Searching for a new car should be fun, but in reality it can be a headache, especially if your credit score is low.
Bad credit makes it harder to get approved for a lease. And if you do get approved, you’re likely to get hit by higher interest rates and a bigger down payment than someone with good credit.
Having bad credit doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t even make you a bad driver. There are plenty of ways to get behind the wheel of a car even if you have a low credit score. In this article, I’ll share some expert advice on how to get approved for a car lease with bad credit – and how to do it on terms that you can actually afford.
Should you lease a car if you have a bad credit score?
Leasing can be a much better option than buying a car if your credit isn’t so good. If you buy a vehicle, you risk getting stuck in a long-term loan with a high interest rate.
Going for the leasing option, you’ll probably have lower monthly payments, less worry about maintenance (the vehicle will be under the manufacturer’s warranty) and a lower down payment than if you tried to buy.
That said, you might encounter some difficulties. It can be hard to qualify for a lease, sometimes harder than for a loan to buy a car.
If you qualify, you are likely to get stuck with a higher interest rate (often called “money factor” or “lease factor”) if your credit score is considered “subprime.” You will probably have to pay a good chunk of money upfront.
Still, you can find affordable lease deals even with subprime credit, and if you find a good rate it’s a good way to recover your credit score over time.
Tips for getting a lease with bad credit
First the bad news: when you see great deals for car leases advertised by leasing companies, they’re usually only available for customers with good credit.
Leasing industry trade groups agree that in general, the average minimum score to get approved for a lease is a FICO score of 620. Below 600, you will have a hard time qualifying and might have to pay more than someone with better credit.
Now, the good news: it’s still very possible for you to lease a car and even get a pretty good deal if you play your cards right.
Here are a few tips.
Get a co-signer
Getting a co-signer on your lease is probably the simplest and easiest way to get the lease you want.
A co-signer is someone who has good credit who will commit to making your lease payments if you fail to. When you have a co-signer on the contract, lenders will look at their score as “primary.” This will allow you to qualify for any car lease that your co-signer can qualify for, and help you avoid inflated interest rates.
The lease will appear on both of your credit scores. This means that leasing is actually a great way for you to improve your credit score, as long as you don’t miss any monthly payments.
When you’re having trouble qualifying for a lease, it can be tempting to jump at the first dealership that approves you.
However, I recommend playing it cool and looking around at a few more companies. Get lease quotes from as many dealerships as possible and use them to bargain with. You might be able to negotiate yourself into a deal that you wouldn’t have qualified for otherwise.
Get a copy of your credit report
Leasing companies will run a credit check whenever you try to get approved for a lease. The catch is that every credit inquiry can slightly lower your score! Not enough to make a difference for a person with excellent credit, but if you’re already on the edge, it’s just digging the hole deeper.
To avoid this, get your own copy of your credit report and bring it to the dealership.
Put more money upfront
One option to get approved for a lease is to offer a larger down payment. This reduces the risk for the lender.
Of course, it also means you will need to have more cash on hand before you go looking for a lease.
Be flexible when choosing a car
Be realistic when choosing a car to lease. You might know that you can afford something more high-end, but if you don’t have the credit score to back it up, you’re unlikely to get approved.
Car manufacturers have different requirements for credit approval. If you go for a modest, budget-friendly brand like Honda or Ford, you’re more likely to qualify for your chosen vehicle.
Do some research and find out what cars aren’t selling well. If a certain vehicle is just sitting around the lot, the dealers will probably be more willing to cut you a deal for it.
Try to find vehicles that are about to be replaced by an updated model. Also, the end of the year is a great time to go looking, since that’s when the dealerships are about to get all the new models in.
Don’t give up if you can’t get approved or can’t get an interest rate you can afford. Another option is to take over someone else’s lease.
Sometimes people need to break their leases before the contract period is finished. This is a great opportunity to jump into a lease if you wouldn’t be approved for a new one.
To get approved for a “lease swap,” you will still have to pass a credit check but the requirements are much more forgiving.
Financing a vehicle
If all else fails, you can finance your next car instead of leasing. This means taking out a loan to buy a car without having to come up with a large sum of money on the spot.
There are two main options for this: dealer financing or bank financing.
If the dealer handles the financing for you, you might be able to finance your car and drive it home that same day. They might be less demanding about your credit score than a bank. However, you have to look out for a higher interest rate or loan origination fee.
Direct lending (financing through a bank) gives you the option of comparison shopping and knowing your credit terms in advance, which helps you negotiate with the dealer. However, you might need a higher credit score to qualify for these loans.
Bad credit makes it harder to lease a car but not impossible. Don’t be discouraged and don’t give up if you don’t get approved for the first vehicle you apply for.
There are many options to make leasing work even if your score isn’t so high. You just have to be smart, patient and flexible.
At Capital Motor Cars, we get plenty of customers with less-than-stellar credit. We help them find a vehicle and set terms that they can afford.
The best thing about getting approved for a lease is that it’s an opportunity to recover your credit score, so you’ll have a much easier time the next time around. Well, that’s the second best thing. The best is that you get to drive a great new car!