Make a contact, sell a contract

You say you want to lease your next set of wheels rather than buying?

Proceed with caution.

Financing is where auto dealers make most of their money. And leasing is essentially another form of financing, one in which monthly payments stay low for a while (if you put down a big chunk of change up front), only to balloon in a colossal "last payment."

You can forgo that final step, of course. You didn't want the car for keeps, anyway. But then you'll likely meet with a blizzard of fees.

Leasing agents plan on profiting from you even after they cover the car's depreciation. (A new vehicle usually loses about half its value after four years.)

Rapid depreciation, of course, is also a reason some people dislike owning cars. Still, buying booms.

In the early part of this year, new cars were snapped up like Oreos at a preschool, continuing their "recession"-defying trend.

Credit the auto industry, as some observers note, for putting out a surprising number of alluring new models. (No-interest financing no doubt also helped considerably.)

If you're a lessee with regrets about not having bought, or someone out to land a lease – maybe to get into that Ferrari Maranello you can't afford to own – you'll want to know about a new wrinkle in leasing: services that facilitate trading.

Its operating theory: Somewhere, someone feels saddled with a leased car that no longer fits the bill.

And somewhere, someone else is prepared to assume that deal – assuming the monthly payments aren't staggering, or the mileage allowance isn't used up – to gain a short-term ride in a must-have car.

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