Car leases are short, ranging from 24 to 48 months, and you may be wondering what happens next once your lease is up. The good news is you have a number of options to choose from. The bad news is that you need to get the vehicle ready if you don't plan on keeping it.

Three Choices at the End of a Lease

What Happens at the End of a Car Lease?Leasing is a great way to get a new model without having to shell out many more thousands of dollars to buy it. It’s convenient, and you get a brand new car every few years if you continue to lease. But, you don’t have to continue leasing, as there are three options you can choose from when your lease is up:

  1. Walk away – If you decided you want something else, you can simply walk away. Whatever the reason, you aren’t forced to keep it once the lease term is up.
  2. Buy the vehicle – If you loved the car you leased and want to keep driving it, you can choose to purchase it at the agreed-upon price at the end of the lease (or possibly even negotiate a lower price).
  3. Lease again – If you liked the leasing process and want to lease another new vehicle, you can give the current car back and pick another one to lease.

It all depends on what you need out of a vehicle, what you’re able to afford, and whether or not your current lease worked well for you. You can always ask the lessor any questions you have about specifics.

Getting You and Your Car Ready for the End of the Lease

If you decide to return the vehicle rather than buy it, it's time to get it ready. To prepare the car for the end of the lease term, make sure you do these four things:

  1. Check its condition – If you plan on either leasing again or walking away, you first have to turn the vehicle in. Before you do this, check its condition and mileage. The car should only have normal wear and tear present. If any repairs are needed, they should be done before you head to the dealer. If the vehicle has excessive wear and tear according to leasing standards, you could end up paying extra fees. In addition, check that the car hasn’t exceeded the mileage limit. If it has, and you didn’t pay for extra miles, you typically need to pay around 25 cents per mile for going over the mileage limit.
  2. Clean it up – The dealership is going to inspect the vehicle for cosmetic damage, so clean the interior and exterior. You want it looking as new as possible, so make sure all trash is taken out, stains are gone, and dust is removed. You can have it detailed, but you can clean it yourself if you want to save money.
  3. Plan out the next lease – Once you return the car, you can sit down with the dealer and plan for your next lease if that's what you want to do. Think about what you liked and disliked about your last lease, and have a new vehicle and budget in mind.
  4. Negotiate strategically – Just like financing, you should negotiate the total cost of the car. Take it step by step and negotiate on different costs one at a time. Don’t get distracted and jump from negotiating the transaction price to the monthly payment.

Even if you do end up keeping the vehicle, it doesn't hurt to make sure it's in good condition by following these steps.

The Bottom Line

Leasing is a great option for consumers who want to drive a new car every few years at a reasonable cost. However, not everyone can qualify for a lease, especially if their credit is less than perfect.

Although we can’t help with leasing, Auto Credit Express can help connect you to a dealership that has the lending resources available. The dealers in our network are experts at helping borrowers in unique credit situations get financed. Start the process today by submitting our free and easy auto loan request form, and we’ll get right to work.