To renew or not to renew, that is the question....
When I first applied for the MINI-E trial lease program the terms were simple; $850 per month for 12 months, everything included, even collision and comprehensive insurance. All maintenance and even wear and tear items were covered and a loaner car would be provided if and when the vehicle was in for service. Total cost: $10,200 plus license and registration fees. It looks pretty steep on the surface since you can lease a new MINI Cooper S for about half that amount, get two back seats and still have money left over for the gasoline you burn.
I've been reminded of the high lease price dozens of times this year when I promote the MINI-E's virtues on various blogs, message boards and in face to face conversations. What I try to remind everyone is that for many of the Trial Lease participants or "pioneers" as MINI calls us it wasn't about the money. It was about helping to promote the proliferation of zero emission vehicles. We knew the MINI-E was not going to make it to the showrooms, so it wasn't about helping to "fine tune" the car for production. This program, whether or not anyone admits it or not, was purely about gauging public interest and acceptance of electric cars (that and getting some CARB credits but that was no secret or never disputed) and gathering data on average daily driving and responses to things like range anxiety and regenerative braking characteristics. The majority of the people in the program feel strongly as I do that the automotive industry should move in the direction of electric vehicles and offer their customers a choice of what kind of fuel that they want to power their cars with.
When we first got word that we would be offered the option of a second year with the car initially everyone was generally very happy because I believe most in the program love their cars and would like to keep them as long as possible. We were not given any details, just that we would have the option to renew for another year so shortly after the announcement was made we all started guessing what the terms of the lease would be. Whenever you lease a car, the longer the term, the lower the monthly payments so we knew the second year would be less, but how much was a mystery. Over on the MINI-E Facebook page, where many of us converse, the guesses were generally around $500/month. Anything under $500 and I think just about everyone would choose to stay in. Perhaps BMW knew that and wanted to "thin the field" some to send the returned cars to other markets as we have been told would be the case with the returning cars. In any event, I think some that wanted to keep the cars just can't at $600/month and that's unfortunate.
For me the decision was easy. I drive the car so much (about 30,000 miles a year) that the fuel savings alone will be enough to make the difference. Driving 30,000 miles in my Toyota Tacoma I'll need to purchase about 1,700 gallons of gasoline. If prices stay at the level they are today($2.65/gal), I'll spend $4,500 on gasoline. The MINI-E will cost me about $1,000 for electric so the $3,500 in fuel savings cuts the lease payment in half.(Actually it will cost me nothing in electric because I'll be generating all the electric with my new solar electric system at my home but it's still "costing me" $1,000 because I could have sold that electric to the power company) I also won't need to do about 7 oil changes, there's another $350.00. I won't need to put a set of brake pads on the truck either, or be halfway to a major tune up. Plus, I'm not losing the depreciation that 30,000 miles on the odometer will have on the Tacoma's value. All in all, while $600 per month sounds like a lot of money for a two seat commuter car, it really isn't at all.
All the financial reasons aside, I'm keeping the car because I love it. I enjoy the electric driving experience, I like that I don't have to stop and buy gasoline and that I'm not polluting as I drive. I like meeting new people all the time that stop me on the street and ask about the car and I like knowing that I'm doing a small part in helping to advance the movement to electrics.
To renew or not to renew? To me there is no question.