Fall On the Road

  • img1
  • img1

How to prepare to return your leased vehicle

Leasing an automobile is a great option for many people. Leasing allows motorists to drive a new car every few years if not more frequently, and the lower monthly payments associated with leases make it possible for drivers who otherwise may not be able to afford a new car to drive the vehicle of their choosing.

But unlike buying a new or used car, leasing requires drivers to return their cars at the end of their lease. That process often goes smoothly, but it goes even more smoothly for those motorists who know what to expect when the time comes to return their vehicles. The following tips can help lessees better navigate the process of returning a leased vehicle.

• Expect an inspection. A lease inspection is standard with many lease agreements, but lessees may not know that this inspection can occur as early as 90 days before the end of the lease agreement. The leasing company will contact lessees to schedule an inspection, but such a call can catch some lessees off guard if they're not prepared to receive it. The lessee does not have to pay for the inspection, which is conducted to determine if there are any mechanical problems, cosmetic damage to the vehicle's exterior and interior, cracks and/or pitting in the windshield, or excessive wear on the tires. Once the inspection has been completed, lessees will receive a report assessing any damage found by the inspector and the cost associated with addressing the damage. This report may be handed over immediately or in the days following the inspection.

• Conduct your own inspection first. The best way to prepare for the lease inspection is to beat the inspector to the punch and inspect the vehicle first. Some auto manufacturers provide sample inspection reports to lessees so the drivers know what to look for in advance. If your vehicle manufacturer does not, find a sample report online and use that as your guide.

When conducing your inspection, pay particular attention to any dents, dings or scratches on the vehicle's exterior as well as any tears or stains on the vehicle's interior. A thorough detailing may be enough to address some scratches, while others may need a more creative solution, such as some new paint. Speak to an auto detailer if you think the scratches are significant enough that your lease inspector will charge you for them. In addition, remove personal items from your vehicle's interior and clean and detail the interior if necessary. Handling issues on your own is typically less expensive than letting the manufacturer address any problems found during the inspection.

• Request a second inspection. Many leasing companies schedule the first inspection so far in advance of the turn-in date so lessees can address any issues on their own and save money in so doing. Such companies will typically then schedule a second lease inspection upon request, so don't be afraid to schedule a second inspection after you have addressed issues found during the initial examination. Inspectors will check to verify all issues have been properly addressed, and you may even receive a second inspection report if some problems were not satisfactorily addressed.

• Return everything. Many lessees are caught off guard when they are charged for items they received when they initially signed the lease but have long since lost or forgotten. Whether it's that second set of keys you have never used or those annoying manufacturer floor mats that came with the vehicle when you drove off the lot, you need to return everything that came with the car. Failure to return items can incur penalties, some of which may be significant.

Returning a leased vehicle is not as simple as returning a rental car. Lessees must take steps to ensure they are not subject to potentially costly penalties when they return their leased vehicles.