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Business Vehicle Expenses - Lease or Purchase

Business Vehicle Expenses - Lease or Purchase

Small businesses enjoy a variety of tax benefits, including corporate deductions. One of these possible tax deductions concerns business vehicles. Some businesses require vehicles dedicated exclusively for business use, while other business owners may use a personal vehicle for business purposes. Many entrepreneurs are divided on whether buying or leasing a business vehicle produces better returns.


The main difference in the deduction between buying or leasing a vehicle is the taxes you pay. When you buy a vehicle, you usually pay vehicle taxes upfront. You can generally deduct this tax for a vehicle purchased for business purposes. You normally pay the rental fee as part of the monthly payment when you rent a car, but this is also deductible.


Whether you own or rent a vehicle, you can deduct the mileage of a vehicle for business purposes. In 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) set the standard mileage deduction rate at 50 cents per mile.


In the case of a vehicle owned or leased by a business, you can also deduct the repair costs for the vehicle's maintenance. These can include maintenance or repairs to get the vehicle back into service. Depending on the terms of the lease, repairs may be part of the lease. Usually, when you buy a vehicle, the repairs come at a separate cost.

Tolls and Parking

Leased and owned vehicles are entitled to a deduction from the cost of the toll. Both types of utility vehicles can also deduct the cost of parking fees.


The other main difference in tax deduction between an owned car and a leased car is depreciation. When you own a vehicle for your business, you can deduct an amount of depreciation over the vehicle's life. You are not allowed to deduct depreciation on a leased vehicle.

Choice of deduction

If you own or lease a vehicle, you can choose to pay actual or standard deductions for business vehicles. If you choose standard deductions, use the vehicle's standard mileage rate. Suppose you choose to deduct the actual costs of the business vehicle. In that case, you are deducting the costs of repairing, tolling, and parking instead of deducting the standard mileage rate. Still, you cannot deduct the standard mileage rate and actual costs.

Advantages and disadvantages of leasing compared to the purchase of a vehicle.

There are a lot of expenses involved in operating a vehicle as part of your small business. You have to put in mind the cost of the vehicle itself and the fuel costs, maintenance costs, parking, insurance costs, tolls, and the list goes on. While there is no perfect rule as to which one is better, several factors to consider before deciding to rent or buy.


For many small businesses, the deciding factor for any expense is cost, but when choosing between buying or leasing a vehicle, the cost factor doesn't go down and dry up. The initial cost of leasing a vehicle is typically less than the prepayment required to purchase the same vehicle. Monthly rent payments are also lower than payments for a comparable purchased vehicle. The downside is that leased equipment almost always costs more in the long run than purchasing equipment. If you lease the vehicle, you will not have any ownership rights, and, at the end of the contract, you will have no capital or residual value for the investment.


We know that vehicles lose a significant part of their value when moved from the parking lot. This devaluation is included in the rental, so you know in advance how much the vehicle will be worth at the end of the rental. If you are buying a vehicle for your small business, you will have to accept that you are buying an asset depreciating. Also, if you buy the vehicle, you can drive it as long as it continues to provide acceptable service once paid for.

For tax purposes

You can write off eligible expenses for the commercial use of your vehicle, whether you buy or lease the vehicle. You have two options when it comes to determining your tax deductions. You can claim your actual expenses, or you can claim the standard mileage deduction. (You can only apply the standard mileage deduction method if you have fewer than five vehicles in your business.) If you own the car and want to use the standard mileage deduction, you must use this method the first year you place the car in operation for your business. In the years to come, it will be possible to choose between the two methods. If you are leasing a vehicle, you can choose between actual expenses or the standard mileage deduction for the first year of using the vehicle for business purposes. Still, you must continue to use this method during the lease period, including renewals.


Leasing a vehicle allows you to regularly upgrade your vehicle to a new model every few years without having to worry about negotiating a trade-in. This can be an important aspect if your business is in an industry, like real estate or insurance, that appreciates the look, especially if you need to transport your clients in style. If you need a vehicle that provides years of reliable service and the need to update it regularly isn't high on your priority list, purchasing your vehicle will usually cost less in the long run.

Miscellaneous costs

The highest scheduled maintenance may be included on leased vehicles. The purchase and rental of new cars often come with substantial warranties covering the most frequent repairs. A lease generally requires that you have full insurance. You will also likely need to have full insurance if you are financing a vehicle you buy, but you can lower your insurance costs to state minimums after the vehicle is paid for. You can drive any vehicle you buy as much as you want. Rental vehicles generally have a maximum number of miles. If you exceed this number of miles, you will be charged additional fees. You can also incur additional charges at the end of the contract for excessive wear and tear.

What better way to cancel taxes: leasing or financing?

You can use two general methods to acquire fixed assets, such as computer equipment, real estate, vehicles, or machinery for your business. You can buy them directly with cash or finance, or you can rent them. Buying and leasing are different ways of adding resources to your business and are treated very differently from a tax perspective. To determine the best option for reducing your tax debt, you need to analyze the financial structure specific to each acquisition.

Interest and Depreciation

When funding an asset, the Internal Revenue Service allows you to claim two different streams of deductions. Each year that you pay interest, you can deduct the interest you pay as a business expense. Also, you can gradually depreciate the asset by incurring an annual expense to record its value and reduce taxes.

Lease payments

When you lease equipment or real estate, rent payments are almost fully deductible. Whatever you pay, you cancel. On the flip side, it seems like a better deal, as anything you pay is tax-deductible. However, if renting is cheaper than buying, you will have fewer tax exemptions over time. Additionally, you generally do not own the asset and are required to make perpetual lease payments.

Claiming section 179

The IRS allows you to expense, rather than write off, purchasing certain types of tangible personal assets, such as computers, machinery, or certain vehicles. Claiming the section 179 deduction no longer allows you to depreciate property. Still, it allows you to claim full depreciation in advance and, at the same time, allows you to deduct interest as you pay it. In some cases, this can make buying and financing a much better deal than leasing, at least from an income tax perspective.

Purchasing luxury Automobiles

For the IRS, any car weighing less than 6,000 pounds is considered a luxury vehicle and therefore limits the amount of depreciation you can claim. Limits vary and can be difficult to calculate, but for fiscal 2020 you will not be able to write off more than about $23,000 in the cost of a car, truck, van, or SUV weighing less than the limit. In the eyes of the IRS, a Honda Accord is equivalent to a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Ferrari FF. However, car rental payments are not limited in the same way. As such, leasing will almost always give you a higher return than buying a car for your business.



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