As lease originations soften, transfer interest swells

ATLANTA and CINCINNATI - 

As Equifax is noticing a slowdown in the volume of vehicle leasing happening at dealerships, Swapalease.com is seeing an uptick in consumer interest for taking over a lease contract.

Those findings came as Equifax shared its lease origination data through January, and Swapalease.com released its quarterly lease trends report for the first quarter.

First, let’s look at new models rolling over the curb while connected to a lease.

Equifax reported 256,510 auto leases, totaling $4.2 billion, were originated in January. Those figures represented a 17.1-percent decrease in accounts, and a 17.4-percent drop-off in balances, year-over year.

Of all of the new-vehicle financing recorded in January, Equifax indicated auto leases accounted for 12.7 percent of all contracts originated and 9.5 percent of balances.

Not surprisingly, only a portion of the latest lease originations went to consumers with soft credit histories.

Equifax tabulated that 24,920 leases were originated to consumers with a VantageScore 3.0 credit score below 620. These contracts are generally considered subprime accounts. That volume represented a 13.5-percent decrease year-over-year.

Those newly issued subprime leases have a corresponding total balance of $429 million, a 13.2-percent decrease year-over-year, according to Equifax.

Equifax also mentioned the average origination balance for all vehicles leases issued in January came in $16,527, marking a slight uptick of 0.65 percent year-over-year.

Looking again solely at subprime lease contacts, the average amount in the deal came in at $17,199, according to Equifax, which computed the figure to be a 0.20-percent increase from a year ago.

“Note that lease origination values reflect the contract amounts only and exclude expected vehicle residual values,” Equifax added.

Whether or not all of those lease holders drive their vehicles for the duration of the contract can be difficult to project. But Swapalease.com thinks the chances are increasing that the lease will change hands before the term fully matures.

The newest Swapalease.com report showed an increase in search activity across the board for nearly all brands in the site’s marketplace, indicating that a rising number of people are turning to the secondary market to find lease deals since many dealers are pulling back on incentives on new leases.

According to the report, Americans are paying an average of $495.83 per month on their leases during Q1, up slightly from $485.47 during the fourth quarter.

The brands with the largest volume of vehicles on the Swapalease.com marketplace continue to be BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with a share of market of 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively. BMW’s search traffic was slightly lower during the first quarter at 16 percent, compared with Mercedes-Benz at 24 percent.

Analysts noticed that Chrysler (27 percent) and Chevrolet (23 percent) saw the highest search traffic totals among all popular domestic brands. For Asian brands, Lexus (22 percent) generated the highest search traffic, followed by Honda and Infiniti each at 20 percent search traffic totals.

“With dealers pulling back slightly on incentives for new leases, we’re seeing a noticeable jump in the number of people looking for deals on the secondary market,” said Scot Hall, executive vice president of Swapalease.com.

“We’re also seeing more people wait longer before exiting their lease, which indicates fewer people are looking to exchange their lease at the earliest possible opportunity of their contract,” Hall continued.

According to data in the report, the majority of lessees are listing their vehicles for transfer with 25.1 months remaining on their contract in the first quarter, compared with 26.3 months remaining in the fourth quarter.

Incentives activity has dropped as well, with the average Swapalease.com user offering $612.54 as an incentive to transfer in the first quarter, compared with $695.16 in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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