Tips for Leasing a Car

When you lease, you pay to drive someone else's vehicle. Monthly lease payments may be lower than loan payments, but at the end of the lease you have no ownership or equity in the car. To get the best deal, follow the advice below in addition to the general suggestions for buying a car.

  • To help you compare leasing versus owning, the Consumer Leasing Act requires leasing companies to give you information on monthly payments and other charges. 
  • Shop around to compare lease offers from multiple dealers.
  • Find out what the down payment, or capitalized cost reduction, is for the lease. Consumers with better credit scores qualify for the low down payments and rates that are advertised in commercials.
  • Calculate the total cost over the life of the lease, and include the down payment. A lease with a higher down payment and low monthly payments may be a better deal for you.
  • Consider using an independent agent rather than the dealer. You might find a better deal. Most financial institutions that offer auto financing also offer leasing options.
  • Ask for details on wear and tear standards. Dings that you regard as normal wear and tear could be billed as significant damage at the end of your lease.
  • Find out how many miles you can drive in a year. Most leases allow 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year. Expect a charge of 10 to 25 cents for each additional mile.
  • Check the manufacturer's warranty. It should cover the entire lease term and the number of miles you are likely to drive.
  • Ask the dealer what happens if you give up the car before the end of your lease. There may be extra fees for doing so.
  • Ask what happens if the car is involved in an accident.
  • Get all the terms in writing. Everything included with the car should be listed on the lease to avoid being charged for "missing" equipment later.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board offer more information to help you decide if leasing is the right choice for you.


Most car buyers today need some form of financing to purchase a new vehicle. Many use direct lending, that is, a loan from a finance company, bank, or credit union. In direct lending, a buyer agrees to pay the amount financed, plus an agreed-upon finance charge, over a specified period. Once a buyer and a vehicle dealership enter into a contract to purchase a vehicle, the buyer uses the loan proceeds from the direct lender to pay the dealership for the vehicle. Another common form is dealership financing, which offers convenience, financing options, and sometimes special, manufacturer-sponsored, low-rate deals. Before you make a financing decision, it's important to do your research:

  • Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend and stick to your limit.
  • Get a copy of your credit report and correct any errors before applying for a loan.
  • Check buying guides to identify price ranges and best available deals.

Credit and Sublease Brokers

Con artists often prey on people who have bad credit and who cannot get car loans. "Credit brokers" promise to get a loan for you in exchange for a high fee. In many cases, the "broker" takes the fee and disappears. "Sublease brokers" charge a fee to arrange for you to "sublease" or "take over" someone else's car lease or loan. Such deals usually violate the original loan or lease agreement. Your car can be repossessed even if you've made all of your payments. You also might have trouble insuring your car.