What to Do Before You Lease a Car

Getting a new car is a big decision, and you should choose your next vehicle carefully. But if you think finding the right car is difficult, deciding whether to lease or buy can be even more overwhelming. Start the process right by understanding the minimum credit score to lease a car and determining whether this is the best decision for you.

1. Check Your Credit

According to Experian, companies that lease automobiles typically like to see a credit score of 700 or higher, though you might be able to get approved for some leases with a score that falls below that. In some cases, it’s easier to qualify for a lease for certain vehicles, such as those that come with a lower price tag.

Before you apply for a lease, you should check your credit report, giving yourself plenty of time to dispute and fix any negative mistakes to enhance your chance of getting approved for a lease. You can get a copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Usually you get one copy per year from each of the three major bureaus, but due to COVID-19, you can get one copy every week through April 2021.

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    You should also check your credit score to check if you have the right credit score to lease a car. This lets you know if you fall below the potential requirements for most lease companies. Sign up for ExtraCredit and get 28 of your FICO Scores plus your credit reports from all three credit bureaus so you’re armed with the right information.

    2. Make Sure a Lease Is Right for You

    Leases offer some advantages over buying. The down payment and fixed monthly payments for a lease are typically lower than the cost of financing. You get to drive a newer car, and many repair costs may be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty or the lease agreement.

    However, leases also come with many limitations and the potential for additional costs. If you exceed a lease’s mileage limit, you’ll pay a fee for every additional mile. You’ll also be charged for extra wear and tear, and you aren’t allowed to modify the vehicle. If you decide the car isn’t right for you, you could pay a steep penalty for terminating your lease early.

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      Despite the lower monthly payment, the lifetime cost of leasing is generally much higher than buying, especially considering you don’t own your car at the end of the lease. Before you decide if a lease is right for you, make sure to understand the pros and cons of leasing.

      3. Know What You Can Afford

      One of the biggest advantages of leasing is that you might get a lower monthly payment compared to a car loan on the same vehicle. Leases are cheaper because you’re only paying for the depreciation of the car’s value plus interest, taxes, and fees. With a loan, you’re also paying off the entire purchase price of the vehicle.

      However, these monthly costs don’t take down payments or trade-in values into account. While leases typically have lower down payments, you’ll have to turn in or buy your car when the lease is up. And you’ll have no ownership in the car to show for the few years of payments you already made. It’s important to consider whether you can afford the monthly payment now and the cost of buying or leasing a new vehicle in a few years.

      4. Shop Around for a Car and a Lease

      Auto loans can be found at banks, credit unions, car dealers, and online. Leases, on the other hand, are largely controlled by the manufacturer. You may be able to get a better deal if you consider vehicles from different manufacturers instead of sticking to one make and model.

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      The manufacturer will consider your credit score to lease a car, your debt-to-income ratio, and the “lease-to-value” ratio. That’s how much you are financing compared to the vehicle’s value. If you are having trouble qualifying, you may need to put down additional money or get a cosigner for your lease.

      Just as with auto loans, you can negotiate the cost of a leased car. So if you aren’t getting the deal you want, make a counter-offer or keep looking.

      Not Ready to Lease?

      If you aren’t ready to commit to a lease term of two to three years, you can potentially take over the remaining term on someone else’s lease. As long as your credit is in the same tier or better than the person whose lease you are assuming, you’ll likely qualify to take over their lease. Sites like SwapALease.com and LeaseTrader.com help connect consumers who want to get out of leases and consumers who want to assume one.

      If you’d rather buy a car than lease one, we’ve got some tips on how to finance a car. We can also help you find a lender to apply for a car loan.

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