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Leasing vs. Buying Equipment: What To Consider
February 17, 2021
Types of Equipment: old vs new

Leasing vs. Buying Equipment: What To Consider

Staying competitive often requires using high quality equipment, which can be expensive. Due to this, it can be challenging for small business owners to buy new versions. However, refraining from purchasing the latest equipment could cause competitors to steal market share.

Frequently investing in the latest equipment can send a business owner into the poorhouse. Luckily, equipment can be leased, which is often a great alternative.

This article will explore the pros and cons of leasing or buying business equipment. We’ll also discuss four considerations, so you can determine which option is right for your business.

Buy vs. Lease Equipment: How to Decide

Business owners face many decisions, including how to obtain equipment for their businesses. Companies often don’t have enough capital to purchase equipment outright, and even if they do, it doesn’t always make sense to do so.

While some companies choose to pay cash for their equipment, this option ties up capital and can lead to cash flow issues in the long term.

Many companies choose to either use a loan to purchase equipment or lease it. Ownership of the equipment is the main difference between these two options. With the financing option, the business owner becomes the rightful owner. With leasing, they may be given a choice to purchase the equipment at the end of the lease term.

There are pros and cons to both options, which we’ll describe in the following sections.

The Pros of Leasing Equipment

  • Down payments are usually smaller for leasing than for financing. In fact, sometimes, no down payment is required at all.
  • At the end of the lease agreement, the business owner can extend the lease, buy it, or return it.
  • Operating leases are usually straightforward.
  • In many equipment lease agreements, the leasing company is responsible for repairs.
  • It may be easier for business owners with bad credit to obtain the equipment they need.

The Cons of Leasing Equipment

  • Leasing is often more expensive than purchasing equipment with cash. The business owner should compare the lease interest rates and financing interest rates prior to making a decision.
  • Depending on how the lease is structured, business owners may not realize any depreciation for the equipment.
  • It’s possible for the lease payments to outlive the usefulness of the equipment. The business owner must continue to pay or to break the lease, which is costly.
  • Under new rules of accounting, operating leases may appear on the balance sheet as a liability. This could alter the business’s credit profile.

The Pros of Buying Equipment

  • Equipment depreciates, which could lower tax liabilities.
  • Business owners are free to use the equipment however they choose.
  • Equipment that remains useful after its funding period gives the business owners an advantage. Not all equipment needs to be brand new to be useful.
  • For business owners with great credit, the equipment funded with the loan serves as the only collateral. This may not be the case for businesses with poor credit, however.

The Cons of Buying Equipment

  • For loans used to purchase equipment, lenders may require down payments.
  • Loans increase the liabilities on the balance sheet, which could prevent these businesses from borrowing more money.
  • Lenders may require collateral beyond the equipment being purchased via the loan.
  • For outright purchases, a large sum of cash is needed to purchase equipment, which depletes capital reserves.
  • Equipment often becomes obsolete, causing the equipment’s resale value to plummet.
  • Businesses are responsible for the overall costs and repairs.

Buy vs. Lease Comparison Infographic

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4 Components to Consider When Deciding To Lease Or Buy

If you’re unsure of whether you should lease or buy equipment, you should consider the four factors we’ll cover below. That way, you can ensure you’re responsibly covering this business expense in a manner that won’t hurt your finances.

1. What Is Your Focus: Profit or Growth?

If you want to grow your business, you should retain as much capital as possible. This capital can be used to buy assets, which will generate growth. Therefore, leasing is the perfect option in this scenario.

However, if you want to quickly earn profits, buying equipment may help you achieve your goals. You can choose other financial options at a later period.

2. Why Do You Need the Equipment?

Knowing the reason that you need equipment is crucial in determining whether to lease or buy. Heavy machinery is often used non-stop, which makes it prone to failure. Scheduled maintenance can help extend the life of these machines, but it won’t prevent them from breaking down eventually.

Some types of equipment become obsolete quicker than others. For instance, computers may eventually fail to update to future operating system releases. For example, companies such as Microsoft retire support of legacy versions of its operating system after a certain period of time.

Conversely, some office equipment tends to last. While there are technological advancements, businesses often can do without the latest developments. For instance, most business owners are satisfied with copiers they purchased several years ago, as long as they’re still functional.

Often, businesses can save when purchasing used equipment. For instance, new restaurant owners are known to purchase used ovens. Used equipment isn’t always available to lease, however.

Woman typing into a printer

3. At What Rate Will This Equipment Need To Be Replaced?

Usually, if a piece of equipment is likely to last well past its financing, buying it is a better option. Conversely, if it needs to be replaced due to becoming obsolete or normal wear-and-tear, leasing may be better.

Lessors often allow business owners to extend the lease or purchase the equipment at the end of the lease. Therefore, if you find a piece of equipment that’s durable and want to continue using it, you have options.

The most difficult aspect of determining equipment’s replacement rate is when considering new equipment. If a piece of equipment has no history provided, you won’t know how to gauge the lifespan of it.

4. How Much Capital Do You Have On Hand?

Some companies are in the enviable position of having excess capital due to their strong business cycles. If your business can build capital reserves, you may choose to purchase your equipment without any financing or lease agreements.

An important aspect of keeping too much in capital reserves is you may miss out on certain opportunities. Rainy-day funds are useful, but this shouldn’t be a core business strategy. If you have no plans to employ the capital, using it for purchasing equipment may be a wise choice.

Both financing and leasing free up your capital, but leasing can be more affordable. Lessors often don’t require down payments, nor do they require collateral. That means more of your capital is available for use elsewhere.

Our Final Recommendations

Leasing can be a great choice for small business owners looking to obtain equipment. To determine if it’s right for your business, consider creating forecasts. To do this, you can alter the inputs for various scenarios to see how your model will react.

When you use several scenarios for your model, you’ll be in a better position when obtaining funds. Plus, you’ll understand the terms and can structure the arrangement to suit your business needs.

One helpful tool for making calculations is a lease vs. buy calculator. If you have experience with using spreadsheets, you could set up the calculations yourself, or you can simply use an online tool.



Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to break a lease agreement?

A lease is a contract, and most of them will have provisions that allow you to break the lease. However, these provisions can be expensive, which could negate the lease’s benefits.

Are there new accounting rules for leases?

The new rules require all publicly-traded companies to record their operating leases on their balance sheets as liabilities.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in February 2021.

Fora Financial

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].