The Ultimate Guide to Personal Car Leasing

There has never been more choice when it comes to buying or selling your car. But have you considered the idea of leasing your next vehicle? It’s always been a popular option in the American car market, and has started to catch on in the UK.

Mainly because Personal Contract Hire (PCH) allows you to drive a better car without worrying about depreciation or resale values.

Our ultimate guide to personal car leasing will help you understand the benefits and disadvantages of choosing personal contract hire.

We’ll also teach you where you can find the best PCH deals, and how to properly compare leasing against other finance and PCP offers, or buying your next car outright.

Businesses often benefit from leasing vehicles rather than owning them, and as an individual, some of the advantages will apply to you, too!

Personal car leasing explained:

  1. An introduction to personal car leasing
  2. How does personal car leasing work?
  3. Car leasing deals and offers – where to find them?
  4. The best personal car leasing companies
  5. Personal car leasing: the deposit explained
  6. Used car leasing
  7. Personal car leasing with bad credit

An introduction to personal car leasing

Personal Contract Hire (PCH) is effectively a long-term car rental agreement. If you’re eligible for a car leasing contract, you’ll pay a deposit and a monthly cost for a vehicle.

At the end of that time, you give the car back and walk away.

Simplicity is one of the big benefits to personal car leasing. Once you know the deposit and monthly costs, that will be your total outlay for the length of the contract.

Personal Car Leasing can be the quickest and cheapest way to get behind the wheel of a new car
Personal car leasing can be the quickest and cheapest way to get behind the wheel of a new car

The cost will also be lower than buying or financing a new car. So, you can choose from more expensive and premium options.

In fact, leasing actually makes more sense if you’re looking at higher end cars rather than a small family hatchback.

You’ll still benefit from the normal manufacturer warranty, and with a new car you don’t need to worry about an MOT for the first three years.

Usually the leasing or finance company will also provide your road tax and breakdown cover. Servicing will sometimes also be included.

If you own your own VAT-registered business, leasing allows you to deduct the cost from your profits and reclaim 50% of the VAT rather than going through personal leasing, making it a popular option for company cars.

You might find quotes via comparison sites which are aimed purely at business customers, and therefore don’t include the VAT cost, making them seem cheaper – so watch out for this!

Choosing PCH leasing does mean you’ll never actually own the car or be able to get any money back from the sale of it. Your contract will have an agreed mileage, with costs for any excess distances you cover.

The cost might also increase if you incur any damage or the car is written off, although most leasing companies will abide by the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association fair wear and tear policy.

What types of personal car leasing are there?

Although the principles of leasing a car will stay the same, there are some slight differences depending on the provider.

Leasing companies will let you specify exactly what car you want and deliver it after your first payment.

There are a variety of online brokers who will take your details and then match you to an appropriate leasing company, effectively working as the go-between to make the process easier.

However, car dealers can also offer leasing as part of their car finance options. Whether it’s a franchised or independent dealership, these will usually be through specialist leasing companies.

Even if it’s offered under the name of the car manufacturer, It’s less common than other dealer finance products, so not everyone will provide it. It’s worth checking and then comparing against any online deals you’ve researched.

One way to find dealers offering personal car leasing near you is using the Specialist Automotive Finance Approved Dealer Directory, which should mean you also get better advice as staff are tested annually on their knowledge of motor finance.

How does personal car leasing work?

There are several conditions to personal car leasing in the UK. The hire contract will generally last between 2-5 years, and you’ll need to undergo a compulsory credit check.

A deposit will also be required before the car is supplied. You’ll also need valid car insurance as with any vehicle.

Some leasing companies will require you to be in regular employment, but others just need proof of regular income or benefits that allow you to afford the monthly payments.

You won’t be able to modify the car in any way without permission, so it’s important to consider any changes you might want before deciding on a lease.

If you exceed the agreed mileage, the cost can range from 3p a mile to as much as 50p. It depends on your particularly agreement, but a typical cost will be 10p per mile.

With UK drivers doing around 7,900 miles annually, that cost could add up. You may also need written permission if you plan on taking your car abroad on a trip.

Most brokers and leasing companies will charge an administration fee, typically around £199, so don’t forget to take that into account.

Leasing repayment options

One major difference between PCH and PCP is that you generally can’t end a car leasing agreement early. With PCP car finance, you’re usually able to pay an additional cost to end the contract earlier than planned if your financial circumstances change.

As long as you’ve paid (or can pay) half the cost of the car, you have the right to return it.

If you miss payments on a Personal Contract Hire, then you’ll be charged late payment fees. Lenders will be keen to take their car back fairly quickly, to avoid any depreciation while you settle your bills.

You will also get a default mark on your credit file. Essentially the only way to end a PCH early is to pay off the total lease costs in full.

If you do start to struggle, it’s worth speaking to the finance company straight away as they may offer you lower payments over a longer lease, for example.

Car leasing deals and offers – where to find them?

With any large financial decision, the time you spend thoroughly researching the best deal can save you hundreds, or thousands of pounds.

It’s important to not only compare personal car leases to other finance options, but also shop for the best PCH deal to suit your needs.

To help you start searching, we created a guide to the best lease car deals we’ve found, so you can quickly see examples of the deals available, and compare your own efforts.

There are also various personal car leasing comparison services and tools to give you somewhere to start comparing offers before you get into specific details on deposits and mileage agreements.

Good places to look include:

What makes a personal car lease deal good or bad?

There’s more to a good PCH deal than just finding the lowest monthly payment.

Key factors include ensuring you have a suitable mileage allowance to avoid extra charges, and whether the contract includes potential costs such as servicing.

It’s hard to know whether you’ll still be happy with the car you’re hiring in 3 or 4 years, but you may want the option to extend your leasing term. f you do, the lower value of the car should mean smaller payments.

Taking all that into account, one of the prime attractions of a personal car lease over buying your next vehicle is the cost. So, you need to understand the payment plans on offer.

They’ll often be described as “9+48”, for example, which refers to the multiples of the monthly cost required as the deposit, plus the total term of the contract. In this example, you’d need a deposit equivalent to nine months, followed by 48 usual monthly payments.

Ways to get a better deal include being open to hiring various cars, which allows you to access a wider range of deals. Lots of companies will run special offers and promotions.

Picking a car which holds value and doesn’t depreciate will help you get better prices, as the main leasing cost is the difference between what the leasing company will pay as a purchase price, and what they’ll get when it’s time to sell.

Choosing cars with lower running costs will also be taken into account for your monthly payments.

Personal Car Leasing is best for higher value cars which don't suffer badly from depreciation
Personal car leasing is best for higher value cars which don’t suffer badly from depreciation

Lastly, your contract is there to make the terms clear to all parties, particularly if there is a problem or dispute. So, you should be able to read through a good personal car lease and understand the key points.

Picking a company which is a member of the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association will help as not only do they provide industry guides to considerations like wear and tear when you’re returning a car, but they can also act as an intermediary between you and a member company if there’s a disagreement.

For hire purchase and PCP offers, the interest on the amount you’re borrowing against the value of the car is advertised as the APR rate, typically around 4-7%. Although many manufacturers do offer 0% deals.

With personal car leasing, there’s no interest charge, which means you’re simply paying off the depreciation.

This makes it easier to calculate the total amount payable to compare different cars and lease offers. Typically, you’ll pay under £200 per month to drive a smaller hatchback or SUV on a 2/3 year contract.

Go for a 4-year agreement, and you could be driving a new small car from just over £100 per month.

Towards £400 will get you a luxury car on your driveway. But remember that over the total agreement, including a deposit, that adds up to around £16,000 without the option to own your car at the end of the PCH.

The best personal car leasing companies

There are a wide variety of personal car leasing companies operating across the UK, so it’s worth looking closely at the company you’ll be signing with.

Check that they are a BVRLA leasing broker, and SAF Approved, which will provide some reassurance.

Some of the top PCH providers in the UK include:

Picking the best personal leasing company will come down to your individual requirements, as some will be better for specific cars, and others can provide additional features such as including servicing in your payment plan.

Personal car leasing: the deposit explained

When it comes to lowering your monthly payments, paying a higher deposit a big difference.

Technically it’s actually an initial payment, as it’s non-refundable, and the minimum amount will be set by the finance house or leasing company.

Personal Contract Hire generally requires a smaller first payment than other finance offers as you’re not paying anything towards owning the vehicle in the future.

It’s generally calculated as a multiple of your monthly payments.

The total amount you will pay stays the same regardless of your deposit, but paying a larger amount up front simply means there will be less to pay for the remainder of your contract.

No deposit car leasing is becoming more popular as it doesn’t require an initial upfront payment. To qualify you will need an excellent credit rating score.

No deposit car leasing will mean higher monthly payments across the term of your personal car lease, but if you pass the credit check process, it means you can jump into a new car straight away, without having to save for a deposit.

Used car leasing

New cars are the main preference for people wanting to lease a car, but used car leasing is a cheaper solution if you don’t mind something with a few miles already on the clock.

A number of leasing companies will supply ex fleet and rental used cars.

This is a good option if you want to focus on value for money as the initial fee and monthly payments will be significantly lower than for a new model of the same car.

Leasing a used hatchback can save you money over a newer model
Leasing a used hatchback can save you money over a newer model

For example, one leasing company currently offers a new BMW 1 Series Hatchback from £250.58 per month over 48 months with an initial fee of £2,255.22.

But a used, lower specification version of the same car will cost £175.28 per month for the same contract length, and with a first payment of £1,577.52.

While the new car payments will cost you £14,283.06 in total, the used BMW comes in at £9,990.96.

Leasing a used Volkswagen Polo 1.0 litre hatchback costs from £171.13 for a new model, with a first payment of £1540.17.

Switch to a used example, you’ll pay £142.36 and £1,281.24 for the same length of contract. Which is a £1,639.89 saving.

Personal car leasing with bad credit

If you have a bad credit rating, it’s still possible to enter a personal car leasing agreement.

When you’re applying for any PCH deal, the lease or finance company will perform a credit check with a reference agency such as Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

Most lenders will look for a good or excellent score to accept you straight away, although credit scores are not the only criteria.

The downside is that if you’re approved with bad credit, you’ll probably find the car finance options available to you are more restricted, and your payments may be higher.

Some will also recommend going for cheaper used car leasing, rather than premium models. But this does vary between leasing companies.

Leasing some cars will be expensive even with a great credit score
Leasing some cars will be expensive even with a great credit score

The upside is that if you’re accept and make all the required payments, this will improve your credit score.

Other alternatives are available. Some finance providers will accept joint applications with a spouse or family member who lives at the same address as you.

This means both applicants incomes are taken into account, but does also mean that both parties must fulfil the contract even if you split up from your partner.

Taking out finance on behalf of someone else is forbidden by finance providers, but a few will accept having a third party as a guarantor.

This means if you default on your payment, the guarantor is liable, and will normally need to be a family member with good personal credit.

Again, any defaults will affect both you and the guarantor.

Should you choose personal car leasing?

There are advantages and disadvantages to personal car leasing. But if you’re looking for a relatively quick and simple way to get behind the wheel of a new car, a Personal Contract Hire offer can be a good solution.

Whenever you’re buying or selling a car, taking time to research your options will cost you little, and could save you a lot. It’s worth a few moments checking out some of our other guides, including