Car leasing vs PCP

Both offer low monthly payments but come with different limitations. Car leasing vs PCP explained

BuyaCar team
Jan 9, 2019

PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) and leasing both offer low monthly payments with the option to return your car at the end of agreement.

And while they appear similar on paper, they offer significantly different services. For example, Car leasing is generally only available for new vehicles, whereas PCP can be used for new, and used cars.

Leasing requires you to hand your car back at the end, while PCP gives you the option of buying it.

Both leasing and PCP will also involve penalty payments if you exceed an annual mileage limit or damage the car while you have it. Scroll down for more information on which option is likely to be best for you, or click below to search used and nearly new cars that are available with finance.


Car leasing vs PCP

Car leasing

  • Normally for new cars
  • Long-term rental agreement
  • Good credit score required
  • Mileage limit and damage charges apply
  • Initial rental payment required
  • Relatively low monthly payments
  • Car must be returned at the end of the agreement
  • Difficult to end a leasing agreement early


  • For new and used cars
  • Finance agreement charging interest
  • Poor credit scores considered
  • Mileage limit & damage charges apply
  • No-deposit option often available
  • Relatively low monthly payments
  • Option to return or buy the car at the end. Trade-in option may be available.
  • Can be ended early - often at additional cost


Car lease vs PCP: how they work

Monthly payments for PCP finance and leasing are generally lower than those for other types of finance, including Hire Purchase and bank loans because they don't cover the full cost of the car. However, the way that they work are quite different.

Car leasing

Leasing is essentially a form of long-term car rental. Once you've chosen your car, you'll decide how long you want it for (typically two to four years) and your expected annual mileage. Throughout the agreement you'll make fixed monthly payments, in addition to an initial rental payment, which is usually equivalent to between three and twelve of the monthly instalments. No interest is charged.

The car is always owned by the leasing company. At the end of the agreement, you return the car. While you can ask about the possibility of keeping it, there's no guarantee that it will be possible. Charges for excessive damages apply and you'll also face a penalty if you have exceeded your mileage limit. If the car is worth less than expected at the end of the lease, it's not your problem.


PCP finance works very differently to leasing because you borrow the full value of the car and pay interest on your remaining debt. You'll often pay a deposit, but no-deposit options are usually available.

During the course of the agreement, you make monthly payments which only cover part of the car's cost - the value that the vehicle is expected to lose during the term. This makes instalments more affordable, but also means that you don't own the car automatically after you've made the final payment.

At the end, you should have a car that's worth roughly the same amount that you still owe. You then decide on the best option for you. You can:

  • Return it to the lender without any further instalments to pay.
  • Pay off the remainder of the finance, known as the balloon payment, which can normally be refinanced.
  • Trade the car in with any car retailer. If your car is worth more than the balloon payment, you can hand the car to a retailer who will settle the finance for you. The remaining balance can be returned to you or used as a deposit towards another car.


Car lease vs PCP for new and used cars

If you're buying a used car, then the choice is simple.

Leasing is unlikely to be available, so PCP is likely to be the best option for relatively low monthly repayments and flexibility.

If you're buying a brand new car, then leasing will usually offer the cheapest monthly instalments, as long as you're ok with not owning the car.

PCP deals are generally competitive, though, thanks to manufacturer incentives, including deposit contributions towards the finance arrangement, additional discounts and even 0% finance. You'll also have the flexibility to change your mind and buy the car at the end, and it's normally possible to trade up to a different car before the end of your agreement, but this will depend on the value of your car and your financial situation.


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