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How to end a car lease early after becoming disabled

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A car lease agreement is a legally binding contract where the lessor owns the vehicle, and you pay an agreed-upon monthly amount to use the vehicle. But what happens when some unforeseen circumstance prevents you from driving the car? There’s no guarantee that you can break a lease due to disability. However, you do have options outside of giving the car back and paying steep fees.

Can I end my lease early because of a disability?

A disability does not automatically get you out of a car lease. A lease is a legally binding agreement between you and the lessor. To break the contract, both parties must agree to terminate the lease or prove that the contract allows for termination.

Breaking a lease due to disability can be costly. There’s typically an early termination fee and, depending on the lessor and the terms of the contract, you may be required to make the remaining payments on your lease. The earlier the lease is terminated, the greater this charge could be.

But you can also talk to your lessor and explain that you are breaking a car lease for medical reasons. They may be able to work with you to find the best solution or give you more information about early termination policies.

How to break a car lease early

There are a few ways to break your lease to avoid penalties. Before trying to get out of your car lease, you need to be prepared and consider your options. 

Review your contract

Your best source of information for breaking a car lease early is your contract. The lease agreement will have a clause on the early termination process and the associated fees.

Depending on the agreement and your finances, these fees may be manageable for you. But double-check if your contract offers options for breaking a car lease for medical reasons like disability. These could include a lease transfer, lease buyout or full termination of the contract.

Ask for an exception

Even if there are no exceptions stated in the contract, see if the lessor is willing to help. Ideally, you would be able to support the request with documentation such as a medical note stating that you can no longer drive.

If it turns out that early termination is unrealistic or too pricey, you might consider finding someone to take over the car lease. In some instances, if another family member takes over the lease, this can be done for a small fee.

Swap your car lease

Most lease agreements allow you to transfer your car lease to another person — provided the other party meets credit requirements. Different lessors have different rules for lease transfers, so check with your lessor before you make any plans.

There are online marketplaces, like SwapALease or LeaseTrader, that match lessees looking to get out of car leases with prospective lessees for a small fee. Most automotive brands allow lease takeovers, and these third-party companies handle the associated paperwork so you can feel confident it is done correctly.

While you can also try to find someone on your own, this could take a while. And you’re still responsible for making monthly lease payments until the lease is transferred.

The bottom line

Early termination of a car lease may come with fees and other costs that could add up to thousands of dollars. While you can’t automatically break a lease due to disability, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck.

You may be able to minimize any penalties through a lease transfer. Review your lease agreement to see if there’s a clause about early termination and contact the leasing company to discuss your options.

Written by
Josephine Nesbit
Josephine Nesbit is a former contributor to Bankrate.
Edited by
Auto loans editor