How to End Your Car Lease Early | Explained

By Lauren Fix, The Car Coach

You’re hardly driving anymore. But how do you turn in your leased car without losing a small fortune?

The pandemic and the sagging economy have many people asking this same question. The good news is that the once-rigid leasing process has become a bit more flexible—know your options! Before you decide which option to use, review your lease contract and collect this information:

Before you make a move to end your lease, you will need to know:

  • Your monthly payment.
  • How many months are remaining on the lease.
  • The amount of additional lease-end fees.
  • The residual value — the cost to buy your vehicle at the end of the lease.

The total of lease-end fees and remaining monthly payments is a reasonable estimate of what you would have to pay to terminate your lease early and walk away from your leased car. Call your leasing company to ask about both the cost of early lease termination and the price of buying out the lease altogether.

You could simply turn in the car and write a check, which is not the wisest choice financially.

Compare your buyout price to the current market value of your car on an online pricing guide such as TrueCar, Edmunds, or Kelley Blue Book, or by getting a real cash offer from online car dealers like Carvana, Shift or Vroom, or your local CarMax.

If you’re lucky, your car might be worth the same or more than the buyout price of the lease. If you saw last week’s segment, Do NOT buy a Car Right Now–Explained, you will understand more about today’s car-buying environment. If you are not so lucky about the buyout price, you’ll have to find a way to make up the difference.

Here Are Four Ways To End Your Lease Early.

Option 1: Sell your car to a dealer

This is the fastest and easiest way to step out of a lease agreement. And, because the pandemic has created a shortage of used cars, your car might be worth more than you expect.

Pickups and SUVs are in high demand now. The value and desirability of sedans and other vehicle types will depend on the popularity and availability of those brands.

You’ll get your best price from a dealership selling the same brand of car you’re looking to unload. For example, take your Honda to a Honda dealership for the best price, along with your research on your car’s value as a gauge. However, if the residual value was low and your payments high, you might still be on the hook for a lot of money. You may have to pay the difference. That is not a good option.

Option 2: Swap your lease

Most lease contracts allow you to transfer the remainder of the lease period to another person, like Swap a Lease or LeaseTrader, which are lease trading sites that can help you find someone who needs a car and can assume the remaining payments.

There is a small fee starting at $75 and $100. You can post the terms of your vehicle’s lease on these sites. But before you take this route, be sure to check your lease contract to see if it allows transfer to another party.

In addition, you may have to put up some cash of your own to make your offer more attractive to shoppers looking to take over a lease. Not all leases on offer have incentives, but many do, in amounts from a month or two of payments to several thousand dollars for high-end models with huge payments. Would you spend $500 to avoid making two years of $500 payments? Would you spend $1,000?

Another way to transfer your lease is to simply ask a family member or a trusted friend to take over the monthly payments. Make sure auto insurance still covers the vehicle and have a clear understanding of who will pay for any excess wear and tear at the end of the lease.

Option 3: Buy your car, sell it yourself

Most lease contracts allow you to buy your car at any time during the leasing period for a predetermined amount — that early buyout price. You can either purchase the car with ready cash or take out a loan to cover the expense.

Many auto refinancing lenders offer lease buyouts; some will lend amounts greater than the car’s book value.

Selling your car to a private party will bring a higher price than the trade-in or purchase figure from a dealer. However, it will require time and some money for advertising to find a buyer.

Option 4: Buy your car and keep it

Maybe you would like to keep your leased car if only your monthly payment were lower. In this case, you can use a lease buyout loan as well. The downside is that you would be extending your financial commitment to lower your payments.

Your leasing company may offer lease buyout financing, but if not, many auto refinancing lenders do as well. Some will loan you more than the car is worth if your buyout price is higher.

Here’s the Bottom line:

Do your homework before you make a final decision. Sometimes it’s better to keep the vehicle you have.

If you have additional questions, put them in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host.  A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news, and safety issues.   

Lauren is the CEO of Automotive Aspects and the Editor-in-Chief of Car Coach Reports, a global automotive news outlet. She is an automotive contributor to national and local television news shows, including Fox News, Fox Business, CNN International, The Weather Channel, Inside Edition, Local Now News, Community Digital News, and more. Lauren also co-hosts a regular show on ABC.com with Paul Brian called “His Turn – Her Turn” and hosts regular radio segments on USA Radio – DayBreak. 

Lauren is honored to be inducted into the Women’s Transportation Hall of Fame and a Board Member of the Buffalo Motorcar Museum and Juror / President for the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards.  

Check her out on Twitter and Instagram @LaurenFix.

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