Sometimes, your car's manufacturer will contact you before the end of your lease and offer you an "early return" or "accelerator" program that will let you turn your car in early and get a new one without any penalties. In a true early return program, the manufacturer forgives your remaining lease payments, acting as if your lease had simply ended early. If you planned to get a new car anyway, these early return deals can let you do it sooner.
Read the offer carefully. You can always turn in a leased car early, but doing it can be very expensive. In a true early return deal, the remaining payments don't get built into your new car's lease payment -- they get erased completely.
Clean up your car. If you're going to be turning it in, the leasing company will be inspecting it for wear and tear. The better condition your car is in, the less onerous their charges will be.
Time your purchase to maximize the value of the early return deal. If your manufacturer is offering to make your last four months' lease payments, returning your car six months early will leave you holding the bag for some portion of the two monthly payments that the company isn't covering. On the other hand, if you turn your car in one month early, you will have lost three months worth of free payments.
Negotiate for your new car as if there were no early return deal. While the early return offer helps you with your old car, it doesn't do anything to reduce the cost of your new car. As such, it's up to you to get its cost down as much as possible to reduce your final capitalized cost and reduce your lease payments.
Sign the agreement to lease your new car and turn in your old one.
- Find out if there are any alternative programs. For instance, if you have to give up a $3,000 rebate to get four $400 payments canceled, you're leaving a lot of money on the table. If you can't find this out from the written offer, your dealer should be able to tell you if there are any alternative factory incentives. If the incentive is worth more, and you think it'll still be available when your lease ends, you may want to consider waiting or using the incentive to pay off the remaining lease payments. In this example, you'd come out $1,400 ahead.
- If you're nearing your mileage allowance, an early-return deal can be a great way to get out of your lease before you go over your allotted amount of driving.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.