Motorists Preparing to Swap Their Lease Cars for A New Car Could Face Hefty Charges If They Haven't Looked After Them

Returning a car to lease

New reg plates will be released to the public on March 1, and with the demand for and price of second-hand cars spiking due to the Covid pandemic there’s set to be an even greater clamour than usual. Leasing has emerged as one of the most popular ways to secure and finance the latest models in recent years, especially for those wanting to dip their toe into the rapidly-growing world of electric vehicles (EVS).

But experts have warned that anyone not familiar with some of the charges they could face when returning their car could be hit with a sizeable invoice. Duncan McClure Fisher, founder and CEO of  MotorEasy, revealed this could run into the thousands if you get it wrong.

He said: “Even the most careful of motorists won’t be able to keep their car in showroom conditions throughout the life of a lease term. Chips and stones flying up off the Tarmac, dozy shoppers opening car doors too wide in supermarket car parks – the list of things that can do superficial damage to a vehicle is almost endless.Then there’s the fact that there is bound to be some sort of wear and tear if you are driving a car for a number of years.You therefore won’t be expected to return a lease car or van in exactly the same condition as when you first got it.”

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Rules for “fair wear and tear” are laid out by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), whose guidance almost all rental and leasing companies follow. Aside from all of the mechanical parts being in working order, some of the other main points include:


Those up to 25mm won’t see you penalised, either on the paintwork or headlights. But if they go deep enough to reach the primer of metal then it’s not such good news and you will have to cough up


No more than two panels damaged and only dents up to 10mm are acceptable, as long as the paintwork is still intact. The only exceptions are on the roof and the swage line – the curve on the side usually in line with the door handles.


They must meet minimum legal UK tread requirements (1.6mm) and show no damage, including to the sidewalls.


There is some leeway on scuffs to trims or alloys, up to 50mm on the total circumference, but holes and dents are not acceptable.


There must be no noticeable damage – such as burns, tears, stains or scratches – and match the original design. Seat belts, mirrors and sun visors need to be clean and undamaged.

Mr McClure Fisher added: “It’s also vital to keep up to date with the service schedule as this is a sure-fire way of incurring extra charges. Some cars have set intervals for servicing, while others will inform you via the trip computer. Either way, make sure you get it booked in on time, every time. If you have gone over the agreed maximum mileage limit there will be a few zeros added to the amount you owe. And if you’ve managed to lose a set of keys, this can be a costly mistake. Modern car keys aren’t cheap and you could be looking at up to £200 for them to be replaced.”

While the rules are fairly clear, some motorists feel they’ve had a rough deal at the hands of leasing companies. One wrote anonymously on popular motoring forum PistonHeads “So my lease car was collected yesterday. Guy comes and does his thing round the car then tells me it will be £350 for repairs. I say why, and he shows a couple of very minor scratches. I say that although I agree there’s a scratch or two, the repair cost I don’t agree with as it’s extortionate. I feel totally shafted by this company and I cannot find any way to appeal.”

The good news for motorists is there is a dispute process you can follow, as long as your leasing firm is a member of the BVRLA. You have the right to request for an independent qualified engineer to examine the evidence, although this will be at your own cost. Their judgement is then final, but if they find in your favour the leasing firm will have to refund the cost of having the evidence assessed.

Mr McClure Fisher said: “The growing popularity of leasing looks set to continue, so being aware of what you are signing up for is simply common sense.While there might be a few scare stories out there about people being unfairly ‘stung’ for huge bills when they return their vehicles, if you look after it and keep up to date with the service schedule there should be no problems at the end of the terms.”

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