Requirements for Leasing a Car

by Nick Thorne

Dealerships that lease cars are essentially letting customers use their vehicles unsupervised for a number of years with little or no down payment. Because of this risk, leasing rules are often more stringent than rules governing traditional car loans. Leasing banks require that applicants have good credit and have little flexibility to adjust rates. Typically, a lease application is either approved or rejected, whereas with a financed purchase the lender has more flexibility to adjust the interest rate according to your credit score.

Lease approval requirements

Good to excellent credit

Not only should your credit history be excellent, but all of your existing loans, revolving lines of credit and credit card accounts should be current. If you have poor credit, you have no chance of leasing without using a co-signer.

Current ability to pay

Expect to have to prove your current income by showing copies of your last few paychecks. In addition, you will likely have to prove that you have been working for your employer for at least two years. You will also need to prove that you have been living at the same address for two years.

Tips

  • Rather than spend time getting your lease approved at the dealership, get it pre-approved. Visit the website of the dealership or leasing agency and look for a link to a participating bank where you can submit an application online. If not, call the dealership and find out the process for pre-approval.

Co-signor

In the event that your credit score is too low to get a lease on your own, one option is to find a co-signor who is prepared to guarantee your payments if you default on your lease agreement. The co-signor will need a high credit score, stable employment and proof of residency.

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Driver's License

To lease a vehicle, your driver's license must be valid in the state where you plan to register your leased vehicle.

Insurance

The leasing company will require full-coverage insurance that you must maintain on the car throughout the contract term. Usually, this insurance consists of collision coverage, increased minimums for bodily injury and property damage coverage, and low deductibles. Proof of coverage that lists policy limits and dates of the policy term are required before you can take your vehicle from the dealership.

Gap Insurance

Gap insurance is an additional cost that covers the vehicle's total value to the leasing bank if it becomes totaled or stolen. This is necessary if your existing policy does not cover full replacement value.

Warnings

  • Excess mileage bills at the end of a lease can be an unpleasant surprise. Make sure that you choose the lease that keeps you within the total mileage allowance. Any minor body damage found during the final inspection after you return the vehicle is your responsibility. Get any minor repairs done before you return it. Dealership repair rates are typically higher than the rates charged by independent body shops.

About the Author

Graduating from Brighton School of Business in the UK, Nick Thorne moved to the U.S. in 1982 and is the co-founder and former CEO of Manik Original Off-Road Equipment Inc. He has been involved in the automotive aftermarket on both continents throughout his career.

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