Community Resource Federal Credit Union
Community Resource Federal Credit Union

Buying a car is a significant financial commitment. The decision is not merely about choosing a make and model that suits your lifestyle but also understanding the best way to finance your purchase. Various auto loan options are available, each with unique advantages and potential drawbacks. This blog post delves into three of the most common auto loan options when buying a car: conventional auto loans, auto leases, and lease-like auto loans. We aim to provide you with a clear understanding of each financing option, helping you make an informed decision that fits your financial needs and personal circumstances. So, buckle up, and let’s embark on this journey to explore the different paths you can take to drive home in your new car.

Conventional Auto Loan

A conventional auto loan is a common method of financing a car. When you take out a conventional auto loan, you’re borrowing a specific sum of money from a financial institution to purchase your desired car. Once the loan is approved and you’ve received the money, you must repay this amount, plus interest, over a set period. This repayment period can vary, but it’s typically between 36 to 72 months.

One of the key advantages of a conventional auto loan is that you gain full ownership of the car once the loan is completely paid off. This means the vehicle is yours to keep or sell at your discretion. Additionally, there are no restrictions on the mileage you can accumulate, and you’re free to modify the car to your liking.

However, there are also drawbacks to consider with conventional auto loans. For one, the monthly payments are usually higher than what you’d pay under a lease agreement simply because you’re paying off the entire purchase price of the vehicle plus interest.

Additionally, the value of the car will depreciate over time. Cars are depreciating assets, and the most significant drop in value happens in the first few years of ownership. This means if you decide to sell your car after a few years, it will be worth less than what you initially paid.

Lastly, there’s a potential risk of falling into negative equity with a conventional auto loan, especially if the car depreciates faster than you’re able to pay off the loan. Negative equity means you owe more on the loan than the car is currently worth. This can complicate things if you plan to sell the car or trade it in before the loan is paid off.

While a conventional auto loan may offer the advantage of outright ownership, it’s essential to consider these factors and how they align with your financial situation and car ownership goals.

Auto Lease

An auto lease is another option when considering financing a car. Essentially, an auto lease is a long-term rental agreement. You pay a certain amount each month to use the car over a specified lease term, typically between two to four years. At the end of the lease term, the car is returned to the dealership or lease company.

One of the major advantages of leasing a car is the lower monthly payments compared to a conventional auto loan. This is because you’re essentially only paying for the vehicle’s depreciation over the lease term, not the entire vehicle cost. This can make higher-end or luxury models more affordable on a monthly basis.

Leasing also offers the opportunity to drive a new car every few years. At the end of your lease term, you can choose to start a new lease agreement with a newer model, keeping you up-to-date with the latest technology and features.

Additionally, leasing usually requires lower upfront costs than buying, often just a down payment and the first month’s lease payment.

However, there are limitations and potential downsides to leasing. One of the biggest is that you do not own the car at the end of the lease term. The vehicle must be returned, and if you want to keep driving, you’ll need to lease or buy another car.

Leases also come with mileage restrictions. Most lease agreements limit you to a certain number of miles each year (often around 12,000-15,000). You’ll have to pay additional fees for the extra miles if you exceed this limit.

Lastly, you could face excessive wear and tear charges when you return the car at the end of the lease. If the car has damages beyond what’s considered “normal wear and tear,” you might have to pay extra fees to cover these costs.

While leasing can offer lower monthly payments and the chance to regularly upgrade your vehicle, it’s crucial to consider these restrictions and costs. Leasing can be a good option for those who like to drive new cars and don’t mind not owning their vehicle, but it’s not the right choice for everyone.

Lease-like Auto Loan

A lease-like auto loan provides a unique and flexible approach to car financing. Community Resource FCU has a lease-like auto loan, known as the Energize Auto Loan Program. This loan program allows you to make lower monthly payments, similar to a lease agreement, but without the heavy restrictions and hidden costs often associated with leasing. You can see exactly how much you can save with the Energize Auto Loan program compared to other lease payments with this online calculator.

The Energize Auto Loan Program offers several key advantages. Firstly, it provides lower monthly payments than conventional auto loans, which can help ease your budget and free up funds for other financial priorities. The program also offers flexible loan terms of up to 72 months and doesn’t require a down payment. Furthermore, it offers a variety of annual mileage options, ranging from 7,500 to 18,000 miles, and doesn’t charge any security deposit, acquisition fees, or early payoff penalties.

Unlike a lease, where the vehicle is titled in the name of the leasing company, with the Energize Auto Loan Program, the vehicle is titled in your name. This gives you greater flexibility both during the loan and at loan maturity. You can trade in, pay off, refinance, or sell the vehicle privately at any time.

However, as with any financial agreement, there are a few considerations to remember. While the program offers lower monthly payments, it does so by basing payments on the difference between the Guaranteed Future Value and the total amount financed, which could result in a larger final payment. Also, while the program offers more flexibility than a traditional lease, it does still have mileage restrictions and excess wear and tear considerations, albeit lower than industry averages.

The Energize Auto Loan Program offers a unique blend of the benefits of both leasing and conventional auto loans. It provides lower monthly payments, greater flexibility, and the benefits of vehicle ownership. However, it’s important to understand the agreement’s terms and consider your financial situation and driving habits before deciding if this option is right for you.


Purchasing a car is a significant financial decision, and choosing the right financing option can substantially affect your financial situation. Whether you opt for a conventional auto loan, an auto lease, or a lease-like auto loan, each approach has its unique benefits and drawbacks.

Conventional auto loans offer the certainty of ownership, no mileage limits, and the freedom to alter the vehicle as you wish, but they also come with higher monthly payments and the risk of depreciation and negative equity. Auto leases provide lower monthly payments, the excitement of regularly changing vehicles, and lower upfront costs, but you don’t own the car, have mileage limitations, and may incur charges for excessive wear and tear. Lease-like auto loans blend elements of both, offering lower monthly payments and the choice to own the vehicle at the end of the term but potentially leading to a significant balloon payment, negative equity, and a higher overall cost.

When choosing a car financing option, it’s crucial to consider your personal needs, driving habits, and financial circumstances. Do you value ownership, or is the ability to frequently change vehicles more appealing? How much can you afford to pay monthly, and can you handle a large final payment if you choose a lease-like auto loan?

These are questions you should answer before making a decision. It may be helpful to seek advice from a Financial Service Representative at Community Resource FCU who can guide you through the process. Ultimately, the goal is to select an auto loan option that suits your lifestyle, meets your financial needs, and puts you in the driver’s seat, literally and financially.