If you’re in the market for a car, you may be trying to decide between buying and leasing a vehicle. Depending on your circumstances, assuming someone else’s car lease can be a smart move.
Car leases are typically for two to four years. Lessees may decide they want to end the lease early because they no longer like the car, can’t afford the payments or the car no longer suits their needs. From there, someone else — such as yourself — can connect with lessees through a third-party website.
Advantages of a lease takeover
Assuming a car lease has clear benefits when you’re looking to drive a newer model car for a short period.
- Vehicle availability. With most drivers holding onto their new vehicles for three to five years or longer, and leases typically lasting two or four years, it can be challenging to find a good deal on a newer car that isn’t the current model year. But it’s likely you can get a fairly new car through a lease assumption.
- Short-term lease. Most lease assumptions average 18 to 22 months. It is rare to find that timing available through traditional leasing outlets.
- Cash incentives. Many drivers are eager to get their vehicle off their hands in a lease assumption scenario. It is not uncommon for the original lessee to offer a cash bonus.
- Lower monthly payments. If the original lessee has excellent credit and made a large down payment, it is likely that their monthly payment is low. Since you will be taking on that monthly payment as-is, you will benefit from their terms.
Disadvantages of a lease assumption
Low car payments and the flexibility of a short-term car lease may be tempting, but before you assume a lease, be aware of the potential pitfalls.
- No renegotiation. Simply put, the lease you takeover is the lease you get. You will not be able to negotiate the lease and you will inherit all the terms that the original lessee agreed to. This means that if their credit score was low, you might be stuck with a higher monthly payment.
- Limited mileage. Taking over a lease means that you will have to stick to the original mileage limits on the car lease agreement. Going over this limit could cost you; overages range from 10 to 25 cents per mile. Try and estimate how many miles you’ll drive before the lease expires to make sure you won’t have to pay a penalty.
- Potentially high wear-and-tear costs. Just as you inherit the terms of the lease, you will possibly be taking on an unkempt vehicle. If the previous driver didn’t maintain the vehicle perfectly you will be stuck with the wear-and-tear fees. Request a vehicle history report ahead of time to remove some of the surprises.
- Additional fees. There are three primary fees that come along with a lease takeover: lease transfer, credit application and disposition fees. According to Swapalease, you can expect these fees to cost anywhere from $395 to $895. Be sure to find out the specifics of these fees before agreeing to the lease assumption.
How to assume a car lease
If you’ve made the decision to assume a lease, there are a few options available for those looking to assume a car lease and for those trying to get rid of their current lease. Lessees who want to hand over their leases turn to websites such as Swapalease, LeaseTrader and QuitALease to find someone to assume that role.
You can also reach out to the leasing company. They may be able to give recommendations or even help connect you with a potential lessee.
Although the terms of the lease will already be determined by the original lessees’ credit history — meaning you won’t be subjected to tiered pricing — your credit history will still be considered, and you will need a good enough credit score to qualify for the lease. Be prepared to negotiate with the lessee for any potential cash bonuses and to have your credit checked. You can check your credit for free with Experian.
The bottom line
If you do decide to assume a lease, keep in mind that the responsibility you are taking over is greater than a typical auto lease due to the history of the original driver. You’ll be responsible for the rest of the payments on the car, including any damage or fees incurred by the original lessee. Shop around and compare different options before signing any agreements. And, as always, calculate your monthly cost ahead of time with Bankrate’s auto loan calculator.