How Soon Can I Return a Leased Vehicle?

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Contributing Writer

Bethany Hickey is a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. She is a content writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs, as well as the Poetry Editor for UM-Flint’s writing magazine.


, Contributing Writer - February 3, 2021

How soon you can turn in your leased vehicle can largely depend on how much cash you have on hand. Early lease termination is an option, but it typically comes at a price.

Early Car Lease Termination

There are ways to cancel a lease early, but it’s probably a better idea to wait as long as possible to return it. The sooner you cancel your lease, the more you may have to pay upfront to get out of the contract. Your leasing contract may also require that you’ve made a certain amount of payments before you can opt for early termination.

Returning a leased vehicle early – especially within 12 months of signing – can be costly. You’re almost guaranteed to face early termination fees (ETFs), and/or possibly having to pay off the rest of the depreciation you agreed to pay when you signed the leasing contract.

When you lease, the total amount you owe to the lessor is predetermined. The cost of a lease includes:

  • Capitalized cost – Negotiated selling price of the vehicle and acquisition fee.
  • Depreciation – You pay for the deprecation of the car that’s expected to happen during your lease term.
  • Money factor – Leasing interest rate.
  • Disposition charge – Fee charged by the lessor for transporting/selling the vehicle once the lease ends.

On top of the total lease cost, ETFs could be anywhere from $200 to $500 or more, depending on the terms of your contract. And, the remaining amount you could owe varies depending on the value vehicle and how long your term is, and how soon you want to end the lease.

To cancel a lease, you may have to pay the entire outstanding balance to get out of the contract.

Other Options to End Your Lease Early

Checking your lease contract is a good place to start if you want to turn in your leased car early. See what the lessor requires from you if you need to terminate early, such as a time restraint or what penalty fees you must pay. Leasing contracts typically have a section about what goes into an early cancellation – some include a grace period of 24 hours, but this isn’t common.

If paying ETFs and the remaining depreciation on your lease isn’t an option for you, you may have two other routes to explore:

  • Lease swap or lease takeover – This involves transferring your leasing contract to someone else. If you just started your lease, this might be the way to go. This involves finding a new lessee that takes over the lease with the same conditions. The new lessee needs to qualify in terms of income and credit score. It’s estimated that only about 80% of leases can be transferred since some leasing companies don’t allow lease takeovers. There may be some fees associated with a lease transfer as well, so keep that in mind.
  • Early buyout – In many cases, you’re able to buy your leased vehicle at any point in the lease term. You could purchase the vehicle, then sell it later. The leasing company determines the buyout price based on your remaining payments and the vehicle’s estimated residual value. Buying the lease and selling it later involves lots of steps, such as finding an auto lender, signing a new contract, then finding a buyer. But if you just started your lease and you’re in over your head within a few months of signing, it might be worth it to avoid default if you can’t keep up.

Is Your Situation Flexible Enough for Car Leasing?

Leasing a vehicle is often a good choice for borrowers with good credit scores and more flexible income. Lessees typically lease new vehicles for the low monthly payment, but getting out of a lease isn’t as easy as selling a financed car. To get out of a lease, you either have to complete the contract, terminate it early (which incurs many fees and costs), have someone take it over, or buy the vehicle yourself.

Financing typically doesn’t involve any penalties for selling or trading in a financed car before the end of the loan contract. There are more lenders willing to assist poor credit borrowers than there are leasing companies willing to accommodate tough credit situations, too.

If you’re considering financing as your next step, then take that first step with us at CarsDirect. We’ve created a nationwide network of dealers that assist bad credit borrowers in finding vehicle financing. Thanks to our expansive dealership network, we can look for a dealer in your local area that has bad credit lending resources once you complete our free auto loan request form.

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, Contributing Writer

Bethany Hickey is a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. She is a content writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs, as well as the Poetry Editor for UM-Flint’s writing magazine.


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