My wife’s Subaru Impreza lease runs through April 2019. But thanks to Maryland gouging the hell out of you on registering a car when moving from another state with lower sales tax, we’re considering trying to get her a new car now. Enter...the Nissan Rogue Hybrid.

Let’s talk about registering a car in Maryland. It’s not an easy process. On the most basic level, what you need is:

  1. A car
  2. The title to said car
  3. A Maryland driver’s license
  4. A certificate that says the car has passed a Maryland safety inspection at a mechanic certified to perform Maryland safety inspections
  5. Money

I won’t bore you with all the paperwork hoop-jumping I did to get my Maryland driver’s license, but the money in question is a not-insignificant amount.

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No matter when you bought your car, if you’re registering it in Maryland after moving from another state, and that state has lower sales tax than Maryland, Maryland collects the difference between the sales tax you paid when you bought the car, and what that tax would have been, had you originally bought the car car in Maryland. Even though the car isn’t worth what you paid for it when you bought it anymore.

Wisconsin charges 5% sales tax, and Maryland charges 6%. I used to live in Madison, which was in Dane County, where you have to pay an additional 0.5% on top of the state sales tax, but Maryland in calculating the difference doesn’t give credit for any county tax. Bastards.

(BTW, while I work in Virginia, and you’d think I’d do better on taxes in a red-er state, actually in Virginia registration renewals involve a tax on the value of the car. Bastards.)

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My wife and I got our Maryland driver’s licenses on the same day. Once you get a Maryland driver’s license you have to register your car in Maryland within 60 days. I got mine done ASAP because my Wisconsin plates expired in May. But my wife’s Wisconsin plates are good through December.

My wife’s sister visited us from Wisconsin this past weekend, and in the course of me ranting about the paperwork and tax hootenanny that is registering a car in Maryland, my wife said, “hey since my car is a lease, why don’t we get rid of it for something else instead of pay taxes on it now and again next spring?” This idea actually makes a lot of sense, if the trade value on her car exceeds the payoff on the lease.

My wife’s criteria for her next car aren’t that fancy, but a slightly difficult combination to achieve:

  1. Higher up and roomier than her Impreza
  2. Non-leather seats
  3. Active safety features including automatic emergency braking
  4. Auto-dimming mirror(s) - she hates the glare from driving at night and her Impreza is the first car she’s had with an auto-dim mirror, which she loves
  5. Android Auto

She’d like to have power seats with memory on the driver seat, and I like a sunroof and active cruise control, but the first 5 are basically required. The trick here is avoiding leather seats while getting the safety gizmos (and to a lesser extent Android Auto) is challenging.

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She probably will go awd. Winter in the DC area is not nearly as bad as Wisconsin but storms throughout the year tend to be stronger and the infrastructure is less able to deal with it so she might feel some peace of mind from continuing to have it.

I had already started researching her options for when the lease ends, not now. The Subaru Forester and Hyundai Tucson would be perfect for her, next spring. But the 2018 Forester is still on the old Impreza platform and doesn’t have Android Auto yet. The Tucson right now only has the safety gizmos on the fully loaded trim with leather but those gizmos become standard on the 2019. The Mazda CX-5 doesn’t have Android Auto yet but will supposedly be upgraded/retrofitted down the line. For buying a car for her right now today, I’ve got the following ideas:

  1. Subaru Crosstrek - has the options she wants but isn’t bigger than her Impreza, only higher off the ground
  2. Honda CR-V EX - the auto-dimming mirror is standard on the EX-L and only listed in Honda’s parts (not accessories) catalog, but I’m trying to find out if a dealer can add it to an EX
  3. VW Tiguan SE - mirror is an accessory, sunroof is an option, have to step up to the SEL to get active cruise
  4. VW Golf Alltrack SE - mirror is an accessory, sunroof is standard, have to step up to the SEL to get active cruise, and it’s a couple grand more than a comparably equipped Tiguan (base price is similar but that’s for the stick shift)
  5. Nissan Rogue SV - I had one as a rental a few months ago, and while it has absolutely no steering feel whatsoever, it’s comfy, and has all my wife’s required options, plus available driver seat memory and 360° camera. Going up to the hybrid only adds $1000 to the price and my wife has in the past mentioned wanting a hybrid. In DC it helps a lot because we do a lot of sitting at long-ass traffic lights or in traffic. Cargo space is reduced and weight increases.

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I have no idea which of these will lease out at the lowest price, but this weekend we’re going to the Subaru dealer to first see if the extra ride height on the Crosstrek is enough for her to feel secure, and if they’re inclined to pay enough for her trade that we can actually flip her lease. If the Crosstrek is too small but the trade is at least in the ballpark, then we might continue along to Honda, VW and Nissan. We shall see.