What You Should Know About Short-Term Car Leases – Forbes Advisor

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If you need a car but don’t want to buy one, leasing a vehicle could be a good option. While traditional leases typically last two to five years, some leasing companies and dealerships also offer short-term auto leases that allow you to keep a vehicle for a briefer period of time.

These shorter leases are less common than longer alternatives, but they can be a helpful way to access a vehicle without committing to a lengthy contract. But there are also some disadvantages to keep in mind before choosing this kind of financing.

Here’s what you should know about short-term car leases.

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What Is a Short-term Auto Lease?

A short-term auto lease is one that comes with a briefer leasing period than most traditional leases—usually two years or less. Because the leasing period is shorter, you’ll typically make higher car payments with this type of lease compared to a longer one.

You can use our auto lease calculator to estimate how much a short-term lease might cost you.

Short-term Car Lease Options

If you’re interested in a short-term car lease, here are a few options to consider:

Lease Takeover

If someone wants to get out of their car lease, you might be able to step in and take over the remainder of their term. This could be a good choice if you want to sidestep having to make a down payment on a new lease, which is sometimes required if you have poor credit. However, keep in mind that with this option, the original lease price, mileage limits and other terms will stay the same as what the original lessee agreed to and can’t be renegotiated.

While you can find someone wanting to exit a lease yourself, it could be easier to use a third-party platform like LeaseTrader or Swapalease.com. Not only do sites like this help drivers find leases that are currently available, but they also streamline the transfer of the lease from one party to another.

Long-term Rental

Long-term rentals, also known as mini leases, are offered by many car rental companies as an alternative to more traditional lease options. With this kind of arrangement, you won’t have to sign a lease contract and can return the car at any time—or even exchange it for another make and model.

Additionally, long-term car rentals generally aren’t subject to mileage restrictions like traditional leases. However, this type of rental will likely be more expensive than what you’d pay to take over a lease.

Traditional Lease

You could also simply get a traditional lease with a shorter term. However, because this kind of lease is less common, you might have to shop around with multiple leasing companies and dealerships to find one.

This might be a good choice if you’d like to negotiate terms from scratch instead of stepping into an existing lease. Just remember that a short-term lease will typically cost more than longer options.

How to Find a Short-term Auto Lease

If a short-term lease seems right for you, here are a few places to find one:

Car Dealerships

Dealerships are a primary source for traditional lease arrangements, but some also offer short-term options. If you’d like to work with a dealer, it’s a good idea to do your research beforehand to decide what kind of car you want to drive and to shop around to compare your price options from several local dealerships. Also consider any down payment requirements as well as mileage limits to find the best deal.

Lease Takeover Platforms

There are several online platforms that connect drivers who want to exit their auto leases with people who want to take over a lease. Popular options include Swapalease.com, LeaseTrader and QuitALease.com. To use this kind of tool, you’ll need to visit the site and search listings based on various factors such as the type of car you want, location, length of time remaining on the lease and how much you can afford to pay each month.

If you find a lease you’d like to take over, you’ll have to register as a buyer, then contact the seller. Afterward, you can initiate the transfer process through the takeover platform, which will work with you, the seller and the leasing company to complete the transaction.

Car Rental Companies

If you prefer a more flexible approach, a long-term car rental might be the optimal choice. You’ll need to research local car rental companies to see what options are available, then book the rental either online or over the phone.

You could also consider a travel agency platform like Kayak or a car-sharing site like Turo to search for local long-term car rentals. With these kinds of sites, you can choose a vehicle type and rental period as well as pick-up and drop-off locations as you would with a traditional car rental.

Is a Short-term Car Lease a Good Idea?

While short-term car leases can be a good option in some cases, they aren’t the right choice for everyone. Consider these pros and cons to help you decide if this kind of lease is a good idea for your situation:

Pros of a Short-term Car Lease

  • Shorter commitment: A short-term lease usually lasts for two years or less while traditional options can extend for up to five years. This can be helpful if you only need the vehicle temporarily, such as if you frequently relocate or are a military service member.
  • Faster access to new cars: With a short-term lease, you’ll be able to switch to a different, newer car more quickly.
  • Might save you money: If you opt to take over an existing lease, you’ll likely pay less per month compared to if you sign up for a new short-term lease. You also won’t have to worry about a down payment.

Cons of a Short-term Car Lease

  • Limited availability: Short-term leases can be harder to find than traditional leases with longer terms.
  • Higher monthly payments: Monthly lease payments are based on the expected depreciation during your term as well as sales taxes, fees and the rent charge. Because this cost will be crammed into a shorter period of time, you’ll likely end up with higher monthly payments than you would with a longer lease. However, you could avoid this by taking over an existing lease with lower payments.
  • Mileage limits: Unlike when you buy a car, you’ll have to agree to mileage limits when you sign a car lease—typically 12,000 or 15,000 miles per year. If you want to take over a lease, you might get stuck with even lower limits.

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