The buyout option at the end of a car lease can be an attractive buying opportunity or a tool for damage control. Here are the times when you might want to stay with old faithful and make an offer on your current ride:
You are way over — or under — the allowed mileage
Most lease contracts are for three years and 36,000 miles. It you are over, you will owe money; if you are under, you could leave money on the table.
“Why pay two or three grand in mileage penalties and have nothing to show for it?” said Matt Jones, a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. “Not only that, but buying the car will save you the disposition fee.”
Your car has excess wear and tear
If your car has a collection of indiscretions — scrapes, dings or tears in the upholstery — you could be looking at penalties for excess wear and tear. But if you buy the car, you won’t be charged for the damage or the disposition fee, and you can fix the bumps and bruises when, and if, you want, said Paul Maloney, owner of Car Leasing Concierge.
You negotiate a lower buyout price
Buying your leased car saves the leasing company shipping and auction fees. To negotiate a reduced buyout price, you will need to talk to a lease-end manager at the leasing company who has the power to approve lower prices. Banks writing leases may be more likely to negotiate than automakers’ finance companies.
Your friend wants to buy your leased car
If you buy the car then sell it to a friend, you will have to pay sales tax. Instead, see if the finance manager at a local dealership will do a “lease pass-through.” Basically, the dealer buys the car from you and immediately sells it to your friend. You aren’t charged sales tax and the dealer makes a few hundred dollars for moving paper. You do not want the hassle of car shopping
If you like your car, compare the buyout price to the retail price on Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book. If it’s a fair deal, skip the dealership and send the lease company a check. Keep in mind, however, that you won’t be protected by the bumper-to-bumper warranty which is typically for three years and 36,000 miles. But the powertrain warranty might still be in effect.