With over 1 million car leases expiring in the coming months, many people face the question of how to safely handle their lease return or whether to return their vehicle at all as the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, pandemic continues.
What to Do if Your Lease Expires During Coronavirus
Who to call for help on your expiring lease
What if you are in a high-risk group and don't want to leave your home? Or what if the dealership isn't open? Some states have enacted strict stay-at-home or shelter-in-place measures, limiting the sorts of businesses that are allowed to remain open. These measures have affected the sales departments at a number of car dealerships around the nation.
We contacted a number of the top automakers to see what steps they are taking to help people whose leases are ending soon. Those we couldn't reach, we collected the relevant statements from their financial services websites. Here are some of the responses we received or what automakers have posted on their websites. We'll continue to update this article as we learn more.
What are my options?
While we are seeing some automakers, such as Porsche, offer deferred lease payments, most lessees will have to decide between (1) turning their lease in and leasing or buying a new vehicle or (2) extending their existing lease for a fixed term or on a month-to-month basis.
You'll note that many automaker finance companies want customers to contact them directly by phone to discuss their options. Calling will take longer than usual since many customers have similar concerns, plus the companies are likely running lower-staffed call centers as part of national social-distancing recommendations. Keep this in mind and please be patient with call center employees who are trying to help.
Because of the high volume of calls, a number of auto lease companies such as Chase Auto, General Motors and Nissan will automatically extend customers' leases if they haven't heard from them by the end of the lease. That gives customers more options and reduces the stress at the call centers, but you'll need to make sure your lessor offers this service. We've pointed a few of these out below, but we also recommend checking your mailbox for a formal letter or head to your finance company's COVID-19 web page for more information.
A note about lease extensions
Keep in mind that if you choose to extend your lease, you'll likely have to pay for another year of vehicle registration even if the extension is only for a month. This shouldn't make it a deal-breaker, but make sure to factor that into your calculations and check with your state Department of Motor Vehicles on exact fees.
Next steps if you choose to turn your lease in
The first thing to do is figure out how to safely return your leased vehicle. If you don't feel comfortable visiting a dealership, call to find out if the dealer is willing to pick the car up from you. Some companies, such as Mazda, are explicitly offering home pickup with the caveat that you'll be billed later for any costs assessed in the post-lease inspection process.
COVID-19 lease policies and contact information
Audi Financial Services has released no statement but provides a number specifically for lease-end inquiries:
1-866-277-8191, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (EST) weekdays
BMW posted this short message on its website: "For those who have a lease expiring soon, contact a BMW Financial Services Customer Advocate to discuss your options."
BMW Financial Services: 1-800-578-5000
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which includes Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Alfa Romeo, posted the following on the Chrysler Capital website: "If you need help or have questions regarding your Chrysler Capital account resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, you can reach us by phone. We have programs in place to help customers experiencing difficulty due to the impact of the virus. However, we also ask for your patience as higher than normal call volumes may result in longer wait times. We will get to your call as quickly as possible."
Chrysler Capital: 1-855-563-5635
Chase Auto, which handles the leases for Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Mazda and Subaru, offered these two options:
"Lease-End Extension: If your lease is scheduled to end in the near future we'll automatically extend it. By continuing to make your monthly payments, you may extend the term of your Lease Agreement for up to six months to allow you extra time and flexibility. No phone call is needed to confirm your extension. You'll receive a letter or email from Chase for more information about the lease extension."
"Lease-End Vehicle Returns: If you don't wish to take advantage of the lease-end extension and want to coordinate the return of your vehicle, please follow these steps:
"Start by contacting your local dealer. If you are able to return your vehicle to the dealer, please notify us when that is complete via Chase's secure message center.
"If the dealership is closed, you can request a Home Pickup by completing our Home Pickup Request form (PDF) and returning it to us using the secure message center.
"You will also need to complete an Odometer Statement and leave it in your vehicle on the day it is scheduled to be picked up.
If you have other concerns, please send us a secure message or call us."
Chase Auto: 1-800-242-7396
Ford posted this short message on the Ford Credit website: "If you have been affected by COVID-19 or a natural disaster, access your Account Manager on the website. Or call a special hotline ... to discuss options."
Ford Credit coronavirus hotline: 1-800-723-4016
Genesis issued this statement in a news release: "To give current Genesis lessees options during these uncertain times, Genesis Finance has existing policies that allow customers to extend their lease. For example, if their lease term is coming to an end, and they are unable to acquire a new vehicle at this time, these options are available to all Genesis Finance customers, especially those impacted by COVID-19. We encourage Genesis Finance customers with lease maturities in the next 60 days to work with their retailer through email and/or phone to discuss their options."
Genesis Finance: 84-GENESIS-7 (844-363-7477), 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (EST) weekdays
General Motors, which includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, posted this on its website: "One-month lease extension: If you are unable or choose not to return your vehicle, we will process a one-month extension to allow you additional time. No need to contact us — if we don't hear from you 10 days after your original termination date, we will automatically extend your lease for one month. You will receive notification at the address we have on file for you. Later, if more time is needed, we will work with you on a solution that meets your needs. Review the lease extension guidelines before deciding to extend your lease. Some dealerships may close portions of their operations or have limited store hours. Contact your local dealership for details."
GM Financial: 1-800-284-2271 or text "INFO" to 53721
Honda has said its solutions will differ case by case but is offering 10-day grace periods for some customers. The automaker didn't comment on what would happen outside the 10-day period, so make sure you stay in touch with the company. The phone number varies by state, so click the following link to find your local Honda Financial Services contact number, available 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (local time) weekdays
Hyundai released a statement saying, "Hyundai Motor Finance has existing policies that allow customers to extend their current lease, including those customers impacted by COVID-19. We are closely monitoring the news about coronavirus (COVID-19) and are intent on ensuring our customers and dealers are cared for during this global health crisis."
Hyundai Motor Finance: 1-855-463-5378, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (EST) weekdays
Lexus told us, "Lexus Financial Services (LFS) are providing several options to assist lessees [who are] at or near the end of their lease and impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that many customers are facing challenges in the current environment and we have a variety of solutions that will help them during this difficult time. In order to provide the solution best suited to each customer’s needs, we invite LFS lessees to call or email using the Mail Center function after logging into LexusFinancial.com."
Lexus Financial Services: 1-800-874-7050, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays
Mazda is offering a choice between a six-month lease extension or a lease pickup at your home. The lease inspection will be conducted at a later time, so if there are any excess wear-and-tear fees, you'd presumably be billed at that point. Arrangements should be made with Mazda's lease termination specialists. You can find more information under Chase Auto, which services Mazda's financing.
Mazda Capital Services: 1-877-506-1198
Mercedes-Benz posted the following message on its website: "Our thoughts are with everyone impacted. If necessary, and when you are ready, please reach out to one of our qualified team members to discuss your situation. We are committed to assisting customers experiencing hardships. Our customer care centers remain open, but we ask for your patience as we are experiencing higher than normal call volumes and extended wait times."
Mercedes-Benz Financial Services: 1-800-654-6222
Nissan said, "For customers with expiring leases who might have difficulty going to a dealership due to a facility's closure or guidance by local officials, Nissan is offering a few options. This includes extending a current lease on a month-to-month basis until circumstances improve, facilitating the return at another nearby dealership, or even picking up the vehicle directly from the customer's home."
Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.: 1-800-778-4211, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. (EST) weekdays
Porsche issued this statement in a news release: "Porsche Financial Services is offering up to a six-month extension on lease contracts that are scheduled to mature through April 30, four months longer than the regular extension period, to give customers peace of mind that their mobility needs are secured."
Porsche Financial Services: 1-800-PORSCHE or send an email to email@example.com
Subaru told us, "We are working with lessees to extend their leases and will arrange to pick up the vehicle from their homes." You can find more information under Chase Auto, which services Subaru's financing.
Subaru Motors Finance: 1-866-401-9743
Toyota told us, "Toyota Financial Services (TFS) are providing several options to assist lessees [who are] at or near the end of their lease and impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that many customers are facing challenges in the current environment and we have a variety of solutions that will help them during this difficult time. In order to provide the solution best suited to each customer’s needs, we invite TFS lessees to call us or email using the Mail Center function after logging into ToyotaFinancial.com."
Toyota Financial Services: 1-800-874-8822, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (local time) weekdays
Volvo posted this message on its website: "If you have questions regarding lease turn-ins, please call Volvo Car Financial Services. You can also visit www.volvocarfinancialservices.com to access our self-service portal to complete an extension request or send a secure message regarding your account."
Volvo Car Financial Services: 1-866-499-6793
Volkswagen told us: "Customers can log in to their account and send a secure message to request to have their lease extended. Lease extensions up to six months are available. At the moment, at-home lease turn-in is not available."
Volkswagen Financial Services: 1-800-521-0171, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (EST) weekdays
Other consumer resources
How to reduce the risk of coronavirus in your vehicle: Whether in your personal car, a ride share, or even on public transit, we lay out how to minimize your risk of infection.
Q: What is a lease extension?
A: A lease extension is exactly what it sounds like — an extension of your lease terms for a number of months after the lease is scheduled to expire. This is a relatively straightforward process with your lending company, which will offer to extend your lease either on a monthly basis or for a specified period of time. Note that you might have to pay for another year of vehicle registration depending on when your lease was originally set to expire.
Q: How do I get out of a car lease?
A: Maybe you want to get into a new car, or perhaps your financial situation has changed. Whatever the situation, the end result is that you need to get out of your lease. If you're early on in your lease, finding someone willing to take over your lease is your best bet. There are lease-trading websites that connect people who want to get out of their lease with people who can take over payments. Keep in mind that not all lending companies allow lease swaps, and some require you to cover payments if the person who takes over your lease can no longer do so.
Beginning around the halfway mark in your lease, manufacturers and dealers start offering "pull-ahead incentives." Essentially, they will offer to get you out of your lease and into a new one. If you are near the end of your lease, you might have equity in your car, meaning the market value of your vehicle is higher than the residual value, plus whatever payments you still owe. You can use this equity as down payment on another lease, allowing you to get into a new car a little earlier.
Q: Can you negotiate the purchase price at end of lease?
A: The purchase price is specified at the beginning of the lease, and this is typically non-negotiable. But in some cases, the buyout amount (or residual value) of a vehicle is far greater than its market value at the time the lease ends. In this specific case, a lender might be willing to negotiate the buyout amount.
Q: How do you get money at the end of a leased car?
A: You can actually sell your car at any point during your lease, but it only makes financial sense to do so if the amount owed is less than the amount you can sell the car for. At the end of a lease, you can sell your car and pocket the difference between the selling price and the residual value. You can sell the vehicle in a private-party sale if you wish, but selling to a dealer is generally less risky.
Q: Is it worth buying a car at the end of a lease?
A: If the residual value is less than market value, it makes sense, purely from a financial standpoint, to buy your leased car. Even if the numbers are roughly equal, you might find it valuable to buy your leased car, especially since you know its upkeep and repair history.