As you will no doubt already know, when you lease a car you don’t own it and, at the end of the lease period you have to return it to the dealer.
One of the biggest terms of the contract is that you return the car in a reasonable state and the dealer will examine the car at handover to make sure you’ve done just that.
If your contract hire period is about to come up and you’re wondering whether you’ll be slapped with surcharges for excessive wear and tear, you should take steps now to either reassure yourself or to repair any minor scratches and so on.
You can consult the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association Fair Wear and Tear Guide a couple of months before handover to see if there’s anything you need to do.
There are some common problems that people tend to get stung for at the end of a lease period – stains, tears and burn marks on the upholstery, scuffed or otherwise damaged paintwork, dents and scuffs on the wheels and trims, so look out for these.
You’re not driving the car in a vacuum – safe, normal usage will cause deterioration of the bodywork and the engine. This isn’t damage, it’s not caused by neglect, unsafe or excessively hard driving, or by driving with your excessively hairy dog in the boot.
If you’ve read the BVRLA guide and you think you’ve got a problem – a scratch of more than 25mm, for example – then you have time to sort this out.
You need to clean and dry the car before inspecting it, though, as dust may obscure tiny scratches. Choose a clear, bright day to inspect the bodywork and take photos of any scratches or dents.
You should also have a thorough professional valeting to remove any excessive staining, dirt or pet hair. This is particularly important if you haven’t spent much time cleaning the inside of the car throughout your lease period.
Be honest with yourself – if you were about to buy the car, would you appreciate the scuffs on the bonnet and the “Essence of Toddler” perfume lingering on the back seats?
Anything that exceeds fair wear and tear needs to be made good; don’t assume the inspector will miss that squashed banana in the foot-well.
It’d be a shame to save money on one of the many great leasing special offers out there only to face a hefty bill for a series of dents and scuffs.
You could also think about using a lease return specialist to inspect and valet the car and undertake any minor repairs. These companies will deep clean the car inside and out to the same standards as your leasing company, as well as carry out cost-effective repairs.
The best way to avoid repair and penalty fees when you return the car is to make sure you look after it from day one.
Have a regular valeting, don’t park under trees if you can help it (bird poo is incredibly corrosive) and always drive safely.