How to return your car at the end of your lease

Leases can be a smart alternative to financing, but they can also become expensive if you haven’t taken proper care of the vehicle. If you return your car in poor shape at the end of your lease, you could incur a number of charges that could ultimately lead to a hefty bill.

Here are a few things you should consider doing prior to returning your leased vehicle:

Ensure you have the appropriate tires

Make sure your vehicle is equipped with the proper tires before you have it inspected. If it’s well into the spring and you still haven’t changed your winter tires, make sure to switch them as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could end up being charged for a set of all-seasons.

If it is winter, it’s fine if you have a set of winter tires, but make sure they meet the manufacturer’s requirements ahead of time.

It should be noted that just because you have the right tires doesn’t mean you won’t get dinged. If you haven’t changed your tires since the beginning of your lease, there’s a decent chance they’ll have excess wear, meaning you will be charged for a replacement set.

Clean it

Bringing in a dirty vehicle will only start the inspection off on the wrong foot. Have the interior cleaned a couple days ahead of time to remove any garbage, dirt, and/or debris. If it looks like you take care of your car, your inspection is likely to go a lot smoother.

If you don’t want to clean it yourself, it may not be a bad idea to have it detailed instead.

Bring your maintenance records

Depending on the terms of your lease, you may be required to provide proof that you performed basic maintenance on the vehicle throughout the life of your lease. This could mean showing receipts for oil changes, filter changes, etc.

Book the inspection early

It’s a smart idea to have your inspection booked as early as the lease-return rules allow. If you wait until the last minute, you may not have enough time to correct any issues and could incur a number of charges that you could’ve otherwise fixed.

This also gives you time to get any quotes and determine whether it’s cheaper to correct the issue yourself or just pay the fee. Many drivers run into trouble when they believe the lease-return process is much quicker than it really is.

Return everything

It’s important that you return everything you received when you were given the vehicle. This means everything. A second sets of keys, the original floor mats, and a spare tire are all items that should be returned.


You should be aware that the inspection report you receive isn’t necessarily final. If one of the charges seems high, you’re free to negotiate a lower price.


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