Car leasing wear-and-tear guide

Noticed some damage on your lease car and not sure what to do? Here, we look at what you will be liable for, and what you can get away with...

Car being inspected

When you return your lease vehicle at the end of a car leasing agreement, it will be evaluated for damage that falls outside of 'fair wear and tear' – but what does that mean, and what could it add up for you as a driver?

Well, handily, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) provides an industry-standard guide to wear and tear on a lease vehicle, although it's worth bearing in mind that each leasing company normally has a guide of its own. This is why it is always advisable to check your leasing company's own policy.

The most common car lease repairs are:

- Scratches on paintwork.
- Dents or chips on the bodywork.
- Burns, rips or tears to the upholstery or carpets.
- Damage to the wheels.

To ensure you are not left with a costly bill at the end of your lease, it is advisable to prepare early for your lease vehicle to be returned.

Key points to remember:

- Start inspecting your lease vehicle a few months before it is due to be returned, to allow you time to make all necessary repairs.
- Obtain a copy of the wear and tear guide from the leasing company.
- Make sure all vehicle keys are returned, including any spares.

Can I repair my lease car?

While reasonable wear and tear is acceptable, more significant damage, such those listed above, probably won't be. You can return a damaged car at the end of your lease, but you'll be charged for any work required to put the car right. It's usually cheaper and can be easier to have the work repaired yourself. Smart paint repairs can be cost-effective, and there are specialists who will repair damaged wheels or rips and tears to interior trims.

Check the wording of your lease agreement to see if there are any requirements for main dealers to complete the work. If you're in any doubt, speak to your leasing company first.

Damaged alloy wheel

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Assessing your vehicle:

- Make sure the vehicle has been fully valeted and inspect the vehicle in good light.
- Examine each panel on the exterior carefully and look for any scratches or dents. Dents up to 10mm (no more than two per panel) and scratches up to 25mm are normally acceptable. It's always best to ask a friend to help you.
- Check all windows, glass, door mirrors and lights. Light scratches are acceptable as long as they don't interfere with the driver's line of sight. There must be no holes, chips or cracks, though.
- Crouch down at the front and rear of the vehicle and look for any damage along the sides.
- Check all tyres and wheels; the alloys or wheel trims mustn't be kerbed, plus the spare wheels must be intact.
- Check the upholstered parts of the vehicle for any burns, tears or rips.

Do I need to maintain a lease car?

While you're in possession of a lease car, you're responsible for it being maintained and serviced correctly, irrespective of whether you have a service and maintenance agreement. That means booking the car into a dealership at its regular service intervals, ensuring any parts like bulbs or windscreen wipers are replaced when needed and, if your lease agreement stretches to more than three years, that the car passes its annual MOT test.

Do I need a car lease service and maintenance plan?

Whether or not you take out a service and maintenance plan is likely to be governed by cost. It might be cheaper to pay for services yourself, so speak to your local dealer to gauge how much it's likely to be. Some motorists like not having to budget for significant expenses by adding a service plan onto their monthly costs.

You can expect a service and maintenance plan to cover certain repairs, new tyres and batteries, exhausts, breakdown recovery and MOT testing. But the criteria can vary, so it's important to understand what you're signing up for.

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