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how to lease a car with bad credit

How to lease a car with bad credit

Leasing a car is an attractive option for many, offering the chance to drive a new vehicle every few years without the long-term commitment of ownership.

However, if your credit score isn’t stellar, you might find the leasing process a bit more challenging.

This article will guide you through the ins and outs of leasing a car with bad credit, helping you avoid common pitfalls and secure the best lease deal possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Leasing a car with bad credit can be challenging due to minimum credit score requirements, higher costs, and restrictions.
  • Tips for leasing a car with bad credit include preparing for higher costs, considering in-house financing, and researching different dealerships for the best options.
  • Improving your chances of lease approval involves making a large down payment, finding a cosigner with good credit, and lowering your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Alternatives to leasing a car with bad credit include lease transfers, purchasing a used car, or waiting and improving your credit.

Understanding the Basics of a Car Lease (Important)

When you lease a car, you’re essentially renting it for a set period, typically two to four years.

You’ll make monthly lease payments for the duration of the lease term, and at the end of the lease, you have several options:

  • You can return the car to the lessor.
  • Buy the car for its residual value.
  • Or lease another new vehicle.

It’s crucial to understand the terms of your lease agreement. This includes the mileage limit, which is the number of miles you’re allowed to drive during the lease term. Exceeding this limit could result in extra charges. You should also be aware of what constitutes excessive wear and tear, as you may have to pay for any damage beyond normal wear and tear when you turn in the car.

You might also be interested in reading: How To Buy a Car With Bad Credit and No Cosigner.

Why Leasing A Car With Bad Credit Is Challenging

Getting approved for a car lease with bad credit can be challenging due to minimum credit score requirements, higher costs, and restrictions.

Minimum Credit Score To Lease A Car (Requirements)

In order to lease a car, it’s generally recommended that you have a credit score of at least 620. Below is a table that breaks down the typical credit score requirements to lease a car:

Credit Score RangeDescription
620Minimum recommended credit score to lease a car.
680Credit score range deemed ideal for leasing a car. If your score is above 680, you are likely to receive favorable lease terms.
700For the best shot of being approved for a lease, a credit score of at least 700 is often suggested.
Below 670If your score falls into the “non-prime” or “subprime” ranges (typically below 620), you might still be able to secure an auto lease agreement, but often at higher costs or less favorable terms due to increased perceived risk.

High Costs And Restrictions

Leasing a car with bad credit can be challenging due to higher costs and various restrictions imposed by leasing agencies.

For example, those with low credit scores are likely to face significantly higher interest rates, which leads to increased monthly lease payments.

Restrictions placed on applicants with poor credit often limit their options when it comes to choosing a vehicle, only allowing them to lease cars within a specific price range or with maximum mileage limits.

This means that high-end car models could be inaccessible for these potential lessees, further limiting their choices in the car leasing process.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Leasing a Car with Bad Credit

Leasing a car with bad credit can be a complex process, and it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Not Checking Your Credit Score: Before you begin the leasing process, check your credit score. This will give you a better understanding of your standing and help you negotiate a better lease deal.
  • Not Shopping Around: Don’t settle for the first lease offer you find. Different dealerships and leasing companies offer different terms, so it’s worth it to shop around and compare lease quotes to find the best deal.
  • Ignoring the Fine Print: Make sure you fully understand your lease agreement’s terms. This includes the mileage limit, wear and tear policy, and any fees associated with early termination of the lease.

How to Negotiate a Lease Deal with Bad Credit

Negotiating a lease deal is crucial, especially if you have bad credit. Here are some tips:

  • Know the Market Value: Research the car’s market value you’re interested in leasing. This will give you a starting point for negotiations.
  • Understand the Money Factor: The money factor is essentially the interest rate of the lease. A lower money factor means lower monthly payments.
  • Negotiate the Residual Value: This is the value of the car at the end of the lease. A higher residual value can lower your monthly payments.

Choosing the Right Lease Term

The lease term is the length of time you agree to lease the car. While a longer lease term can result in lower monthly payments, it also means you’re tied to the lease for a longer period.

Consider your personal financial situation and future plans before deciding on a lease term. If you’re not sure you’ll want to keep the car for several years, a shorter lease term might be a better option.

Tips For Leasing A Car With Bad Credit

It’s going to be essential that you prepare for higher costs and consider in-house financing. Additionally, research different dealerships to find one that offers the best options for your credit range.

Prepare For Higher Costs

One of the realities of leasing a car with bad credit is that you’ll likely face higher costs due to increased interest rates and fees.

Lenders consider individuals with lower credit scores as higher risk, which means they will charge more to offset the potential for default or late payments.

It’s crucial to remember that while your lease payment may be higher than average, there are ways to alleviate some of these additional costs.

For example, making a larger down payment can decrease your monthly obligation and potentially secure better financing terms.

Furthermore, shopping around at various dealerships could lead you to promotions or incentives catered towards those with less-than-perfect credit.

Consider In-House Financing

One option to consider when leasing a car with bad credit is in-house financing.

This type of financing is often offered by dealerships that work with partner lenders and can have more flexible requirements for borrowers with poor credit.

In-house financing can be an attractive option because it allows you to finance a vehicle without having to go through a traditional lender.

However, keep in mind that the interest rates charged by in-house financing companies are typically much higher than those charged by traditional lenders, and there may be hidden fees involved as well.

Research Different Dealerships

When you have bad credit, the cost of leasing a car can be high, but researching different dealerships can help you find the best deal.

Different dealerships offer unique promotions and incentives for leasing a car with bad credit, so it’s essential to compare prices and terms to see what suits your financial situation best.

Some dealers may offer in-house financing or special financing departments that cater specifically to people with lower credit scores.

These options could provide more flexibility in terms of down payment, interest rates, or loan term length.

Improving Your Chances Of Lease Approval

Boost your chances of getting approved for a car lease with bad credit by making a large down payment, finding a cosigner, and lowering your debt-to-income ratio.

Make A Large Down Payment

Making a large down payment can significantly improve your chances of getting approved for a car lease with bad credit.

A substantial upfront payment demonstrates to the lender that you are committed to repaying the loan and reduces their risk in lending to you.

While it may be difficult to come up with a sizable amount, even putting down a few thousand dollars can make a difference in securing approval for your lease.

For example, suppose you’re interested in leasing an $18,000 car with poor credit and plan on financing it over three years at an interest rate of 10%. In that case, by making a $4,000 down payment instead of just $1,000, you could potentially save over $700 in interest charges and lower your monthly payments by around $20.

Find A Cosigner

Another option for those with bad credit who want to lease a car is to find a cosigner.

A cosigner is someone who signs the lease agreement with you and agrees to pay if you can’t keep up with payments.

Having a cosigner can improve your chances of approval and potentially provide access to better lease terms like lower monthly payments or higher-end vehicles. However, it’s important to remember that this person is taking on financial risk on your behalf, so it’s crucial to make all payments on time.

Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

One way to improve your chances of leasing a car with bad credit is to lower your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio compares the amount of debt you have to the amount of income you bring in each month.

Lenders want to see that you have enough money coming in to cover all of your expenses, including your monthly car lease payments. You can lower your debt-to-income ratio by paying off any outstanding debts, such as credit card balances or personal loans.

Another option is to increase your income by taking on a side job or negotiating a raise at work.

Alternatives To Leasing A Car With Bad Credit

If leasing a car with bad credit seems too challenging, there are alternatives such as lease transfers, purchasing a used car, or waiting and improving your credit.

Lease Transfers

Lease transfers can be a solid option for individuals with bad credit who want to lease a car.

This process involves taking over someone else’s lease, allowing you to avoid the strict qualification requirements that come with getting approved for a new vehicle lease.

However, before considering this alternative, it is crucial to talk to the lender first and ensure that lease transfers are allowed. Additionally, factors like maintenance records and mileage limits should be taken into account when looking at potential vehicles for transfer.

Purchasing A Used Car

If you have bad credit and are struggling to lease a car, purchasing a used vehicle is another option worth considering.

While it may not be as shiny and new, buying a used car can still provide reliable transportation at a more affordable price.

Keep in mind that if you choose to take out an auto loan for the purchase, your interest rate may be higher due to your credit score. However, by making regular payments on time and paying off the loan as soon as possible, you can improve your credit over time and end up with a vehicle that you can use as a down payment on your next car.

Additionally, since used cars typically depreciate slower than new ones, they may hold their value better in the long run.

Waiting And Improving Your Credit

If you’re struggling to qualify for a lease due to bad credit, waiting and improving your credit may be the best option.

While it can be frustrating, taking time to improve your credit score will make leasing Vs. buying a car is easier and more affordable in the long run.

Paying bills on time, staying below credit limits, paying off credit card balances in full, and only applying for necessary loans are all ways to move toward better credit.

Simple changes like these can increase your chances of being approved for a lease at a lower interest rate with better payment terms.

Remember, building good habits takes time, but making progress will pay off in the end when it comes to snagging those great lease deals.



Leasing a car with bad credit is not impossible, but it does require careful planning and consideration. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Understand the basics of a car lease.
  • Know how bad credit affects car leasing.
  • Avoid common mistakes when leasing with bad credit.
  • Understand the importance of your credit score.
  • Choose the right lease term for your situation.
  • Consider the pros and cons of leasing a new car vs. a used car.
  • Learn how to negotiate a lease deal.
  • Understand what happens when you turn in your leased car.
  • Explore different types of car leases.

By following these tips, you can navigate the leasing process with confidence, even with bad credit. Remember, leasing a car means you’re entering into a legal agreement, so it’s important to understand all the terms and conditions before you sign. With careful planning and smart decision-making, you can find a lease deal that fits your needs and your budget.

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Picture of Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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