(Image: Ford)

Some people lease a car and decide they like it so much they would rather keep it. Completing what’s known as a lease buyout is usually fairly straightforward, but a lot of people don’t realize that a trip to the dealership is not required to purchase your leased vehicle.

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I got a note from a reader who wanted to buy out his Volkswagen Passat at the conclusion of the lease, but due to the massive Takata airbag recall, the dealer refused to sell him the car.

This comes from Kinja user W124-4EVER -

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I’m currently leasing a 2013 VW Passat. My lease is ending on April 1, and because I like the car (and I am over my allotted miles), I’ve decided to buy it off lease. I’ve done this before, and it should be a simple process — contact the dealer, set up financing, show up and sign the paperwork.

Everything was all set. The Passat needed a state inspection and its 40k service, so I scheduled the service, dropped off the car the night before, and arranged to sign the paperwork the next day after the service was completed. Sounds easy enough, right?

The dealer’s finance manager called me and told be that he couldn’t sell me the car. That’s right, VW dealer was refusing to sell me my own car. Why? There was an open recall for the Takata airbag. No remedy was available, so it would not be fixed anytime soon, certainly not within the two remaining weeks of my lease. I had a heated discussion with the dealer, but no luck. They wouldn’t budge. They had a bulletin from VW stating that they could not sell any cars with an open recall for Takata airbags. They literally had 10 pre-owned Passats sitting on the back lot that they weren’t able to sell.

The reason the dealerships are refusing to sell these cars is quite simple: they can be held liable if they sold a car with an open recall and the owner was injured or killed in the event of an accident related to the recalled part. Because the dealerships don’t want to get sued, they are abiding by the automaker’s service bulletin.

But what if you wanted to buy the car anyway knowing that you may have the equivalent of a Claymore mine in front of your face? Perhaps you don’t have a leased car that is subject to a recall but wanted to buy it out without having to go to the dealership.

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If you buy out a lease through the dealership, it is really no different than purchasing a used car—except for the dealer to facilitate the paperwork, they are going to tack on some fees which can range from $200 to up to $800, depending on where you live. Sometimes the small fee is worth it to have a faster more streamlined process, but it is possible to buy a lease out on your own, and you may save some money doing so.

The first thing you need to do is contact the leasing company and get a buyout number. This is going to be the residual value that was established at the start of your lease plus whatever the remaining lease payments are. Your local sales tax will also be added to the total purchase price.

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The next step is to apply for financing. You will want shop around to see where you can get the best rate, so check out other major lenders, your local bank or credit union.

The tricky part is if you want to use some kind of down payment. When I bought out my Mazda lease, I wanted to put some cash down so I was not paying interest on the sales tax. A lot of the leaders didn’t want this extra hassle and only would write the check for the full payoff amount. However, my local bank handled this process just fine.

Once you get the financing squared away, the lender will send payment to the lease company and they will then send the title to the lender. You will have to take some paperwork to the DMV to process the registration and tags. That’s it!

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If you don’t mind some legwork on your part and a trip to the DMV, you can buy out your lease, keep some money in your pocket and avoid the awkward conversation with the finance guy about “protecting your investment.”