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How To Finance An RV – Forbes Advisor

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A recreational vehicle, also known as an RV, serves as a unique hybrid between a vehicle and a home. They’re a wonderful way to see the country without the hassle of flying, and you have built-in accommodations wherever you go. But RVs can come with a hefty price tag.

Since an RV doesn’t fall in the typical car category and is often a much more expensive purchase, RV loans exist to help consumers finance these large, unique purchases.

What Is an RV Loan?

An RV loan helps you finance a purchase of a new or used RV, motorhome or camping trailer that you can’t afford to purchase outright. Because RVs range from small and affordable to large and luxurious, RV loans also run the gamut with size and terms.

RV loans also are separate from auto loans because they’re typically larger, more complicated purchases. Depending on the lender, you can find RV loans for around $25,000 that are repaid over a few years, but you also can find loans as hefty as $300,000 that are repaid over 20 years.

For very small RV purchases, you have the option of using a personal loan instead. For example, Bank of the West requests that customers use personal loans for RV purchases under $10,000 rather than RV loans.

How RV Loans Work

As with any other loan, prospective borrowers submit an RV loan application that the lender reviews and evaluates based on several factors. Your credit plays a large part in your eligibility and interest rate, as does the size of the loan and your down payment. In addition to checking your credit, lenders may look at other aspects of your financial health, such as your net worth or cash flow/income, employment and housing.

Borrowing requirements can be stricter for larger loans, so the amount of documentation required also depends on the lender and the size of the loan.

If you plan to obtain an RV loan from a lender of your choice rather than through the dealership, you can apply and get pre-approved before you go shopping for your RV. Your lender may offer you a few different term options, allowing you to decide on the timeframe in which you’ll repay the loan (this impacts your interest rate and monthly payments). For smaller RV loans, the terms may be only for two or three years, while larger RV loans may have terms as long as 10 to 20 years. Interest rates are usually fixed, so your payments remain consistent over the life of the loan.

RV loans also require a down payment, often between 10% and 20%. Your lender may also require an RV inspection, which usually costs between $150 and $200.

Unsecured Loans vs Secured Vehicle Loans

There’s one thing all auto loans have in common: they’re secured, with your car serving as collateral. In other words, if you default on your loan, the lender can repossess the car. On the other hand, most personal loans are unsecured, where no collateral is required and you’re approved based solely on your creditworthiness.

When it comes to RV loans, some are secured and some are unsecured. In most cases, smaller RV loans are unsecured and function more like personal loans, while higher-dollar loans for luxury RVs are secured and work more like an auto loan or mortgage.

For example, Truist Bank—formerly SunTrust Bank—offers unsecured loans for purchases of RVs, including towable campers and trailers, for amounts between $5,000 and $100,000. But if you’re purchasing a higher-value RV, such as Class A or Class C motorhome, Truist requires the loan to be secured, using the motorhome’s title as collateral.

Keep in mind that if you fail to make your payments on a secured RV loan, the lender can repossess your RV. But because the collateral makes the loan less risky to lenders, interest rates are often lower on secured RV loans.

Where to Get an RV Loan

Borrowers typically have two major options for where to obtain an RV loan:

  • RV dealership. Often, the easiest way to apply for a loan is at the dealership once you choose an RV. The dealer will typically present you with a few financing options, either through partnerships with various lenders or in-house. Financing an RV through the dealership also may give you more bargaining power and flexibility on the vehicle price or APR.
  • Online or traditional lender. You can also obtain an RV loan through a financial institution, such as your bank or credit union. If you go this route, you can get preapproved to borrow a certain amount before you head to the dealership. This can be helpful if you’re not sure how much RV you can afford—or if you’re worried about whether your credit score will qualify you for acceptable lending terms.

However, if you plan to buy a less expensive RV, such as a smaller used one, it may make more sense to apply for a personal loan instead. You can do this before you go RV shopping; you receive the money as one lump sum, so you can then go make the purchase outright. Just keep in mind that some lenders limit what borrowers can use personal loans for, so check with the lender before signing on the dotted line.

How to Apply for an RV Loan

Follow these steps if you’re ready to finance a new or used RV:

1. Determine Your Budget

RV costs vary substantially depending on the types, age and size of the vehicle. What’s more, add-on features and interior finishes can even cause the price of small RVs to skyrocket quickly. Before you start shopping for an RV loan, consider what you need in an RV and how you plan to use it. Will you be traveling full-time or are you more of a weekend warrior? Do you plan to camp in cold climates or rugged terrain so that you’ll need a winterized or off-road RV?

Once you have a picture of your RV lifestyle in mind, make a list of must-have and nice-to-have features and research the average cost of RVs that meet those requirements. Then, evaluate whether that cost is consistent with your current financial situation and reevaluate if necessary.

Alternatively, you can calculate how much RV you can afford by reviewing your finances and determining how much room you have in your budget each month. Remember, though, that this amount will have to cover everything from debt service and insurance to maintenance, storage and fuel for travel.

2. Check Your Credit Score

RV loan APR is in large part determined by a borrower’s credit score. Other factors—such as the size of the loan—also play a part, but creditworthiness can make or break RV financing. So, to qualify for the best RV loan rates, make sure your credit is in the best shape possible. Some lenders are stricter than others but many traditional lenders may not approve RV loans for bad credit. For example, Bank of the West says credit scores of 700 or higher are preferred.

Other lenders, however, specialize in RV loans for bad credit. Southeast Financial says that while most RV lenders require credit scores of 720 or above, they have no minimum credit score requirement and review each application on a case-by-case basis. Another option is My Financing USA, which has RV loan options both for those with good credit (minimum score of 680) and bad credit (minimum score of 570).

There are plenty of ways to improve your credit score, from always paying your bills on time to reducing the amount of debt you carry. Be aware that some lenders also may offer discounts if you enroll in auto-pay.

3. Save a Down Payment

In general, RV dealerships require a down payment of 10% of the purchase price—at a minimum. Others may require, or at least prefer, a 20% down payment. To ensure you’re ready to take the leap when you find your perfect RV, start saving for a down payment as soon as possible. A larger down payment will ultimately reduce your monthly payments and can decrease your interest rate and the overall cost of the loan.

If you have less than stellar credit, providing a larger down payment may also increase your chances of RV loan approval because it lowers the amount you need to borrow and reduces risk to the lender.

4. Shop for a Lender

If you decide to finance an RV through the dealer, they will show you loan options from the lenders they partner with. This is the most convenient option, since they take care of the loan logistics for you, but they may not always have the best rates. Some RV dealerships also offer in-house financing options that are more lenient with credit, but they can come at a high cost.

However, many people choose to finance their RVs through a private online or traditional lender. If you go through a private lender, you can typically complete the application online or by phone and get preapproved before you even set foot in the dealership. This indicates to the seller that you’re a serious buyer, which can put you in a better position to negotiate on the price tag.

Once you commit to buying an RV, you will send the purchase agreement to the lender who preapproved you, and they’ll finalize the loan documents. The lender then sends the funds to the dealer to complete the process. This option may be ideal if you want to stick with your existing bank or credit union, or if you find a rate you can’t pass up.

5. Negotiate for the Best Terms

Before you agree to purchase an RV, make sure you’re getting the best price possible. Some dealerships markup RV prices by as much as 50% and many expect customers to haggle on the price. Depending on the RV and the circumstances, you may be able to get the price down as much as 20% to 30% off the sticker price.

You may be able to take advantage of extra incentives or amenities that make the purchase price more acceptable, such as free maintenance or upgrades. By reducing the purchase price of an RV, you’ll cut back on the overall costs of financing—even if you don’t qualify for a low APR.

RV Loan Frequently Asked Questions

How hard is it to get an RV loan?

Just like any loan, an RV loan requires a thorough assessment of your credit and finances. When underwriting RV loans, lenders look for a strong credit history and solid income that shows a likelihood of repayment. If your credit isn’t in great shape, it may be hard to get approved for an RV loan. However, some lenders specialize in RV loans for bad credit by evaluating applications on a case-by-case basis, rather than just looking at credit history.

Can someone cosign an RV loan?

Some types of loans allow borrowers to have co-signers, which is when you get a loved one with a stronger credit history to agree to take on the financial responsibility with you. When it comes to RV loans, it’s up to the lender; some permit it, but many don’t because they see it as a sign that the borrower is too risky for such a large purchase.

 

For example, Bank of the West does not allow cosigners on RV loans. However, some lenders are open to it, so if you think you’ll need a cosigner in order to qualify for an RV loan, make sure to ask if this is an option before you proceed.

What is the current interest rate on RV loans?

In general, RV loan interest rates range from about 4.25% up to 11% or more, depending on the loan amount, term and the borrower’s creditworthiness. However, these are just starting rates for customers with the best credit. What’s more, rates vary from lender to lender, so make sure to shop around before choosing the terms that fit your needs. Even a slightly lower interest rate can make a massive difference in the long run.

Can you buy an RV with an auto loan?

No, you typically cannot use an auto loan for a recreational vehicle. RVs are usually much more expensive purchases, so the loans are larger and require a more in-depth underwriting process. Lenders often consider factors such as your liquidity, net worth and cash flow—factors that aren’t usually reviewed for auto loans.

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Car Leasing Guide: Everything You Need to Know

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Car Leasing Guide

At first blush, car leasing seems like a grand idea. After all, you can get more car for the same monthly financing payment. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, there’s a lot more to weigh between financing and leasing than simply getting more car for your buck. Although, that is the primary reason people lease.

Numbered among the other reasons people lease is the thrill of that new car smell. Some folks simply like the idea of driving a new car every two or three years. Leasing also streamlines writing off your vehicle as a business expense at tax time.

Another reason to lease is that sometimes the carmakers offer really sweet leasing deals that aren’t available to those financing a car purchase. Repeat leasers also always have a car that’s usually under a factory warranty. And finally, when the lease expires, you don’t have to negotiate a trade-in value or go through the selling process. You just hand over the keys and walk away. Easy peasy, right? Well, usually. Read on.

What is a Car Lease?

A car lease is basically a long-term rental for a contracted number of months. Unlike financing a car purchase based on you eventually owning the car, leasing is like a long-term rental. You are still locked into the deal for a contracted number of months and a monthly payment.

However, instead of paying down a loan and building equity, you are paying for the car’s estimated lost value (depreciation) during the term (length) of the lease. You are paying for that and the interest on the money borrowed to underwrite the lease.

What Do You Need to Know Before Leasing?

Arguably the key concern when considering car leasing is, on average, how many miles you drive yearly. According to the United States Department of Transportation, most Americans drive a total of 13,476 miles per year.

Signing a lease binds you contractually not to exceed an established mileage limit. That limit, or mileage cap, is averaged out over the number of years in the agreement.

Depending on the lease, agreements range from 10,000 miles per year to as many as 15,000 miles per year. Whatever the limit might be, the leasing company will penalize you for every mile above the limit. Generally, that penalty can be between $0.12 to $0.30 per excess mile. At $0.30, that works out to $300 for every 1,000 miles over the limit. It can add up.

Can I Negotiate the Price of a Leased Car?

Yes. As with a financing deal, you can save yourself money by negotiating down the car’s selling price you are going to lease.

What is the Money Factor in Leasing?

When you finance a car, you must also pay for the money you are borrowing. What you pay is called interest, and it’s displayed as a percentage (2.5%, 3.0%, and so forth). You need to know the rate of interest you will be paying. The higher the interest rate, the higher your monthly payment.

When you lease, you must also pay for the money the lessor used to buy the car. In leasing, however, the interest is called the money factor. It’s calculated and displayed differently (0.0010, 0.0023, and so forth). How in the world do you know what the interest rate is on a lease, right?

To translate the money factor into a form more easily understood, just multiply it by 2,400. So, 0.0023 x 2,400 = 5.5%. We know: Why don’t they just say that?

Who is Responsible for Maintaining a Leased Car?

The leasing company expects you to maintain your leased car carefully. That means following the maintenance schedule outlined in the owner’s manual. The good news is, many new vehicles come with some sort of free maintenance plan.

At the end of the leasing period, an agent of the leasing company will inspect the vehicle for any damage beyond “normal” wear and tear. Determining what is normal is entirely up to the inspector. If the inspector decides any damage is beyond normal wear and tear, you will be charged for it.

Who is Responsible for Insuring a Leased Car?

You are responsible for insuring your leased car. The leasing company dictates the amount of coverage you must have for the vehicle. Determine what those amounts will be and contact your automobile insurance agent to establish the annual premium before you lease.

What if I Want Out of My Lease Early?

It bears repeating: A car lease is a binding contract. The leasing company sets the monthly payments based on the length of the lease established in the agreement. If for some reason — any reason — you want or need to bail on the lease early, there will be a penalty for doing so.

At worst, that penalty may require a balloon payment to cover the remaining outstanding payments. You can’t just return the leased car or sell it to pay off the leasing company. It’s not your car, and you have no equity in it.

Market conditions these days make it possible to negotiate with a dealership if you’re planning to buy a car. Or, because the used car supply is tight, dealerships may be more willing to make a deal to get you out of your lease early.

Brokers with auto lease transfer companies like swapalease.com can also attempt to connect you with a deal that lets you sign over the lease to someone else.

Before you make any choices, weigh all your options to determine the best option for you.

How Does My Credit Affect Car Leasing?

Credit score information for leasing

As with financing a car purchase, a leasing company will use your credit score and history to determine whether or not it will lease to you. Roughly 83% of new car leasing during the first three months of 2021 was to borrowers with a credit score above 660. This is according to the national credit bureau Experian. It also found that the average credit score for leasing during that period was 734.

If your credit score is 501 to 660, you may be able to find a lender willing to lease to you, but expect to put down a hefty down payment. Also, you can expect to be tagged with a higher-than-average interest rate.

It has always been true that leasing generally requires better credit than financing. When leasing, you have little or no skin in the game. All you stand to lose if you stop making your lease payments is whatever down payment you made.

You don’t now and never will have any equity in a leased vehicle. You are really renting it, remember? Leasing companies know you have little to lose. Consequently, they tend to be pickier when evaluating lessees rather than buyers.

RELATED STORY: Can I Buy a Car with Poor Credit History?

Car Leasing vs. Buying

Whether you lease or buy and finance your next car, you will be obligated to make a monthly payment. In most cases, both will also require some amount of money upfront. When financing, it’s usually a down payment of some sort.

With leasing, you may have to put up a security deposit, the first month’s lease payment, a fee for arranging the lease (acquisition fee), a down payment, or some combination of those. In either case, there are also car title and registration fees.

Pros of Leasing

Because you are only paying for the estimated depreciation while driving the car and not the entire purchase price, monthly leasing payments tend to be lower than financing payments. It simply means your money will go farther leasing a car than financing one. A lower monthly payment is the top reason people give for leasing. It isn’t the best reason, but it is the most common.

Another perk of leasing is the freedom to drive a new car every two or three years with no strings attached. A side benefit of having a new car every few years is, you probably will always have a vehicle protected by the factory new car warranty. There may even be a free maintenance warranty for a portion, if not all, of the lease. And, every couple of years, you can have a car with the most up-to-date technological advances.

At lease end, you don’t need to worry about the hassle of selling the car or negotiating its value as a trade-in. You drop the keys on the lessor’s desk and walk away.

Leasing is better geared to writing off the cost of driving on your taxes if you can deduct business expenses.

Here’s some excellent news: If you still like the car at the end of the lease, you can buy it. Because the leasing company estimated what the car would be worth at the end of the lease (the residual value or residual), they may have guessed wrong.

If they underestimated the car’s worth at the end of the lease, you could cash in by buying that car for less than the current market value. It’s the smart thing to do in a tight market when supply struggles to meet demand.

RELATED STORY: How to Profit from an Off-lease Car

Cons of Leasing

Yes, the idea of driving a new car every few years with the benefit of always being under warranty is tempting, as is that lower monthly payment. Sadly, though, it means you will never build any equity. What you pay for with a lease is the depreciation. A car will lose roughly 35% to 40% of its value in the first three years. At the end of the lease, you won’t have a thing to show for those two or three years of payments.

Typically consumers sign a closed-end lease. There are also open-end leases. The difference is discussed in What Are the Types of Leases? in the section below. Closed-end is the type of lease covered here.

Driving a leased car is like counting calories to lose weight — every mile driven counts. Every lease comes with a mileage limit. It may average out as low as 10,000 miles per year, although 12,000 miles is more likely. You may be able to find a lease with a yearly cap of 15,000 miles. There are even some more expensive high-mileage leases on the market.

You’ll pay more per month but may avoid getting slapped with a mileage penalty at the end of the lease. That penalty is usually about $0.25 per excess mile. If you do a lot of driving, that can really add up.

The leasing company will hold you accountable for anything beyond its definition of normal wear and tear. You will be on the hook for any repairs the lessor deems over and above normal. Suddenly, with the excess mileage fee and damage fee, returning that leased car isn’t the easy-peasy experience expected.

Leasing is also like joining a street gang. Once you’re in, you’re in. Suppose some change in your life creates the need to get out of the lease early? Good luck. You may find yourself faced with owing a balloon payment equal to the outstanding payments on the lease. At the very least, you will have to pay some sort of stiff penalty. There are online companies like swapalease.com, brokering deals between people who want out of a lease and people willing to pick up a lease. But, such brokered deals will cost you, too.

Pros of Buying

The top advantage to buying versus leasing is that the vehicle is yours when the loan is paid off in five or six years. There will be the value you can cash in by selling or trading it in as a down payment on another car. It’s an asset. Of course, you can always decide to drive it until the wheels fall off. No payments for another five years or more is a pretty good perk. Especially when you consider by year four, the repeat lessee is paying for the depreciation on a second new car and still gaining zero equity.

Getting out from under your car loan is much easier than breaking a lease. As long as the lienholder is paid off, you can sell or trade in your car at any time.

Cons of Buying

Particularly if your credit is a bit sketchy, you may want to put down a larger down payment of around 20% if you want better odds of getting approved. That would be $5,000 on a $25,000 car. Leasing would allow you to keep at least some of that up-front cash.

Depending on the length of the loan, depreciation, and the way interest is calculated, you may owe more than the vehicle is worth until the last year or so of the loan. By that time, the car warranty may well have expired, too. Not only do you have to continue making payments on a 5- or 6-year-old car, but you may have to pay for any repairs out of your own pocket.

The Differences of Leasing a Car vs. Buying a Car

You can draw some fairly strong contrasts between leasing and financing. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Short term, a lease will cost less. In the long run, however, two leases will cost more than buying one car. And, at the end of five or six years, the loan will be paid off, and whatever value the car retains will be yours.

Here are some other stark differences.

Leasing

  1. Monthly payments: Leasing payments are almost always lower than financing payments on the same vehicle.
  2. Early Termination: You will pay a hefty fee if you want to end a lease early.
  3. End of term: Although you may owe some penalties, you can just hand the car back to the lessor at the end of the lease.
  4. Mileage: A lease restricts the annual mileage. Exceeding that mileage will cost you big.
  5. After-market: A leased vehicle is not yours to do with as you wish. Any alteration will cost you.
  6. Taxes: Leasing a vehicle allows you to write off the monthly payments as a business expense if you’re eligible.
  7. Warranty: Most leased vehicles come with a warranty that will likely cover your car for the duration of the leasing period, saving you money should something happen to it.

Buying

  1. Monthly payments: For the same vehicle, financing payments will almost always be more than leasing.
  2. Early Termination: You can sell or trade in a financed vehicle at any time, as long as you satisfy the loan balance.
  3. End of term: When the loan is paid off, the car is yours to keep, sell, or trade in.
  4. Mileage: There are no mileage limits with a financed car.
  5. After-market: Financing a car allows you to make it yours. Take care not to void the warranty. Otherwise, customize it to your heart’s content.
  6. Credit: If you have bad credit, you will most likely have to put down a bigger down payment to get approved.

What Are the Types of Leases?

Leases aren’t one size fits all. The leasing concept doesn’t vary, but the contract details do.

What is a Closed-End Lease?

A closed-end lease is the most common form of leasing. Sometimes called a “walk-away” lease, it sets firm terms, allowing the lessee to walk away at the end of the lease. All variables like the length of the lease, monthly payments, and the mileage cap are established in the leasing contract. As long as the contract terms get met, the lessee can just drop off the car at the end of the lease. The lessee also has an option to buy the vehicle at a pre-determined value.

What is an Open-End Lease?

An open-end lease is a bigger gamble for the lessee, who is accepting more of the risk. Typically that lessee is a commercial enterprise or business. The leasing company still sets a residual value and the monthly payments. Luckily, open-ended leases usually have more flexible mileage options than their closed-ended lease counterparts. However, unlike a closed-end lease, it’s the lessee taking the hit if the residual value at the end of the lease is less than the vehicle’s actual market value. The lessee must pay the difference.

What is a Single-Pay Lease?

Also called a one-pay lease, this is a lease in which you pay the entire run of monthly payments upfront. There are two primary reasons for going this route. One, it usually reduces the interest or money factor rate. You wind up paying hundreds less than if you were to pay monthly. Two, if your credit is questionable, a single, up-front payment may motivate a leasing company to take a chance on you.

How Long is a Car Lease?

You may find carmakers offering leasing specials of odd durations, 39 months, for instance. But, generally, leases are for 24 or 36 months. You can, however, find leases out there for longer terms. As with financing, the longer the term of the lease, the lower the monthly payment. That difference, though, may not be much.

What is a Leasing Mileage Cap?

Even when you finance a car, the higher the mileage when you sell it or trade it in, the less it’s worth. The difference with leasing, the lessor factors in a specific number of miles when estimating depreciation. Over the course of a lease, the allowable mileage or mileage cap might average out to 10,000, 12,000, or 15,000 miles per year. Exceeding the mileage cap reduces the car’s value at the end of the lease. This is why a leasing company will charge you a predetermined penalty for each mile over the cap. Be sure you know the per-mile penalty before signing the lease.

Can a Car Lease Be Extended?

Say you haven’t found a replacement vehicle, and you are at the end of your lease. Is there a way out? Yes, most lessors will gladly extend the lease on a month-to-month basis or for a fixed number of months. You will have to continue making the monthly payment. Also, in the case of a multi-month extension, you may have to sign another contract.

What Are the Key Leasing Terms I Need to Know?

We have been using some reader-friendly shorthand in this guide, but here are the formal leasing terms you should understand.

  • Acquisition Fee: This is a fee a lessor charges for setting up the lease. This fee varies greatly and can be as much as $1,000. Ask before signing any lease what fees get included in the acquisition fee. Fees you might see could include destination charges and documentation fees for processing the lease title, license plates, and car registration. It is firm and can’t be negotiated away. However, it can be folded into monthly payments.
  • Allowable Mileage: Also called the “mileage cap,” it is the average number of miles per year you can drive the car. The lessor will penalize you for every mile above that number.
  • Capitalized Cost: This is the agreed-on selling price of the vehicle plus any fees to be included in the monthly payments.
  • Capitalized Cost Reduction: Also called cap reduction, it is any element lowering the capitalized cost. It usually takes the form of a down payment or trade-in allowance.
  • Depreciation: The lost value of the vehicle over the course of the lease is the depreciation.
  • Disposition Charge: This is a charge to clean and dispose of your car at the end of the lease. You may be able to negotiate it away if you buy the car or lease another from the same agency.
  • Drive-Off Fees: Any fees and deposits due to begin the lease. Don’t forget that sales tax will be due for your lease transaction. Ask the lessor what fees are included in the drive-off fees. You may be able to negotiate some of the lessor’s tacked-on fees.
  • Early Termination: Breaking a lease contract before the end of the leasing period. If you want out of your lease early, it will cost you dearly. You may need to come up with a sum of money equal to the remaining payments.
  • Gap Insurance: Some leases automatically include gap insurance in the capitalized cost. If the car is a total loss through theft or collision, your insurance may not cover the entire loss. Gap insurance pays for what your car insurance doesn’t pay.
  • Lessee: The party leasing the car.
  • Lessor: The entity financing the lease. It could be a bank, credit union, or a carmaker’s financial division.
  • Money Factor: In financing, this is called the interest rate, but it looks markedly different. As with financing, though, the higher the money factor, the larger the monthly payment.
  • Payoff Amount: This is what it will cost you to buy the car at the end of the lease. It should be roughly the residual amount minus any security deposit.
  • Term: The length of the lease.

Is it Possible to Lease a Car for One Year?

It is possible to lease a car for one year. But, why would you? A car depreciates as much as 30% by the end of the first year. Because your monthly payment is based on depreciation, that one year will be wildly expensive. You might do better with a long-term rental car. It’s worth checking out. Another idea you could try is a club. These are offered by luxury car club leasing companies and sometimes by manufacturers. The clubs allow members to drive new models for short periods of time. They usually include insurance and don’t require a long-term contract.

Can I Lease a Used Car?

Yes, you can lease a used car. In fact, most dealerships offer leasing incentives on their certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles. These are gently used, newer model cars with factory warranties and other CPO benefits.

How to Lease Your Car

For the most part, the process of shopping for a leased car is about the same as shopping for a vehicle you plan to buy. Research is the key. Other steps to take include:

  1. Check your credit score. A credit score under 600 will be a very tough sell. When your credit score is low, the down payment is typically larger to get approved. The higher your credit score, the lower the money factor.
  2. Crunch the numbers. Figure out how much cash you can pay upfront. Some deposits and fees must be paid when you sign a lease, and many are not negotiable. The lessor may also demand a down payment.
  3. Determine the average annual mileage you drive. Your lease will have an average annual mileage cap of 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Be realistic about your driving habits. You will pay a penalty for every mile over the cap.

What to Look For in a Vehicle to Lease?

Find a model that retains its value. Some brands of vehicles simply retain more value as they grow older. Brands like Subaru, Lexus, Jeep, and Ram tend to retain much of their value through the years. When you buy a vehicle, value retention is important, but not until you sell it or trade it in. Value retention in a leased vehicle is important because the more value a leased vehicle is expected to retain, the lower the monthly payment.

What Questions to Ask Before Signing a Car Lease?

Here’s a list of questions to consider asking the dealership or other lessor before you leap.

  1. What is the residual value for the car I’m leasing?
  2. Once the lease ends, what is the price I can buy the car for?
  3. What is the money factor? If you don’t want to do the math, ask for it in percentage form.
  4. What is the monthly payment grace period?
  5. What is the delinquent fee for late payment?
  6. Will I be charged any other fees at the end of the lease?
  7. What are the penalties for early lease termination?
  8. What is normal wear and tear?
  9. How much do you charge per extra mile driven?

How Can I Reduce a Monthly Lease Payment?

  • Reduce the capital cost by negotiating a lower vehicle purchase price.
  • Ask for a lower money factor. Particularly if your credit score is over 750, go for a lower rate.
  • Put additional money down or, if there’s a trade-in, negotiate for a higher trade-in value.
  • Shop other dealers for a better deal.

What Are the Negotiating Points in a Lease?

  • The vehicle purchase price is framed as the capital cost.
  • The down payment.
  • The trade-in value.
  • The money factor.
  • The disposition fee.

What Can’t You Negotiate in a Lease?

  • Residual value is generally set in stone. You can give it a try, but don’t expect much.
  • Acquisition fee. This is a charge that lessors rarely budge on.

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