The majority of people who decide to buy a car will finance that purchase through an auto loan. After you select the car that's best for you, decided on options and colors and negotiated the price it will be time to finance your purchase. A little forethought and planning will make this transaction much easier.
Long-term and short-term auto loans each have advantages and drawbacks. Lenders will usually restrict long-term loans to new cars. These loans typically have lower monthly payments, as they're spread over a period of three, four or five years however, you'll pay more interest charges on these longer loans. A car purchased for fifteen thousand dollars and financed with a four year loan will ultimately cost you about $18,000!
The longer the term of your loan, the high the interest rate. You must also take into consideration the devaluation of the car over the life of the loan. If the car is damaged or destroyed before the loan is paid off it can be worth less than the value of the loan.
Short-term loans are extended for used cars and last from two to three years. They usually have lower interest rates than long-term loans, so you're actually saving money by taking out a short-term loan. Your monthly payments will be higher than with a long-term loan but the interest savings are substantial and you'll pay less overall.
Another type of loan is a lease. You may choose to lease a car for many reasons but people usually lease in order to have a new car every few years and avoid the devaluation that comes with owning a car. Lease payments are often lower than the loan payments on a car you purchase but there are costs to leasing you will want to be aware of.
If you decide to lease a car you will need a down payment, just as when you buy one. The leasing industry calls this a "capitalized cost reduction", as it reduces the amount of the lease. A security deposit will also be required, also referred to as a "reconditioning reserve". Your deposit is returned to you at the end of the lease arrangement unless your violate the terms or damage the vehicle. You must also pay the first monthly payment of the lease before you take possession of the car.
Closed-end leasing is an agreement that allows you to simply turn over the car to the leasing company as the end of the agreement and walk away with no other commitments. Unless you've damaged the car, violated the lease agreement or have caused unusual or excessive wear and tear to it, the end of the lease is the end of your commitment.
Open-end leasing, on the other hand, doesn't afford the same protection as closed-end leasing. At the end of your lease agreement, the leasing company (or "lessor") calculates the car's fair market value and residual value. You will have to make up the difference in the form of an extra payment and it could be quite costly.
One big disadvantage of leasing a car is the mileage limitations, imposed to control the devaluation of the vehicle. If your business or personal needs require you to do quite a bit of travel, leasing may not be your best option.
Lessors are required by the Consumer Leasing Act to explain all charges and terms of the lease to you. Be very sure you understand the terms and conditions if you decide to lease a car.
Whether you decide to buy or lease a car, read every document carefully before signing.