Ask Bark: Why Won't They Buy Back My Lease?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
ask bark why wont they buy back my lease

As I look at all of the questions I’ve received via the Ask Bark inbox over the years, I find that a disproportionate number of them are on the topic of leasing. In all honesty, leasing isn’t that hard to understand. You’re paying the cost of depreciation over the time you use the car, plus interest. Of course, there are other factors involved, and one of those is what happens when a leased car is returned to the dealership. Our friend, Brian, a longtime TTAC reader, turned in his Buick Regal recently and was a little compuzzled (that’s a word my son made up, but I think it fits perfectly here) about what happened. Let’s read.Hi Bark:I had previously asked this to a certain Jalopnik car sales expert and got a bit of a glib, didn’t really read my question answer so I thought I would take another stab and reach out to an actual expert.Back in May I turned in a leased 2016 Buick Regal GS (FWD – auto – black) and I got stuck with the $495 disposition fee. I took over the lease from someone else and I got a pretty darn good deal so I really can’t complain too much.I took the car to several GM/Buick dealers toward the end of the term to see if they wanted to buy it. It was in good shape and it was almost 10k miles under the maximum. The residual was $19k and change plus taxes and fees. I knew I wasn’t going to make money on it, I really just wanted them to take it at residual and relieve me of the disposition fee obligation. The closest offer I got was $18k with most around $16k. One dealer told me they would pay the leasing company the residual themselves in order to keep it on the lot if they wanted to sell it.Is this true? The dealership I turned it in to wouldn’t buy it from me but they kept it and sold it on their used lot. Did they actually pay the leasing company the residual to keep it and if so, why not buy it from me at the same price?Can you enlighten me?Thanks,BrianCan I? You bet I can.

First of all, let’s look at some auction results for the 2016 Buick Regal GS. The average Manheim auction value looks to be about $16,000 — hence your typical offer from the dealers. Nobody is going to pay$19k for your car when they can go and get one just like it for $3,000 less at the auction. Of course, you don’t have access to Manheim auction results (and if Cox Automotive would ever get around to cleaning up logins, neither would I), but MMR (or Manheim Market Report) value is one of the more common ways that dealers value cars. So mystery number one is solved.

Now, as far as the other question — no, the dealers don’t necessarily have to pay residual value to keep the car, and they likely didn’t. Lease auctions don’t work the same way as regular auctions. The captive finance companies have their own lanes. They’re typically restricted to dealers from that make, so only Buick dealers would have the right to bid on your Regal, for example, when GM Financial runs it through their lane. If it doesn’t sell there, then the leasing company would likely run it through a regular auction lane.

Your Regal isn’t exactly a hot seller, so GM Financial may have offered your dealer the car at a significant discount from residual in order to avoid having to take it to the auction and paying the transportation and auction fees to Manheim to sell it. Your dealer probably pulled the MMR, offered GM Financial something in the range of that, and they took it. It’s a win-win — the dealership gets a good piece of inventory at a low price, and the leasing company is free of the albatross that is a used Buick. (Hi Stu!)

Another option in this case, if you wanted to avoid paying the fees, would have been a private sale. KBB estimates a Private Party value of $18,500 for a 2016 Regal GS with 36,000 miles (I guessed), so you still might have come up a bit short of the payoff.

You also could have asked the dealer to eat some value on a trade-in, if there was another new, deeply discounted Buick that you were interested in. There’s alllll sorts of ways that the dealer could have hidden that negative equity on your car to make a new car deal happen.

But perhaps the best option, if you actually liked the Regal, would have been to offer to buy the car at, say, $16,500 from the dealer. They pay GM Financial $16,000 for it, they make $500 on you, and you’re now the proud owner of a nice, lightly owned Buick.

That being said, all of this is, of course, hindsight at this point. But now you (and other readers) know your options when you go to return a lease.

Send your questions to the Ask Bark inbox at and wait patiently for a very, very average response.

Join the conversation
5 of 110 comments
  • Bodayguy Bodayguy on Oct 31, 2019

    One other advantage to leasing (I don't lease often tho): With CarFax these days, if you get into any sort of accident, the value of your car takes a hit, too. But with a lease, so long as you repair the car correctly, you can still return it with no issue. So the leasing company takes the risk, not you. I had a Mustang GT that I tried to trade in back in 2014 or something. It had a small fender bender, but because the CarFax listed damage, my trade-in value was dinged. It wasn't perfect for the dealer to resell! If I had leased, I don't have to worry about it. And I can still buy the car after the three-year lease, I just did a convoluted finance essentially.

  • Mathias Mathias on Oct 31, 2019

    I'm late to the party but would like to chime in... First of all, he disposition fee is common but a weird beast. I'm on my third Cruze lease in a row, though I did not "serially lease" in the sense that I gave up one car and picked up the next one. Probably should have, but never mind that. Regarding the advantages of leasing: Those are as stated. I probably won't lease again, I hate driving someone else's car. And no, it's not the same as having a loan. With a loan, it's your car and you can do what you want; you also owe some money. Unless you've paid off your mortgage, the concept of "cash" is rather theoretical. I look at it this way: When financing, I have to ask if I may buy the car... when I lease, I also have to ask whether I may, pretty please, sell it when I'm tired of it. I don't like it, but it's worked for me. The first car I turned in, I expect I paid the dispo fee, though I don't remember. It was two months shy of the 24 months lease period, but I was out of miles. No pre-turnin inspection, no charges. I "think" there was no turn-in fee as part of the contract with the bank. Ally? GMAC? I forget... The second car was a strange experience in that it cost me less than nothing. $1040 paid up front for two years, then I got a $500 "bonus cash" check in the mail, essentially paying me back some of my taxes & fees. I LOVE the General. I turned that in with nearly half a year left on the lease but again, I was almost out of miles. I waited for the bill to arrive, but was never charged the disposition fee, which was part of the contract. Lease #3 is still in the garage; half a year and 4k miles left. We'll see how this one goes, but I don't expect I'll lease again. Just picked up a 220k mile Mazda6 MT for $500, which is much more my speed ;) Finally, Bark is right about the mechanics of leasing and dealers buying the lease returns. Chrishs2000 is either trolling, mistaken, or has reading comprehension issues. This business with "There is no negotiation that you can do with the dealership or the captive to modify your contractual obligations" is just silly. Taking my lease as an example; I can fulfill my "contractual obligations" by paying the stated residual value of $13,800 + tax/fees and driving "my" car home. That would be stupid, because an '18 Cruze MT ain't worth more than $10 to $11 at the auction. Or by turning the car in, making any remaining payments + dispo fee + any repair charges. AFTER I'VE DONE THAT, there is nothing that keeps the dealer from buying the car for its auction value of ~ $10,500, and me buying it from them for whatever we negotiate. Where in all this did I not live up to my agreements? I've run into this attitude before, with otherwise sane people. I don't get where the righteous indignation comes from, but it's widespread. Let's hope it's not contagious. We'll leave the question of "where's the missing $3,300" as an exercise to the student. It's not rocket science.

    • See 2 previous
    • Mark "Bark M." Baruth Mark "Bark M." Baruth on Nov 01, 2019

      Thanks for stating all this so neatly and cleanly---better than I did!

  • Redapple2 My dad s buddy got a tire thru the windshield. DRT -dead right there.
  • Redapple2 Hope they fix the:1 ride. worse than a corvette2 seating position. ankles at the height of my butt is UNCOMFORTABLE .As is. Horrible truck
  • Redapple2 One time; doing time; for a long time.
  • Robert Good! Those things are hideous.
  • ScarecrowRepair Road trips by myself -- cherry tomatoes or seedless grapes. Gotcher nutrition, gotcher water, bite-sized, no sticky fingers. Light lunch, maybe; normal dinner.