Can You Change Your Mind After Signing a Car Lease?

For many parents, automobile leases are a great way to keep driving the latest and safest cars on the market by signing a new lease every few years. Still, buyer’s remorse does happen even with the latest cars.

For example, if you just found out you have a new passenger on the way and need a mini-van or discovered you need more legroom than the new car has to offer, you may be regretting that new lease. But once you sign on the dotted line, it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) to change your mind on the lease. 

In general, you can’t change your mind after signing a car lease. The second you sign the contract for your vehicle, you must comply with its terms. There are a few situations where cancelation is possible, notably when vehicles are recalled or if the dealership had you sign a fraudulent lease.

But, most of the time, you can’t back out of the lease. You’ll need to pursue different avenues, ranging from exchanging the lease to buying the car, to get a new vehicle. 

Why Can’t You Back Out Of A Car Lease?

Understand that when you sign a lease on a car, you are essentially renting the vehicle – you are not gradually paying off your own car. Eventually, the car you leased returns to the dealer with a depreciated value, wear and tear. Therefore, to make a profit off the car, they need you to fulfill your end of the agreement.

Leases can pose a real problem for parents – needing a larger vehicle with a baby on the way, facing new bills or expenses, or loss of work does not constitute an end to your lease liability. But, there are occasions where you can cancel a lease.

When Can You Cancel A Car Lease?

Though most lease situations and terms do not allow for cancelation or a “cooling-off period,” there are some instances where you can back out of a lease without repercussions. But, these instances are very specific and don’t come up often.

Fraudulent Lease Terms

A lease agreement holds the seller to specific requirements and standards as much as it does the leaser. The Federal Trade Commission protects consumers from fraudulent lease terms under 15 U.S.C. §§ 1667-1667f.

You can cancel a lease if you discover the dealer lied to you about the vehicle you purchased. Examples of fraudulent terms include odometer tampering, manipulation of a vehicle’s residual value, or any other method of deception. Keep in mind that you’ll want an attorney to handle any fraudulent lease cancelation.

Vehicle Recall

If you’ve received a vehicle recall notice in the mail regarding your leased car, the leaseholder may allow you to switch leases or back out of the contract. Unfortunately, not all banks or dealerships include a recall provision in their contracts, and not all recall provisions allow for lease cancelation.

As a result, you may find yourself driving a rental car covered by the dealer until the recall repairs are made instead of sporting a new lease. You’ll have to review your contract and contact the leaseholder to confirm how they’ll handle a recall for you.

What To Do When Cancelation Isn’t An Option: Swap Leases and Vehicle Upgrades

While completely backing out of a car lease is likely not an option, you can certainly try to swap your lease or upgrade the vehicle with the dealership. Most dealerships have some form of lease upgrades or swap options built into a contract. Here are some of the standard options to pursue a lease change through:

Option 1: Complete A Lease Restructure

If you need another vehicle, but the cost of your current leases is killing your budget, you might be able to make some extra-budget room with a lease restructure. While a restructure won’t eliminate the old lease, it can reduce the monthly payments owed by extending the lease period.

Many banks and dealerships have programs designed to help people with unexpected hardships.

Keep in mind that your leasing institution is not obligated to give you a restructure, so you’ll want to clearly explain the hardships you are facing and why you need the restructure. In addition, it helps to emphasize that you want to uphold your end of the bargain and keep your business with the institution.

Option 2: Find A Lease Exchange Agency

If you’ve tried asking for a lease restructure and came up empty-handed, you can always consider a lease exchange. Your current leaseholder may suggest a lease exchange if a restructure is not possible, and they may be able to do the exchange for you.

If they can’t, you can also try a third-party lease exchange agency like Swapalease.com or Carlease.com. 

When exchanging a lease, the lease exchange agency finds someone willing to take on your lease and terms for you. In general, the cost of exchanging your lease is far less than a complete lease termination, and the new leaser absorbs a lot of the exchange fees. 

Option 3: Buy The Car and Resell It

If lease exchanges stress you out, you can try to work straight with the dealership to buy the car. Most leases allow the leaser to purchase the vehicle outright, mainly because this allows the leaseholder company to get their money back without negotiations or lease changes.

If your car has massively depreciated, you may not get your money’s worth by reselling the car. But, if your buy-out amount is, for example, $20,000, and your car’s value is $35,000, you could resell the car for a profit and get a new lease for a better-suited vehicle.

Keep in mind that if you don’t have the buy-out fees and payments available, you’ll need to apply for a loan. Unfortunately, not all banks or funding institutions will cover a loan to pay off a lease. 

Option 4: Ask For A Dealership Trade-In

If you don’t have the funds to buy out your existing lease, consider a trade-in. Dealerships thrive on trade-ins. Often, they’re happy to allow you to trade in your leased vehicle to get a new lease or car loan as long as you’re keeping their business.

However, trading with a dealership often comes with a significant downside: wholesale value. Because the vehicle has depreciated with your use, dealers typically offer a trade-in well below what you might get selling the car privately. 

Additionally, if you’ve gone over your allotted mileage, you’ll have to pay the excess fees with most trade-ins. Still, you can usually get a great dealer with the dealership as a return customer without going through the hoops of funding a car buy-out loan.

The Three Main Risks of Lease Swaps or Upgrades

When it comes to getting out of or changing leases, there are some significant risks to keep in mind before you get started:

Liability Risk 

If you choose to swap your lease, you may find yourself faced with continued liability regardless of if you’re driving the vehicle or not. For example, if the new leaseholder fails to make payments, retain insurance, or accrues excess mileage or wear and tear, you may still be liable as the original leaser. 

Therefore, if you want to swap your lease, it’s essential to verify that you will not hold any liability once the keys leave your hands. If a swap is your only option and you can’t get one without liability rules, try to swap leases with a trustworthy individual with good credit and payment history who is less likely to put you in a tough place than the original leaser.

Credit Risk

Swapping leases and some lease restructures can damage your credit. Just like requesting new credit lines can reduce your credit, changing lease terms can do the same if presented as a new contract or lease.

Most dealerships require a credit check and decent credit scores for a new or changing lease. Additionally, if you’ve swapped leases and the new leaseholder fails to follow through with their terms, your credit can take a severe hit.

Repetitive Leasing Risks

While not a credit or liability problem, asking for repetitive leases without upholding your original terms can leave a bad taste in your car dealership’s mouth. So, if you need a lease change, make sure your next lease is one you can uphold through completion to prevent any soured relations with your dealer or bank.

Ready to Return A Leased Car Early? Remember These Tips!

If you have settled on returning your leased car using one of the methods as mentioned earlier, you’ll want to do it right the first time to avoid headaches and high costs. So keep these things in mind as you prepare to return your leased vehicle to the dealership:

Watch Out For Early Termination Fees

If you are buying out your current lease or looking to trade in your vehicle to the dealership, you may find yourself slapped with early termination fees. Your contract generally establishes these fees in writing, and you can usually look them up yourself. Occasionally, you can roll early termination fees into your new car lease.

Shop For “Pull-Ahead” or Incentives

If you’ve leased vehicles for quite some time, chances are you have received a pull-ahead offer at one point or another. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a pull-out offer is simply your dealership offering to let you get a new vehicle lease without paying early termination costs. 

Not all dealerships offer pull-ahead offers or leasing incentives year-round. So keep an eye out for the holiday and end-of-year sales when dealers are more likely to provide lease incentives.

Consider Negotiating With A New Dealership For A Lease Payoff

If your dealership isn’t offering any incentives, but another reputable dealership in town is, you may be able to get the new dealership to pay off your old lease in return for your new business. Before signing your new contract, be sure to negotiate a clear contract that removes you from all liability on your previous lease. 

Ask At The End of the Month!

Dealerships are more likely to make a deal when the end of the month rolls around. They need to fill quotas and meet goals; you need to make a good deal. The end of the month is the prime time for negotiating lease changes or trades with your dealership. 

Do Your Research and Come Prepared

If you’re about to sign a new lease, make sure that whatever vehicle you’re selecting will stick around for the entire lease term. The FTC highly recommends you read all of the paperwork before signing anything.

Families and expecting parents should look for cars with ample room for growth, safety features, and quality warranties. Don’t let a salesman talk you into a vehicle you are unsure of; select two or three you’ve researched extensively, test drive them, and walk away from the lot knowing you have a car, SUV, or van that will last you through your lease term. 

Parting Thoughts On Changing Car Leases

Signing a car lease is no small matter. Getting out of one can be difficult and cause a lot of stress and hardship on the leaser if done incorrectly. Be sure to do your research on all the options available to you, including lease swaps and trade-ins, before trying to terminate your lease early.

If you have any concerns or need help making the right decision, reach out to your lending institution or ask your family lawyer to review your lease contract. Most importantly, take your time making any lease-related decisions to prevent future headaches, such as repossession with your new lease.

Author

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren