Financing & Leasing Used Cars

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Is it better to lease a car or finance one? What’s the difference between leasing and financing a car, anyway? Although both involve making a monthly payment, they’re actually two very different options. We’re here to help you figure out whether financing or leasing best suits your needs.

Financing vs Leasing

When you finance a car, you’re taking out a loan to pay for it. When you lease a car, you sign an agreement that says you’ll make monthly payments for a period of time before returning the car when your lease contract is up.


Once you’ve paid off your loan for a car you’ve financed, you become its owner.
However, a car you lease is never technically yours. After your leasing contract is up, you must return the car to the dealership.

Up-Front Costs

When you take a loan out on a car, lenders typically require you to pay a down payment, taxes, registration, and other fees. When you lease, you’ll typically need to pay the first month’s payment and a security deposit, as well as taxes, registration, and possibly a downpayment.

Monthly Payments

Because your loan is for the entire value of the car, you’ll typically pay a higher monthly payment when you finance a car. When you lease, you’re paying off the vehicle’s depreciation (and other fees), and you’ll therefore have a lower monthly payment by comparison.

Car Condition

When you finance a car, it will eventually belong to you, so you’re free to put on as many miles as you wish. Other than having to live with them, you won’t be penalized for any damages you do to your car. When you lease, you’re required to keep the mileage below an agreed-upon number. If you return the car with damages or go over the agreed-upon mileage, you must pay penalties according to your lease agreement.

Your Car’s Value

After you pay off your loan, you can trade-in your financed vehicle for cash or a new car. Whatever the car is worth is money that belongs to you.
A leased vehicle belongs to the dealership. When the lease expires, you do not own it.

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Leasing, Lending, and Your Credit Score

Whether you’re applying for a loan or a lease, your credit score matters. Since your credit score tells lenders how likely you are to pay them back, a higher credit score will help you get approved for financing or leasing.

If you’ve got a perfect credit score, you’re a shoe-in for a loan or a lease. Indeed, leasing companies tend to only work with people who have shining credit scores.

But anyone with less-than-stellar — or even downright poor — credit can still obtain financing. Many dealerships have experience obtaining loans for drivers with bad credit.

Financing is available* for those who meet these criteria:

  • Proof of income of $1500 or more
  • Fully employed or on a fixed income
  • Resident of U.S.A. or Canada
  • Proof of residency (e.g. a recent utility bill or working phone number)
  • Qualified to purchase auto insurance

*Meeting these criteria qualifies you to apply for financing, but won’t determine whether you are eligible to lease.

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If Possible, Make a Down Payment

These days, it’s certainly not impossible to get a loan with no money down. But you should note that no-money-down loans are typically attached to unreasonably high interest rates.

A down payment will also show a lender that you’re responsible. To get a loan with a reasonable interest rate, an applicant also needs a history of on-time payments and a high credit score. To lower your interest rate and even your monthly payment, making a downpayment is a sound financial move.