It’s been one, two, three, or even four or more years since you’ve leased your vehicle. You’ve treated the car well, you’ve never had any accidents, and minus any normal wear and tear on the vehicle, your car is in great condition. Now, however, your lease is over, and it’s time to return the vehicle to the dealership. If you’ve dealt with leases before, you know that the leasing company will hire a contractor that will travel to the dealership and will perform an inspection on your vehicle to check for mechanical problems, such as engine, transmission, or suspension operation; cosmetic damage (dents, dings, scratches, etc.); cracks, pitting, or similar damage on all windows; excessive wear to the brakes and tires; and stains, burns, or other damage to the interior of the vehicle. This is where you must be extra careful when returning your lease, as any problems that the leasing company’s contractor might find during their end-of-lease vehicle assessment report, either legitimate or not, will be billed to you.
To protect yourself from questionable findings on these end-of-lease assessment reports, it is imperative to maintain a detailed record of any and all maintenance performed on the leased vehicle while in your care. In fact, it is recommended that you have the car serviced and inspected at the dealership from whom you’ve leased the vehicle as that adds credibility to the authenticity of the maintenance records. Moreover, if you are aware of any dents, damages, or excessive wear on the vehicle’s body, tires, or brakes, it may be more cost effective to buy replacement tires and/or brake pads, and have the dents repaired by an independent body shop before returning the leased vehicle. This is due to the fact that the end-of-lease report will likely include much higher repair costs since everything will be replaced or repaired with original, or OEM, parts, and may also include labor costs which are likely to be performed by one of the manufacturer’s dealerships, and dealerships may inflate their labor chargers. Therefore, if you have any excessive wear and tear or damage to the leased vehicle, such as dents larger than the size of a quarter or nearly bald tires, you’re better off visiting an independent shop to get anything repaired or replaced.
Another tip to consider prior to the inspection of the leased vehicle is to have the leasing company’s inspector come to your home or business to conduct the end-of-lease inspection so that you can be present during the walk-around. It is important to remember that when you drop a leased vehicle off at the dealership from which you leased it, the inspection may not happen for several hours, if not a few days. During that time, the car may be damaged while in the dealer’s shop, and you may never find out until you receive the end-of-lease report and are shocked to find a massive bill for damages you never even knew about. Furthermore, being present for the walk-around is also likely to keep the inspector honest on his report. We’re not saying that inspectors lie on such end-of-lease reports, but, why not stick around to see exactly what the inspector’s findings really are? Not all leasing companies will allow their inspectors to come to your home or business to inspect the leased vehicle, but it never hurts to ask them.
In addition to excessive wear and tear, some lessees may not be aware that excessive mileage is also considered in the end-of-lease report, and you will likely be charged for the excessive mileage. This is why it is important to check your lease agreement every year to confirm the amount of miles that you are allowed to use during the lease period, and compare it to the current mileage on the leased vehicle. If you believe you may go over the mileage stated in the lease agreement, depending on how close you are to the end of the lease, you should attempt to purchase more miles before the end of the lease, as miles that you purchase before the end of the lease are likely to be less expensive than a bill for excessive mileage. If, however, you are fairly close to the end of the lease period, contact your leasing company and notify them that you might be going over the agreed upon mileage. If the amount you believe you will be over is relatively low, the leasing company may waive any fees for excessive mileage. Again, it’s another one of those situations where it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Finally, you got the leased car inspected and you believe that the results are questionable. If this is the case, you are entitled to dispute those findings. You may ask to meet with a representative from the leasing company, present your maintenance records, and request that the vehicle be re-inspected, or that any questionable findings and charges be removed from the bill. Also, please be aware that if you’ve remained loyal to the dealership to whom you’re returning your lease, or plan to lease from them again in the near future, they may decide to waive any repair costs altogether. It never hurts to ask for such a courtesy.
Be sure to follow as many (or all) of these suggestions as possible, as they will help you avoid problems or disputes with your leasing company at your lease’s end, help you avoid surprise charges on your end-of-lease bill, and will ultimately help you return your leased vehicle the right way.
The Law Office of Adam G. Singer, PLLC represents consumers in matters arising from corporate deceptive acts and practices. The firm’s website is available at www.nyconsumerlaw.com