I'm not a car expert either but I'd say do the buyout since you already have money invested in the car.
Except those costs are "sunk costs" and thus shouldn't really be part of the calculation. This is especially true with a lease where you don't even have equity in the car when you are done.
The way I'd look at it is this:
If you were in the market for a used car, and saw that car with that purchase price (the buyout amount) would you buy it? Given the buyout price is competitive with *trade-in* values (much less private party or dealer values), it looks like a great deal to me as long as you actually want the car and plan to hang on to it for a while.
Considering that you have limited your choices to those that involve buying a car you don't have the money for... yep, looks like buying this particular car would be a pretty good deal. And then you won't have to clean your junk outta the trunk nor argue with the dealer over how many scratches it has.
Thanks for the insightful post. I asked for advice or suggestions, not to be mocked. I am trying to correct past bad choices and make better choices in the future. Not that I'd say my car choice has been horribly bad.
He has a point, though. You've already established that if you don't buy out the lease, your plan is to either get into another lease or buy a newer car, neither of which is the best way to keep one's car costs low. If you had mentioned buying a used car in a similar price range as an alternative, the response may have been different.
The biggest savings on a vehicle come in the years *after* you've paid it off where you keep driving it for several years and funnel the money that used to go into car payments into savings (both to cover any future repairs/maintenance and to pay for a replacement car years down the line when the car ages enough that it becomes either financially impractical or unreliable).