You're coming to the end of your car lease and it suddenly occurs to you: Will you get charged for all those dings, dents and upholstery stains? Is there anything you can do to offset these lease-return charges?
There are, of course, other end-of-lease questions to consider, such as whether you should purchase your leased vehicle and whether it has equity that you can leverage. Our "3 Ways to Turn Your Lease Into Cash" story has answers on those subjects. This article will only deal with avoiding charges in the lease turn-in process.
You are probably aware that the leasing company will charge you for any damage it considers to be more than normal wear and tear. But you are probably wondering what "normal" is.
"The term 'normal wear and tear' is the largest disconnect between consumers and manufacturers," says Jeff Huang, who has worked in the lease inspection business in Southern California for years. Manufacturers want to minimize what they'll have to spend on reconditioning, he says. Any damage to the car that's going to cost more than an average amount of money to refurbish is called "excessive" wear and tear.
Mary Hellen Owen, market planning manager for Toyota Financial Services, agrees that the lease return is a moment of anxiety for people. "There's a lot of apprehension about 'What do I do? When do I do it? What can I be penalized for?'"
Toyota Financial Services developed a comprehensive lease-end program to let them know the lease is winding up "and we are going to be ready to help," she says.