How Long Should a Car Lease Be?

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.

, - February 25, 2019

If you’re thinking about leasing, you may be wondering just how long the lease term should be. Each leasing company is different, and the amount of time you can lease a car for varies, but leases are typically anywhere from 12 to 36 months long. Leases are usually reserved for consumers with great credit, so if you’re struggling with your credit, you may find it tough to qualify for one.

Short- or Long-Term Lease?

When picking a lease term, you can either choose a short-term or a long-term lease. A short-term lease lasts 12 to 24 months, while long-term leases are anywhere from 36 to even 60 months. Most lessees choose a term of around 24 to 36 months, which is what you should target if you’re considering leasing. Anything longer than 36 months, and you may want to consider financing, instead.

Pros and Cons of Car Leasing

Still unsure if you should lease? There are both advantages and disadvantages to leasing. Some benefits of leasing include:

  1. Lower monthly payments: Since you only pay for what you use, the monthly payment can be much lower compared to financing. The monthly payment is calculated by taking the vehicle’s depreciation amount and total interest charges, and dividing the total by the lease term, then adding taxes and fees.
  2. No down payment needed: Leases don’t require you to make a down payment – what’s called a capitalized cost reduction. You can include a cap cost reduction if you’d like, but you’re just pre-paying the lease, and this doesn't save you money like it does when financing.
  3. Warranty coverage: Leased vehicles are covered by a new car warranty – coverage that typically lasts during all or most of a lease term.

Leases aren’t all rainbows and butterflies, as there are cons to it as well:

  1. Mileage limitations: You have to stay under a specific mileage limit to avoid extra charges. If you go over the mileage cap, it can cost you 25 cents or more per extra mile.
  2. No excess wear and tear: The leased vehicle must be in good condition when you turn it back in if you don’t plan on buying it. You’re responsible for keeping up with regular maintenance and repairing anything that isn’t considered normal wear and tear.
  3. You don’t own it: You have options at the end of the lease, and one of them is to buy the car. If you don’t buy it, you never have ownership and can’t use it as a trade-in if you plan on financing your next vehicle.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you if you feel that leasing is the best choice for your situation. Keep in mind that if you want to lease, but your credit isn’t perfect, you may have to consider financing for now, and leasing in the future when your credit improves. If you want to look into the types of offers that are available, check out our new car deals section to see the best current lease offers.

Finding a Dealership to Work With

At CarsDirect, we know how difficult it can be to find a dealership that can help you get the vehicle you need. While we aren’t lenders, and can’t offer you financing or leasing, we can be your go-to for finding a dealer to work with in your area.

We work with a nationwide network of dealerships that specialize in helping bad credit car buyers get the financing they need. All you need to do is fill out our auto loan request form to get started, and we’ll do the searching for you today!


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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.

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