How to Trade in Your Car and Lease New

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Think “trade in” and your mind probably equates that action with purchasing a new car. Although the majority of trade ins are for a purchase — new or used — you can also trade in your vehicle toward a new car lease. Just as a trade in can function as a down payment for a purchase, the equity in your car can reduce your monthly lease payments. Certainly, there are some relevant points you should consider before you offer your current vehicle as a down payment for a new car lease.
Lease Principles

There are two matters to clear up first about new car leasing before we examine this subject further.

First, leasing is not the same as car renting. Leasing is based on the vehicle’s value when you sign the contract; it estimates the vehicle’s residual value at contract end. The most significant factor here is depreciation, representing the declining value of new cars over two, three or four or more years.

Car renting is typically a short-term business contract between you and a car rental company. You agree to borrow a car for a certain amount of days or weeks and then you return it. The rental rate is based largely on the rental company’s daily rate, insurance surcharges and mileage overage fees.

Second, with a lease you never own the vehicle, unless you opt to purchase it as stipulated in the contract. There are two types of car leases available: closed-end and open-end leases. A closed-end lease is also known as a “walkaway lease,” a contractual agreement that is settled when the lease term ends. In other words, a customer may return the vehicle to the dealership, sign paperwork and then walk away. There may be additional expenditures disclosed, such as wear and tear and mileage overage costs, but the contract ends once all obligations are satisfied.

With an open-end lease, also known as a “finance lease,” you will face a balloon payment at lease end. For instance, this means that you either must come up with the funds to make the payment or you will need to finance the vehicle. As you might guess, the overwhelming choice is for the lease option that lets you walk away — a closed-end lease.

Buy or Lease

Approximately 11 percent of people pay cash for a new car, according to CNW Market Research. Another 70 percent finance their new vehicles, and the rest choose to lease.

Leasing has grown in significance in recent years as the price of new cars continues to rise. That $42,000 sport coupe you have your eye on would cost you dearly to purchase. If you put 20 percent down ($8,400), you are looking at financing $33,600. Finance that amount for five years at 4 percent interest and you will be facing payments of about $619 per month. Not too many people can afford a big down payment and high monthly payments, let alone the insurance, taxes and tags that would drive up the final cost.

With leasing, the amount you would pay per month is based on what the car’s projected worth is at the end of the lease. That same $42,000 sport coupe might drop in value to $26,000 after three years, representing its residual value. Thus, your lease would be based on the $16,000 remaining, not the vehicle’s full purchase price. Without other costs considered, you are looking at a lease payment of $472 per month, which is about $147 lower than the monthly payments in the financing example.

Car lease deals vary, with some arrangements requiring no money down and as much as several thousand dollars required before you sign and drive. Even with most no money down leases, you will usually be required to make at least the first monthly payment before you leave the showroom.

Lease Down Payment

Now let’s say you have a car you want to trade in and use its value (equity) as a down payment. That’s understandable, especially if a $472 per month lease payment is still a stretch.

To get a new car dealer’s perspective, CARFAX turned to Rob Lombard, owner of Lombard Ford, Inc., in Barkhamsted, Conn., to get his take on trading in the car you currently own outright and using its equity as a down payment for a lease.

Lombard says the first matter any reputable dealer should address is to qualify the customer for the lease, which means verifying whether or not a lease is a good option for the buyer.

“If a customer comes in and says that he puts 50,000 miles per year on the vehicle, the likelihood is that person cannot afford the monthly payment,” says Lombard. Lease payments are based, in part, on the amount of miles per year a lessee plans to drive. The higher the mileage limit, the more the customer will pay each month. Moreover, if a customer underestimates his or her mileage, an overcharge will be assessed at the end of the lease for each additional mile driven. Therefore, it is critical to make an accurate mileage estimate.

When asked about down payments, Lombard remarks, “We try to talk people out of large down payments as they do nothing on leases, but camouflage the real cost of driving that car.”

Still, if customers want to trade their vehicle in for a lease, no dealer, including Lombard, is likely to refuse them. Further, customers should do their homework and know the value of their car and negotiate with the dealer just as they would if they were financing.

The Bottom Line

Leasing a car allows consumers to get behind the wheel of a newer and more expensive vehicle than what they might be able to obtain through financing. Lombard warns that consumers should read the fine print prior to signing a lease contract, to ensure that they are aware of all costs related to the transaction.

By | 2018-02-13T20:58:16+00:00 January 26th, 2015|Car Buying|32 Comments


  1. Tamoka Putmon October 21, 2015 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Can I use my trade in as a down payment?

    • Lynn Massicotte March 2, 2016 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      Can I trade in my jaguar 2002 for a used car or a new lease

    • Chris August 25, 2016 at 8:21 pm - Reply

      My lease will be up August 2017. I would like to continue to lease. My question is, will I need to put another down payment on the new car I’ll be leasing?

      • Debbie Patrick January 20, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

        We are currently leasing a 2015 Rav 4 and would like to switch to a new Tacoma, we paid $3000.00 down at the time of the lease signing, will we need a down payment on the Tacoma?

        • Esteban Rincon April 13, 2017 at 11:05 pm - Reply

          If you want lowered payments then, yeah

      • Carol February 15, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

        We just turned in our 2014 Cr-V for a 2017 HR-V. But I don’t like it, can I turn it in on a new Jeep lease! What would that involve?

    • DAWG November 2, 2016 at 2:07 pm - Reply


  2. Irene burns November 6, 2015 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I want to trade my 98 cutlass in for a use car

  3. Debbie Bilbo December 13, 2015 at 11:02 am - Reply

    I have a 2015 Kia Optima with less than 8900 miles but I am upside down in the vehicle… .would it be possible for me to lease…thx

    • Paula January 11, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      I also have a 2014 vehichle I have that I’m upside down with and too was wondering if this is possible to trade in for lease

    • Juan February 12, 2016 at 4:38 pm - Reply

      I too have the same question have they reply to you

      • Richard Spencer March 2, 2016 at 4:38 pm - Reply

        I owe a small amount above what my truck is worth I’d like to lease an ecomical car what would you advise ?

  4. Anna January 4, 2016 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    I would like to trade my car in if that possible

  5. Anthony January 25, 2016 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Can I trade in my 2003 grand Marquis

  6. Thomas February 28, 2016 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    I want to trade my 1999 ford explorer for a newer car

  7. michael archer March 5, 2016 at 6:47 am - Reply

    want to trade my 2004 truck 4 wheel drive f-150 x-cab its black

  8. Victoria March 7, 2016 at 9:22 am - Reply

    I have a 2008 Honda Civic EX with 93,000 miles. However, Honda just put in a brand new motor, a brand new clutch, and I just got a brand new ac. I want to trade it in to purchase something else but I want my payments relatively low. I don’t want to lease and my credit is very good. Options with no money down?

  9. Kathleen March 10, 2016 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I leased a 2016 Santa Fe in Dec 2016 now have 1300 miles on it don’t like it realize I wanted a all 4 drive car this is a 2 wheel is there some way other than paying it off to trade it for other car?

  10. Paul empty May 20, 2016 at 2:52 am - Reply

    I have a car on finance can I get a lease?

  11. Jean June 26, 2016 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    I am trying to figure out if there is a formula for how much each $1000 in trade-in value reduces a lease payment?

  12. ray June 27, 2016 at 8:10 am - Reply

    I’m thinking of leasing.what happens after the lease is over,and you want a new you have to put another down payment or what?

  13. JR September 20, 2016 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    I have a 2015 Audi A3 with 1 more year left on the lease. The car has 33,400 miles. My work commute has gotten longer as we recently relocated our facilities. I’m looking to get a more fuel efficient car and don’t mind leasing or buying. I want to get the new Chevy Volt. I have several friends who drive a Volt and have nothing but great things to say not to mention the amount of gas money saved. Can I trade in my Audi to Chevy? What sort of penalties can I expect?

    • Ray Hull April 11, 2017 at 2:42 am - Reply

      Roughly 35$ per 1000

  14. George September 23, 2016 at 9:42 am - Reply

    If I trade in a car and have $12000 equity in the car and only want to use part of that as a down payment for a lease. Do I get cash back for the difference?

    • Dona gavin October 2, 2016 at 2:54 pm - Reply

      2013 veloster 25k mi. Want to buy or lease a Honda CR-V
      Best way to go?

  15. Emily September 26, 2016 at 8:08 am - Reply

    My name is Emily I want to trade my 1998 dodge intrepid es for a used car

  16. Rod October 15, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    I have a 2008 Nissan Altima SL 4door 74300 miles I still own 8400, want to trade in for a 2014 _ 2015 SUV 7 passenger, with no money down,. Is this realistic and double, with out going broke

  17. Lynn October 24, 2016 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    I have a 2016 Saraha Jeep & leased in June of this year. I put 8300 as a Down Payment so I could get a low monthly paymently. Can I now turn that in an lease a Grand Limited? Also would I have to put more money down? How do they determine the credit score & where do they get it? I have good credit but it only came in at 690? Thank You.

  18. Mary December 30, 2016 at 12:36 am - Reply

    Can you trade in 2 cars for one car to lease

  19. Brandon Thao January 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Let’s say i down $5,000 on a lease. Will it go towards the car at the end of my lease if i decide to buy it?

  20. Antonio Ramirez March 14, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I have a VW Jetta & low mileage, I am financing it; I want to turn it in and get a small SUV

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