What happens when unforeseen circumstances prevent you from driving a leased car car? There’s no guarantee you can break a car lease early due to disability. However, you do have options outside of giving the car back and paying steep fees.

Can you break a car lease early because of a disability?

A car lease agreement is a legally binding contract where the lessor — the dealership or lender — owns the vehicle, and you pay an agreed-upon monthly amount to use it. You cannot automatically break a car lease because of a disability. To break the contract, both parties must agree to terminate the lease, or you must prove the contract allows for termination.

Breaking a car 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 talk to your lessor and explain you’re breaking the lease for medical reasons. They may be willing 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, 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. 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.

Or you may want to buy out the lease and try to sell your car on the secondary market.

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.

You may want to start with a phone call to your lessor to explain your situation. The phone number will be on the lease agreement. It’s often harder for a company to deny a request when it’s asked person-to-person as opposed to being requested via email.

Follow up with an email summarizing the phone call, so you have a “paper trail” of the conversation.

Swap your car lease

If it turns out early termination is unrealistic or too pricey, consider finding someone to take over the lease. Most lease agreements allow you to trade your car lease to another person — provided the other party meets credit requirements. Different lessors have different rules for trading leases, which may include charging a fee for the transfer, so check with your lessor before you make any plans.

Online marketplaces, like SwapALease or LeaseTrader, charge a small fee to match people looking to get out of car leases with prospective lessees. Most automotive brands allow lease takeovers. These third-party companies handle the associated paperwork, so you can feel confident it’s 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 car lease due to disability, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck.

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