Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor at Edmunds Automotive Research, says signing a lease agreement is a little like getting married. It's a relatively easy task to accomplish but not nearly as easy to get out of. Once you've signed on the dotted line, you have obligated yourself to carry through the full term of your Mercedes-Benz lease, unless you want to pay a steep financial penalty.
Fortunately there are some alternatives.
What You Can Do
If you lose your job or experience a financial downturn, you may have to seek an end to "the marriage." The standard approach is to attempt to terminate the lease agreement with the dealer. However, to do so can cost you between $10,000 and $15,000, plus the $595 early turn-in fee Mercedes-Benz charges, at the time of publication. You can avoid this by leasing another Mercedes, but that's not the point, is it? You want out completely.
To the rescue come lease-trading companies. For a reasonable fee, these Web-based businesses pair people who want out of their leases with people who are looking to lease a car under the terms of your Mercedes-Benz lease. After they connect the two parties, lease-trading companies facilitate the legal process of transferring the lease. Two prominent companies that do this are LeaseTrader.com and Swaplease.
Potential Lease Assumers
Why would someone want to assume another person's automobile lease? There are a number of viable reasons. For example:
- To avoid a large down payment, which he may not have.
- A person may only want a short lease, say 24 months, versus the near-standard 36 months.
- Lease assumption can give a driver one of the main advantages of leasing -- a new car every two or three years.
- A person may be able to assume a lease for a lower monthly payment than what he is paying now.
- The driver may be able to assume the lease on a car that has few miles on it with the intention of buying the car when the lease ends.
Naturally, lease-trading companies charge a fee for what they do. However, the cost -- as low as $250, at the time of publication -- is far less than you would have to pay if you terminated the lease with the dealer. And the person assuming the lease pays most of the fees.
Things Are Changing
Mercedes are fashionable and desirable cars to drive but also expensive to purchase and maintain. So more people lease cars like Mercedes-Benz vehicles than other vehicles. This creates the potential for more people who may need to get out of their leases.
Looser Lease Restrictions
Initially, it was harder to swap a Mercedes-Benz lease because, like some of the the other car manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz required the original lease holder to retain some of the responsibility for the lease, even after transferring it to someone else. It was similar to cosigner on a loan: If the person who picked up the lease defaulted by not making a payment or going over the mileage limit, Mercedes-Benz held the original lease holder responsible. This is called "post-lease liability." But things have loosened. The company now appreciates that by being less strict with lease transfers and not requiring post-lease liability, it gains a driver of one of its vehicles and could very likely gain a future customer. So transferring a lease can be a win for both the company and customers.
So avoid steep financial penalties and perhaps do someone else a favor by transferring your auto lease if you need to get out of it.