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Does Leasing a Car Build Credit? How Leasing a Car Can Affect Your Credit

By Dan Miller · January 11, 2023 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Does Leasing a Car Build Credit? How Leasing a Car Can Affect Your Credit

When you’re in the market for a new car, you have several options for how to finance the vehicle. Leasing a car, getting an auto loan, or paying for your car in cash are all possibilities, depending on your specific situation. If you’re unsure about your credit situation, you might wonder if leasing a car is possible for you, or how leasing a car affects your credit.

In most cases, you’ll need to have good credit to qualify for a lease on a car. If you have poor or no credit, you may have better luck getting an auto loan, although your interest rate may be high. Should you opt to lease a car or buy one with an auto loan, your payment history is usually reported to the major credit bureaus. As such, making on-time and regular payments can help build your credit.

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Leasing vs Buying a Car

When you buy a car, you agree on a purchase price with the seller. You then can either pay for the full amount of the car at the time of purchase, or use an auto loan for some or all of the purchase amount.

With a lease, you may put some money down, and then you will pay a fixed amount each month for the duration of the lease. Your monthly lease amount will be based on how much the car is worth at the end of the lease period. At the end of your lease, you can either return your vehicle to the lessor or buy your leased car.

It’s also important to keep in mind that leasing a car often comes with some restrictions on how you use your car, which is not the case with buying a car. If you lease, you might have limits on the number of miles you can drive during the lease term, for instance.

Both buying and leasing a car can impact your credit score, since your monthly debt obligation and payment history (positive or negative) shows up on your credit report.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

Pros and Cons of Leasing a Car

Beyond knowing whether leasing a car builds credit, it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons of leasing a car. By understanding the upsides as well as the drawbacks, you’ll be better able to choose between leasing or buying a car.

Here’s an overview of the major pros and cons of leasing a car to consider:

Pros

Cons

Leasing can often offer lower monthly payments than buying the car outright. There may be restrictions on how you use the vehicle, such as the number of miles you can drive during the lease.
You can potentially upgrade your car every few years. You don’t actually own the car, so you won’t build any equity to show for your monthly payments.
The lease may include coverage for maintenance and some repairs. You may get charged for excessive wear and tear on the vehicle.

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Ways Leasing a Car Builds Credit

In most cases, your lessor will report the payments you make on a leased car to the major credit bureaus. This means that a car lease will show up on your credit report as an installment loan, and your payment history will be recorded. This can help your credit if you make on-time payments, but it may have a negative impact if you miss a payment or the lease becomes delinquent.

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Can You Lease a Car With Bad Credit?

The exact credit score needed to lease a car will depend on the lender or lessor that you use, but you generally will need to have good or excellent credit (meaning 670+) to qualify for a lease. If you don’t have a good credit history or are still working on improving your credit, leasing a car may not be the right fit for you.

Alternatives to Leasing a Car

If you’re not able to or don’t want to lease a car, you do have some other alternatives.

Buying a Car With an Auto Loan

It is more realistic that you might be able to qualify for a car loan rather than a lease if your credit isn’t great. While your monthly payment may be higher with a purchase as compared to a lease (since you’re buying the car rather than just leasing it for a short period of time), that may still end up being the right option for you.

You will want to keep in mind that auto loan interest rates often vary depending on your credit score. That means that someone with fair credit will likely have a higher interest rate than someone with good or excellent credit.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Using a Cosigner

Another possibility if you can’t qualify for a lease is to use a cosigner. If you have a trusted friend or family member with good or excellent credit who is willing to cosign on your auto lease, you may stand a better chance of getting approved.

When you use a cosigner, the potential lessor can use the credit score and profile of both the primary applicant and the cosigner in determining whether to approve the lease.

Making a Large Down Payment

If you’re able to, you might consider making a large down payment as part of your auto lease. While you still may not be approved, providing a large down payment shows the potential lessor that you are serious and committed. Making a large down payment also will lower your required monthly lease payment, which may help you get approved as well.

Tips for Building Your Credit for the Next Lease

If you want to build up your credit to prepare for your next car lease, there are a couple of things you can do:

•   Improve your overall financial situation. For one, you can work on solidifying your finances overall, including by setting up a budget and paying down debt. Remember that owning a car means you have to pay not only for your monthly car payment but also auto-related expenses like repairs, gas, and car insurance.

•   Use credit cards responsibly. Responsibly using credit cards is another way to improve your credit profile. Make sure you’re paying off your monthly statement in full each and every month.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

Leasing a car can build credit in much the same way as taking out an auto loan. When you lease a car, it is reported as an installment loan on your credit report. Your payments (either on-time or late) are also reported to the major credit bureaus, and can have a positive or negative impact on your credit score.

If you’re looking to build your credit profile, another path to consider might be a credit card, where you can show you’re responsible by paying off your statement in full, each and every month. One option to look at might be a cash-back rewards credit card like SoFi’s credit card. You can earn unlimited cash-back rewards if you’re approved for a credit card with SoFi. You can apply those rewards as a statement credit, invest them in fractional shares, or put them toward other financial goals, like paying down eligible SoFi debt.

Apply for a SoFi credit card today!

FAQ

Does leasing affect your credit score?

Yes, leasing can affect your credit score, since activity is usually reported to the major credit bureaus in a very similar way to an auto loan. A lease will be reported as an installment loan, and your payment history will be included on your credit report. That means that regular and on-time payments can help improve your credit score, while late payments or delinquencies can hurt your credit score.

Can I lease a car with a low credit score?

Generally, potential lessors are looking for lessees with good or excellent credit. There are a variety of reasons for this, including a higher rate of delinquencies or car repossessions associated with less favorable credit. If you have a low credit score, you may not be able to qualify for a lease and may need to consider alternatives.

What is the minimum credit score I can lease a car with?

The exact minimum credit score that you’ll need to lease a car will depend on a variety of different factors. These include the specific lessor you’re working with, the car you’re considering leasing, and your overall financial situation. Many lessors are looking for people with good or excellent credit. If your credit is below that, you may not be able to qualify for a lease.


Photo credit: iStock/EmirMemedovski

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