Finding the Right Equipment Lease

Our advice for finding a good leasing arrangement is really no different from our advice on purchasing in general. The first step is to determine as nearly as possible exactly what you need and how much you're willing to pay. Once that's done, you need to devote some time to shopping around to find the best deal for your money.

Finding an equipment lessor shouldn't be too difficult. In addition to companies that specialize in leasing equipment, many of which are subsidiaries of banks, insurance companies, and finance companies, more and more manufacturers are now offering leasing plans. Check your local Yellow Pages, and you're sure to find a number of leads.

You also may want to contact the American Association of Equipment Lessors, 4301 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 550, Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 527-8655, which is one of the industry's major trade organizations, for information about leasing companies in your area and about equipment leasing in general.

To ensure that you'll have meaningful information to compare, provide each company with a written statement that details what you're after. This can go a long ways toward getting you quotes that are for the same equipment, have the same features, and are on the same terms. Obviously, as you compare quotes, you're going to pay careful attention to how much rent each company is proposing to charge. However, you'll also do well to look into the each company's reputation for dealing with its lessees. Most equipment leases will bind you into a relationship for a number of years, so you want to be sure that your lessor is going to treat you fairly and be responsive to your needs. If possible, get references from former and present customers of the company. It also wouldn't hurt to check the company's status with the Better Business Bureau or similar agencies in your area.

Once you have a quote that you feel is worth pursuing from a reputable company, you need to reach a formal agreement on a lease with the company. Depending on your bargaining position, you may or may not be able to negotiate changes to the company's standard lease agreement. However, it generally doesn't hurt to ask, so if there's a provision in the agreement that you're uncomfortable with or if you have a provision you'd like to see added, make your concerns known. In any event, do not sign the lease until you are comfortable that you fully understand all of its terms. If the lease involves a significant commitment on your part, either in money or in time, have your attorney review it and advise you on any of its potentially adverse provisions.