Tips, Tricks & Trends

What to Do If Your Lease Expires in the Middle of a Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing so much uncertainty, car shopping is one of many activities that has been significantly impacted — it’s no longer as simple as just walking into a dealership. This affects not just new buyers, but repeat customers as well. If your auto lease is expiring soon, you may be wondering what steps you need to take. Fortunately, you have several options — including lease extensions, Consumer Reports says.

How COVID-19 is impacting the auto market

The pandemic is affecting the world in myriad unprecedented ways as U.S. unemployment rates hit record highs and people continue to avoid gathering in public places. This means that auto dealerships are taking a hit as many people are unwilling to shop and unable to spend significant amounts of money in the current economic situation. Many dealerships have even closed for safety.

If you can’t simply go to the dealership and return your leased vehicle, though, what exactly should you do if your lease expires? It may not be as complicated as you’d think. Repeat customers, which have always been important to automakers, are even more vital as these businesses try to maintain profits in difficult economic times. As such, many automakers are being fairly flexible and offering different leasing options in order to maintain customer loyalty.

What your leasing options are

Consumer Reports spoke to a number of different automakers to explore the various available leasing options. As many people are struggling to keep up with the payments on their lease, some financing companies are beginning to offer payment deferrals — so even if you still have a bit of time before your lease expires, your dealership should be able to accommodate your financial needs if necessary.

If your lease is expiring soon and you want to return your vehicle, the majority of automakers are finding ways to make this as easy and straightforward as possible. Many automakers now offer home pickup and delivery, enabling you to complete the transaction online without needing to visit a dealership.

Finally, if you’d prefer to hold on to your vehicle rather than deal with returning it and choosing a new one, you’re in luck. Many lenders are fully willing to extend leases if need be.

How to extend your lease

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Given the unusual nature of the current situation, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed about how to proceed. Most automakers are extending leases on a case-by-case basis, so there is no clear set of guidelines as to what you may qualify for. Even so, there are steps you can take to ensure that the lease extension process goes smoothly if that’s what you opt for.

The most important thing you can do is communicate with your automaker as openly as possible. It wants to keep you as a customer, and so is likely willing to be flexible and adapt to your needs in order to maintain your loyalty.

In order to extend your lease, contact your dealer as soon as possible. While you may need to wait on hold for a while, the actual extension process shouldn’t take too long once you get through to a representative — and most leasing companies are willing to extend leases for a month or more. Additionally, while lease extensions would formerly have incurred additional fees, many leasing companies are currently waiving those fees in light of the pandemic. 

While these are stressful and uncertain times, an expiring lease doesn’t need to be one of your worries. Whether you choose to return your vehicle or get an extension, your lender should be willing and able to accommodate you and your specific needs.