Financing FAQ

Unless you're in the position to pay cash for a new or pre-owned vehicle, you'll need to establish a payment plan to obtain that vehicle. Two options exist - taking out a loan or leasing.


When you take out a loan, all of the money used to pay it off applies to your eventual ownership of the vehicle. The initial down payment and principal on the loan cover the total cost of the purchase. Lease payments, however, apply only to the use of the vehicle. The total sum of payments covers the vehicle's depreciation over the time you drive it and is usually less than the outright price of the vehicle.



When paid in full, a loan terminates and you assume ownership. When a lease period ends you give back the vehicle to the lessor, unless the lessor offers to sell the vehicle afterward. During the entire lease period the lessor maintains ownership and simply allows you to use the car. Ownership is only transferred if you chose to buy the vehicle after the lease terminates.


In formulating a monthly payment structure, a lessor is primarily concerned with the extent to which the vehicle will depreciate throughout the lease and the cost of borrowing money to finance the car during that period.

Three key elements:

First, the adjusted capitalized cost is determined. This figure represents the real purchase price after elements such as the down payment, incentive discount and trade-in credit are deducted from the capitalized (actual) cost, while any fees or charges (e.g. destination) are added.

Second, the residual value, or estimated value of the vehicle at the end of the lease, is determined and then subtracted from the adjusted capitalized cost to yield a depreciation figure. The residual value depends on the length of the agreement, expected mileage and make/model of the vehicle.

Finally, a lessor assesses the money factor, a number that correlates with the cost of borrowing money during the lease period.


Most leases rely exclusively on the residual value in determining the end of term purchase price. These closed-end deals require you to pay the fixed residual amount regardless of the actual market price.


The size of monthly loan payments depends on the amount borrowed, the length of the loan, the interest rate and other factors such as your credit history. Paying more money initially lowers the principal of the loan, thus reducing individual payments. At any period during the loan you may opt to pay off the principal in its entirety.

General Loan Specifications:

Down payment amounts may range between 10 to 20 percent of the vehicle's total cost, although some purchases require no down payment. A typical loan period is five years with an annual percentage rate around 8 percent. Some manufacturers offer lower rates, but be sure to investigate any associated conditions or clauses.


Yes, registration, taxes, extended service plans and other supplemental charges may be included in the financing plan.

The answer to this question depends on how you plan to use the vehicle. If you like the idea of driving a more expensive vehicle for a smaller monthly payment, leasing is a great option. However, if eventually owning the car is important, financing with a loan is the way to go.

Leasing ensures that you'll always drive a late-model vehicle, won't have to pay for warranty-covered repairs and won't have to bother with re-selling at the end.