More drivers opting to leave car leases early

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A company that was created to help people walk away from their car leases early, seen a 29 percent increase in business in Colorado.

“Last year, people wanted out of their SUV leases because of gas prices,” said spokesman Evan Sneider. “Now, they want out of their leases because of the economy.”

People who want to sell their leases pay a one-time fee of $79 to place their car and as many photos as they’d like on the company’s Web site. People who want to buy a lease pay a membership fee of $39 to have access to the site. Buyers and sellers negotiate other parts of the transaction, including inspection fees and transportation.

LeaseTrader.com facilitates the transfer paperwork.

The company has been in business since 1998 and is now accepted as a way to get out of a lease by most major car dealers and their finance companies. People who want to buy leases must go through  a credit check, Sneider said.

“We were finding that we’d get the car they wanted and they would be interested in the lease, and then the finance company wouldn’t approve it because of their credit,” Sneider said. “Now, we pre-approve people, so that takes a hurdle out of the way.”

The business model appears to be working.

During 2008, the Denver-based company handled 45,000 lease transactions, and plans to handle 60,000 this year. The average payment balance is $10,700 in Colorado, and people want to get rid of their Jeep Grand Cherokees, Chevy Avalanches, Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Trail Blazers and BMW X3s.

“It’s a way to escape a lease you can no longer afford and downsize into something less expensive,” Sneider said. “It doesn’t affect your credit at all. This program is an option to help people walk away from their lease.”