The Smart Buyer’s Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car


Buying or leasing a vehicle is one of the larger investments you will make. Before you sign any kind of agreement, take some time to do research and become familiar with all of your options.

Have all of your car buying or leasing details worked out before you get to the dealership so you get exactly what you want.

Buying or Leasing a Car



Some people feel that a 5- or 10-minute test-drive is not enough to determine if they want to buy or lease a car. Prior to committing to a vehicle, rent several models you are interested in to allow you to get a real feel for the vehicle.

You can work with a local car rental business to determine which days would be the cheapest to rent on and then arrange your rentals in advance, according to car buying expert Joanne Helperin on the Edmunds website. The investment in rental vehicles will be a good resource in helping you decide on the proper vehicle.


Leasing vs. Buying

Before deciding to lease or buy, you need to understand the differences between the two. Leasing is a contract for a predetermined period of time, usually 24 to 36 months, where you pay a monthly lease fee. When the lease period is up you can buy the vehicle or turn it in. Many leases have mileage limitations and do not allow you to drive the vehicle out of state. You will have to discuss the details of your lease with the dealership.

Buying a car means purchasing it outright. The payments on a lease are traditionally lower than a purchase, but when you are done paying for a purchase contract, you own the vehicle. If you like the idea of changing vehicles every two or three years, leasing is a good option.


Shop Around

Auto dealerships sometimes offer financing specials that seem enticing. Always read the fine print on any dealership financing deal. If you do not understand the fine print, have a banker or lawyer read it for you.

Shop your business around to banks and other lending institutions before settling on one. Get preapproved for your auto financing before you set out to buy and you can avoid the complicated language of the dealer financing completely.


Ask Questions

Have questions about the vehicle ready to ask the salesperson when you visit a dealership. You may know what kind of vehicle you want, but there are always things you need to ask about a specific auto before you buy it. Have a mechanic look the auto over, even if it is brand new, to make sure there are no major problems.

Ask about the warranty on the vehicle and about any additional maintenance services the dealership may offer. Some dealerships offer car washes or oil changes to their customers. If you do not ask, it may not get offered to you.


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