How Not To Get Scammed On Your Car Lease

Bad Credit automobile leasing has been praised as a more attractive option to purchasing a car, offering in the process the flexibility to drive a new car for less. The reality, however, is that leasing is an option that is fraught with many pitfalls for the average customer. Leasing regulation does not require as much disclosure as buying a vehicle. This has given rise to many leasing scams that trick the customer into believing they are into a good deal when, in effect, all they are getting is a rough deal on the dealer’s terms.

Take a peek at a few of the common scams and how you can avoid being ripped off by them:

1. Unnaturally low interest rates:

Some bad credit auto dealers will offer up a lower interest rate when actually it is a good deal higher because they are quoting the money factor as the interest rate or possibly estimating the loan without amortizing some fees into the loan lease. For instance, the money factor is generally expressed as a 4 decimal figure, something like 0.004. Many of the less reputable bad credit vehicle lenders cite this as a 4% rate of interest when, it really should be multiplied by 24 to reach a closer approximation of the interest rate on your loan. Therefore, the interest rate is very much higher at 9.6% and not the rate of 4%.

Make a point of understanding all the numbers and what method the lender used to arrive at their interest rate. Look out for any additional fees, such as amortization costs, not added into the calculation. If you’re not satisfied, do not sign any lease aggreements without a better understanding.

2. You may end your lease early for a low fee

This is the biggest scam of all and the one that I fell for the first time I ever took out a lease. The lender told me I could definitely end my vehicle lease early and it would only cost me an ‘early termination fee’ of $400. Guess what… that was only the small administrative penalty for early termination, NOT the actual ‘early termination fee’. This can run into the thousands of dollars.

Do not confuse the early termination administrative penalty with the termination fee. Read the small print carefully and know exactly how much you will get charged should you terminate your lease before its scheduled end.

3. Why pay for an extended warranty

Another game that the car dealers like to play is offering you an extended warranty – to protect your investment. The only investment that will be protected here is the dealer’s profit. 99% of the time on auto leases, the extended warranty is included in your monthly lease payments. So obviously you don’t need to pay for it again. If they do convince you to go for the extended warranty, which by the way, you SHOULDN’T, you need to look carefully at the contract you’re signing as you may be buying a 3 year warranty for a 2 year lease. Not too smart – on your part.

There are some more things that the dealer can add onto your lease, or even sneak in on you. Just be careful that you examine all the documents thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line. I hope you have gotten some new knowledge from this article on auto lease scams.

When Gap Car Insurance Isn’t Necessary

Gap auto insurance, in case you didn’t know, picks up the tab if your car is totaled and you owe more than it’s worth. Although gap insurance coverage can be purchased for as little as $30 a year it isn’t always necessary.

One instance is if you pay cash for your new car; if you don’t have an unpaid loan balance, there is no financing gap to worry about.

However, paid for or not, a new car will still depreciate at the same rate. In this case you might want to look at New Car Replacement Insurance.

New car replacement insurance is offered by a number of carriers for different lengths of time. Some insurers offer replacement insurance for only a month while others, such as Allstate, offer a plan where “you may be able to get a totally new car” if totaled in the first three model years.

A second instance when you would not need gap insurance is if you put at least 20% down. In most cases if you put 20% down the rate at which the car loan is paid down should track pretty close to the depreciated value of your car.

Another situation where you might not need gap protection is if you lease a new or used car. In many states, such as New York, gap insurance is mandated by law to be included in the quoted lease payment amount.

Yet despite this there are unscrupulous sales people who will try to sell you gap insurance anyway – and it won’t come cheap. The gap insurance sold by car dealerships today is a high profit add on much like upholstery protection or under carriage coating was years ago.

The average one time payment for gap insurance purchased from a car dealer averages around $548. This is almost 5 times more than it would cost if purchased from a major insurance carrier for as long as you needed it.

The last example illustrates why you would need gap insurance, but for only a short period of time.

The recent loosening of bank purse strings has also meant lower car financing rates for both new and used cars. As a matter of fact the rates are very similar. At these new low rates the outstanding loan balance and depreciated car value quickly reach parity – usually within two years.

However, that first year of car ownership is still a killer for car values. For instance, if you borrowed $40,000 for 60 months at 6% with zero down, 20% of the loan would be paid in the first year but your car would have depreciated 25%. This would leave you owing roughly $2,500 more than the insurance company would pay out if your car was totaled during the first year of ownership.

But, as previously mentioned, during the second year of ownership the value or your car and the loan balance would even out. So although you won’t be able to eliminate the purchase of gap insurance entirely, you would only need it for the first year of ownership.

Auto Repossession Before Bankruptcy

The other day I received a call where an individual asked me whether filing bankruptcy would allow for a car that has been repossessed to be returned. Although my response probably failed to satisfy the caller (the usual attorney response of it depends), here is what is required in California (at least how the courts have viewed the law).

Background

In most vehicle contracts the lender retains a right to repossess a vehicle if the borrower fails to make the scheduled payments. With many contracts, this repossession can be done outside of any court proceedings.

However, once an individual files for bankruptcy many of the rules change. For one, an automatic stay is implemented. This stay prevents most actions against the debtor (individual that files for bankruptcy). Specifically, the automatic stay strictly prohibits any lawsuit or repossession against a debtor that is delinquent on car loan payments. Any repossession after a bankruptcy petition is filed constitutes a violation of the automatic stay, with the repossession void and of no effect. In that case, the lender would be immediately required to return the vehicle to the debtor.

Effect of Bankruptcy on Prepetition Repossession

Section 542 of the Bankruptcy Code requires that entities in possession of “property of the bankruptcy estate” are generally required to turn the property over to either the trustee (in Chapter 7) or the debtor (in Chapter 13). This big sticking point then for this turnover requirement is determining what is “property of the estate.”

Section 541 of the Bankruptcy Code defines property of the estate. This definition includes “all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in possession as of the commencement of the case.” Basically this definition states that whatever rights the debtor has at the commencement of the case continue in bankruptcy. As for the vehicle that has been repossessed, the court has to discover what rights a debtor had when the bankruptcy case was filed.

These rights are determine by state law (California State law). Under the California Civil Code (section 2983.2), a debtor has the right to redeem a repossessed vehicle up until the date the car is sold by the repossessing lender.

Two recent cases have come to different conclusions as to whether turnover of the vehicle is required upon the filing of the bankruptcy petition. First, in a case from the Southern District of California (In re: Fitch, 1998), the bankruptcy court held that while a repossessed car is property of the estate, the right to possess the car was transferred to the lender prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition. The court interpreted the statutes to mean that the automatic stay freezes the positions of the debtor and creditors. Thus, the lender had the right to maintain possession. The court did state that a vehicle could be returned to a debtor upon the debtor’s giving of adequate protection. In most cases adequate protection means the establishing of proof of insurance and proof that the debtor will be able to make the regular payments on the car.

In the Northern District of California (In re: Cortez, 2010), the Bankruptcy Court interpreted the Bankruptcy Code, and specifically the section on the automatic stay, to mean that a “knowing retention of estate property violates… the automatic stay.” Because a debtor has the right to redeem until the date of a sale by the lender, the vehicle remains part of the estate, and subject to turnover. In this case, the debtor provided adequate protection to the secured creditor. However, the court seemed to say that it was not necessary for turnover.

What to do?

If your car has been repossessed, and you want to make sure you retain possession, bankruptcy may be a solution if you are not able to pay the balance before a lender’s sale. However, while the Northern District seemed to state that adequate assurance is not necessary for turnover, it will ultimately be necessary to avoid a lender’s motion for relief from the automatic stay. Be prepared to show (a) insurance, (b) regular and sufficient income, and (c) an ability to pay for the vehicle.