Postpone buying a car by assuming a lease

Front end of gray car

If you can wait to replace your beater, you should.

This spring's devastating earthquake and tsunami has disrupted the flow of Japanese-made parts to assembly plants around the world, slowing production and driving up the price for all cars and trucks, new and used.

But if you must have a new ride now, here's an idea for driving a temporary replacement until prices come back down: Take over the final months of someone else's lease.

Web sites like LeaseTrader.com and Swapalease.com are just two sites matching consumers who want to get out of their auto lease with car shoppers looking for a short-term ride.

According to LeaseTrader, nearly 28% of current leases have less than 12 months remaining on them, up 6 percentage points from 2009.

The selection of available vehicles runs the gamut from hybrid sedans to fullsize sport-utility vehicles.

I've seen monthly lease payments as low as $225, which is less than it would be if you tried to take out a new 12-month lease on a comparable car.

You can also drive away without having to put any money down when you assume someone's lease because the current lease holder already paid it.

In fact, if you find a lease holder who is really desperate to dump his lease, you might even be able to negotiate an up-front bonus of several hundred dollars for taking it off his hands.

Experts expect the supply of new cars and trucks to return to normal by the end of the year.

A lease with six or eight months left on it would delay your purchase until 2012, when prices should be more reasonable and dealers more inclined to deal.