Money expert Clark Howard has always said that he doesn't like vehicle leases for most people.
“Let’s say you lease for four years and you can’t afford that lease,” he says. “You feel like you’re stranded. You’re stuck in it. You have to pay out. You’re in a contract that is a full straitjacket and you can’t wiggle your way out of it.”
So what can you do if you're in over your head with a lease? You might have some options. In this article, we'll look at the ways you could potentially get out of your car lease.
Two Sites That Could Help You Get Out of a Vehicle Lease
Clark says the first thing you might want to try is getting approval for a qualified person to take over your lease.
Swapalease and Leasetrader are two websites where you can begin your search. The process for both is generally the same:
- You tell them what kind of vehicle you have and what your lease terms are.
- They tell you if your vehicle is eligible for their site.
- If it is, you choose a pricing plan for listing your car.
- People who are interested in taking over leases can see your listing and contact you if they like your vehicle and terms.
- If you find a match, you're out of your lease at minimal cost to you compared to other options.
Before you try either of them out, it's critical that you check with your leasing company to make sure they allow lease transfers of this type.
Here’s how each of these websites works. Let’s start with Swapalease…
Getting Out of a Lease With Swapalease
Swapalease lets you put your qualified lease up for consideration by other people who might want to take over your lease. This can allow you to get out of your lease without a penalty.
Here’s a look at how it works:
The first step to seeing if your lease works with Swapalease is checking your eligibility.
To see if you’re eligible, you’ll provide this information about your vehicle:
- Year of your vehicle
- Lease company
You’ll also need to provide your name, phone number, and email address to establish an account.
At that point, the site will let you know whether or not your vehicle qualifies. Swapalease says most leases qualify for a transfer, though that doesn't mean that someone will be willing to take over your lease.
Once you know your lease is eligible for transfer, you can create a listing by providing the following information:
- Vehicle features
- Remaining miles and months on your lease
- Monthly payment
- Description of your vehicle
However, creating a listing on Swapalease is not free. The site has tiered listing plans that become more comprehensive depending on how much you’re willing to spend.
As you can see, the Standard plan is around $75. But note that if you are successful in having your lease taken over, you’ll pay an additional $150 “Success Fee” on top of that.
The “Swapper’s Club” is regularly priced at $199.95, which is sometimes discounted. With this plan, the Success Fee is included, which would make it a better deal if you’re confident you’ll have success.
Read more about how Swapalease works here.
Getting Out of a Lease With Leasetrader
Leasetrader works much the same as Swapalease. It’s a market that matches people looking to get out of leases with those interested in taking a lease over.
In order to use Leasetrader, you’ll first need to sign in using your Facebook or Google account. You also have the option to create an account using your name, email address, phone number and ZIP code.
Once you’re signed in, you’ll complete a profile for your vehicle.
You’ll be asked to provide the following information about your vehicle:
- Exterior color
- Interior color
- Leasing company
- Original lease term
- Lease end date
- Months left on lease
- Yearly mileage allowance
- Current mileage
At that point, Leasetrader will create a mock-up of your ad. You’ll be able to modify the ad with your own photos later.
Like Swapalease, Leasetrader has different plan tiers ranging from around $100 to nearly $500.
Leasetrader claims that the more expensive your plan, the more exposure your vehicle will get and the sooner your lease could be taken over. If you purchase anything but the “Trader” plan, you will also owe Leasetrader $149.95 if a lease transfer is initiated.
Clark says that while Swapalease and Leasetrader may work for some people, they’re not for everyone.
“The interesting thing with both of them is that they’re so polarizing,” he says. “It seems that if it doesn’t work for somebody, they hate it. If it works for them, they’re, like, ‘Shew, I’m rid of that now!’”
What to Do Next if Swapalease and Leasetrader Don’t Work for You
If Swapalease and Leasetrader don't work for you, your options become more limited — and less than ideal from a financial perspective.
Buying out your lease
The first thing you could consider is buying out your lease and then turning around and selling the car. In order to do this, you’ll need to find out the buyout amount from the leasing company. The reasons this may not be a great solution for you are:
- You may not have the funds available to complete the buyout.
- The buyout amount will likely be higher than the vehicle's fair market value.
- There is usually an early termination fee for paying off the lease early.
So, this option really only works if you have access to enough money for the buyout and you’re comfortable taking a loss in order to avoid ongoing lease payments.
Terminating your lease early
Another option is to terminate your lease before the end of the period you agreed to when you leased the vehicle. This may be an even less ideal solution than buying out the car and selling it yourself. That's because you'll likely end up paying a hefty termination fee and be responsible for depreciation on the car, which could be in the thousands of dollars.
Finding yourself in a car lease situation that no longer makes sense is no fun. Ideally, one of these solutions can help you get out without doing too much damage to your wallet. But Clark says that going forward, there’s a much better alternative to leasing.
“If your reason for leasing is that you can’t afford the payment on the loan for a new car, you need to look at buying a used vehicle instead of a new one — and keep that loan term short,” Clark says.
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