Our employees make recommendations all the time. It’s kind of funny how many people come in, especially some guys who want a sports car. Then the more you talk to them you find out they have three kids. The little two-door sports car isn’t going to be very fitting, I guess.
So yeah, we try to be very thorough on our questions. We find out exactly what they’re going to be using the car for, how many kids they have.
Sun Valley’s about an hour north, and a lot of people in the Jerome and Twin Falls areas work up there but live down here so they commute every day. They all think they need an SUV—a four-wheel drive—so they’re looking at big suburbans even though they’re driving 120, 130 miles every day, five days a week. They’re tight on budget, budget’s a big concern, and obviously a big SUV is going to use a lot of gas and not work budget-wise.
We try to take all those things into account and recommend something that will work for them, still have the four-wheel drive, and get better fuel economy.
And you know, about 90 percent of our customers really like it. Occasionally people here and there will balk at our process and think they know better and don’t want any car salesman telling them what to buy. But for the most part, people really do appreciate it.
Does Country Auto lease vehicles?
Our lease program is really good. It’s allowed us to sell even nicer cars, a little more expensive but with more than would typically fit into our buy-here pay-here financing program.
Basically how we explain it to customers is that it’s like deferring a balloon payment to the very end of the loan. Instead of dividing the full amount into 24 or 36 months, they’re only doing roughly about 70 percent of it—that lowers the down payment, allows them to have a lower payment, and at the end of the lease they can either turn it right back in and lease another car, or jump right into another newer, lower mileage car again, or if they really like the one they have and want to keep it, then we’ll just finance the remaining balance in-house. They keep the car, pay it off with us, and call it good.
There are limitations on the lease, I believe it’s 15,000 miles a year. We’re pretty lenient with it too as long as the car’s in good shape and they haven’t abused it. We’re really not sticklers on that. That’s the only limitation is mileage and condition.
What are the pros and cons of leasing versus buying?
The pros are that our customer is able to get a newer, lower mileage car for a lower payment. And then also being able to turn it back in and get another one at the end of the lease.
The con that scares a lot of customers is that they don’t own it. So if I had to pick a con, that’s probably it. But in reality, when they finance a car they don’t fully own it anyway—they’ve got a lienholder on it, and the average customer doesn’t keep a car.
For older cars I believe it’s two and a half years is the average that someone keeps it, and newer cars I think it’s three and a half years. So if a customer wants to upgrade and trade the vehicle in anyway, by the time the lease is over the average person wants a new, different car anyhow.