What to expect when returning a leased car?
January 23, 2013 10:27 AM   Subscribe

We lease a Honda and the lease is ending on February 27. This is our first time leasing and we are nervous about the end-of-lease vehicle inspection. Should we expect to have to pay?

The car has lower-than-average mileage (28,000 over 3 years) and we have scrupulously changed the oil on schedule and installed 4 new tires about 10 months ago. There are a couple barely-noticeable scratches in the finish on the driver's side rear quarterpanel. We have never had the brakes changed. Should we expect to be charged for any of these things (or any other things we haven't considered), and if so will the charges be higher than if we addressed them ourselves prior to turning in the car? We don't have a regular mechanic but we are due for a state (PA) inspection before the end of this month, so if it passes that, would it likely also pass a dealer inspection, at least from the mechanical side? Any info about end-of-lease vehicle inspections, and specifically Honda, would be much appreciated!
posted by miaou to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can do what I did and bring it to the dealership well before the date my lease was up and have them give it a once over. He was able to point out some things that they would charge me for but that I could "fix" on my own for cheaper. Stuff like small scratches. Gave me a better sense of how much I'd have to pay at the end of my lease. (interestingly, I've since decided to buy my car out at the end of my lease... go figure...)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:33 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not that big a deal. In my experience, they only care about the largest defects (large dents, scratches, etc) and such. Small scratches and will probably buff out, and deeper ones can be touched up pretty easily.

Remember, they want to convert you into a repeat customer, so they aren't going to worry over the 10 bucks an hour they pay their detailing guys. And if there was any mechanical problem - well, it's still well under warranty and they'd have to fix it anyway.

You can always swing by the dealership and have them look it over. But, if the condition is as you've described it - used, with some minor wear and tear - then don't sweat it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:52 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've leased three vehicles in my lifetime, two were Lincoln Continentals and one was a Mercury Villager. In my case, just about everything except for tires, oil changes and body damage were covered under the warranty (i.e. I didn't have to worry about changing the brakes or any other mechanical parts). When I turned in each vehicle they gave it what seemed like a cursory once-over and were more concerned about the mileage (had I gone over my limit). I'd paid to have the two Lincolns professionally cleaned before returning them because I wasn't particularly attentive to things like vacuuming while I had them....when I returned the second one the salesman told me "You know, you don't have to bother, we clean every returned vehicle anyway." So I returned the Mercury as it was, potato chip crumbs and all. I was worried that I'd get dinged for a noticeable scratch in one of the leather seats, but was told they could buff it out and I got my security deposit back.

I did not, however, have any scratches or dings on the bodies of any of the vehicles (that I knew of). This was in Michigan circa 1991-1999. YMMV.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:54 AM on January 23, 2013

My now-wife has returned two leases during our time together. We did touch-up on a larger scratch or two, didn't worry about minor chips. Never got hit with any charges.

Now, the one thing we DID notice in the lease agreement was a provision about the tire wear; it it was below a certain point we'd get hit with a charge there. So at the end of year 2 of 3 when they seemed to be wearing pretty rapidly we made the decision to replace them; we figured if she was going to have to pay for new tires she'd by-grod get the benefit of them. It was annoying to buy new tires that soon but we didn't have much recourse to complain.

So I wouldn't sweat minor wear and tear, but make sure you address any obvious upholstery stains and easily obvious body damage.
posted by phearlez at 11:32 AM on January 23, 2013

I've returned 5 Ford and Mercury products and never had to pay any damages despite rock chips and minor scratches. As mentioned above, they did check the mileage and we were charged excess mileage on the 2 cars that were over the limit. Ford really wants you to like their lease program, so they go the extra mile to make it easy and painless.
posted by buggzzee23 at 12:10 PM on January 23, 2013

They don't get you for normal wear and tear, like brakes. In fact, you probably shouldn't have bothered to put new tires on it, unless you needed to (and at 28k you shouldn't need to under normal conditions). When I leased my first car, I thought I wanted it for four years. The salesman very nicely told me that I want a term short enough that I'm returning the car before anything like brakes, tires, etc are due.

Sometimes they'll give you a little plastic doohickey you use to measure stains and such, so you know which don't matter and which do.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:59 PM on January 23, 2013

It's a buyers' (or leasers') market. Shouldn't be a problem. If you're worried, get it detailed and take it in early for a once over as mentioned above. They'll probably try to get you into something new right then and there.
posted by notyou at 3:39 PM on January 23, 2013

Don't forget to see what similar cars are selling for on the market and compare it to your buyout price on the off chance that you can sell it for more than the buyout and pocket the difference. It's unlikely to be worthwhile but you should check, just in case.

Otherwise, the most bother will be them trying to sell you or lease you a new car.
posted by VTX at 6:29 PM on January 23, 2013

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