the monthly rates at which new cars are advertised in many car dealerships are temptingly low. Even luxury models often cost less than 500 euros a month. However, consumers should take a close look and exercise caution. The problems usually come at the end of the contract.
It sounds so good: for just a few hundred euros a month, a new car in the color and equipment of your choice is waiting at your doorstep – leasing makes it possible. "the big end usually comes at the end," warns attorney yasmin dome. various clauses in the contract could easily result in four-digit additional costs, and then you would still be left without a car: "many companies don’t even offer the option of buying the car in the end."
While car owners often closely compare different insurance policies, this is usually included in the lease agreement. But that can be expensive, warns bianca boss of the federation of insured persons. Your tip: "if certain clauses don’t match your own ideas, you should separate the leasing and insurance contracts." most problems, however, occur in connection with the value of the car at the end of the contract, says lawyer dome. This almost always plays a role, regardless of the type of contract.
mileage and residual value critical for leasing
With mileage leasing, the customer is allowed to drive the number of kilometers specified in the contract over the term of the lease. Additional kilometers must be paid for separately. With residual value leasing, the leasing bank sells the car at the end of the contract for a certain residual value, usually to a third party, but sometimes also to the previous customer. If the bank does not achieve the desired price, in some contracts the previous user of the car must pay the difference.
Experts warn against such contracts because the market value depends on factors that the customer cannot influence. "when the scrappage scheme came along, new cars were suddenly more attractive than three-year-old leased returns," recalls christian janeczek of the traffic law working group of the german lawyers’ association (DAV). Sometimes an oversupply also influences the price, adds dome. "do i want to buy or not, you should keep this option open at the end of the contract," she advises.
scratches and stains reduce the residual value
But even if the residual value is fixed in the contract, the car is appraised by an expert before it is handed over. "it’s always a question of whether a scratch in the paint or a spot on the seat is a normal sign of use," explains janeczek. If it is a normal wear and tear, the leasing company has to live with it. If it is a sign of "excessive use", the customer must compensate for the reduction in value, according to the dresden lawyer.
In the latter case, the surveyor often tries to pass on the costs for the complete repair to the lessee. "But only the reduction in value is permissible," says janeczek. In addition, no sales tax may be charged for this reduction in value, which is also often attempted. lawyer dome advises that when the contract is signed, you should be assured that you will have a say in the choice of expert or that you will have a veto right. "if you know someone, you can have that person included in the contract."if you don’t know an expert, you can get information from a traffic lawyer.
Additional mileage can be really expensive with leasing
If the car has been in an accident during the leasing period, the lessor can claim a reduction in value at the end of the contract, even if the car has been properly and professionally repaired, says janeczek. additional insurance can be taken out against this, with some companies such insurance is also a component of the contract.
There can also be unpleasant surprises if the car has been driven more than specified. not moving the car when the meter is approaching the agreed mileage mark is certainly an excessive reaction, says the dresden lawyer. "but if i’m planning longer trips at the weekend, i should check with rental companies – there are definitely offers where i can jet all over germany for 100 euros at the weekend."
Accidents can really cost money
In Janeczek’s experience, many customers underestimate the impact of an accident. "if a car worth 30,000 euros is totaled after twelve weeks, i will only be reimbursed the replacement value," he explains. "but if i have only paid 1000 euros at this point, the bank wants money for this difference."
For such cases, there is a so-called gap insurance, which covers the gap. "gap") compensates. According to Janeczek, this usually costs no more than a single-digit euro amount per month and is cheaper than fully comprehensive insurance, which replaces the nominal value of the car in the first few months.
If you know all the pitfalls of leasing, you may see the low monthly rates in a new light. Yasmin dome therefore often advises private individuals who do not work as self-employed persons against a leasing contract. If you can’t afford a new car, you should take advantage of other people’s leases and buy a three-year old return model, she says: "It’s cheaper that way." (dpa)
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