Dear Driving for Dollars,
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I want to turn in my leased car early because I have a new job that is requiring me to drive more miles than the mileage allowance. I'd like to replace it with a used car. How will the dealer treat the payments still left on my leased car when I go to trade it in?
Car leases work differently than car loans, and you generally can't simply trade in a leased car before the lease is up in the same way you can with a car with an outstanding loan balance. Car leases are a contract for you to use the car for a specific time period, and there are penalties for backing out of the lease early.
There are two things you can do to get out of your current car lease with minimal financial impact and possibly avoid penalties altogether. First, you can go to a dealer that carries the brand of car you leased -- it does not have to be the dealer you originally leased the car from -- and you can see if the managers there will allow you to turn in the car early for another car lease. You can sometimes do that without a penalty, depending on the automaker.
If you definitely want to own a car and do not want to lease, then check your lease agreement to see if it allows for a lease transfer. If it does, then you can get someone else to take over your lease by either finding someone on your own or by using a reputable lease transfer company, such as SwapALease.com or LeaseTrader.com.
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