Is the Difference Between Loan and Lease?

What Is the Difference Between Loan and Lease?

Carolyn Warren
Carolyn Warren
Last Updated 24.05.2022

Many people who have bought houses and cars have experience with loans. The question some of them wonder is whether it would have made sense to lease instead of buying. When buying via a loan, you have to consider things like interest. Depending on the value of the asset, it could make more sense to buy on a loan, or it could be a good idea to use leasing. Assets that appreciate in value would appear more attractive to buy than those that depreciate.

The major difference between a lease and a loan for a car is how you pay the finance charges. In a loan, interest is amortized throughout a term. This means you pay more interest at the beginning and more principal as the term nears the end. On the other hand, leasing is not free, but you get finance charges, which are fixed throughout the loan term. The charges are not paid separately from the principal amount.

To help you understand the difference between a car lease and a car loan, here’s a comprehensive comparison with everything you should know.

Lease vs Loan Comparison

Before you acquire an asset like a car, you want to know which is a better option between leasing and buying through a loan. The one you choose depends on many factors. This general breakdown showing the difference between lease and loan could help you find the better option.

Up-front Costs

Whether you choose to lease or buy, there are upfront costs you must settle. Some of the cost applies to buying and leasing. Others may be avoided depending on the option you pick. If you opt for buying through a personal loan, there are costs you should consider, including the down payment, title and registration, sales tax, and documentation fee. If you’re leasing, there’s a disposition fee, a security deposit, an acquisition fee, and the first payment. Keep these in mind when applying for a car loan or looking to get a car through a leasing procedure. Of course, you should also compare the monthly installments to know which option suits your budget.

Monthly Payments

Another aspect that highlights car loan vs lease is the size of monthly payments. When you lease, you only repay the vehicle’s depreciation, not the full cost of the vehicle. You pay to use the vehicle but not the car itself. This results in lower monthly payments. If you’re buying, expect to pay higher monthly installments because you’re paying to own the vehicle. The lease only covers the depreciating value of the car, but a loan includes the entire cost of the vehicle. Depending on your finances, you can weigh the size of monthly payments to know which option suits you.


You will also note the loan vs lease difference through the way you can use the car. If you lease a vehicle, those family vacations, long commutes, and cross-country trips might cost you more. The lease comes with a limit on the mileage you can travel, so when you go over the limit, you incur extra charges, which can add up quickly. With a loan to buy the car, you don’t experience restrictions on how you can use the vehicle. This gives you the freedom to tour with the car. It’s a good option if you want a car for your business and needs to travel a lot every day.


When reviewing lease payments vs loan payments, you should also consider other aspects like the freedom to perform customization on the vehicle. When leasing, the leasing company owns the vehicle throughout and after the lease. Your lease is equivalent to making rental payments. This means you may not explore customization options as this breaks the lease agreement and attract additional fees. When you buy on loan, you can customize the vehicle as you see fit.


Also, you can consider ownership when comparing lease payments vs loan payments. When leasing, you don’t own the vehicle. You only make payments for honoring the lease term. When the term comes to an end, you must return the vehicle unless you want to purchase it. On the other hand, loan payments make you the owner of the vehicle. After completing the payments, the vehicle is all yours.

End of Term

If you’re leasing, when the lease term lapses, you have a few options. You can choose to return the vehicle, trade it in, or purchase it. For someone using installment loans to pay for a car, when they reach the end of the car payments, they own the vehicle. They can sell it, keep it, or use it in whatever manner they want.


A leased vehicle is under a maintenance contract, so you only pay for routine services such as tire rotations and oil changes. Buying a car through a loan means you’re fully responsible for its maintenance./

Weighing Pros and Cons

Advantages of Leasing

  • Lower monthly payments as you only pay for the vehicle’s depreciation and the utility.
  • Car’s service package takes care of comprehensive maintenance. You only perform routine maintenance.
  • Predictable value, so you can decide whether to keep the car or get a new one after the lease.

Disadvantages of Leasing

  • Mileage limits mean you cannot drive anywhere you want as going beyond limits costs you more.
  • No equity is racked up when you lease, so you cannot claim any of your money back by trading in the vehicle.
  • You’re responsible for damage outside of routine wear and tear.

Advantages of Taking a Loan

  • More control, so you can sell or trade-in the car.
  • Financial equity, which means you enjoy long-term ownership.
  • You can own the car with bad credit. Leasing requires an excellent credit score.

Disadvantages of Taking a Loan

    Higher monthly payments as you’ll be covering for the vehicle’s entire cost. Depreciating value

The Bottom Line

Loaning and leasing are good options when you want to acquire equipment like a car. There are several distinctions you should know about the two if you want to pick the most suitable option for you. These differences help you understand how leasing and loaning work.

Carolyn Warren
Carolyn Warren
Author’s Page

Carolyn Warren was inspired to join the mortgage industry after observing what was going on for many years. She wrote a book, “Mortgage Rip-Offs and Money Savers”, which became Book Club pick of the month on The Washington Post in August 2008. The book earned great reviews from different newspapers, including the San Diego Union-Tribune and The Boston Globe. Carolyn Warren also wrote “Repair Your Credit Like the Pros”, a do-it-yourself guide that helps people achieve credit improvement. She boasts over two decades of experience after working for leading retail and wholesale lenders. Carolyn contributes to our website by writing articles that provide insight to our readers.

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