Leasing a new car was once the preserve of business motorists, but for consumers it has become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional car finance in recent years.
Many manufacturer showrooms now offer PCH (personal contract hire) deals alongside the longer-established PCP (personal contract purchase) schemes, while there are also a host of independents including the major business-lease players.
Leasing can offer several advantages, particularly in terms of cashflow. Depending on the sort of car you’re loooking at, you will often pay less to lease a new car rather than buying it using a finance product like a PCP or hire purchase. Most leasing products these days also include the option to include maintenance in the monthly payments, thus removing big bills when you take the car for a service.
We won’t go into detail about the pros and cons of car leasing here, but if you’re keen to know more then check out our guide to personal contract hire.
So if you’ve added up the sums and decided leasing is for you, you’ll naturally turn to the internet. But you then face a new problem – which car leasing operator should you plump for?
First and most important thing to remember is to ensure you are looking at PCH offers, and not BCH (business contract hire), available only to business customers – it’s easy to get caught out. It’s also vital to be careful entering your details, with particularly the annual mileage making a big difference to the potential costs.
Different types of leasing sites
Leasing customers face a wide choice of: 1) manufacturer leasing offers, 2) independent brokers and leasing companies, and 3) comparison sites tracking all of them to find the best deals. Different leasing sites will offer deals on different models from different manufacturers, which means there can be considerable variation in pricing. So, as always, it pays to shop around.
Overall, independents offer a great deal more choice than manufacturer sites, but prices are not necessarily cheaper and what might seem a choice of fewer offers on some sites can produce better deals. There is no substitute for deciding exactly what you want and then spending an evening online, carefully trawling all the sites below and checking all the results carefully to ensure you get the best deal.
It can be highly confusing, but we reckon the following sites are worth checking out if you want to lease a new car.
URL: Go to manufacturer’s website
We like: All the backup and quality that comes with dealing direct with the manufacturer
We don’t like: Obviously you can’t compare deals on different brands
In recent years, several (but not all) car manufacturers have added personal leasing offers to their long-established business leasing services. Often it serves as a way of shifting large numbers of specific models, and to feed their used car forecourts with end-of-lease cars.
Leasing from a manufacturer comes with obvious advantages – you are effectively ‘cutting out the middle man’ by dealing direct, with all the front-line servicing and maintenance back-up. And surprisingly, comparing certain models across the market, the manufacturer deals were necessarily not the most expensive.
Downsides? Mainly a lack of choice. Manufacturer sites tend to offer just a few grades available, sometimes on cars that are less easy to shift off forecourts, and on by no means their entire model line-up. There’s also the other obvious drawback that you can’t directly compare cars from different brands side-by-side.
If you go to a showroom, they’ll happily provide you a PCH quote on any car in the range, in any specification, but it will often cost you just as much as a PCP on the same vehicle.
They say: “One of the world’s leading leasing companies”
We like: Lots of information for first-time customers, including video tutorials
We don’t like: Personal and business sides of website look virtually identical
Long-established as one of the biggest names in business leasing, LeasePlan also offers personal car leasing for consumers. The site includes a host of ‘hot offers’ as well as allowing you to seek out a specific car or price.
The most important first click is on the slider to ‘Personal’ rather than ‘Business’ – both sides of the site look very similar, with the same images, and it’s easy to go the wrong way…
LeasePlan is good at explaining how car leasing works, the site including extensive information for first-time customers, including video tutorials.
Lots of extras are available as part of your deal, such as breakdown cover, insurance and maintenance, which can include tyre replacement. The site also includes more unusual offers, such as specific deals on Tesla electric cars.
They say: “The leading car leasing comparison website”
We like: Vast choice, useful short-cuts such as hybrids or low-cost deals
We don’t like: A lot to take in on the home page
Leasing.com describes itself as the car leasing expert and is one of several comparison sites on the internet – the firm doesn’t lease cars itself but acts as a comparison site for lease companies, enabling customers to compare deals and select the one that best suits them.
Having been trading since 2000, the site claims to have helped more than a million people find a deal, and it certainly offers a choice – putting in the specific criteria for our Mazda brought up 48 different deals, plus 25 for the Vauxhall. The rates were also cheaper than from the manufacturers.
As with most comparison sites, there is a huge choice of potential lease cars, from Renault to Rolls-Royce. And the Leasing.com site does include a number of tutorials.
First thing you see on opening the site is the usual fill-in menu to ‘find your perfect lease deal’ but aside from that there is a great deal of information on the home page, possibly too much. Scrolling right to the bottom brings up the most useful section, quick links to specific makes and short-cuts to electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, low-cost deals and SUVs.
They say: “We do the leg work, you enjoy the ride”
We like: Sensible menu form with simple or advanced search options
We don’t like: Gives impression of small player compared to other sites
Carparison presents an image of a friendly, personal team helping to sort you a lease car. It claims that when it launched in 2018, it was to fill a demand not met by existing leasing sites for sourcing quick and easy deals. The site majors on personal service with lots of smiling faces all over the site.
The usual menu is also there, with a slider between personal and business leasing which sensibly defaults to personal, unlike some rivals. You can make a simple search for make and model and then narrow it down, or an advanced search with far more details, including whether the offer that tempts you is actually in stock (which is helpful, as not all deals offered in the leasing market are available immediately from stock).
There’s a reasonable amount of information on the site for the inexperienced, although it doesn’t have the dynamic visual impact of some of the more colourful alternatives also in this list.
Select Car Leasing
They say: “One of the UK’s largest independent specialists for car and van leasing”
We like: Good EV section, highlighted with lots of information
We don’t like: Lives up to its name – select choice of cars to lease
Select is a provider of lease cars and claims to be one of the biggest, boasting 50,000-plus cars delivered in around 16 years of trading, and 21,000 five-star Trustpilot reviews as a result.
Each car includes all the usual information plus a useful review of the car, both in ten-second short form and a much more detailed version. Our sample search for our Mazda and Vauxhall brought up not many choices but at very competitive prices.
One notable plus of the site is its Electric Vehicle section, accessed directly off the home page and as well as the latest deals including lots of information and reviews.
Select also currently promotes a price-match service, paying out £50 in Amazon vouchers if customers find a comparable deal at a better price elsewhere.
They say: “The UK and Ireland’s largest digital automotive marketplace”
We like: Extensive guides on leasing including pros and cons
We don’t like: Not as much choice as other comparison sites
Auto Trader makes the most of its years of experience in selling cars to offer an extensive leasing comparison section on its site. The home page boasts the usual menu finder but majors on offering information on how leasing works. This is extensive, including video advice from former BBC Top Gear presenter Rory Reid. The site will likely answer most questions a first-time leasing customer might have.
Once you feel you understand what you are after, the site offers a similar search engine to other comparison sites, narrowing down the deals based on the usual entries of model, mileage, monthly cost and such.
The deals on the site are good quality, Auto Trader claiming to source the best deals from the UK’s leading leasing providers, but there is not as wide a selection as on other comparison sites.
They say: “The UK’s biggest car lease comparison site”
We like: Score system analysing value of lease deals
We don’t like: Too jokey home-page graphics
LeaseLoco is another car lease comparison site, and once you get beyond the odd home-page graphics recalling Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations (based on using the phrase “wise up amigos…”), the site has much to recommend it.
Chief among these is the score system. It uses a comparison algorithm to analyse the value of each lease deal and whether customers can do better, for example leasing an Audi A6 for the price of an A4.
The site majors on affordability – there is no home page make and model menu but a simpler one asking how much you want to spend each month. The site then seeks out the deals available, which you can narrow down by make, model, mileage and such like. One advantage of this is that having been tempted by one model of car, the site shows alternatives you might not have thought of.
Again the choice is wide, with both our Mazda and Vauxhall generating more offers than Leasing.com. And another neat feature is ‘dream garage’ enabling you to save certain cars and track their price movements, with notifications when the price drops.
They say: “Car people, not sales people”
We like: Good menu to narrow choice to what you are looking for
We don’t like: Too many elements on site missing, ratings ‘not available’, pictures ‘coming soon’.
Leeds-based Zen Auto is one of the newest of the direct-leasing firms, but is a subsidiary of the very long-established Zenith leasing, aiming to extend Zenith’s business-leasing clout into the consumer market.
A nice touch on the home page is an initial choice of three menus, based on whether you are not sure what you want, know exactly what car you want or exactly what you aim to spend. The search engine then seeks out deals based on these choices, which you can then further refine.
Entering our Mazda and Vauxhall brought up a similar number of deals to other direct leasing sites and at similar prices. However when we searched the site was missing too much information. It places great stead by its model ratings from long-established review site Parkers, but could not offer a rating for either of our chosen cars despite the Mazda, for example having gone on sale more than a year ago.
*The Car Expert has a commercial partnership with Carparison. If you click through to their website, we may receive a small commission. We do not receive any payment or commission if you proceed with any leasing agreement.