Buy Or Lease
It's the classic dilemma that faces every auto-consumer out there: Pay
cash upfront or forego the ownership and pay monthly settlements instead?
Buy or lease for a new set of wheels?
As is the case with every other common dilemma, there is no slam-dunk
answer. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks, and it all depends
on a set of financial and personal considerations.
First, your finances. Affordability is clearly key, and you need to ask the
question of how stable is your job and how healthy is your general
financial situation. The short-term monthly-cost of leasing is
significantly lower than the monthly payments when buying: you only pay for
"the portion" of the vehicle's cost that you use up during the time you
If you have a lot of cash upfront, then you can opt to pay the down
payment, sales taxes - in cash or rolled into a loan - and the interest
rate determined by your loan company. Buying effectively gives you
ownership of the car and that feeling of "free driving" that goes on
If, say, you want to get into luxury models but can't afford the upfront
cash of purchasing the vehicle than you're a good candidate for leasing.
Unlike buying, it gives you the option of not having to fork out the down
payment upfront, leaving you to pay a lower money factor that is generally
similar to the interest rate on a financing loan. However, these benefits
have a price: terminating a lease early or defaulting on your monthly lease
payments will result in stiff financial penalties and can ruin your credit.
You need to make sure you carve out the monthly lease payment in your
budget for the foreseeable future, at least for the duration of the lease.
Besides the financial aspect, making a buy or lease decision depends on
your own particular lifestyle choices and preferences. Think about what the
car means to you: are you the sort of person to bond with the car or would
you rather have the excitement of something new? If you want to drive a
car for more than fives years, negotiate carefully and buy the car you
like. If, on the other hand, you don't like the idea of ownership and
prefer to drive a new car every two to three years then you should lease.
Next, factor your transportation needs: How many miles do you drive a year?
How properly do you maintain your cars? If you answer is: "I drive 40,000
miles a year and I don't really care much about my cars as I don't mind
dealing with repair bills", then you're probably better off buying. Leasing
is based on the assumption of limited-mileage, usually no more than 12,000
to 15,000 miles a year, and wear-and-tear considerations. Unless you can
keep within the prescribed mileage limits and keep the car in a good
condition at the end of your lease, you might incur hefty end-of-lease
Using Lease Calculators
Want to calculate your monthly lease payment? Consider using a lease
If you are considering a car lease, then you might want to know some key
figures involved in the deal: the monthly lease payments, the overall cost
of the lease and how much savings can be made compared to purchasing the
A lease calculator relieves you from the stress of having to know the
complex underlying lease formulae used in calculations. You simply plug a
number of figures into the calculator and hey presto! You get a detailed
rundown of detailed payments, taxes and total lease costs.
Figures you need to get from your dealer about a specific lease you're
interested in include: capitalized cost, estimated residual value at the
end of the lease, the number of months in your lease and the money factor.
Make assumptions and change some of the figures to see how it affects your
lease payments. For instance, residual value is an "estimated" value of what
the vehicle will be worth at the end of the lease. You can input different
estimates to cover different scenarios and assumptions.
As a final note of caution, bear in mind that lease calculators only do
calculations and check the accuracy of abstract mathematical formulae. They
do not tell you whether a lease is good or bad.
Leasing Used Cars Explained
Leasing a used vehicle can be an attractive deal in many ways, no least
getting you into that luxury model or SUV, for lower monthly payments than
a brand new one. Be prepared, however, to do some more homework to dissect
a good deal.
As with new car-leasing, your price research should focus on the key
figures that are the initial market value and the estimated residual value
of the used car. This is harder to predict since there is no factory-set
sticker price on used cars, and the residual percentage is very much pegged
to a subjective current retail value. Use different sources to get a rough
idea of the value of the used car: your local dealerships, internet
car-evaluating tools, such as Edmunds.com and Cars.com, to name but a few.
Another way to pin down a good estimate is to compare the lease on your
given car to a lease on a new-car with the same make and model. This should
give you a better picture of the difference between leasing new and going
for used. Just like leasing a new car, used vehicle leasing is more
attractive when residual values depreciate the least. You stand a better
chance of finding a bargain in the high-end, luxury vehicles that keep
their values better as used cars.
Next, you need to check the initial mileage and the overall vehicle
condition. The maximum mileage on a used car should be no more than 12,000
miles a year. A 3-years old car with 50,000 miles on the clock is very
unlikely to make a good used-vehicle lease. Check for signs of excessive
use, like worn seat fabric, worn pedal pads and dirty engine, which might
indicate that the odometer has been rolled back. If the car is not
certified, you need to get it thoroughly inspected. Ask your dealer for a
manufacturer-sponsored certification program or have your car certified by
a qualified mechanic or inspection service.
Most used-car deals don't come with gap coverage. This is a special type
of coverage, normally offered on a new auto-lease, to cover the consumer if
the leased vehicle is lost, stolen or damaged. Typically, auto-insurance
policies cover only what your car is worth at the time of loss, not what
you still owe on the lease. The difference could run into thousands of
dollars. For peace of mind, do not enter into any used-car lease without
gap-coverage. Arrange it separately with either the lease dealer or your
Leasing With Bad Credit
Have you been refused a car lease? Chances are you have less flawed credit
history. Know what's involved and what you can do to build good credit
Credit score is a measure of your credit worthiness used by leasing agents
to determine whether you are eligible for a lease. You credit score is
based on your past and present credit history, and can range anywhere from
350 to 850. A measure above 720 is considered a "prime score" and will
land you the best rates. If you are below 640, then you are "sub-prime"
and will be considered bad rating by the bulk of leasing agents. This is
where all the trouble in getting that lease comes from.
Ask for your FICO Credit Score from the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO)
which details your credit score held by all three leading credit score
agencies in the country. Compare the three credit scores and determine if
any agency is holding erroneous credit data about you. Contact the
reporting agency and getting corrected.
If there are no mistakes in your credit report, then you can take some
steps to maximise your score to go above the threshold of 640. Pay your
bills on time and pay down any credit card debts you have. Do not take any
new accounts as this might increase the likelihood of you getting into bad
credit thus worsening your credit score.
For auto-consumers, crunching the numbers is one of the most difficult and
confusing aspects of leasing.
Take the finance charge on a lease for instance. Most people just don't
understand how this is calculated on capitalised cost AND residual value
instead of just the capitalised cost. For most, it seems plainly obvious,
just as is the case when purchasing, that a charge should be levied on the
capitalised cost of the vehicle.
Well, no quite! When you lease a car, you're only using the car over a
specified period of time with the option of buying the car. The residual
value represents the "loan balance" at the end of the lease. If you add it
to the capitalized cost and divide by two, you'll get the average
capitalized cost outstanding over the lease term. Let us suppose you're
leasing a car with a capitalized cost of $25,000 and a residual value of
$15,000. You average balance over the lease term, irrespective of how long
it is, is $20,000 - the sum of the two divided by two -.
Using this sum works because the money factor is the annual interest rate
devided by 24, rather than 12. Continuing with our example and assuming an
interest rate of 6% APR:
$30,000 X (6 per cent / 24) = $75
(Capitalized cost + residual value) X (interest rate / 24) = Monthly
This finance charge is added to the depreciation charge to calculate the
monthly payments on your lease.
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Independent Car Lease Companies
To lease, you have two possible choices: either lease through a dealer's
finance source or through an independent lease company.
A conventional dealer has a captive finance source, which can be the car
manufacturer's financial company, such as BMW Financial Services, Honda
Motor Credit or General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), or a major
national bank such as Chase Manhattan.
Independent lease companies are no financial obligation to any single
one manufacturer financing source, but work with dealers anywhere in the
So which one is better?
Conventional dealers provide better lease-deals on limited-time promotions.
Factory-subsidized cars that have subvented money factors and residuals are
very attractive lease deals and can be very hard to beat anywhere else.
Independent lease companies can offer you unbiased and professional advice
on vehicle selection regardless of make and model. This is because they are
not tied to a single manufacturer or financing source, unlike conventional
dealers who have to sell specific models. They can also be more flexible
regarding negotiating lease terms like residual value and mileage.
Ultimately, if you prefer a more personal and customer-oriented
relationship with your leasing agent, then you will do well with an
independent leasing company.
How To Calculate Your Lease Payment
Understanding how to calculate your monthly lease payment makes it easier
for you to make an informed decision. Yet, most of us shy away from the
"complicated" math on our lease contract, leaving it up to the dealer to
do the payment formula.
Actually, it's not that difficult! Once you understand all the figures
involved in calculating your monthly payments, everything else falls into
place. These key figures are:
MSRP (short for Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price): This is the list
price of the vehicle or the window sticker price.
Money Factor: This determines the interest rate on your lease. Insist on
your dealer to disclose this rate before entering into a lease.
Lease Term: The number of months the dealer rents the vehicle.
Residual Value: The value of the vehicle at the end of the lease. Again,
you can get this figure from the dealer.
Now, let us calculate a sample lease payment based on a vehicle with an
MSRP (sticker price) value of $25,000 and a money factor of 0.0034 (this is
usually quoted as 3.4%). The scheduled-lease is over 3 years and the
estimated residual percentage is 55%.
The first step is to calculate the residual value of the car. You multiply
the MSRP by the residual percentage:
$20,000 X .55 = $11,000.
The car will be worth $13,750 at the end of the lease, so you'll be using:
$20,000 - $11,000 = $9,000
This amount of $9,000 will be used over a 36 month lease period giving us a
monthly payment of:
$9,000 / 36 = $250.
This is the first part of the monthly payment, called the monthly
The second part of the monthly payment, called the money factor payment,
factors the interest charge. It is calculated by adding the MSRP figure to
the residual value and multiplying this by the money factor:
($20,000 + $11,000) * 0.0034 = $105.4
Finally, we get the approximate monthly payment by adding the two figures
$250 + $105.4 = $355.4
To recapitulate, the sample formula looks like this:
1- Monthly Depreciation Charge:
MSRP X Depreciation Percentage = Residual Value
MSRP - Residual Value = Depreciation over lease term
Depreciation over lease term / lease term (number of months in the lease) =
monthly depreciation charge
2- Monthly factor money charge
(MSRP + Residual value) X Money factor = money factor payment
3- Sample Monthly Payment:
depreciation charge + money factor payment = monthly payment
Keep in mind that this is a simplified calculation that does not take into
account taxes, fees, rebates or any other incentives. The calculation gives
you a ballpark figure or a rough idea of what your lease payments for the
vehicle in question should be.
Ever wanted to terminate your lease early, comfortable with the thought you
weren't going to be hit with hefty fees? You can if you transfer your lease
to someone else.
Trading a lease is the best option for people who want to terminate a lease
early and don't want to pay the large termination imposed by most lease
agents. It can also be an alternative to get out of a lease for far less
than you would otherwise pay your original lease company for extra mileage
and wear-and-tear charges that can run into the thousands of dollars.
For a small fee, you can advertise your car lease for assumption to a large
number of potential buyers on the look-out for leases on the Internet. Such
services include LeaseTrader.com, the originator of online lease-trading
and the biggest online marketplace where most lease transfers take place,
and smaller marketplaces such as BreakAlead.com and TradeAlease.com
Before swapping your lease, make sure your leasing company approves lease
transfer transactions. Caution must be exercised in choosing a lease
swapping service: make sure they facilitate the whole lease transfer
process, offer online or telephone customer-service help and registered
buyers undergo stringent credit checks.
Luxury Cars And Resale Values
When it comes to ultra-luxury, high-end vehicle leasing, there is no doubt
that the best deals are those cars that hold their value. With this in
mind, we single out a few truths about residual values that consistently
apply to high-end leasing.
The most determining factor when it comes to resale values is public
perception of the brand, not its reliability ratings in quality surveys.
Take the Jaguar for example: it is consistently rated as a quality car, but
because of questionable reliability perception among the public, it takes a
sharp dip in value at the end of its lease-term
Higher-tech options and other cutting-edge features do not necessarily mean
the car will fare better. By the time your car is two years old, better
and cheaper systems will render the laser-guided cruise control, navigation
systems and built-in cell phone obsolete. Look for functional features,
such as automatic transmissions, power windows and wheel-drive to enhance
the vehicle's value in the used-car market.
Used-car buyers view less favorably luxury vehicles that come with big
incentives. These are perceived as questionable in quality and
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