To lease or to buy: that is the question—at least when it comes to cars. Leasing a car can make sense in many situations. But there are times when you may wonder whether it’s possible to get out of the lease early. If that sounds like you, keep reading for lease-ending insight from our experts.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO END A CAR LEASE EARLY?
Elizabeth Westendorf, CFP® professional with Fearless Finance, notes, “Typically, you can only get out of a car lease if you die…and even then, it’s not completely clear.”
While humorous, there’s actually quite a bit of truth here: If you pass away, your spouse might actually be required to continue the lease agreement. In other words, understand that it’s not necessarily going to be easy to get out of a car lease… but it may not be impossible, either.
Seta Keshishian, Financial Planner with JSF Financial LLC, advises, “If you’re thinking about terminating your automobile lease early be prepared for a bit of work.”
Having said that, don’t despair. Westendorf notes that today’s market isn’t exactly “typical,” so as a leaseholder, you may have some options.
WHERE SHOULD I START?
Before you approach the dealer about ending the lease, Keshishian advises that you first look back at your lease agreement. “Take a look at the number of payments remaining, the residual (buy-out) value and any early termination fees. Most lease agreements require that you pay out the lease in full, which can be quite expensive.”
Once you have a handle on that information, you can then approach the dealership and attempt to “sell” your car back to them.
DO I HAVE ANY OPTIONS THROUGH THE CAR DEALER?
There’s some good news if you’re hoping to end your lease early. Westendorf says, “Right now, the dealers want these cars back, especially if it’s a car they can easily resell. They’re more likely to be flexible if you have a car that is in high demand and that they really want back – for example, Subarus, popular Toyota and Honda models, etc.”
Keshishian agrees, noting that “selling” your car back to the dealer “may be an attractive option for the dealer since new and used car inventories are so low now.”
Even if you don’t have one of these high-demand models, Westendorf says, “You can always ask if they’ll let you out of your lease early, but it’s like anything else with cars—it’s a negotiation.” Yes, having one of those models will give you some power, “but so does immediately doing other business with the same dealer,” states Westendorf.
Translation: you may have a leg up on negotiating an early lease ending if you decide to buy or lease another vehicle from the same dealer.
If you approach the dealer and they don’t let you out of the lease, you could try a different route.
First, you could find a swap or sell site online. Westendorf says, “There are lease trading sites where someone will buy your lease off of you. But it’s not simple, and that only works well if you have a car model in higher demand.”
However, Keshishian cautions that fees are associated with this process. Your other option according to Keshishian could be to get a loan and pay off the rest of your lease. Once that’s done, you could then sell your vehicle yourself.
FUTURE LEASE CONSIDERATIONS
Westendorf offers up some words of wisdom when it comes to considering future leases. She says that this situation is “a really good reason to make sure that you can definitely use that car for the length of the lease, even if you switch jobs, move, or have another major life event come up. Leases do provide some flexibility over buying a car outright, but they also come with a lot of strings that consumers need to watch for.”
The Bottom Line On Ending A Car Lease Early
Getting out of a car lease isn’t quite impossible, but it’s definitely not a walk in the park. You might try asking the dealer to negotiate, or you may want to consider selling the lease online for a fee. Buying out the lease and selling the car could be another way to go. No matter what, take Westendorf’s advice to heart next time you think about leasing a vehicle to make sure it fits your financial needs and lifestyle.
More on HerMoney:
- Car Buying Experts on How to Save Big on Your Next Vehicle
- Insurance Checkups for Auto and Homeowners
- HerMoney Podcast Episode 229: How to Buy a Car and be Smart With Big Purchases
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