Car Buying

Can You Lease a Used Car?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2014

There are many reasons why some drivers prefer leasing a new car to buying one. Leasing allows drivers to frequently get a new car, because most leases often last for only 2 to 4 years. Lease payments are often less expensive than finance payments. Leases also usually require less money down upfront. Are these benefits offered with a used car? We took a closer look at lease options for drivers interested in a pre-owned vehicle.

Used-Car Leases

In short, it is possible to lease a used car, but it might be difficult and undesirable to do so. When we say "difficult," we mean that it may be hard to find a specific vehicle; there aren't many companies that lease used vehicles. Offering a lease on a used vehicle can be a risky business, because it's difficult to know how a used-car's value may change over time. The risk isn't as serious in the world of new cars, since there aren't as many variables affecting a vehicle's value after 3 years as there may be after 6 or 8 years.

In terms of desirability, most shoppers will probably find that leasing a used car isn't always the best idea due to expense. Here's what we mean: If you lease a 3-year-old car that's out of warranty, you'll be on the hook for any maintenance or repairs the car needs over the period of your lease. This will be a problem for most drivers, since they will be paying out of pocket to repair a car they don't own. Imagine paying to fix a house you are renting, and you'll understand why this isn't a desirable possibility.

Taking Over a Lease

If you are still interested in leasing a car that isn't completely new, one option you may want to consider is taking over an existing lease. Although this isn't very common, it's certainly done, and there are several websites available that facilitate lease takeovers between an original lessor and someone who wants to lease a car for an even shorter term than a traditional lease.

Although this is probably an easier way to get a leased vehicle than trying to find a leasing company that's willing to provide a used-car lease, it isn't without its own problems. For one, you'll need to be approved by the current automaker or the leasing company, and that process often takes a significant amount of time. You'll also be on the hook for repairs necessary at the end of the lease, including repairing any damage done by the original driver. You'll have to look closely at the contract to see if the lease requires any additional costs when the term ends.

Good Idea?

In general, we suggest buying rather than leasing if you're looking for a used vehicle. The process is simpler, there's less risk and it's far easier to find a used car for sale than for lease. Still, we could think of situations where leasing might be preferable to buying. If that's the case, our only recommendation is that you be sure to do your homework and carefully examine any terms or conditions before you sign the papers.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Can You Lease a Used Car? - Autotrader