The main difference between buying and leasing a vehicle is ownership, according to DMV.org. With a vehicle purchase, the buyer owns the car. With a vehicle lease, the lessee is in a borrowing arrangement, and must return the vehicle at the end of the lease agreement.
Buying a vehicle has the long-term benefit of equity, as well as giving owners the option to customize or re-sell the vehicle at will, explains Consumer Reports. However, leasing offers the incentives of lower down payments, dealership-covered repairs, and the opportunity to drive a new car every three years.
The choice isn't just about finances, but also about lifestyle, according to Consumer Reports. Vehicle ownership affords independence but requires long-term repair and maintenance for an investment of depreciating value. Leasing provides a new car with lower initial investment costs, but often requires higher insurance premiums and does not serve as an asset for the lessee.