FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – If you’ve tried to buy your car, truck or SUV out of your current lease you may have been knocked out of the driver’s seat with huge fees and dealership demands that aren’t in the contract.
With inventory shortages and the enormous surge in used car prices, more people than ever are buying out their leases.
Juan Carlos Beltran thought buying out of his lease for his 2018 Volkswagen Passat would be easy. After all, he had the signed contract.
He said everything was spelled out three years ago when he leased the Passat, including the residual value. That’s the agreed amount he can buy the car for at the end of the lease.
Also on his contact was a spot for purchase fees. It read “NA” -- Not applicable.
Beltran, therefore, thought he would just have to pay the residual and the taxes, but he was wrong.
His first surprise came when he called VW Credit – technically, they own the car and he’s been making lease payments to them.
In the past, you could simply cut them a check and the car was yours.
Beltran was told that now you have to go through the dealer to buy out the lease. He said they claimed it was state law, which it is not.
Beltran took his Passat to Gunther VW in Fort Lauderdale where it came from, which is where the second surprise comes in.
“They needed you in order to buy this car, to certify it, correct? Meaning there was going to be a fee for their mechanic to look at it, tell you what was wrong with it?” Local 10 investigative reporter Jeff Weiniser asked.
“That’s right. On top of other fees,” Beltran said.
“On top of a dealer fee?” Weinsier asked.
“Correct, yes,” Beltran responded.
Beltran said the only way Gunther would sell him his car was to certify it with an average cost of over an additional $900, plus he’d have to pay to fix anything that Gunther mechanics found wrong. There would also be a $989 dealer fee on top of that.
Remember he paid a dealer fee when he leased the car three years ago, now another? To buy out the car he’s already driving?
“Did you tell them I don’t want the car to be certified?” Weinsier asked.
Beltran said he did, but the dealership told him, “that is what it is.”
“Completely disappointed, feeling like being ripped off,” he added.
Beltran decided to go to another VW dealership – this one on Bird Road.
“‘We cannot do anything for you because you did not buy the car here.’ Basically, ‘go away,’” he said.
“So my first reaction was, ‘Excuse me? Where in this contract we have together am I required to pay you a dealer fee or pay to have it certified?’ Their simple answer is, it wasn’t in their contract, it’s their store policy -- their dealer policy,” VW client and attorney Jonathan Kane said.
Kane was hit with the same scenario when he tried to buy his daughter’s Jetta out of their lease, also at Gunther VW.
He was told he had to pay an unexpected dealer fee plus a forced certification.
“This was our car, and it was staying our car,” Kane said. “If it had bald tires and (was) out of warranty, that was going to be my problem.”
“I felt like I was being ripped off and that is not a good feeling,” he added.
Kane was a loyal Gunther customer, having bought or leased four vehicles there in the past.
“I certainly wasn’t going to pay something I didn’t think I owed,” he said.
Since January, we have been trying to get someone from Gunther to answer questions about the forced certification on lease buy-outs, but we’ve been ignored.
When Weinsier showed up to the dealership, he was asked to leave by the general manager.
“Why are you all forcing people to certify their cars?” Weinsier asked. “We wouldn’t be in this position if someone would answer the questions.”
“Sir, sir. This is private property. Legally you cannot record here. I need you to leave,” the manager said.
“Can someone answer the question? In an email?” Weinsier asked.
“I need you to leave,” the manager responded.
“At some point you got backed into a wall and said, ‘I’m going to file a complaint with Broward County?’” Weinsier asked Kane.
“Absolutely,” he responded.
And within a week, Gunther agreed to process Kane’s buy out according to the contract -- no fees, no forced certification.
We sent Beltran to Rick Case VW and he also paid no fees and now owns his Passat.
Volkswagen of America and VW Credit didn’t respond to repeated emails with questions from Local 10 News.
So why are finance companies sending you to the dealer in the first place??
We can’t get a straight answer.
What appears to be happening in the state of Florida is that if you sell more than three cars a year, you need a dealer’s license and finance companies and banks don’t have them, so they are forcing you to the dealer.
The dealer makes no money doing the paper work to facilitate you buying the lease, so some dealers appear to be coming up with creative ways to make a buck on their end.
Frankly, the dealer wants you to turn the car in because in current market, they can put it on their lot and make thousands more than your buyout.
The bottom line is fight against the additional charges and file a complaint with your county and the state.
Below are resources on how to file those complaints:
You do not have to buy the car from the dealer you leased it from. If the manufacturers and the dealers have an issue, they need to work it out and not put consumers on a path to a freeway full of fees.