If you need a minivan for extra room or family demands, you can likely save money over the next few years by choosing to lease just as long as you can stay within the requirements of your contact. Leasing is restrictive, so consider your overall minivan use to determine whether leasing or buying is best for you.
Determine your current annual mileage and expected future mileage over the next few years. Many leasing banks offer up to a 15,000 mile per year mileage allowance. Carefully consider the use of your minivan over the term of your lease. If you have children or other family members that you drive around frequently, you may exceed your mileage allowance. Fees for exceeding your mileage allowance may cost up to 20 cents per mile. If you are unsure of your family's transportation needs, you may benefit from buying instead. If purchasing, you can drive your minivan without restriction or penalty even if your needs change.
Many leasing banks offer up to $1,000 of wear-and-tear allowance for a minivan, which covers normal vehicle wear such as light scratches in the paint or slight wear on the seats. If damage exists beyond the bank's allowance, you will be charged for loss of the minivan's value. You must consistently repair and maintain your vehicle while leasing, as well. If purchasing, you won't be penalized for excess damage or wear as the minivan's owner. Unless you can avoid excessive seat and carpet wear, stains and other issues possibly caused by driving around a family or group of people, you can avoid excess lease fees by purchasing.
Trading or Selling
If you lease, the bank assumes responsibility for the minivan's future market value. When you return the van at the end of the contract, the bank resells it and assumes any loss of value if it was wrong about the minivan's future value. Financing or purchasing the minivan leaves you responsible for the vehicle's future market value. If you intend to trade out of the van or sell it privately within a few years of purchase, leasing protects you from a negative equity position.
With any kind of vehicle lease, you should compare the overall costs of leasing and purchasing. Leasing may provide a cheaper monthly payment if you want to avoid providing a down payment and plan to return the minivan to the bank at the end of the contract. If you decide to purchase your lease, you'll likely spend thousands more than a purchase. A smaller monthly payment doesn't help to create equity in a vehicle. If you fail to negotiate pricing of your leased minivan, you'll likely end up paying sticker price in addition to taxes and fees for ownership.