Aaron Widmar
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Should I Buy a Previously Leased Car?

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Woman shopper looking under the hood of a car at a dealership with a salesman

Buying a used car is a great way to save money when you’re shopping for a new ride. A vehicle that’s a couple of years old can cost a fraction of what it did brand-new simply through depreciation.

Many used cars on the market that are only 2-3 years old were probably former leases. These returned to dealership lots after the lessee returned the vehicle, and now the dealer is selling the car as a pre-owned product. But is buying a previously leased car a good idea? Or should you eliminate off-lease vehicles from your search?

The Smart Choice: Why buying a used car is a wise investment

Pros and cons of buying a previously leased car

As with most pre-owned cars, the advantage of buying a previously leased car comes down to how the former owner treated it.

On one hand, the lessee may have been overly cautious because of the many constraints that the lessor (the dealership) put on the vehicle in the lease contract. Lease agreements limit how many miles the driver can put on the odometer each year, so an off-lease car typically has low mileage for its age.

The lease return involves a meticulous inspection to ensure the vehicle was not severely damaged. Many drivers will take extra care of their leased car knowing that they’ll be charged excessively for any damage. Plus, the dealership takes care of maintenance on leased cars to ensure they’re in good condition to resell when the contract ends.

However, a lessee may have been reckless with their car because they technically are “borrowing” it for a limited period and plan to ditch it when they’re done. Drivers with this mindset will ride the car hard and not treat it as well as they would have if they fully bought and owned it. When it comes time for the return inspection, unscrupulous drivers will do whatever they can to hide any damage as a “quick fix” rather than actually repairing the problems.

The best way to verify if a particular off-lease car is a good investment is to check the service records. If there’s anything suspicious — or the car doesn’t have any records — then walk away. Most off-lease cars, though, will have meticulous records to abide by contract maintenance terms.

In many cases, a formerly leased car can be in pristine condition inside and out, and it can nab you a great price on more elite models. Like with any pre-owned purchase though, you should thoroughly inspect it before buying it.