In addition to the millions of questions about contracts, countries and companionship abroad, many aspiring expats and edpats also wonder about the necessary steps to prepare for the big move. Edpat is a term I created to describe expatriates who work within education outside of their home country. While reading a post in one of the Brothas and Sistas Facebook groups for current, past and aspiring edpats, I was shocked by the sorcery of suggestions and opinions shared about what to do with your car before moving abroad. I read various posts like, “I left my car in my driveway and told the company to come and pick it up.” I thought, Ok… that’s bold. Another person mentioned, “I left my car in my garage and it’s been there for three plus years; I’ll take care of it once I get back stateside.” I thought, Ok… no comment. The response I loved most was from the young woman who suggested, “Set the car on fire and collect the insurance money, which you can use as pocket money for a fresh start in a new country!” Ok, I’ll admit it, I posted that one!  

There are several options to consider when deciding what to do with a car before moving abroad. For example, you can ship the car to the new country in a container, continue to pay the car note while abroad, or even collect some blessings by giving it to a family member. While these options are legit, it is important to note that I did not own my car; it was leased and unfortunately, these options weren’t the best choices for my situation. At the time, I had lived the nomadic lifestyle for a while and short-term relationships with cars and apartment leases was a norm. After living abroad for nearly five years, I returned to the states for a PhD program. It didn’t take long to realize that the bones that had just dwelled in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for nearly three years were not prepared for December and January in MinneSNOWta. I thought I could rely on the public transportation system rather than buying a car, but it was just too dang cold. Happenstance, the weather, along with wanting to build a better relationship with the city, were reasons to lease the car.

I signed a three-year car lease and after two years, I was selected for a fellowship to conduct data collection for my research in the UAE. This meant I would go back to the UAE for nine months. With only eleven payments remaining within the lease, I started to contemplate my options. I was having lunch with a friendleague (friend + colleague) who mentioned a speaker at a conference she attended with a similar issue. The speaker shared that he had just bought a brand-new car and right after the purchase he was selected to go into the Peace Corp. The blue-print she shared about his situation was similar to the one I used to get out of my car lease. 

For the sake of anonymity, I’ll leave the car company nameless. Nevertheless, the first thing I did was a google search for the CEO of ___. I found a webpage that not only listed the CEO’s information, but also the contact information of other higher executives in the company. Although it was strongly advised not to contact each of them individually, my intuition suggested otherwise. I wrote a brief letter explaining my situation and need to leave the country before the conclusion of my car-lease. The letter was pretty much asking for clarity about how to move forward but in my mind I imagined something similar to one of Oprah’s old episodes. Remember the one when she shouted to the crowd, “You get a car and you get a car,” but in my case, the CEO would say something more like, “You get loan-forgiveness” or even “just keep the car, it’s on us.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen! However, what did happen was a very informative conversation about my options.

Red Car in the Parking Garage

Stock Photo: Matthew Henry

A few days after I sent the email, I received a phone call from a woman who worked for the company. She mentioned that my email had been forwarded to her. We discussed my options, which were the following:

Purchase the vehicle—With financing options, I could purchase the vehicle for the full payoff amount. 

Talk to a dealer—A particular dealership has the option to purchase the vehicle from me. However, the price offered may not pay off the remainder of the balance. I would be responsible for paying the remainder in cash. Which, due to my case, I could be put on a payment plan.

Lease Assumption—Transfer the contract payment over to a ‘creditworthy candidate’. My name would still be on the account and I’d still be responsible for payments in case that the ‘creditworthy candidate’ missed a payment.

Early Termination—Return the vehicle before the completed lease period. I was warned that this option might incur substantial charges, however.

Surrender the Vehicle—This is called a ‘voluntary repossession’. Yes, like a traditional repossession, it will be reported to the consumer reporting agencies and again, might result in incurring substantial charges.

Having a better understanding, I decided on option two. Now, let me break down the details of my situation because this was my first time leasing a car and it might sound confusing to understand how I sold a leased car. With the eleven payments remaining in my lease, I owed nearly $3000 total. However, this amount was within the terms of my lease contract. The car was worth nearly $13,000. I hadn’t even put 15,000 miles on it yet. Basically, what I needed to do was sell the car to the highest bidder. The money they offered would be to purchase the car, which would then void my lease contract.

To do this, I needed to find someone to buy the car. So, the second thing I did was visit the nearest car dealership of the company. I spoke with a dealer who appraised the car for a little over $10,000. This would leave me with a $3000 balance, which in my case, I could pay in cash or sign up for a financial plan with the company. 

Now here’s a secret, off the record of course… rather than going to the car dealership, it was suggested that I go to a CarMax instead. So, after I left the dealership, I went to get a second appraisal at CarMax. They offered $12,000. This left me with only $1000 to pay in cash. CarMax’s offer was better than the offer from the car dealership. With no question, I paid CarMax the $1000, I gave them the keys to whip, and now, I’m overlooking the Arabian Gulf until May 2020. Khalas—which means finished in Arabic—it’s done. After selling the car, I went an extra mile and sent in the paperwork for a refund on the Easy-Care insurance for my key and car lock out service. I was refunded another $13! 

The significance of this story, specifically for those who are considering moving abroad, is there is a sense of freedom knowing that your bills are paid, and your name and credit score are not being dragged through the dirt while you’re away. I equate the living abroad lifestyle to moving like the wind. There are many twists and turns to be considered, especially these days as we face global issues such as the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and potential threats of war on other countries. EDpats are one click from a flight home. In our pursuits for green(er) pastures, we still have to make responsible choices in preparation for our temporary and permanent departures. For those of you who might be stuck on your decision to move abroad due to a car lease, I hope this story provides a bit of clarity!

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