Scenario 1: Family change—you have two kids now (buy)
With all the expenses children bring, it can be hard to swing higher vehicle payments, as buying requires. But in return for doing so, you can take the long-term savings you get from buying and put it toward child care needs or education accounts. Additionally, children often can mean unintentional damage to a vehicle. If you buy your car, this might not look so great, but it's not going to hurt your wallet too much. Take that damage into a dealership with a leased vehicle, though, and you can get hit with an excessive wear and tear penalty.
Scenario 2: Lifestyle change—you earned an awesome promotion (lease)
Here, even though you're paying more over time, the lower monthly payments you get with a lease allows you to splurge for a vehicle that's more higher-end. That can make a difference when other people—for example, potential clients—see you driving around or accompany you. And if you're working hard with extra responsibilities on your plate, the reduced hassle that comes with leasing, such as the maintenance services, can take a lot of stress off. The potential for a tax deduction if you use the vehicle for business is icing on the cake.
What works at one point in your life might not be the best route at another time.
Scenario 3: Accident—you (almost) totaled your less-than-a-year-old car (neither buy nor lease)
Most insurance policies allow you to recoup the cost of repairs and labor if you are in an accident. Unfortunately, vehicles that are in wrecks are almost always appraised at a lower value compared to identical cars that haven't experienced accidents. The loss can reach into the quadruple digits, depending on the vehicle and damage involved. Although some companies now offer coverage to protect you from this circumstance, most policies don't allot for this, so if you're buying, you take a hit out of the equity you'd have after you finish making payments. Your best bet here would be fix the car and keep it, because if you trade the vehicle in, you have to make up the difference between the value of the repaired car and the replacement car. However, there is a chance that the repaired car might experience issues if fixes are less than stellar. If you want a guarantee you'll be free of these hassles, fix the car and trade it in. You won't end up with as much equity as if you kept the repaired car, but you'll have the peace of mind of a fresh start.