A year ago, people who were laid-off or had to take a pay cut were finding ways to get out of their leases or get into a more affordable vehicle. These lessees had trouble making the payments and with the strict lease contract rules, they turned to lease transfer companies to help them get out of their leases and find someone to take over the payments.
Swapalease.com says that just one year later, it has witnessed a shift in consumer behavior, especially in recent weeks. The site’s users are more commonly saying that their motivation for transferring a lease is based on desire rather than being forced to do so from a monetary perspective.
"Last year at this time we saw clients needing to get out of their leases for financial relief," says Scot Hall, executive vice president of operations at Swapalease.com. "Now more clients want to get out of their lease to pursue new vehicle opportunities as opposed to having to do so."
The site’s clients are asked to choose from the following three reasons as to why they want to get out of their lease:
- Lifestyle changes (ex. baby on the way and the convertible has to go)
- Financially troubled (ex. job loss, pay cut)
- Want/desire (ex. time for a new vehicle, I want to try something different)
Swapalease.com representatives, who Hall says handle thousands of calls a day in and out of the company’s headquarters, compiled answers from these informal exit surveys.
"At times in 2009 we were seeing ‘financially troubled’ stated as the reason for exiting a lease as high as 50 percent, whereas over our history, we more commonly saw results in the 20 percent to 30 percent range," Hall says. "Both late first quarter and April data indicate that the percentage of our clients stating financial trouble as their motivation is trending downward and has dropped into the high 30 percent range. Additionally, we have seen the opposite trend for want and/or desire based motivations being stated by clients climbing above 25 percent."
Bill Perilli, who works in corporate finance in Washington, D.C., is currently trying to get out of his lease and then potentially into another one using Swapalease.com. Although Perilli and his wife need to get out of their BMW 135i convertible because they have a baby on the way, they are looking to get into a similarly-priced Mercedes-Benz ML 350 SUV.
"Typically, on Swapaplease.com you can benefit from someone else’s down payment," Perilli says.
With a baby on the way, Perilli and his wife are looking to take over the lease payments on a more family-friendly vehicle, like the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV.
Perilli also took over the payments from the previous owner on his current BMW 135i convertible without having to put anything down. By using Swapalease.com to get out of and into leases instead of leasing through a dealership, Perilli said he is "absolutely" saving money.
When asked about the want versus need trend that Swapalease.com is seeing recently, Perilli says he thought there would be more people who need to get out of their luxury cars through the site.
"I actually expected to see a lot more high-end cars than are currently listed on Swapalease, so I expected to see a little increase," he says. "But however, I think some of the people who leased expensive cars were savvy enough to not put themselves into a situation that they couldn’t handle financially, even with the economic downturn."
Dr. Jill Perel, a psychotherapist from Delray Beach, Fla., recently got out of her BMW 650i convertible lease through Swapalease.com.
"I did not like the car from the day I brought it home," Perel says. "It was too big on the outside, too small on the inside and it had bad visibility for me. I live in South Florida and I never used the convertible. It was too sunny and I couldn’t see with it down."
"Seriously from the day I brought it home I was like ‘ugh’, maybe I’ll get used to it. A few months went by and I was like, ‘you know what? This is a really expensive car and I just don’t appreciate it.’ I had it for a year and a half with a year and a half left on the lease. And I would have done it a whole lot sooner if I had known about Swapalease. I just didn’t know about it."
Perel says she posted her BMW on the site early in the morning and later that day, there was a huge response of people who wanted to take over her lease.
"I put it on the market at 9:00 in the morning, and there was someone in my driveway waiting to test drive it at 6:00 that night," she says. "It was an amazing experience."
Perel says her monthly lease payment was $939 for the BMW.
"I had a low lease payment for what the car was," she says. "Essentially, it was below $1,000 for that car, which blew a lot of people away. They didn’t have to put any money down and they could just take it over. I had a waiting list of people for that car."
Perel’s BMW 650i was a huge hit on the site, especially since the payment was less than $1,000 a month for the $85,000+ car.
Perel says she didn’t put a down payment on the BMW when she leased it and that she got a good deal at the time. Perel chose a new Lexus 250h to replace her BMW convertible, which she leased from a Lexus dealership instead of going through a lease transfer site to take over a lease on one.
"I got a hybrid and got a brand new model that I don’t even think Swapalease would begin to have, so that was my reason (for going through a dealership)," Perel says. "I love it."
Perel says that in South Florida, there are a lot of high-end cars on the road.
"That’s where Swapalease does well," she says. "Because with the high-end cars, the finance department takes care of everything and it’s going to draw a certain customer."
Hall says that currently on Swapalease.com, 10 percent of their listings are monthly lease payments $300 or less, 33 percent fall between $301 and $500 a month and 57 percent are $501 or higher.
Although Swapalease.com’s recent data shows that there are fewer people needing to get out of their leases due to economic hardship, there are still a large percentage of high lease payments advertised on the site.
So if you’re looking for one of the $199 a month lease deals, chances are you’ll have to go to the dealership. These low lease specials usually require several thousand dollars down and are subsidized by the manufacturer’s lender.
But if you’re in the market for a luxury vehicle, for example, and don’t want to put thousands of dollars down at the start of the lease, a site like Swapalease.com might be helpful. You can take over someone else’s luxury vehicle lease payments without paying a lot of money up-front.
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