The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Turning In That Leased Car?



By Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor-At Large
The Auto Channel

If you’re one of the 30% drivers who lease a car the economic benefits of non-ownership can be lost when the lease is up and vehicle must be returned at the end of the contract. It’s the dreaded lease turn-in inspection. A moment of apprehension, concern, and even terror.

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What you may believe is normal wear may be classified as ‘excessive wear’ by the lease company or dealer’s inspector.
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And the difference between normal and excessive wear can amount to extra hundreds, even thousands of dollars that add to the final cost of the lease. These charges are on top of charges for miles over the lease that may be incurred.

Every car company has different criteria in their inspections but all focus on specific areas of the vehicle:  
- Mechanical problems – the car’s engine, transmission and systems   - Body and wheels -- damage from dents, scratches, dings, scrapes and worn tires
  - Windshield and windows – cracks, stars, pitting
  - Interior – stains on carpet and seats, tears, major spots and odors
  - Original gear – things that came with the car second set of keys, owner’s manual

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The manufacturers want to spend the least amount to refurbish the car. Thus it is the size and depth of the dent, scratch, ding and scrape as well as labor for clean-up that determines the additional cost. Most have specifics that determine individual charges and some are staggering.

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But there are steps and things you can take to mitigate the potential charges and improve the appearance of the car prior to its return including:

1. Evaluate the car – pretend you are the inspector and carefully check-out the vehicle making notes on size, depth and location of problems and potential issues using the manufacturer’s return kit if available.

2. Determine costs – most manufacturers will send an end of lease kit that details what extra charges may be incurred. Establish the maximum that may have to be paid. 3. Plan for the inspection – at least 60 days before the expiration of the lease begin the process of getting the car’s repairs and clean-up underway based on costs.

4. Schedule the work – good detailing in and out will improve the appearance; body shops can fix little dings and dents; DIY with a matching paint touch-up kit as necessary; remove all personal items from the vehicle

5. Other tips and suggestions – if the miles are high and tire tread is less than 1/8th of an inch buy a new set of tires equal to what is being replaced; anything that was in the car when it was picked-up should be back in the car when it is returned; if you plan to buy another vehicle from the dealer negotiate the cost of repairs in the new deal; should time run-out get a lease extension; and finally contest charges you believe and too high, incorrect or unnecessary.

Careful planning and preparation at least 60 days prior to the end of the lease will eliminate and reduce additional charges while making the process less onerous.

SEE ALSO:Exiting your car lease gracefully