Leasing is becoming increasingly popular, attractive new cars at temptingly low prices are easily accessible and well within the average budget. Many people are now opting to lease over actually buying their own vehicle as it offers several advantages.
One of the biggest disadvantages however, is that you don't actually own the car. A lease is really just a long term car rental, any damage that occurs to the car within the lease period is ultimately your responsibility. Whilst the monthly payments may be much lower than forking out to buy your own vehicle, it's important to remember that the reason for this is you don’t own the vehicle.
The end of lease charge reflects the loss in value of the vehicle that occurs within the lease period. Lease vehicles are more often than not, returned in a poorer condition than they were at the start of the lease. Most leasing companies have a general wear and tear policy that includes minor imperfections, considered to be “normal”. What is understood as being “normal” is often a point of dispute between leasing companies and their clients. Lease companies are concerned with losing large amounts of money each year due to damages, however this is not something they will emphasise when encouraging clients to sign the contract. Many clients find themselves unpleasantly surprised by a hefty bill for a list of damages that they may not have even been aware of at the end of the contract.
How to Avoid Paying More than You Need To
Any required repairs will undoubtedly cost considerably more when carried out at the lease company’s own repair shop. This is true for any type of repair to your vehicle done through the lease company. The bill can be as much as twice as expensive as the same job would cost at an independent body shop.
Most leasing companies will contact the client roughly six months before the leasing contract is due to expire. Clients are usually given the choice of booking an inspection at their own premises at a time of their convenience, or returning the vehicle before the inspection to the leasing company. In the case of the latter, the inspection will take place on the premises of the leasing company and the client will not usually be present. Any needed repairs will take place at the lease company’s own repair shop, this is always the most expensive option, unless the vehicle has absolutely nothing wrong with it, which after a two year period is unlikely.
A sure way to save yourself from a distressing surprise, is to plan ahead. Book the inspection on your own premises and have any needed repairs done at a private body shop before the inspection takes place.
What Is Your Responsibility?
It is important to be clear about what your leasing company considers acceptable wear and tear and what it considers excessive wear and tear or damage. Your leasing company should provide you with this information when you take out the lease, this should be read through very carefully. If your leasing company is a member of the BVRLA, a trade body for the vehicle leasing and rental sector, it may be useful to ask your company to provide you with a copy of the industry standard BVRLA guidelines on wear and tear policies to help you understand it.
What Is Usually Considered Excessive Wear and Tear?
The following is a rough guide to advise on the type of repairs you can typically expect when returning your lease car:
- Any single dent that cannot be fully covered by a credit card is, as a rule of thumb, liable for repair
- A couple of small dents or dings, will generally be considered normal wear and tear
Scratches and Scrapes
- Large scrapes or scratches to any of the panels or bumper should be repaired at a body shop with professional panel beaters and sprayers
- A single severe scratch where paint has been removed will also need repair, small light scratches are usually deemed as normal wear and tear
- A damaged alloy wheel will need repairing, as will a severely scratched wheel, most companies will not penalise for the odd light scratch to an alloy wheel.
- Tyres should be checked, worn tyres will need replacing, this can be extremely pricey when done through the leasing company.
Other – any problems with any of the following list will usually need repairing
- A damaged windscreen with large bullets or stars
- Internal and external lights and bulbs
- Mirrors (both interior or exterior)
- Audio equipment
- Any electronic malfunctions such as a broken indicator or electric window
- Any problems with built in sat nav systems
Problems with any of the above can resolved before your lease inspection at a reputable garage or body shop, saving you money and stress.