Returning a leased car – what you need to know

Here's everything you need to know about returning your car at the end of a leasing contract, including how to organise collection and what to expect during the handover...

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So, you've come to the end of your leasing agreement and need to know what to do next. Well, our guide will take you through the full process and answer some commonly asked questions.

The exact procedure on ending your leasing contract will vary depending on the finance company, but generally, the lender will contact you a few months before the contract is due to end to discuss what happens at the end of the lease.

What happens at the end of a vehicle agreement?

When the finance company contacts you towards the end of your lease, it’s more than likely that they’ll give you the option of signing up to a new one, but you can just 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.

Organising collection of your lease vehicle

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, it might 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.

Handing over car keys

What you'll need when it's collected

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 do have it, you’ll certainly need to give that back as well.

What happens during the inspection?

The car will be inspected before the leasing company takes it away to check for any damage and note its general condition. Vehicle inspectors 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.

Should I expect any charges?

If the car is in good condition and has nothing more than very minor wear (the type of which you’d expect for a vehicle of its age), you shouldn’t receive any charges at all. You will be charged if it’s damaged or if you’ve exceeded the agreed mileage limit, though.  

What happens if I've gone over the mileage?

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, you'll be charged by the leasing company, usually on a per-mile basis. The exact charge per mile will be detailed in your contract.

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Returning a lease car with damage

If the car is damaged, 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, it’s a good idea to contact the finance company before the vehicle is inspected to discuss any potential issues. You might find it’s cheaper to get any damage repaired yourself before you return the car.    

FAQs – you common leasing questions answered

Can I extend my lease contract?

It might be possible to extend your lease contract. If you want to, 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.   

Do you get money back at the end of a car lease?

No, you don’t. When you lease a car, you’re effectively renting it for the duration of the contract, so you won’t get any money back at the end of it.

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, 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, contact the finance company as soon as possible, as they might be to able extend the contract and lower the monthly payments or attempt to find another solution.

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