Buying Versus Leasing a Car
There are big differences between buying and leasing. Typically, if you were to purchase a new car, you would make a down payment and finance the remaining cost. At the end of the term, the car would be yours. Leasing is essentially renting, with your payment going towards the car's depreciation. If the lease includes a purchase option, you may buy it at the end of a specific time period.
So which is better? That depends on your individual situation and needs. You will have to decide for yourself by analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of each:
There are short-term cost advantages to leasing. The monthly payments on a leased car are usually far less than on a loan – even for a luxury model. The down payment usually works out to be less than what you would pay for a bought car as well. Because the typical lease is for three years, most repairs are covered by factory warranty. Sales tax is cheaper too, as you only pay it on the financed portion.
An attractive feature of leasing is the ability to drive a new car every few years. You never have to go through the hassle of selling it; you just turn it in at the end of the term.
While the payments are often reasonable, you never gain equity in the car. If you were to buy it at the end of your contract, it would cost you a lot more than if you had just bought it in the first place.
Leases are restrictive. If you exceed the yearly mileage limit you can be assessed an extra charge. You must take good care of the car as well, as any nicks or dings can be considered "wear and tear" and could cost you.
Comparing lease offers can be very confusing, making it hard to know if you got a good deal. And you will find it difficult to get out of your lease early if you want to – a problem if your driving needs or financial circumstances change.
When you buy a car, it's yours. You can customize it and drive it as hard and far as you want, penalty-free. Rather than having infinite payments, buying means you will eventually pay the car off. Once paid off, if you want to sell it you can do so at any time, as Erik Fortier you are not locked into a contract.
Down payments on bought cars can be substantial. Monthly payments are usually higher than a leased car, and once your warranty expires, you will be responsible for the maintenance costs. When you want to sell it (or trade it in) you will have to go through the hassle of doing so. And, as an investment, new cars depreciate rather than appreciate.
Revised January 2016.