Leasing a car means you don’t own it – you’re renting it for the term of your contract – and at the end of your lease period you must return it to the dealership.
One of the most important terms in your contract states that you must maintain the car so that you return it in a reasonable state. The leasing company will examine the car at handover and if excessive wear and tear is found, you may have to pay surcharges for repairs.
It’d be a real shame if you come to the end of your Mercedes leasing period and you’re all ready to fall in love with your new car, only to find you have to stump up huge fees to sort out the upholstery, some prangs and scratches or dents. One thing you can do is to look through the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) Fair Wear and Tear Guide a few weeks beforehand to see if there’s any need for concern and action.
The most common causes of surcharges
The most common reasons for people getting hit by surcharges at the end of a lease are tears, stains and scorch marks on the upholstery, damaged paintwork, scuffs on the wheel trims and scratches and dents on the bodywork.
What does fair wear and tear mean?
It means the slight deterioration of the chassis, interior and engine caused by everyday driving and usage. It’s not damage, it’s not caused by dangerous driving or neglectful storage, or by driving along with a cigarette in your mouth.
Preparing for handover
If, after reading the BVRLA guide, you think there’s an issue, such as a scratch that’s longer than 2.5cm, for example, then you’ve got time to sort it. You also need to thoroughly clean and dry the car before looking it over, as dust might hide scuffs and smaller scratches. You should wait for a bright, dry day to look at the bodywork, taking photos of dents or scratches as you go.
Even if you’ve driven like a saint for two years and there’s no visible scratches on the outside, you should still have a professional valeting, especially if you’ve been a bit lax with cleaning the interior during your lease period. It’s easy to become desensitised to the smell of dogs and small children.
Repair any damage
Anything that’s beyond fair wear and tear needs to be dealt with – the inspector won’t miss a thing and so you need to do the best you can.
One option is to take the car to a lease return specialist who can look over and valet the car, as well as perform minor repairs. These companies will clean the car to the same standards as the leasing company.
It’s up to you
Of course, if you want to avoid penalties and repair fees when you hand the car back, you need to make sure you look after it from the get-go. Go for regular valeting, watch where you park the car and also where you drive it – salt water is very damaging if it’s not rinsed off – and always drive as safely as possible.