybe that will justify the lease. You may want to do the math on the terms to see how much you are paying for that luxury. – jkuz Mar 29 '16 at 20:12
  • Your answer is very good as well but, sadly, I can only accept one. Thank you for your input! – Hipolith Mar 30 '16 at 23:27
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Speaking only for life in Germany - it would be helpful to know which European country you're moving to, as car-buying in Denmark is very different from Germany, as is car-buying in the Czech Republic or Romania.

In Germany, there is an enormous market of 3-4 year old used cars with under 70,000 km (40k miles), at about half the price they were new. This is because well-paid employees can often lease through their employers on more advantageous terms than individual customers can, due to some sort of income tax loophole. If you bought a nice car for 15k EUR from that brand's dealer that had less than 60,000 km, you would probably get a pretty solid warranty up to 100,000 km, more than covering your time here. You would then be able to easily sell that 5-6 year old car with under 100,000km for about 7-8k EUR.

Alternatively, you could buy one of said 5-6 year old cars with under 100,000km for about 7-8k EUR after asking one of your new colleagues about a mechanic who could look it over for you first, and then you'd really come out well when you sold a 7-8 year old car with 130,000 km for 3-4k EUR.

Liability insurance will be somewhat expensive, as you're not currently insured in the UK - they might be willing to take previous accident-free years into account. A leased or financed car would require Vollkasko (at-fault and incidental) insurance, and that would really jack up your rates. If you buy a 7-8k EUR car, you can decide to forgo Vollkasko for some pretty big savings each year.

Again, this all only applies to Germany - it might be quite different if you're not moving here.

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Along with the other great answers, just a short addtion to the Leasing-option:

You have to realize that leasing is essentially a financial product geared towards corporate fiances. Leasing-rates are booked directly as costs, whereas a car is a commodity which has to be written off over several years. Along with it, there is oft a comprehensive service which reduces time-consumption of the company's own employees.

While this can be a good model for companies, those effects are mostly irrelevant for personal use, usually rendering this the most expensive option.

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Have you considered getting a bike? you would be able to ride it in Europe the same as over here because of no left right bias, also cost wise they are much much cheaper to run.

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