Most construction businesses are familiar with equipment leasing and financing but may not know the kinds of specific information they need to make the best financing decisions for their investments in equipment or software. Understanding how leasing fits your company’s particular needs can help to build a solid business case for financing as well as determine which financing option to choose.
The following is a checklist of important issues to consider when making decisions about leasing equipment.
1. Whether to buy or lease
The most important thing to know before financing equipment is that leasing is usually more advantageous to your business than buying equipment outright. Equipment finance industry research shows that in 2013, 55% of the projected $1.3 trillion total U.S. investment in equipment and software is expected to be financed. In 2011, 72% of firms used at least one form of financing.
2. Cash flow/budget NEEDS
Financed equipment can generate income for your business that far exceeds the cost of your monthly payment. Financing also enables you to stretch your budget to obtain additional equipment you couldn’t have afforded otherwise because it’s more feasible to make a monthly payment than to make a large lump sum cash outlay. Often 100% financing is available so no down payment is required. If your business experiences seasonal fluctuations, or has a project or new line ramping up that requires equipment that will not generate revenue immediately or will only generate it seasonally, there are lease terms available that allow for these circumstances. Lower initial payments or deferred payments are among lease term options. The important thing is to assess how long it will be before revenue will be generated from using the equipment to offset the finance payments.
3. Capital expenditures
Most businesses have reduced or limited budgets for business investment. If your company is like the majority of those facing unlimited wants and limited resources, leasing equipment allows capital budgets to be used for other business and operational purposes.
4. Equipment obsolescence
Technology changes and innovations develop rapidly. Chances are that the software and equipment you purchased two years ago are already outdated. Financing provides a hedge against equipment obsolescence through options to either purchase the equipment, trade it in for new equipment or return it outright at the end of the term.
5. Credit availability
Access to credit is a key driver of business growth. Financing equipment preserves your lines of credit and enables you to save your bank borrowing capacity - important considerations to accommodate both planned and unforeseen future business expenditures your company may incur. Financing also has one-day credit approvals, whereas banks can take days or even weeks. This speed-of-access to equipment is another strategic advantage for your market position.
6. Tax benefits
Tax code provisions continue to provide incentives for businesses to invest in equipment. At press time 2014 provisions had yet to be set. Your financing company can provide details.
7. Standard finance plans
You are ready to think about the type of finance plan for the equipment you are acquiring. Here are some common plans:
- Fair Market Value offers the most options both during and at the end of the term, so this is suitable if you are concerned about obsolescence or want a small security deposit and a relatively low monthly payment. At the end of the term, you have three options: extend the term of the agreement, return the equipment or buy the equipment at its fair market value.
- 10% Security Deposit also offers a lower monthly payment. It is especially attractive if you can afford to pay a security deposit of 10% of the finance amount at the beginning of the agreement. End-of-term options still apply, the deposit can be used to extend the agreement, or you can return the equipment and request a refund of the deposit.
- 10% Purchase Option offers a fixed purchase option at the end of the term. Upon final payment, you can continue to finance the equipment, return the equipment or buy it at 10% of the original equipment cost.
- $1.00 Buy Out is the recommended option if you are fairly certain you will want to purchase the equipment at the end of the agreement; you can then buy it for $1 once the term expires.
Finding a full-service equipment financing company that can help you address these issues and answer your questions will help ensure that you get the right equipment at the best possible terms for your business.
Philip A. Bruno, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Marlin Leasing Corporation, has more than 20 years of financial services experience. Marlin is a nationwide provider of innovative equipment financing solutions with the highest level of customer service for small and mid-size businesses. Bruno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.marlincorp.com.