Leasing can be an attractive option for many car buyers. It offers the advantages of consistently driving a newer vehicle for a lower monthly payment than purchasing the car outright (see The Beginner’s Guide to Leasing). What many people don’t know is that there are often additional benefits if you pay for the entire lease upfront. This is called a one pay (or single pay or pre-paid) lease.

How is a one pay lease different?

A one pay lease, also known as a single pay or pre-paid car lease, is similar to a standard lease in that you are purchasing the use of the vehicle only for a set period of time. Like a standard lease, you agree to return the vehicle to the dealer in good condition and under a pre-determined number of miles at the end of this time. The difference is that instead of making monthly payments throughout this period, the entire amount is paid at the beginning of the lease.

What are the benefits of a one pay lease?

A one pay lease can offer the following advantages:

  • Less expensive than a traditional lease
  • Less expensive than paying cash if you like driving newer cars
  • Easier credit approval
  • No monthly payments

We’ll expand on each one:

Less expensive than a traditional lease

Two factors make a one pay lease less expensive than a traditional lease.

  1. Less interest – Because you are making an upfront payment that covers the depreciation of the car over the period of time you’ll drive it, you don’t have to pay interest on this amount. So rather than paying interest on the full cost of the car, you only pay interest on the residual value, or the value of the car at the end of the lease, which is usually about 60% of the MSRP.
  2. Lower interest rate – Some manufactures (including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Porsche) will discount the interest rate for one pay leases. The savings can be significant—for example a 0.4% interest rate for a one pay instead of 2.8% for a traditional lease.
Here’s how a one pay lease can compare:
Standard lease  One pay lease 
Money factor (corresponding APR) 0.00118 (2.80%) 0.00018 (0.43%)
Purchase price $56,500.00 $56,500.00
Residual value $34,325.00 $34,325.00
Post-tax monthly payment $810.00 n/a
Due at signing $1,450.00 $26,200.00
Total over 36 months $29,800.00 $26,200.00

The one pay lease saves $3,600 over the standard lease due to a combination of these two factors. Of course without making the larger upfront payment you would expect to earn some interest on your money, but at today’s rates the difference is small.

Less expensive than paying cash if you like driving newer cars

The math is a little more straightforward on a one pay lease vs. a cash purchase. If you paid the same purchase price of $56,500 up front and then sold the vehicle three years later for the residual value of $34,325, it would cost you a total of $22,175+$4,944 (sales tax on the full purchase price, assuming 8.75% tax), or $27,119 in total. Here, a one pay lease saves just under $1,000 (again this ignores the interest you could be earning on that extra money). An additional benefit is that you don’t have to sell the car at the end—simply turn it in.

Easier credit approval

Because you are making the entire payment upfront, most manufacturers will qualify a buyer who wouldn’t ordinarily be approved for a traditional lease. This is an attractive option for clients who have recently relocated to the country, have a limited credit history, or had an event that is impacting their credit. A one pay lease allows these clients to pay less upfront than they would to buy the vehicle outright.

No monthly payments

Some people just don’t like the hassle of another monthly payment. A one pay lease eliminates this while still achieving all the benefits of leasing.

What if something happens to the car during the lease?

If the car is stolen or totaled during the lease period, insurance will pay only for the current market value of the vehicle, not the total amount paid for the lease. Many one pay leases come with GAP insurance to cover this. On those that do not, we strongly advise our one pay lease clients to purchase GAP insurance to ensure they’re protected.

What happens at the end of a one pay lease?

At the end of a one pay lease, you can either buy out the lease or return the vehicle. If you choose to buy out the lease, you will pay the dealer the residual amount agreed to on the contract. Otherwise, you can simply return the car to any dealership and pay any disposition fees or additional charges for excess mileage or wear and tear. (See Preparing to turn in your leased car.)

Whether you’re considering a one pay lease or any other payment method, Cartelligent can help you get a great deal on exactly what you want. Call our team of car-buying experts at 888-427-4270 or get started today.