• OwnersChoice with Flex for BMW i3
  • Optional lower loan payments
  • Option to return vehicle at end of term

Leasing and financing each have their benefits and drawbacks. Leases are attractive for relatively low monthly payments and the option to return the car at the end of the lease term. Financing typically results in higher monthly payments, but at the end of the term, the buyer owns the vehicle outright. For its new i3 electric vehicle (EV), BMW offers OwnersChoice with Flex, a financing product that also includes some advantages of a lease, like an option to lower payments.

OwnersChoice with Flex is still a loan; the buyer takes ownership of the vehicle. That's particularly important for EVs, since buyers may qualify for federal EV tax credits. In the case of the BMW i3, tax rebates of up to $7,500 are available.

Leasing is common for EVs. Anxious to lure drivers to electric power, automakers have largely taken these rebates and used the funds to offer low lease rates. Similarly, BMW uses the exact sum of the federal rebate to give buyers leaselike benefits through OwnersChoice with Flex.

Like a lease, OwnersChoice with Flex gives i3 drivers an option of lower monthly payments. The program lets buyers increase the final payment (called a balloon payment in leasing terminology) by $7,500, the value of the tax credit. This results in lower monthly payments but leaves the buyer responsible for paying a larger balloon payment at the end of the term.

When the financing term is up, OwnersChoice with Flex also provides two options: The buyer can keep the car or, as with a lease, turn the vehicle in. To take ownership, the buyer simply pays the final balloon payment. Or the buyer can return the vehicle and pay any difference between the balloon payment and the predetermined price of the vehicle.

The BMW i3 is the automaker's first production EV. The 5-door hatchback arrives this year with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of $41,350 plus destination fee. BMW Financial Services says OwnersChoice with Flex will be available to qualified buyers in 46 U.S. states and reminds EV shoppers to consult a tax professional to find out if they qualify to receive an EV tax credit.

What it means to you: If you're considering an EV but are not sure if you're ready to commit for the long term, consider leasing or taking advantage of OwnersChoice with Flex, available for the new BMW i3.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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