Short-term car leases (What you need to know)
Yes, you can get a 1 year car lease, a 6 month car lease, and even a 3 month car lease. But is it actually a good idea?
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Let's look at the pros and cons of a short-term car lease. But first...
What is a Short-Term Car Lease?
Leasing a car is similar to renting an apartment. You make regular monthly payments to use the car, but you don’t own it at the end of the payment term. After a lease ends, you must return the car to the dealership, or, if you have a lease buyout option you can purchase the car.
A long-term car lease typically means you’re leasing a vehicle for two years or longer.
On the other hand, a short-term car lease means you're leasing a vehicle under two years, and even as short as a one month lease.
Is a short-term lease the same as a one-pay lease?
No, a one-pay lease can be for any term length, you just combine all the payments and make it up front to save on interest.
Pros and Cons of Short-Term Leases
There are some people for whom getting a car for a short-period of time absolutely makes sense. Your normal car could be getting repaired or perhaps you were temporarily relocated or are taking a long vacation. Whatever your reason, there are a variety of considerations.
Here are the advantages of a short-term lease.
- You have a much smaller commitment versus buying or long term lease options. Needing a car for a short period of time is the primary reason people look into short-term leases.
- You can potentially avoid service or repair work. If you time it correctly, you can often miss the major service intervals that come at 60,000, 90,000 or later mileage marks that can save you thousands of dollars at a dealership.
- You can save money compared to primary lessees. Members of the military who must relocate or those that no longer need their vehicle may be likely to offer a good deal to take on their remaining lease payments.
- You can get the same benefits as the original lessee if you go through a dealership. Many car dealerships offer roadside assistance or local maintenance plans for people who lease. This can save you money compared to going through a private seller.
Here are the disadvantages of a short-term lease.
- You never build up equity in the car. Your car payments do not go towards ownership and you will likely need to lease another car at the end of your lease term.
- You are still responsible for whatever terms are set by either the rental car company or the car dealership, especially when it comes to mileage limits.
- There is a very small pool of vehicles available so you may need to search over longer distances or wait for a reasonable fit, rather than get the exact vehicle you want.
Negotiating a Short-Term Car Lease
For payment terms closer to two years, you can negotiate a lease like long term leases. Look for published lease deals and negotiate the car price first as if you were buying and ask to use that as your capitalized cost.
For short payment terms you are better off searching websites like swap-a-lease for people looking to transfer their lease. Being flexible in your leasing arrangements can pay dividends. You are likely going to find available leases to take over from people who can no longer afford their lease or people who are dealing with changing life circumstances.
Alternatively, you can go to rental car agencies like Budget or Enterprise and find out about their long-term car rental programs. (Anything over 2 weeks is considered long-term when renting a car).
Frequently Asked Questions
You can go to rental car agencies and ask about their long-term car rentals. Or you can assume someone else's lease. There are marketplaces that are designed to help match current lessees with people looking for a new vehicle for two years or less. Read where to find short term leases.
Yes a 1 month car lease is possible, but extremely hard to find. Your best bet for a 1 or 3 month lease would be a long-term car rental. Read where to find short term leases.
A 6 month lease is typically the shortest period of time unless you search really hard. Read where to find short term leases.