Leasing is a form of car ownership common in business circles which has a great deal of appeal for newcomers to Dubai, or indeed, any other Emirate of the United Arab Emirates. It is probably more popular amongst North American expats while UK, Australian, New Zealand and other European nationalities resident in the UAE tend to opt for outright ownership.
So what’s the appeal of leasing a car and how do we go about it?
A Question of Costs vs Convenience
A former colleague who spent eight years in the UAE chose not to have a car at all for the first two years, then for the subsequent six, leased a succession of small four door cars. I pointed out a couple of times, that after six years, she had probably paid the full price plus running costs and maintenance of a full-sized luxury SUV, but her response was: “Sure, but no hassles!”
And there, in a nutshell, is the appeal: for a monthly fee, you are guaranteed a new, or very near new car of your choice and the only attendant cost is gasoline. Oh yes, and speeding or other traffic offence fines, if applicable. All servicing and other maintenance costs, annual insurance and registration are taken care of with that one monthly fee.
So how much is this all inclusive package? Well, that of course depends on the size and type of car you opt for. And you can, of course, lease pretty much anything you desire to drive. Lamborghini Aventador? No problem…apart from the AED 5000 (US$ 1360) per day, plus AED 5000 security deposit.
If you want the above piece of autofantasia for a week, you can probably negotiate a lower daily rate and the same would apply for longer term rentals – i.e., effectively leases. You can read all about models available and rates here.
But what about real world cars and costs? Again, you can use the link above to scroll to the very bottom of the page and see rates for “economical” cars: a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Nissan Sunny, a Toyota Camry and the like.
Where Do I Go and What Do I Need?
Most long-term car lessors usually go to a “trusted” name – like Hertz, Avis, Budget, Sixt and all the rest of the international car rental franchises. In fact, you can pretty much set up a long term lease, typically 12, 24 or 36 months, online.
A quick look at the Sixt website shows how well-prepared they are for this kind of service. You can choose the new car that’s right for you; and all the standard components of a long term lease – insurance, maintenance and registration – are clearly listed.
When you have settled the details on the length of the lease and made your choice of car, obviously you will need to make one visit to the leasing company’s Dubai office, to sign the contract and present a surprisingly small number of supporting documents.
Even if your Dubai Residence Visa hasn’t been issued, you can still get into a leasing arrangement: you need to show that you are in the UAE on a valid visit visa – for most people, that’s just the stamp in your passport on arrival. Credit card, driving license and the leasing agreement can be updated once your Residence Visa is issued. If you are a visitor, the addition of an international driver’s license will be a deal clincher.
Really? That’s All?
Yes, that’s all, according to both Hertz and competitor Diamond Lease Car Rental. When you have your UAE Residence Visa, you are expected to have a UAE Driver’s License soon after, if you intend to do any driving in the UAE.
Fortunately, using your foreign license as the basis for getting a local license is also very straightforward. No driving test is required, though you will be required to take an eye test. You can read all about the requirements on the Dubai Road Transport Authority (RTA)Website here. (The site itself is a bit confusing: you may get the page loading in Arabic at first, but don’t panic: click on the “English” link in the top left of the page, then enter “Transfer a Driver’s License to Dubai” in the Search field.)
The page lists the fee for issuance of a UAE license, and the accompanying documents you need to bring to the RTA headquarters in Rashidiya, near Dubai International Airport.
It’s pretty much the exact same documents as required for a long term car lease, with the addition of photographs to be added to the license. (I recall that all the service booths at the RTA had digital cameras to do this on the spot, last time I visited on another matter, so a phone call in advance may save you the trouble of getting photographs taken). For what it’s worth, Dubai RTA is a model of efficiency and customer-focused courtesy, so don’t be intimidated if this is to be your first visit to a major Emirati government body.
Anything Else I Should Know?
Listen to your work colleagues: they will have a trove of local knowledge about who is good and who isn’t; what’s the best time to go to such and such a place, who and where to avoid.
Also, check and see if your company (assuming you are working for a large company) has a group discount scheme with one of the major players in the car-leasing business. Once you have been a UAE resident and driver for a bit, you might want to try one of the less well-known companies, in the hope of a better deal. Don’t be afraid to sound them out: you’ll very quickly get a feel for whether they offer any real advantages over the big companies once you have been there a while.