What is the Minimum Credit Score to Lease a Car?

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Contributing Writer

David Topham covers the automotive and auto finance industries as the Content Manager of Auto Credit Express who also contributes to CarsDirect. He was born and raised in Michigan and is a graduate of Michigan State University.

, Contributing Writer - November 22, 2016

It is difficult to determine the minimum credit score needed in order to lease a car. There are a lot of factors in play, including the leasing company you're applying with, so there is no way to put a specific number on it.

That being said, there are a few things we can state with confidence. To start, the most enticing lease offers, those you see and hear about in advertisements, are reserved for people with the best credit scores. These leases usually require credit scores of over 700, as these applicants will fall into the "prime" or "super prime" credit tiers.

Lenders begin to classify applicants in the "subprime" credit tier when their ratings drop below around 620 or 600. More flexible lenders may still be willing to let these people lease on a case-by-case basis. However, the terms of the lease will be less ideal. Your chances of qualifying for any low-interest or "no down payment" lease contracts are very slim.

Finally, if your credit score is below 600, this is when it will become next to impossible to lease a car.

So, to sum up, there is no minimum credit score needed to lease a car because of all of the factors involved. In some cases, it's possible for somebody with a credit score below 600 to be approved. In others, certain lenders will not be willing to approve these people. But, in order to qualify for the lowest lease rates and best terms, it's clear you'll want a credit score in the prime or super prime range (above 700).

But if your credit isn't perfect and you still want to lease a car, there are a few things you need to keep in mind as you search for a lease contract.

Tips to Qualify to Lease a Car with Less Than Perfect Credit

Most people lease a car only for the period of time they are using it. Although you do not own the vehicle when the contract is up, lessees usually experience lower monthly payments, a shorter contract, less maintenance worries, and a chance to boost their credit.

But if you have imperfect credit, leasing may not be your best option. That's because not only will you have a more difficult time getting approved, you also won't be able to qualify for the best interest rate and you'll be required to provide a security deposit. Additionally, you may also be required to make a down payment.

There are some things you can do to put yourself in a better position to get approved for a lease with a lower credit score.

  • Check your credit beforehand - Leasing is done in tiers. Applicants with better credit scores will qualify for higher tiers and get better rates. But you can save yourself any surprises at the dealership by checking your credit reports and scores beforehand. Then you can get an idea of where you stand and address any glaring issues with your credit if you choose to. You can also dispute any mistakes you may find on your credit reports.
  • Know your budget and be realistic with your vehicle options - Understand that a lower credit score will mean you won't qualify for the best lease offers. Expect to pay a higher interest rate and keep that in mind with your budget. Also, you will want to make sure that any vehicles you are considering keep you well within your budget. It will be easier to get approved for a vehicle with lower monthly payments that you can comfortably afford.
  • Prepare a security deposit and, potentially, a down payment - If you have bad credit, you will almost always be asked to pay a security deposit AND the first month's payment upfront. Additionally, it is possible that you will also be required to make a down payment. A down payment reduces the cap cost of the lease, which will lower your monthly payment amount and increase your approval chances.
  • Shop around - Leases today are largely controlled by the captive finance arm of the auto manufacturer. For example, Toyota Financial Services does most of the leases for Toyota vehicles through their franchised dealerships. The point being: each will have different requirements. So, it's in your best interest to call up several dealerships in your area and ask about the likelihood of somebody with your credit score to be approved for a lease. Try to obtain several quotes to narrow down your options.

While it will be more difficult to qualify for a lease with a lower credit score, it's not impossible. Following these tips can certainly improve your chances of getting approved.

And if all else fails, you may have to get a co-signer or you may be forced to postpone leasing until you have improved your credit score to the point where you can qualify.

Or, you could reconsider your plans and opt for a bad credit auto loan instead of a lease. Generally speaking, leasing is more difficult to qualify for than a subprime loan for a new or used car.

At CarsDirect, we help people dealing with credit issues find a dealership in their area that will do whatever they can to get them approved for auto financing. We make it easier and faster for people with less than perfect credit to get their next car. You can be next if you start by filling out our simple 1-Step Auto Loan Application.

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, Contributing Writer

David Topham covers the automotive and auto finance industries as the Content Manager of Auto Credit Express who also contributes to CarsDirect. He was born and raised in Michigan and is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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