Lease Balance

DEFINITION of 'Lease Balance'

The amount of money that a customer owes under the terms of a vehicle lease contract. The lease balance becomes important in two main situations. The first is in the event that a car is stolen and not recovered, is totaled in an accident or is otherwise destroyed. The second situation is if the lessee wants to terminate the lease early for any other reason.

BREAKING DOWN 'Lease Balance'

A vehicle's fair market value is often different from its lease balance, because vehicles depreciate quickly at the beginning of their life but lease payments are flat over the life of the agreement. When a lease agreement is terminated for any reason, the lease's early termination payoff provision is used to calculate the lease balance and determine how much the lessee must pay to end the agreement. This amount could be several thousand dollars.

In the first situation, insurance will cover only the vehicle's fair market value, and the lessee must make up the difference through gap insurance or by paying out of pocket. In the second situation, the lessee cannot simply turn in the car to the dealer and walk away; he must pay the difference out of pocket or avoid the payment by transferring the lease to another party.