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What happens when you return a leased car?

By LeaseCar, 01 Sep 2019

No matter how long you've leased your car for, there will come a time when you have to return it. But do you know what the procedures are when you return your car? Or perhaps you're worried about being charged for slight damage or going over the mileage.

Keep reading for answers to these questions and for further information to help you understand the returns process and what happens next.

What to expect when returning a leased car

When your leasing period is coming to an end, your finance company will get in touch with you to arrange an inspection. The inspection is normally done at your home while the vehicle is parked on the drive, however you may also be required to take it to the company. Many people are worried about the damage that has occurred to their car in the years they've had it, however wear and tear is normal. No car will look brand new after a number of years of being on the road, but the car should be returned clean and in a condition commensurate with its age and mileage.

Most companies should adhere to the rules as laid out by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA). The BVRLA is the official UK body for companies that rent, lease or manage cars and commercial vehicles. They suggest that:

  • The vehicle is returned in a safe and roadworthy condition with the relevant keys, equipment and documentation
  • The vehicle doesn't have any personal items left in it such as CDs or sat navs
  • The person who leased the car has checked the car prior to the inspection, looking both inside and out for any damage such as stains on the seats, tyre damage or paint damage
  • The person who leased the car has the full service history of the vehicle ready for inspection

During the inspection, certain elements of wear and tear will be overlooked. The BVRLA has outlined what constitutes ‘fair' wear and tear on your leased vehicle.

Chips should be 3mm or less in diameter, dents 15mm and scratches 25mm. The scratch shouldn't reveal primer or bare metal and a maximum of four scratches on one panel is acceptable.

Scratches on headlights must be less than 25mm in diameter. Light scratches on the windscreen are acceptable provided they don't interfere with the driver's line of sight. The tyres must meet the minimum UK requirements and there must be no damage to the sidewalls or tread.

Interior upholstery must be clean and odorless with no signs of burns, scratches or tears in the fabric.

There is much more information in the BVRLA's wear and tear guide if you want to find out more about what is considered acceptable in a vehicle inspection. If you do get charged for damage to your lease vehicle but you think it's unfair, you can appeal to the BVRLA. You'll be notified within four weeks of your inspection if you're going to be charged for damages.

When your lease is up, you should return your vehicle to the company you originally got it from. Your car must be returned by the lease termination date, otherwise you may incur a late charge.

Your finance company will also look at how many miles your car has done. When you first leased the car, you will have been provided with an annual mileage allowance. Lots of people underestimate the number of miles they'll be driving, and are therefore met with additional charges when their lease ends. It's a good idea to keep track of your mileage to make sure you don't go over. If you think you might, it may be worth purchasing additional mileage long before your lease is due to end. It's better to be under your mileage limit at the end of your contract.

Can you return a leased car early?

There will likely be an early termination charge from the finance company you lease your vehicle from. If you want to return your car early because you can no longer afford the monthly payments, then our article on this subject may be helpful. Always contact your finance provider for advice if you are struggling with monthly rentals. You shouldn't just stop making your monthly rentals as this could lead to further problems.

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