How to Get Out of a Car Lease Early Without a Penalty

Cole Mayer  | 

Can You Get Out of a Car Lease?

While it is possible to get out of your car lease, it’s often not an easy process, and could come with penalties. Remember that a lease is similar to renting a car long-term. Your monthly payments will be less than a loan to own a car, and after a few years, you will give the car back. You also have a mile limit per year.

Whether you need to get out of a lease due to a change in your financial situation, you are moving, or your travel situation means you will now exceed the mile limit on your lease contract, there are a few options to get out of a lease.

Lease Swaps: Transfer Your Lease

The option that will likely result in the least hassle is transferring your lease. This only applies if your state and leaseholder allow for a transfer — most banks do not allow transfers. If your lender does, you can use a third-party website like Swapalease or LeaseTrader in order to essentially sell the lease. Or, you can do a private transfer, with no middle man.

There are two caveats to this option. First, you will have to pay transfer fees, which can be a few hundred dollars.

Second, as Scot Hall of Swapalease told Edmund’s, about 20 percent of leasing companies require that you still be part of the lease. Should the new leaseholder default, you will still be held accountable for the unpaid balance.

Trading Your Lease In

Next, you can trade your lease in for another car, either to lease or buy, through the same lender. This will not get you out of all the early termination fees, but the lender may reduce or eliminate some or, if you are lucky, all of the fees. If not, they will roll the fee into your new payment.

This is the least hassle, as you are dealing directly with your lender. You can also simply return the car to the lender, but be prepared to pay full penalties. Trading for a new lease or buying a car is the better option when dealing with the lender.

Selling Your Leased Car

At any point during your lease, you can buy the car from the lender. Your lease will essentially convert to a regular auto loan, either through the lease lender, or another lender — be sure to shop around for the best interest rate. For example, if you leased the car through an auto dealership, you could terminate the lease and convert it to a loan through a local credit union. The credit union essentially pays off the rest of your lease, and then you start paying the credit union back.

After you buy the car, however, you can sell it. With the money you earn from the sale, you can pay off the loan, and pocket whatever is left, or use it towards buying a new car.

Negotiate Your Lease

Much like negotiating a loan, you may be able to ask the leasing company for help. They could allow you to skip a few months of payment, instead tacking it on to the end, extending your lease. Or, they could lower the payments for a few months to give you breathing room and time to get your financials in order.

This, however, is unlikely to happen unless your only other option is defaulting on the loan. Since the lender doesn’t want you to default — it means you not paying money — they would rather grant you a short reprieve so you can continue paying them.

Prepare to Pay Penalties for Breaking Your Lease

The penalties for breaking a lease early can be stiff, including paying the rest of the lease in a single payment, early termination fees, and costs associated with the storage, transfer, and preparing of the vehicle for sale.

The fee could be a one-time fee, or it could come in the form of monthly payments. It can also work on a sliding scale, with more fees or payments depending on if you terminate your lease earlier rather than later in the term of the lease.

If you default, the worst case in breaking a lease, prepare to take a hit to your credit, about the same as if you defaulted on an auto loan. The lease will probably go to collections, and unless you declare bankruptcy, the lender could sue you for the unpaid money. Don’t be surprised if the car is repossessed, either.

Getting out of a car lease early, and without penalties, is not entirely easy. That is, unless you are willing to lease or take a loan on a new car from the same lender. Otherwise, there are hoops to jump through, and you will still probably have some early termination fees. However, it’s better than continuing to pay monthly payments if your financial situation can no longer support the lease.

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A former newspaper journalist, Cole spends his free time reading, writing, playing video games, watching movies, and learning about every subject under the sun. He lives with his wife and daughter in Idaho. Follow Cole on Twitter: @ColeMayer42