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Buying & Leasing a Car

A Smart Reason to Cash Out Your Car Lease

You might be able to sell your leased vehicle yourself and keep the profits.

A contract is a contract, right? You sign on the dotted line and agree to certain terms. With a car lease, you agree to pay "X" amount for, say, 36 months, and at the end of the lease term you can either buy the vehicle or turn it in. But there’s a third option listed in your contract, although it’s unlikely any dealer will mention it: You can sell your leased car yourself before the end of the lease.

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Some dealers are contacting lessees to offer a sweet deal on a new leased vehicle. In leasing lingo, this is called a "pull-ahead program." The new monthly payments might even be lower than what you are paying now. It sounds great, but don’t take the bait—at least not yet. The fact that they are reaching out to lessees means they want your car and they are confident they can turn around and sell it for a profit.

You may be able to pull the profit out of the car yourself. Go to Kelley Blue Book or and find the used car dealer price for your model. Then call your leasing company and find out what your current payoff amount is, including the remaining payments, the cost to buy the car and the termination fee of perhaps a few hundred dollars.

When your total payoff is less than what the car is worth, it makes sense to sell it yourself. A dealer or CarMax can appraise the car, contact the leasing company for the payoff quote and write you a check for the difference. If you’d rather try your hand at boosting your profit by selling the car to an individual, will handle the paperwork for $495 so the title transfers directly to the new owner and sales tax is paid only once.

Wondering whether you should buy or lease your next car? Take our quiz to find out.