Buying a Previously Leased Car

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If you're in the market for a used car, it's worth considering a previously leased, or “off lease," vehicle. With a previously leased car, you can find yourself buying a nearly new vehicle with low mileage and an impeccable maintenance record. You might even score one that's still under factory warranty—meaning most repairs will be taken care of by the manufacturer until the amount of time left on the warranty period expires.

Previously Leased vs. Used Cars

Unlike cars that are purchased either from a dealer or a private party, leased cars are essentially a long-term rental. But while rental cars aren't always treated with the utmost care, drivers are expected to meet strict criteria throughout the duration of their lease— they are required to turn in their vehicle in very good condition, or pay costly fines.

Used cars, whether purchased for cash or financed, are not held to any dealership criteria. This means a previously leased car may be in such good condition that it may qualify as a certified pre-owned vehicle without any updates or maintenance by the dealership. For a used car to qualify, it has to meet very strict criteria set up by the dealership—standards usually only achieved by the most meticulously careful drivers.

Buying an Off-Lease Vehicle

Many dealerships love to promote their previously leased vehicles for sale. You can also look for car auctions, where leasing and financing companies sell vehicles either turned in or repossessed for delinquent payments.

When choosing a previously leased vehicle, or any used car for that matter, it's important to consider the following:

  • Vehicle age.
  • Odometer reading.
  • Interior wear and tear.
  • Exterior damage.
  • Alterations (interior or exterior).
  • Service record.

With a previously leased vehicle, you should find positive results to each of these checkpoints. If you find that the vehicle you are contemplating shows results that are not what you were hoping for, consider a different vehicle. There will always be another that meets your criteria.

Protecting Your Leased Car Purchase

After buying a used car, whether it's a previously leased vehicle, a certified pre-owned vehicle, or a used car you fell in love with after a test drive, there are a few things to always keep in mind.

  • Check the VIN history: Use an online service to check your potential car's VIN history report. Unreported accidents or maintenance won't appear here, but you will definitely get a clearer picture of your car's history to date.
  • Do a pre-purchase inspection: Even a previously leased car should be inspected by you or someone you trust. If the dealership doesn't allow you to do this, don't buy the car.
  • Consider a service contract (extended warranty): If your potential vehicle is not a certified pre-owned vehicle, whether it was a lease trade in or not, you should consider protecting your purchase with a service contract, commonly referred to as an extended auto warranty.
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