Whether you lease a car to get into the latest models or have better purchasing flexibility, getting a good deal is always bound to give you a lift. Use these guidelines to help you spot one:

Check incentives: be on the look-out for factory –subsidized lease deals. Car manufacturers realize that consumers who lease vehicles from them are more likely to be repeat customers than those who simply purchase vehicles. Through their leasing companies, they adjust the residual value and offer low financing charge. Other auto-manufacturers are also starting to give incentives on leasing, called leasing subventions. They offer these subsidies to put slow-selling models on the street, saving you even more money.

Set up a competitive: bidding environment to get the lowest price. If you already have an idea in mind of the make, model and trim level of your desired car, attempt to calculate your own lease payment before you go shopping to avoid paying through the roof. Check online comparison tools or use a lease calculator to check your lease payment based on purchase price. This gives you greater negotiation leverage as you solicit quotes from various leasing companies.

Make sure you know all the fees involved at the beginning of your lease: you may have to pay fees for licenses, registration and title. Other fees include acquisition fees, freight fees and local or state taxes. At lease-end, you may have to pay a disposition fee and charges for extra mileage and any excess wear. Be aware that some of these fees – like acquisition and disposition fees – are negotiable. Know your mileage needs: almost all leases limit the number of miles per year by imposing typically 10 to 20 cents per excess mile over 15,000 miles a year. If you are the kind of high-commuter who puts 40,000 miles a year on his car, then you might end up running thousands of dollars in hefty penalties at the end of your lease. Be smart and negotiate a higher-mileage limit or pad you excess miles at the beginning of your lease to avoid robber tax rates for excess miles. Almost all leases limit the number of miles per year by imposing fees typically 10 to 20 cents per mile over 15,000 miles per year. If you are the kind of high-commuter who puts a lot miles on his car, then these costs can add up quickly. Negotiate

Include GAP coverage: make sure your lease includes GAP coverage. This covers you in the event of the vehicle getting wrecked, stolen or totalled. Without GAP insurance, you leave yourself wide open to thousands of dollars in leased obligations. Check if the GAP coverage is included so you don’t pay it twice.

It is the classic dilemma that faces every auto-consumer out there: Pay cash upfront or forego the ownership and pay monthly settlements instead? Buy or lease for a new set of wheels?

As is the case with every other common dilemma, there is no slam-dunk answer. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks, and it all depends on a set of financial and personal considerations.

First consider your finances. Affordability is clearly the key, and you need to ask the question of how stable is your job and how healthy is your general financial situation. The short-term monthly-cost of leasing is significantly lower than the monthly payments when buying: you only pay for “the portion” of the vehicle’s cost that you use up during the time you drive it. If you have a lot of cash upfront, then you can opt to pay the down payment, sales taxes – in cash or rolled into a loan – and the interest rate determined by your loan company. Buying effectively gives you ownership of the car and that feeling of “free driving” that goes on providing transportation. If, say, you want to get into luxury models but can’t afford the upfront cash of purchasing the vehicle than you’re a good candidate for leasing. Unlike buying, it gives you the option of not having to fork out the down payment upfront, leaving you to pay a lower money factor that is generally similar to the interest rate on a financing loan. However, these benefits have a price: terminating a lease early or defaulting on your monthly lease payments will result in stiff financial penalties and can ruin your credit. You need to make sure you carve out the monthly lease payment in your budget for the foreseeable future, at least for the duration of the lease.

Besides the financial aspect, making a buy or lease decision depends on your own particular lifestyle choices and preferences. Think about what the car means to you: are you the sort of person to bond with the car or would you rather have the excitement of something new? If you want to drive a car for more than fives years, negotiate carefully and buy the car you like. If, on the other hand, you don’t like the idea of ownership and prefer to drive a new car every two to three years then you should lease. Next, factor your transportation needs: How many miles do you drive a year? How properly do you maintain your cars? If you answer is: “I drive 40,000 miles a year and I don’t really care much about my cars as I don’t mind dealing with repair bills”, then you’re probably better off buying. Leasing is based on the assumption of limited-mileage, usually no more than 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year, and wear-and-tear considerations. Unless you can keep within the prescribed mileage limits and keep the car in a good condition at the end of your lease, you might incur hefty end-of-lease costs.