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If you’re leasing a car and aren’t familiar with how it works, it’s a good idea to educate yourself first. It also doesn’t hurt to take someone with you. If you become confused during the process, don’t sign anything. Just leave.

Al Payne, regional director of Seniors vs. Crime, a project of the Florida Attorney General’s Office, said he has received numerous phone calls from seniors who leased vehicles, then regretted it. Payne said that often the callers have signed a contract without reading it.

“Read your contract before you put your signature on it,” Payne said.

Most people assume leasing a car is similar to renting, but leasing is simply another method of financing a vehicle, said Gregg Fidan of

“Most dealers will give you a fair deal if you are informed,” Fidan said. “If they sense you have not done your research, and can take advantage of you, they will. There are so many numbers and things like residual values and capitalized costs.”

Fidan recommends going through the nonprofit and using its LeaseWise service.

The fee is $350, and the company obtains bids from dealerships in your area and negotiates the best lease on your behalf. can be reached at 1-800-475-7283.

Here’s some advice from the Federal Reserve, which offers a “Keys to Leasing” brochure on its website,

• Consider beginning, middle, and end-of-lease costs.

At the beginning of the lease, you may have to pay your first monthly payment; a refundable security deposit or your last monthly payment; other fees for licenses, registration, and title; a capitalized cost reduction (like a down payment); an acquisition fee (also called a processing or assignment fee); freight or destination charges; and state or local taxes.

During the lease, you will have to pay your monthly payment; any additional taxes not included in the payment such as sales, use, and personal property taxes; insurance premiums; ongoing maintenance costs; and any fees for late payment.

You’ll also have to pay for safety and emissions inspections and any traffic tickets.

If you end your lease early, you may have to pay substantial early termination charges.

At the end of the lease, if you don’t buy the vehicle, you may have to pay a disposition fee and charges for excess miles and excessive wear.

• You can compare different lease offers and negotiate some terms.

Items to consider include the agreed-upon value of the vehicle.

A lower value can reduce your monthly payment, upfront payments, including the capitalized cost reduction, the length of the lease, the monthly lease payment, any end-of-lease fees and charges.

• Ask about the mileage allowed and per-mile charges for excess miles and the option to purchase either at lease-end or earlier.

• Find out whether your lease includes “gap” coverage, which protects you if the vehicle is stolen or totaled in an accident.

• When you lease a vehicle, you have the right to use it for an agreed-upon number of months and miles, turn it in at lease-end, pay any end-of-lease fees and charges, and “walk away.”

• Take advantage of any warranties, recalls, or other services that apply to the vehicle.

• You may be responsible for excessive wear charges when you return the vehicle. The standards for excessive wear, such as for body damage or worn tires, are in your lease agreement.

Watch out for double first payments. Leases usually require you to make the first monthly payment up front, but sometimes the down payment includes this; other times it doesn’t.

Make sure you are not paying it twice.