to buy or to lease? that is the question.

03/20/2020

You've finally made the decision to trade in the old sedan for something new, clean and ready to transport you anywhere. But just when you're about to take the automotive plunge, you encounter the age-old question drivers have been asking for decades: Should you buy or should you lease?

Let's explore the ins and outs of buying and leasing, so that you can make an informed decision that'll get you on the road.

Ownership

If you buy a car, either used or new, you will own it (subject to any finance you take out on it) and can keep it for as long as you choose. The benefit? You have an asset you can sell in the future.

Leasing a car, however, is very different. A lease is essentially a contract to use the car for a set time (usually 12, 24 or 36 months). At the end of that period, you either give it back or purchase it from the dealership. If you like to change your car regularly and don't like being stuck with one for the foreseeable future, leasing may be right for you.

Insurance

There isn't a great deal of difference between insuring a leased car or one you own.

When you buy a car, you have the freedom to choose who you are insured with and the level of your policy coverages, even if that means minimum cover rather than comprehensive.

On a leased car, you will require fully comprehensive cover, and you'll need to identify the leasing company to your insurer.

Cost

If you choose to buy a car, you either pay for the car outright, or you can look for a loan or finance deal to spread the cost. Depending on the terms of the finance deal, you will have to pay a deposit plus interest on the price of the car when you buy it.

Once you've paid off your loan, you won't have to pay anything else. Bear in mind that some loans come with a large final payment—so always check the fine print!

At some point, any car you buy will likely be out of warranty, bringing up the cost for maintenance and repairs.

When you lease a vehicle, there are a number of upfront fees and costs. These may include a registration fee, downpayment, security deposit and your first month's payment. Going forward, you'll pay a set monthly fee for as long as you have the vehicle.

Leasing newer vehicles means you're less likely to come across issues associated with the vehicle's age, saving you money on maintenance and repairs.

Mileage

In any car you own, you are free to drive as far as you like. So if you buy a car, it may be the right time to book that bucket-list road trip.

Leased cars are a little more restrictive. Depending on the lease you select, you might be limited to only 8,000-12,000 miles per year. This is meant to keep the wear and tear on the car low. You do have the option, however, to go over these mileage limits, but you'll be charged by the mile (so approach with caution!).

Loss of Value

All cars drop in value as time goes on. When you buy a brand new car, this happens as soon as you drive it out of the lot. Some cars depreciate quicker than others, but, overall, it's very rare to buy a car and be able to sell it for more later—unless, that is, you've found yourself a future classic that's currently in demand.

If you lease a car, you're protected from this loss in value because you won't be trying to sell it in the future.

Modifications

Looking to add a sound system, some new wheels and maybe even racing stripes? Then you'll need to own your vehicle.

A leased car needs to be returned at the end of the lease in the same state and configuration you bought it in. That means no lifts, engine upgrades, remaps or anything else that makes the car a little more you.

Leasing and buying both have their pros and cons, so it's about choosing what's best for your lifestyle and how you intend to use the car. Do your research and you're bound to find the vehicle and ownership type that suits your road-roaming habits. Drive on!