Leasing is like renting a car long-term. You don’t actually own it.
However, you can still use a car and not own it! So while you’re not the ‘registered keeper,’ you’re still responsible for driving and maintaining the vehicle until the end of the agreement. This is the major difference to consider when deciding whether to buy or lease a car.
There’s no real issue with not being the registered legal owner of the vehicle - it has almost no day-to-day implications.
We’re going to explain what all this ‘registered keeper’ and ‘legal owner’ actually mean.
We will also analyse the pros and cons of not being the registered keeper of a lease car.
What is the registered keeper of a car?
Regardless of whether you take out a business or personal contract hire deal, the registered keeper of the car is the name that the DVLA has for the owner of the vehicle. So any parking tickets, speeding tickets on your lease car all go to the registered keeper - in most cases, this is the finance company.
Happy days, right? Unfortunately not. Your finance company will either send you the fine or pay it for you and send you a bill for it (plus admin fees, of course).
The legal owner is whoever paid for the car and has proof of purchase (the logbook). This distinction is so that you could technically buy someone a car but have them as the registered keeper.
So, how car leasing works in short is that you won't be the registered keeper of the car, though you have free reign to use it during your contract. The only exception is if you sign up for a lease purchase deal (you can read more about this if you're interested).
What are the implications of not being the legal owner?
Not being the registered owner of a car sounds intuitively like a negative thing. It all depends on your car driving preferences and whether you're a glass half full or half empty type of person!
There are many pros and cons of leasing to consider when it comes to the registered keeper status. The main advantages of not being the registered keeper of your new car is:
- No worrying about road tax: Only the registered keeper has to pay road tax on a lease car. This price is usually factored into your lease amount, so you will pay it, but you don't need to worry about the admin side of things.
- No faff reselling it: You simply hand the car back when your contract ends. No need to worry about selling it on, haggling for a decent price (which will be less than half of what it first cost after 3 years)!
There are a few downsides, but again, these may or not be downsides in your eyes:
- Tickets/fines: Your finance company will pay your fines for you - but you'll have to pay them back, and they might add an admin charge on for the hassle.
- Return charges: In leasing, you don't buy the car at the end, so the leasing company needs to make sure they're not losing any money through further depreciation than they anticipated. If you damage the car, you'll have to pay lease car return charges in line with BVRLA fair wear and tear guide. During your contract, you need to ensure you are on the ball with servicing your lease car, lease car repairs, and lease car maintenance.
- Insurance: Lease cars don't include insurance, so you'll have to sort this out yourself, and usually it must be fully comprehensive. Your lease premiums are unaffected if you're the registered keeper or not. If your car lease is stolen or your car lease is written off, however, you'll have to make up the difference between the cost of the car and the insurance payout (unless you get lease gap insurance).
- Interest: Leasing brokers incorporate interest into the cost to lease a car, which you wouldn't obviously pay if you were the outright owner. Find out more about the interest rate on lease cars.
- No customisation: Whilst you can add car lease extras during your contract set-up, you can't make any modifications to the lease car once you have received it.
Aside from these potential issues, there are no day-to-day running issues that come with not being the registered keeper of a lease car. Nobody would know except you and the leasing company!
What about business leases?
We've done a whole post on what a business car lease is and how it works, but in short, business contract hire has the same rules as a personal lease in regards to who the registered keeper is - it’s still the leasing company.
The only difference between personal and business car leasing is that you might have to jump a few more hoops. For instance, if you get a parking fine, it will go to your leasing company, then possibly your employer, and finally to you.
What about parking permits?
Requesting a car permit can be a bit of a pain without being the registered keeper.
Usually, the main document you need is the vehicle logbook, which stays with the registered keeper.
You receive this and your V5 documents when you buy a car outright from a dealership.
Because of this, you need to contact your finance company to request a copy of the logbook. This takes longer than doing it instantly, and you will probably be charged (another!) admin fee for the hassle.
If you’d prefer, you could ask your finance company to send a letter to the parking company/council that explains you’re driving the lease car and they own it. This will suffice for most parking companies, but it depends.
One other area that might cause some confusion is applying private number plates to lease cars, so check out our guide on how to do that here!
Not being the registered keeper of the vehicle is part and parcel of driving a leased car.
Remember, you’re essentially only renting the car for the duration of the lease contract - you have no ownership over it.
This means that all those speeding and parking fines (you? never!) end up your finance companies letterbox. Of course, they’ll find their way to you eventually, so don’t worry about that!
The only real downside is the possible complications with getting a parking permit due to not having a logbook (it’s with the leasing company.) Still, even this issue should be solved quickly with a phone call to your leasing company.
Overall, not being the registered owner is really a non-issue, unless you feel you need to own the car for your ego - there are no real problems.
If you do want to eventually become the legal owner of the car and get your hands on those registration documents, check out lease purchase, car hire purchase, or PCP finance instead. You should also read up on PCP vs lease - with PCP you can pay a balloon payment to own the car, but it is pretty hefty.
If you're interested in ordinary contract hire leasing, be sure to go on your car lease comparison journey with Lease Fetcher! We've rounded up the top personal car leasing and business car leasing deals on the UK market to make life simple for you!