What Is the Longest Lease Term for a Car? Find Out Here

June 16, 2024

Auto lease terms are typically short, lasting 24 or 36 months. Long-term leases approaching five years should be avoided, and financing should be considered at that point. Leasing offers the benefit of lower monthly payments compared to financing, as you only pay for the portion of the car you use. Vehicles are also typically covered under manufacturer warranties during the lease term. It may make sense to buy instead of lease in situations where your credit is less than perfect or if you can only afford a long-term lease. Financing allows you to build equity and potentially qualify for better interest rates with a co-borrower.

Leasing vs. Buying a Car

Benefits of Leasing

Leasing a car can be a great option if you're not concerned about owning an asset at the end of the lease and want lower upfront costs and monthly payments. Leases are particularly beneficial for those who like to change the car they drive regularly.

Factors to Consider

The length of the car lease will impact how much you will be paying, so it's important to calculate and consider this before making a decision. Factors to take into account when selecting a lease term include your driving habits, financial situation, and how often you like to switch cars. It is possible to find short-term leases of a year or less, but the availability may vary depending on the dealership and vehicle.

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Lease Terms and Payments

Cheaper Payment Options

When it comes to car warranties and leases, the concept of choosing cheaper payment options is discussed. However, there are risks involved, such as potentially being without a free repair if a warranty expires before the car's warranty period. Leasing a car for a shorter period, like 18 months, can be a cost-effective option, although it benefits the government through tax revenue from more frequent lease cycles. A 24-month lease may be a better option due to the frequent release of new features in cars every two years.

Aspect Leasing Buying
Initial Cost Lower upfront costs Higher initial down payment
Monthly Payments Lower monthly payments Higher monthly payments
Ownership No ownership at the end of lease term Own the vehicle once it is paid off
Warranty Typically covered under manufacturer warranty Warranty may expire before the vehicle is paid off
Flexibility High - Option to switch cars frequently Lower - Stick with the same car for a longer period
Mileage Limit Often have mileage restrictions No mileage limits
Equity No equity built Equity is built over time

End of Lease Options

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Lease-End Choices

At the end of a car lease, you have several options:

  • Turn in the leased car and pay any fees associated with mileage, wear and tear, and lease termination.
  • Buy the leased car by paying the predetermined purchase price or negotiating a better price.
  • Lease another car if you want to try a different vehicle.

Preparing for Lease-End

Prepare your vehicle for lease-end by cleaning it inside and out, repairing any minor damages, and ensuring it's in good condition to avoid excessive wear and tear fees. Be prepared to pay an over-mileage fee if you exceeded your mileage limit. Budget for leasing again if you plan to lease another vehicle.

Choosing a Lease Term

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Short vs. Long Term Leases

Short-term leases typically last between 6 and 24 months and can be found on lease swapping websites. Long-term leases are considered to be over 24 months, with 3 to 4 years being the average length. Monthly payments for long-term leases are usually lower than purchasing the same car, but other expenses such as insurance can be more expensive.

When choosing a lease term, consider factors such as the length of time you need the vehicle, if you are subleasing, how warranties factor in, and the need for gap insurance. Benefits of early termination include lower monthly payments or getting out from under payments entirely. Ways to end a lease early include returning the leased vehicle, buying out the lease, leasing a different car, or undergoing a lease transfer.

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