To Buy or to Lease?

Happy Family in car ready for travelSo you’re looking to get into a new car. The age-old question is…do I buy or should I lease? Many times, the decision between buying and leasing is not a financial decision but a lifestyle choice.

Below, our valued partner AAA points out some of the major differences between buying and leasing. In the end, it may boil down to personal preference.


Buying – You own the vehicle and get to keep it as long as you want it.

Leasing - You don’t own the vehicle. You get to use it but must return it at the end of the lease unless you decide to buy it.

Up-front costs

Buying – They include the cash price or a down payment, taxes, registration, and other fees.

Leasing – They typically include the first month’s payment, a refundable security deposit, a down payment, taxes, registration, etc.

Monthly payments

Buying - Loan payments are usually higher than lease payments because you’re paying off the entire purchase price of the vehicle, plus interest and other finance charges, taxes, and fees.

Leasing – Lease payments are almost always lower than loan payments because you’re paying only for the vehicle’s depreciation during the lease term, plus interest charges (called rent charges), taxes, and fees.

Early termination

Buying - You can sell or trade in your vehicle at any time.

Leasing - If you end the lease early, early-termination charges can be almost as costly as sticking with the contract.

Vehicle return

Buying - You’ll have to deal with selling or trading in your car when you decide you want a different one.

Leasing – You can return the vehicle at lease-end, pay any end-of-lease costs, and walk away.

Future value

Buying - The vehicle will depreciate but its cash value is yours to use as you like.

Leasing - On the plus side, its future value doesn’t affect you financially. On the negative side, you don’t have any equity in the vehicle.


Buying - You’re free to drive as many miles as you want. (But higher mileage lowers the vehicle’s trade-in or resale value.)

Leasing – Most leases limit the number of miles you may drive, often 12,000 to 15,000 per year. (You can negotiate a higher mileage limit.) You’ll have to pay charges for exceeding your limits.

Excessive wear and tear

Buying - You don’t have to worry about wear and tear, but it could lower the vehicle’s trade-in or resale value.

Leasing – Most leases hold you responsible. You’ll have to pay extra charges for exceeding what is considered normal wear and tear.

End of term

Buying – At the end of the loan term (usually 4-5 years), you have no further payments and you have built equity to help pay for your next vehicle.

Leasing – At the end of the lease (typically 2-4 years), you’ll have to finance the purchase of the car or lease or buy another.


Buying – The vehicle is yours to modify or customize as you like.

Leasing - Any modifications or custom parts you add will need to be removed before you return the car. If there is any residual damage, you’ll have to pay to have it fixed.

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One Response to To Buy or to Lease?

  1. James says:

    Leasing for the most part is not smart. It is primarily a way for people to get a car they otherwise cannot afford to buy. We have a huge problem in this country with people living beyond their means. Leasing is one way that people do it.

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