Returning Your Car at Lease End: How to Save Money and Avoid Penalties

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


, - June 12, 2018

Before your lease is up, you typically have 90 days to determine if you want keep or return the car. You’re given the buyout price and information for the end of lease inspection. If you buy the vehicle, you don’t need to worry about any issues. But, if you decide to return it, you’ll need to make sure the car is ready to be turned in to avoid any penalties.

End of Lease Inspection Preparation

So, what exactly happens at the end of a car lease? It’s fairly simple: you’re reminded that the lease is ending, which means you need to plan accordingly before the vehicle inspection. Many manufacturers use a third-party company to perform this service, and the inspection process usually takes about 45 minutes to complete. The inspector looks for any damage and excess wear and tear, which can include:

  • Dents, scratches, scrapes, and cracks
  • Bumpers and abnormal wear and tear on tires
  • Stains or tears on leather and upholstery

If any sort of damage is above the normal wear and tear threshold, you’ll be notified in a condition report of the items that need to be fixed, and how much it’ll cost. Returning a leased car with excess damage can be costly, so it pays to be prepared. It’s best to have the vehicle thoroughly cleaned inside and out, and to fix any tears, scratches, dents, or chips.

Lease Penalties

Beyond wear and tear fees, there are two other penalties to be aware of: over mileage and early termination. If your lease isn’t up yet, and you’re ready to move on to another car, you can expect a fee. If your lease is up, and you find that you’re over the mileage allowance you were given, you’ll also be required to pay a fee – which is typically assessed per mile over the limit. If you’re under the mileage limit, you won’t be reimbursed for the miles you didn’t use.

In the end, if your leased car is isn’t in excellent shape and would cost more to turn in due to excess mileage or wear and tear, you can always purchase it if that’s the most cost-friendly option.

The Bottom Line

Whether you plan on turning in your current lease, or you’re looking for a local dealer to work with, CarsDirect wants to help. We work with a nationwide network of special finance dealers that have lending resources available to assist people in unique credit situations. Take the first step by filling out our no-obligation online auto loan request form today!

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


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