How to lease a car

What does leasing a car involve? Our guide covers what to do from start to finish...

Used BMW 5 series on dealer forecourt

Once you've decided that leasing a car is the way forward and you've set yourself a firm budget, it's time to start looking around at the kind of cars or vans out there, and the leasing companies who can make your dream a reality.

Here, we take you through the steps you'll encounter when you lease a car.

How to choose a lease car

The first step is choosing a vehicle that suits your lifestyle and budget. You can find out about the latest models by reading our new car reviews, which will tell you everything you need to know to help you make the right choice. Not only will you need to select the make and model you'd like, but you'll need to decide on the engine, trim, colour and other options you'd like to have fitted. 

Finding a car leasing company

Lots of companies advertise car leasing contracts, so it is important to shop around for the best value deal, even when you've decided what car you want. Search online for customer reviews of specific leasing companies to see what they're really like to deal with.

Search for the best car and van leasing deals with What Car? leasing 

Choosing your term and mileage

The length of your leasing term and your annual mileage will affect your monthly payments, so it is important to consider your requirements carefully before taking out your contract. You should estimate your mileage as accurately as possible to avoid excess-mileage charges at the end. However, if your mileage needs to be changed mid-contract, then we would suggest contacting the finance company as soon as possible.

It's also important to consider extras such as maintenance packages, as for a higher monthly fee these can bring peace of mind and reduce the risk of unexpected costs.

A couple talk to a car dealership employee

Applying for car finance

Once all the key decisions are made and the dealership or leasing broker has sent you a quote that you are happy with, you will be asked to complete a finance application. The form usually requests personal information, including your name, address and employment details. Occasionally, the finance company will request additional information to support your application, such as bank statements or proof of address.

Assuming your finance application is approved, the dealer will then order your car to the precise specification you've outlined to them. Dealers may have different processes in place but usually they will request confirmation either in writing or by email that you wish to proceed and place an order for your lease car.

Contactless car delivery

How are lease cars delivered?

When your car is delivered it will normally be on a transporter or driven to your home or work address by a delivery company. We recommend that you do the following checks when your car arrives:

Check for any damage, scratches, missing extras, as well as your warranty and service book. If any of these are not as ordered, we recommend you decline the delivery and do not sign the delivery note. However, if it's a minor detail and you still wish to sign for the car then make a note of it on the delivery note, take some photographic evidence and inform the dealership or leasing company as soon as possible.

Check the mileage, if the car has been driven to your address it may have several hundred miles on the odometer. You should record this on the delivery note so it does not come out of your agreed allowance.

Keep your lease car serviced, maintained and in good condition

You need to ensure the lease car is maintained to an acceptable standard, which means adhering to the service schedule and keeping the car in a roadworthy condition. It's important to check the parameters in the handbook at the beginning of the contract hire agreement.

A maintenance package allows you to include the cost of this maintenance in the monthly payment, however it is important to check what your chosen package includes, as some exclude consumable parts such as tyres.

What happens at the end of a car lease?

If you wish to lease another car at the end of your current contract then you should start the process well in advance, as the leasing company may need several months to obtain a car for you. It may be possible for you to extend your current lease deal, but you should contact your finance company to discuss your options.

The lease agreement will set out what is considered acceptable wear and tear, and may insist on a full valet before being returned. Once this has been done, take detailed photographs inside and out, paying particular attention to frequently-damaged areas, such as bumpers and wheels.


What if I can no longer afford my car lease payments?

Contact the finance company immediately; do not leave it and miss payments because this will be detrimental to your credit score. Most finance companies have departments that will help you choose the correct option to end your lease or arrange repayment plans.

Can I end my car lease early?

Most finance companies will allow you to return the car, but you'll need to pay a cancellation fee. In most cases this can be 50% of the remaining rentals, although this can vary depending on the finance company.

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