NEW YORK (MainStreet)Car leases come with strings, but that doesn't make them any less attractive to consumers who are short on cash. Market analysts pointed to record levels of leasing at the top of the yeara trend that will probably continue well into the third and fourth quarters.
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That said, leasing remains tricky, because its strings are so pronouncedincluding the expense of trying to get out of a contract, mid-stream. There's an alternative, thoughand all you need is a smartphone.
Cincinnati-based Swapalease.comthe digital marketplace where you can find people to take over an unwanted car leaseis reporting that up to 25% of its transactions involve text messaging, up from 5% in 2010. And, when you think about how much of your day is spent both hunched over your iPhone and driving your leased car, it was inevitable that the two worlds would come together.
You can browse Swapalease.com for free, but the membership threshold for the site is a $59.95 fee to join the "Buyer's Club," which offers direct access to sellers, discounted vehicle inspections, "Swap Garage" to track cars you're interested in and a few other perks.
The big difference? Virtually no time spent on an asphalt Hades with only a meek "just looking" smile to ward off slick car sales guys named Vic, Rick or Mick.
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"The fact that buyers can avoid dealers is a side effect, and a welcomed one, but we typically find that the cost savings is the biggest driver for our members," says Scot Hall, executive vice president of operations for Swapalease.com.
"If you're looking to get out of a lease, you need to come up with a lot of cash or carry over a fair bit of negative equity into your next car," Hall notes. "So, if you transfer out, instead, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars."
The savings for the buyer has less to do with cash and more to do with mitigating risk. "People like the short-term nature of taking over a lease mid-stream," says Hall. "It affords them a lot of flexibility."
And, because the buyer is taking over an existing lease, renegotiating the lease's terms is not an option. With that out of the way, the curt nature of texting lends itself nicely to easy details like price, where to meet up and when.
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For Abicar Gonzales, a New Yorker who used the site to find a seller, Swaplease's ghost-in-the-machine approach was the best part of his experience.
"The process removed a lot of the fear of getting a bad deal with a brick-and-mortar dealer," he says. "I joined the site, found a seller, established a deal negotiated pricing, and set up a time to sign the paperworkall via text."
--Written by William Richards for MainStreet