TL;DR: We leased a car, transferred the lease to someone else within the allowed period, GM Financial due to their sloppy record keeping, continued to think that we still held the lease and sent us a $1200 bill that I had to call them to get it cancelled. My thesis: this sloppy record keeping probably generates a little bit of revenue—if the bill is small enough, some folks will just pay it instead of contesting it.

Back in August 2016, we had earlier that year plunked down the $1000 to hold our spot in line for a Tesla Model 3, and figured we could drive our stoic old Camry until it hit the ground—we expected that would be at least a few years, since it had been running without any issues up until then.

Then, this happened. I was driving to work, with a trunkful of monitors and Hue doodads that a friend was buying off me, and got broadsided by an unlicensed driver who was driving a rental car they did not have permission to drive. The scene was sufficiently confusing to the responding officers (in a stroke of luck, this was down the street from Boston police headquarters) that they asked me to stick around just in case they needed to arrest the other driver (they did not).

Our venerable Blueberry unfortunately did not make it out—the damage was so severe that a repair would have cost nearly $12,000, and that was using the cheapest parts that the adjuster could find on the market (scrapyard parts, etc.). The true cost likely would have been closer to $15,000, and our insurance, rightfully, was not going to pay that. They paid us out the ~$7,000 value of the car, and went off to recover from the other involved parties. Part of me wishes we were still with them so I could ask how that all went—I imagine the attorneys earned their hourlies on that one.

We needed a new car PDQ—we were able to borrow from my parents for a few weeks, but we needed a long term ride. We tested a few things, did some research, and ended up with a Chevy Volt. We were big fans of most things about the car and ended up signing up for a 3 year lease, with a great rate thanks to some shrewd negotiating (read: we walked out on the original bullshit rate). We figured this would be a great way to ease into electric vehicles while having the ready backup of gas if we needed it. We signed for a 3 year lease and figured we would cross the bridge of getting rid of the lease when that time came.

That time came in July of 2018 when we priced out and paid for our Model 3. Luckily, we found someone to take over the lease, got everything done in record time, and got the lease assumption in under two wires:

  1. We were leaving the country for a 3 week vacation
  2. We were approaching <12 months left on the lease, at which point it could not be transferred anymore.

I continued to get mail from GM Financial/the dealer we leased through, but chalked it off as marketing. The bills were getting paid by the new lessee, and everyone was happy.

The lease ended about a month ago, and the new lessee returned the car—they were told that there would not be any additional fees for excess wear and tear/mileage, etc., and relayed that information to me as a courtesy. Imagine my surprise when last week, I receive a letter from GM thanking me for returning my vehicle, and asking me to pay $1200 in disposition fees, excess wear and tear fees, property taxes, and “other fees.” After a quick back-and-forth with the new lessee, I decided to call up GM Financial.

The good news is, once I got them on the phone, they were very pleasant! I was put on hold briefly while the Lease End specialist talked to the Lease Assumption specialist, and they came back with a “please disregard that bill, we see here that the lease was assumed.”

This got me thinking, though: how often does this happen for smaller dollar amounts, and the person recieving the bill does not contest it?

I suspect it’s not a lot—after all, the lease disposition fee was around $350, and the only small amount on the listing was the “other fees and taxes,” which dialed in around $50.

However, if this sort of sloppy record keeping is the standard, they must be sending out a ton of these letters. How many need to “hit” and be paid without question in order for the sloppy record to become a pathological target for the department to hit, because it makes money. Otherwise, what’s the incentive to not fix this? It certainly costs money when I call in to support (GM Financial’s help line has always been staffed by American staff, so they’re not paying low offshore costs), so why not fix the process so that they don’t ever have to deal with this again?