Buy vs Lease Truck is one of the first decisions future owner-operators must face. Both options offer benefits as well as drawbacks. There are many different situations that apply to different people. Always keep in mind that a truck is a tool for work first, and a vehicle second. Potential business owners should consider the job at hand to make the best choice.
Lease a Truck
Leasing a truck makes sense when you are starting your career or you lack good credit. It does not require a significant down payment, and the monthly or weekly amount is generally smaller than that of a loan. The driver will own the truck, as the lease agreement ends. There is a type of lease where downpayment is required. Monthly payments are generally low because the balloon payment at the end of the contract matches the value of the truck at the time. For example a 10 percent down payment on a $130,000 vehicle with $2000 per month for 60 months and a balloon payment of $24,000 at the end. This is a sweet deal for a new truck if you plan to keep and use it longer than five years.
The most common lease is directly through a trucking company. Weekly payments will be deducted from the driver's check. A required down payment of around $5000 will be needed. It shows good money management skills and establishes good faith. It also allows for lower weekly payments.
A lease is a form of rent. Drivers must take care of the truck, and when the contract expires, the truck should be in good condition.
Maintenance under lease
Drivers are responsible for the maintenance of the trucks unless the lease is from Ryder or Penske. These two companies charge between $0.12 and $0.20 per mile for regular maintenance. This, however, does not include accidents and or incidentals. If you hit a deer or a rock cracks the windshield, repairs come out of your pocket.
Buy a Truck
When a future owner operator purchases a truck and finances it, the bank takes the title as collateral for the loan. The driver owns the vehicle, and like in the lease (unless the lease is from Ryder or Penske) all responsibility for the ownership falls on him.
Financing a loan is a cheaper option. Also since the driver is the owner, he can build some equity in the truck. If the market is strong, an owner-operator can make extra principal payments towards the loan, thus paying it off early and saving on interest.
Drivers need a credit score over 630-650. That puts those with less than perfect credit at a disadvantage. The higher your credit score, the better the interest rate on the loan will be.
Many banks require down payments when credit history is an issue. Ten percent is standard, but some will only ask for five. Almost any lender will agree to finance a truck driver with 20 percent cash in pocket. Putting down a substantial down payment secures lower monthly payments that won't put a toll on the driver when the market is slow.
A major factor improving the odds of financing a truck is previous owner-operator experience. Many banks will deny even 20 percent down payments if the future truck owner cannot provide past truck payment history. That is probably the main reason why many drivers start off with a lease. Experienced truck drivers are not necessarily experienced business owners, and banks know that. Previous owner operator experience shows knowledge of how to manage a business and offers banks more security.