If you aren’t satisfied with the car you’re leasing or you’re having trouble affording the monthly payments, you may want to know if you’re able to return it early. You can do that, but it’s usually not the best decision from a monetary point of view, because you’ll incur significant penalties. An alternate option that is available to most lessees and doesn’t have the financial drawbacks is transferring the lease to someone else.
Let’s first go over the process of returning a leased car to the dealer early. You can do this at any time during the term of your lease, and you should be able to find out exactly how much the penalties will cost you by looking in your lease contract. Some contracts will require you to make all of the remaining lease payments when you turn the car in, even if you’re returning it early, which could be very expensive if you have a long time left on your lease. Even if you don’t need to make each remaining payment, early-termination fees on lease contracts usually cost you a lot of money, so you should avoid this option if possible.
A far better option is a lease transfer. Most lease contracts allow you to transfer your lease to another person. You can start by seeing if anyone you know would like to take over the lease. If you can’t find anyone, you’re not out of luck, as there are also online lease assumption sites available. These sites let people with leases list their leased cars and monthly payment amounts on the site. People interested in taking over a lease can then respond to these ads.
A lease transfer can be a win-win situation for both parties. You’re able to transfer your lease to another person who will take care of the monthly payments, which means you won’t get hit with any of those penalties. The person who takes over your lease can lease a car for a shorter term than usual, and they also won’t need to pay any of the upfront costs that are standard with car leases, such as the security deposit, acquisition fee, and taxes. One thing to keep in mind if you go this route is that you could still be responsible for the condition of the car at the end of the lease. This adds another wrinkle to the situation, because you don’t want to be on the hook for damage done by the new owner. Make sure you can completely transfer the lease if you do this.
If you plan to lease another car through the same dealer, you can return your leased car early and have them add your penalties onto your next lease. You’ll still be paying quite a bit, but you’ll be paying it back over the term of the lease, so at least you won’t need to pay a lump sum.
If your lease contract includes a purchase clause, you may be able to purchase the car before the end of the lease and then sell it to make your money back. Depending on the value of the car, this could be a good option. Even if you lose money, you may lose less money than you would have if you had chosen to return the car and pay early-termination fees. This option is more time-consuming, since you need to buy and then sell the car, but it’s worth considering if you can’t transfer the lease.