3 steps to break a car lease
What do marriage, the Army and car leasing have in common? All are much easier to get into than out of.
There are lots of things in life that are fairly simple to fall into, but much more complicated to extricate yourself from. Three examples? Marriage, the Army -- and a car lease.
When I started doing consumer news 20 years ago, there was basically no way to get out of a car lease: Either you paid it off (add up the total monthly payments remaining and send a check to the leasing company) or you ran an ad in the local paper on the off chance you'd find someone both willing and able to take over your payments.
Internet to the rescue. Check out the following recent news story, then meet me on the other side for more.
These days you can go to any number of websites that will help you find someone who can assume your lease. Here are five examples:
These sites are essentially matchmakers, pairing those who want out of a lease with those who want in. They're your best hope if you need to bail early -- really your only hope. And if you've got automotive ADD, they can also be a great way to drive a short-term car bargain.
Step One: Can you get out of your lease? Not all leases allow you an early exit, even if you can find someone willing to take your place. So pull out your paperwork, grab a magnifying glass and start combing through the fine print. If you can't find language that addresses lease assumption or transfer, call your leasing company and ask.
If you can legally transfer your lease, it shouldn't have a negative effect on your credit history.
According to this article from Edmunds.com, about 80% of leases are transferable with no strings attached. Another 10% are assumable with only one string attached, albeit a major one: You can transfer the lease, but you remain at least partially liable. The final 10% don't allow transfers at all.
It's not advisable to dump a lease if you're going to remain liable, and it's a waste of time to list it if it can't be transferred. And even if your lease is assumable, keep in mind the person you're transferring it to will still have to qualify and be approved in advance by the leasing company. Obviously, your car will also have to be in tip-top condition.
In order to make your lease attractive to potential shoppers, however, you may also have to "buy down" the payments. For example, if you have 12 payments of $500 each left on your lease, to make your car stand out you might offer to put up $1,200 to effectively bring the monthly payments down to $400. Whether you'll have to add incentives depends entirely on how attractive your existing lease terms are, how badly you want out, how sought-after your car is, and how many miles you have remaining on the lease.
But before you travel this road, stop, look and listen. If you don't have great credit, your odds of assuming a lease aren't great either. Make sure you thoroughly read and understand any lease you intend to assume. Be on the lookout for turn-in or lease-end charges. Understand that you're assuming the full responsibility for damage and wear and tear -- have the car professionally examined.
The big lease-swapping sites will provide a lot of the services you'll need: vehicle inspection and history, credit pre-qualification, even vehicle shipping. They also offer a lot of information -- information you'll want to read and understand before you get into, or out of, a lease this way.
But for those who need to dump a lease in a hurry at a relatively low cost, this is the way to do it. And also something to keep in mind the next time you step into a new-car showroom: If you lease, make sure it's assumable. You never know.
Now, where's the website that lets you swap your way out of marriage or the Army?
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