New Auto Purchase – Lease VS Buy

Essentially, Leasing is just an alternative way to finance a new vehicle. We know that when purchasing a new vehicle the down payment, sales tax and license fees are required to be paid up front. However when leasing a new vehicle you are required to pay only the first monthly payment, a security deposit (usually same as monthly payment), and the license fees. The sales tax (which is based on the capitalized value of the vehicle) is actually amortized over the term of the lease in most states. In other words, the taxes are included in the monthly payments.

Capitalized Cost

Essentially the capitalized cost of a new vehicle is the actual price you have agreed to pay for the vehicle.

Gross Capitalized Cost

The gross capitalized cost of a new vehicle includes the selling price of the vehicle (which is the capitalized cost plus acquisition fees, extended warranty, accident & health insurance, dealer title fee, payoff on your trade-in, credit life insurance, gap insurance and any other fees the dealer decides to charge you). Buyer beware; that most people really don’t ever know what their capitalized cost is because it is buried within the gross capitalized cost and the dealer doesn’t actually reveal this number unless he has to. Most car deals made at auto dealerships are negotiated on the basis of payment rather than price. This applies to both leasing and purchasing. Don’t get caught in this trap! Make the dealer reveal the selling price for every payment offer he makes you!

Adjusted Capitalized Cost
The adjusted capitalized cost of a new vehicle is the gross capitalized cost minus (-) your down payment, net trade-in amount, rebates, license fees and taxes along with any other deductions given.


When purchasing a new vehicle your payments are based on the full value or selling price, plus extended warranty, tax & license, minus (-) rebate, down payment and net trade-in value. However, when you lease a vehicle your payments are based only on the “depreciation or your use” of the vehicle during the entire term of the lease. The depreciation is actually only a portion of the capitalized cost of the vehicle and is determined by the term of the lease, number of miles driven and condition of the vehicle at the end of the lease. The payments on a lease are based on the deprecation money factor (which is a form of interest rate) and the amortized taxes. Therefore, you can actually drive a more expensive vehicle with a lower payment if you lease. Please note that the depreciation is actually estimated and set at the inception of the lease.

The residual is the portion or balance of the adjusted capitalized cost after the deprecation has been deducted. The residual is just put aside in limbo until the end of the lease. The higher the residual – the lower your monthly payment. At the end of the lease you have two options. You can either turn the vehicle back into the bank or leasing company, or you can buy the vehicle outright for the residual balance. You can even refinance the residual. But keep in mind if you turn in the vehicle with more mileage than allowed on your contract, you will be charged any where from .12¢ to .25¢ for each extra mile. In an auto lease you are limited to a specific number of miles in your lease contact. The average would be from 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year. You may drive any number of miles in any given year but you cannot exceed the number of allotted miles or you will be penalized. If you purchase the vehicle the charge for the extra mileage will normally be waved. Most banks and finance companies will allow you to add an extra 15,000 to 20,000 miles to your lease contract depending on the term of the lease. However, the cost of the extra miles will be added to your gross capitalization cost and your monthly payment will be increased accordingly.


When you have entered into a lease contract you cannot terminate the lease or turn-in your vehicle prior to the ending date of the contract. If you do this the bank will report this as a voluntary repossession on your credit record. On an auto lease the vehicle is actually registered and titled to the bank or leasing company. Therefore you do not own the vehicle, the bank does. You get to use the vehicle and are legally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance. Please note, if you don’t maintain the vehicle during the lease you will be penalized for all excessive wear-and-tear when you turn it in. Also, if you really needed to get out of your lease you can buy out of the lease if you can get the financing or you can get someone to take over your lease. Of course, they will have to qualify.

Vehicle Warranties

The average new car warranty is 36 months or 36000 miles, which ever comes first. It is not recommended that you enter into a 4, 5 or 6 year lease contract because they are not economical. Even with a four-year lease it is common for the residual to be higher than the actual value of the vehicle at the end of the lease which makes it very hard to refinance. If you are like a lot of people you can lease a new vehicle every 2 to 3 years and never have to buy an extended warranty. The only time it would be beneficial to buy an extended warranty is if you knew you were going to buy the vehicle outright at the end of the lease.

Gap Insurance

Gap Insurance is basically insurance coverage on the difference between the actual value of your vehicle and the balance you owe on the lease including the residual. This kind of protection is needed in case your vehicle is involved in an accident and is declared a total loss. Gap Insurance is important especially for people who lease vehicles. The lease on a vehicle is actually designed for the balance owed to be upside-down in relation to the actual value of the vehicle until approximately the end date of the lease term. At this time the residual should fall in line or be equal to the vehicle’s actual value. Gap Insurance is good for purchase financing as well. The gap is not as large as in leasing, but you still stand the chance of having to put out a great deal of money.

Final Advice

Remember, there are two main factors you must consider when you are thinking about leasing an automobile. The first is how long you intend to keep the vehicle and the second
is how many miles you travel annually. If you intend to keep the vehicle a maximum of three years and you only average 15,000 miles a year, then you should definitely consider leasing. If you want to keep the new vehicle for more than three years, you should consider purchasing.

When you lease a vehicle, you very rarely have to put any money down, so lease a new vehicle every two to three years and you won’t owe any money on the old vehicle, plus you’ll never have to buy an extended warranty. Also, you will have spent a ton of money less for each vehicle than if you had purchased them. If you want to keep a vehicle longer just buy it at the end of the lease.

Remember, don’t let the dealer try to sell you on the basis of payments. Negotiate on the price only and when you have agreed on the price then tell them you have a trade-in. When you have agreed to your trade-in value then tell them you want to lease the new vehicle. Now you know what to do from here. Also, dealerships have a tendency to quote lease payments without the monthly tax. This makes a big difference in the monthly payments. If you don’t control this you will be sadly surprised when you go into the finance manager to sign the paperwork. One more thing – when you are signing the lease contract, be sure to verify that the trade-in value you have agreed upon is actually deducted from the capitalized cost. Otherwise the dealer could wind up purchasing your trade for pennies and you would never know.