Returning a leased car: what to expect

Wondering what will happen at the end of your leasing contract? We explain what happens when you return your car...

Keys on table

One of the joys of leasing a car is that the process of returning the car is generally very straightforward.

While the precise process varies between leasing companies, the lender will usually contact you a few months before the contract is due to end to discuss what happens at the end of the lease.

It's more than likely that you'll be given the option of signing up to another contract, but you can also arrange to hand the car back and leave it at that. Either way, the leasing company will arrange to inspect and collect the car at the very end of the contract.

How do I return my lease car at the end of the contract?

It's a good idea to organise the collection early and with plenty of detail - you may be able to do this when the leasing company initially gets in touch. Some companies will be more flexible than others, but it should be possible to have the car collected from your home or work address.

If you're taking out another lease, then it may be possible to have your existing car collected and the new one delivered at the same time. Again, though, this depends on how far in advance you've made arrangements with the lender.

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Registration document (V5C)

The finance company will want any documents relating to the car, such as the service history. It's unlikely that you'll have the V5 registration document if you've been leasing the car, because the leasing firm is the registered keeper, but if you have got it, you'll certainly need to give that back as well.

What is an end-of-lease inspection?

Before you lease car is returned, it will The car will be inspected to check for any damage and note its general condition. Vehicle inspectors will use the Fair Wear and Tear Guide issued by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which clearly describes what is and isn't considered a reasonable amount of damage on a vehicle leased for a certain period of time.

Will I be charged for damage to my lease car?

If the car is in good condition and has nothing more than very minor wear and tear – the type of which you'd expect for a vehicle of its age – then you shouldn't receive any charges at all. You will be charged if more serious damage has been caused, based on the cost of repairing the damage.

If you disagree with the charges, you have the right to pay to have an independent qualified engineer to examine the vehicle. If there is still a dispute, then you can refer the case to the BVRLA's Alternative Dispute Resolution Service.

Car detailer inspecting the paint of a Vauxhall Astra

What are excess-mileage charges?

The exact amount of mileage you're allowed to cover without incurring additional charges is set out at the start of the contract. If you've gone over this amount, then you will be charged by the leasing company, usually on a per-mile basis. The exact charge per mile will be detailed in your contract.

Can I return a lease car with damage?

If the car is damaged, then you're in for a bill, because the leasing company will need to get it repaired. If you're in any doubt about its condition, then it's a good idea to contact the finance company before the vehicle is inspected to discuss any potential issues. You may find it's cheaper to get any damage repaired yourself before you return the car.

Can I extend my lease contract?

It may be possible to extend your lease contract. If you want to, then speak to the finance company as soon as possible. Some will be more flexible about extensions than others, but the earlier you contact them about it, the better your chances.

How can I get out of my car lease?

Some forms of car finance allow you to hand the car back early - but leasing isn't one of them. If you want to cancel the contract then you'll have to pay off the remaining amount in full, even if you have years left.

If you're struggling to afford the payments then contact the finance company as soon as possible, as they may be able extend the contract and lower the monthly payments or attempt to find another solution.

Regardless of whether you end your car lease early or not, you won't be able to get any of your money back.

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