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Yes, You Can Lease a Used Car — Here’s How to Do It

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Used-car leasing might be right for you if you’re looking for a low monthly payment and a car you’ll keep for just a few years. It provides a near-new vehicle at a low price, which can be extremely attractive. The biggest downside is that leasing is typically more expensive in the long run than simply buying a used car.

How to lease a used car

You could lease a certified pre-owned (CPO) car through many franchise dealerships, but it may be harder to find given the current shortage of cars on the market.

Another way to find a used-car lease is to take over a lease from a current leaseholder. Outgoing leasees list their vehicles on matchmaking services like Swapalease or LeaseTrader. Unlike a traditional lease, you’ll avoid a down payment and upfront acquisition fees.

The current leaseholder’s leasing company would have to approve you for the lease transfer and would likely charge a transfer fee, but you can find cash incentives that make up the cost of the transfer fee and more. You’ll then make monthly payments and potentially pay a turn-in fee at the end of the lease.

Used-car leasing vs. new-car leasing

When you go through a dealer, used-car leasing works the same way as a new-car lease. You may have to make a down payment and pay an acquisition fee to get started. You’ll then make monthly payments, which are based on the difference between the car’s purchase price and the estimated value at the end of the lease, or the residual value.

The money factor, like the interest rate on a loan, is added to the monthly payment. Used lease rates are typically higher than new.

At the lease’s end, no matter how you obtained your used-car lease, you may have to pay a disposition or turn-in fee plus any penalties for exceeding the lease’s mileage limits and wear-and-tear policy.

If you’re debating leasing versus buying, use an online calculator from your bank or auto insurance provider to determine how much it costs to lease a used car versus to purchase a used car.

Is it a good idea to lease a used car?

It depends. One reason why leasing a used car is smart is that you can likely get a lower monthly payment than a new-car purchase or lease, but if you plan to hold on to a car past its lease term, it may be better to buy it from the start.

“If you want to keep a car for five or six years, it makes sense to buy it, but if you want to drive it only two to three years, leasing is probably the way to go,” says Scot Hall, executive vice president of operations at Swapalease.com.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of used-car leasing.

Pros and cons of leasing a used car

PROS

  Lower payment: Leasing a used vehicle generally means lower payments than leasing or buying a new one.

  Nicer car: By leasing a vehicle that’s a few years old, you may be able to afford a nicer car or a higher trim level than leasing or buying the newest model.

  Longer warranty: A CPO vehicle comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, something other used vehicles don’t have.

CONS

  Higher interest rate: Used vehicles usually have a higher interest rate, or money factor for a lease, than new cars. Manufacturers do offer some used lease deals like they do for new cars, but they’re typically for luxury brands.

  Wear and tear: CPO cars have been inspected by the manufacturer, but they’re still used cars with some degree of wear and tear. They also might lack the latest safety features or technology.

  Maintenance costs: CPO warranties don’t cover things like brake pads and tires — you may have to pay for some maintenance out of pocket.

  Limited inventory: Used-car leasing is relatively rare — you won’t see advertisements for it in most places.

5 steps to finding a used-car lease

1. Find a dealer that offers it

Check with your local dealer or the financing company of the car brand you’re interested in to make sure it’s available.

2. Negotiate your best deal

You can negotiate a used lease deal just like a new lease or any auto loan. Start with the price of the car, and then negotiate the down payment amount or trade-in value, mileage limits and purchase options. You may also have to pay taxes and title and license fees like you would with any car. There may also be acquisition fees, dealer fees and other costs added to the lease.

3. Decide on a warranty

In addition to the CPO warranty included by the manufacturer, the dealer may also offer an extended warranty. Also known as a vehicle service contract, extended warranties are an extra cost. It may be worth the additional peace of mind, but check for overlapping coverage — it doesn’t make sense to pay for coverage you’re already receiving under the CPO warranty and, possibly, the vehicle’s original warranty.

An extended warranty or vehicle service contract can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,500 or more. Compare the dealer’s offer with those from independent companies, your auto insurance provider and even some credit unions and car clubs.

4. Consider other add-ons

Unlike an optional extended warranty, the leasing company may require leasees to buy guaranteed asset protection (GAP) insurance. GAP insurance covers the difference between the amount on your lease and the amount your auto insurance company pays in case your car is stolen or totaled in a car accident. Ask whether it’s required and whether it’s rolled into your monthly payments or one you could shop around.

5. Understand your obligations

Before signing the lease, make sure you understand any early termination fees, excess wear-and-tear charges and mileage fees. There may be an option to purchase additional miles upfront or within a certain period at a lower price than paying the penalty at the end of the lease.

If you’re interested in buying the car, ask about purchase options at the end of the lease. The purchase price, based on the residual value, should be spelled out in the lease agreement. If the car is worth more than the residual value, it could be a good deal.

Compare car leasing and buying options

Used-car leasing isn’t the only way to get a car. Here’s a look at how it compares to alternatives.

Used-car leaseNew-car leaseLease swapUsed-car purchaseNew-car purchase
CostLowest monthly payment and lowest money downLower monthly payment versus buyingDepends on the deal; transfer fees can be steep, but incentives are possibleLowest long-term costsHighest payment option
RequirementsGood credit score; down payment possibleGood credit score; down payment possibleGood creditGood credit for a better rate; down payment possibleGood credit for incentive rates; down payment possible
RisksLow availability; high APRExpensive to end earlyCan’t negotiate ratesReliability varies; expired warranty possibleOwing more on your car than it’s worth
Best forLow-payment seekers who want a car short-termThose who want a new car every 2-3 yearsDrivers who need wheels for only a few monthsBuyers seeking low-cost ownershipThose who don’t mind higher-cost ownership

 

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