As the economy continues to improve, more construction businesses are making capital investments to fuel their growth. When business owners and managers consider acquiring equipment, they often think of their payment option as a “lease versus buy” decision. In any economic environment, when preserving owner or shareholder capital is an important goal, financing equipment through a lease or loan will enable your business to preserve its cash.
CHOOSING YOUR FINANCING OPTION
Whether you finance equipment through a lease or loan, each has its advantages. In evaluating your options, it is important to look at each alternative to determine which will best balance usage, cash flow, and your financial objectives. To help determine the most appropriate option, consider the following questions.
10 CONSIDERATIONS IN A LEASE OR LOAN DECISION:
How long will the equipment be required?
Generally speaking, if the length of time the equipment is expected to be used is short term (which usually means 36 months or less), leasing is likely the preferable option. Equipment with expected use of longer than 3 years could be a candidate for either a lease or a loan.
What is the monthly budget for the equipment?
As with any ongoing business expense, consider the monthly cost for a piece of equipment and consider how that cost fits into your budget. In general, leasing will provide lower monthly payments.
Will the equipment still needed for the operation become obsolete?
Protection against obsolescence is one of the many benefits of equipment leasing, since the lessor assumes the risk of obsolescence. Certain lease financing programs allow for technology upgrades and/or replacements within the term of the lease contract.
Will the use of the equipment be for a specific contract or is the equipment’s use open for other projects?
Often, the business objective of equipment is for it to be revenue producing. If a piece of equipment has limited use within a specific contract and no other project requires the equipment, it’s not ideal for it to be idle while you continue to make payments on it. It makes sense to stop the equipment expense when the income from it ceases, which you can do with a lease.
How much cash would be required up front for a lease and for a loan?
Leasing can often provide 100 percent financing of the cost of the equipment, as well as the costs for transportation, delivery, installation setup, testing and training, and other deferred costs (e.g., sales tax). Loans usually require a down payment and don’t include the other cost benefits. Find out the down payment requirements and assess the availability and desirability of allocating company capital for the down payment.
Can the company use the depreciation or would the company get a greater benefit from expensing the lease payments?
The tax treatment of the financing arrangement is an important consideration in choosing between a lease and a loan. A loan provides you with the depreciation tax benefit; with a lease, the lessor owns the equipment and realizes the tax benefit, a benefit usually reflected in a lower monthly rent payment for your business, as well as the ability to expense the payment. In many instances, if your business cannot use the tax benefit, it makes more sense to lease than to purchase through a loan because you can trade the depreciation to the lessor in exchange for better cash flow.
What will the impact be on a working capital facility?
Many businesses have an aggregate line of credit through a bank that they can use for inventory purchases, improvements, and other capital expenditures. Depending on the lending covenants, it is often possible, as well as preferable, to preserve your bank working capital by leasing equipment through an equipment finance provider.
How flexible does your business want the financing terms to be?
A lease can provide greater flexibility, since lease structure can cover a variety of contingencies, whereas with a loan, flexibility is subject to the lender’s rules. If your business has continuing use for the equipment at lease termination, extended rentals, purchase options, trade-ups, and return options are available. The lease term allows your business to match all expenses to the term of the equipment’s use, including income tax expense, book expense, and cash expense. Most importantly, as mentioned previously, the expense stops when the equipment is no longer required.
Do you anticipate the need for additional equipment under your financing agreement?
If your business is planning for growth, you can enter into a master lease that will allow you to acquire multiple pieces of equipment under multiple schedules with the same basic terms and conditions. This provides greater convenience and flexibility than a conditional loan contract, which recipients must renegotiate for additional equipment acquisitions.
Who can help me evaluate what’s best for my business?
Whether you finance equipment through a lease or loan, each has its advantages. When making the decision between a lease and a loan, it is highly recommended that you consult with your accounting professional, as well as draw on the resources of your equipment financing provider to enable you to secure the best possible terms for your lease and/or loan. ■
About The Author
William G. Sutton, CAE, is president and CEO of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, the trade association that represents companies in the $827 billion equipment finance sector, which includes financial services companies and manufacturers engaged in financing capital goods. ELFA has been equipping business for success for more than 50 years. For more information, visit www.elfaonline.org. Follow ELFA on Twitter @elfaonline. For a lease/loan comparison and online tools, visit www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/ef101/llc.cfm.
Modern Contractor Solutions, December 2014
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