The never-ending car payment

Car payments have morphed from a temporary nuisance into a permanent part of many people’s budgets. Whether that’s a bad thing depends on what you do with the rest of your money.

One-third of millennial car buyers chose a lease last year, which helped push auto lease volume to a record of 4.3 million and 31 percent of all new auto purchases, according to market research by Edmunds.com.

“There is a greater percentage of people who view car ownership as a monthly payment like their cell phone or cable or Wi-Fi,” says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of strategic analytics at Edmunds.com. “It’s just the way we live our lives.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, why millennials are looking at cars the same way they look at cell phones, and the financial implications.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

debt-freeToday’s top story: How to perform a debt autopsy. Also in the news: How to choose between leasing and financing a new vehicle, spring break travel tips, and how to tell if a credit card has a good interest rate.

If You Really Want to Kill Off Your Debt, Do a Debt Autopsy
Not nearly as scary as it sounds.

How to Choose Between Vehicle Leasing and Financing
Deciding what’s best for you.

12 Major Travel Sites Reveal How to Save on Top Spring Break Destinations
Spend less on travel and more on fun.

How to Tell If a Credit Card Has a Good Interest Rate
Do your research.

Q&A: Money owed on a lease after death

Dear Liz: I read your answer to the person who returned a car and wanted to be free of that debt. Our situation is somewhat different. My son’s father had a massive stroke and died two weeks after signing a lease for a Camry on which he made a $2,000 down payment. My grown son, who is left to deal with everything, took the car back to the dealership, and they assured him nothing further would be needed. The dealership then sold the car for $18,000 at an auction and said $8,000 is still owed on this car since my son’s father signed a legal contract.

Answer: The money is still owed. Whether the dealership will ever collect is another matter.

This debt is now part of the dead man’s estate, along with any other loans or credit accounts he owed at the time of his death. If the estate has sufficient available assets, the executor is required to pay those bills. If there aren’t sufficient assets, creditors may have to accept less than they’re owed or nothing at all.

If your son is the executor, he should hire an attorney experienced in settling estates to help him deal with these details. Nolo’s book “The Executor’s Guide” also will help him understand his duties and obligations.