Cars: Wear and Tear

At the end of a contract where your car needs to be returned to the leasing company, it will be assessed to determine whether it meets the expected returned condition.

Wear and tear occurs when normal usage causes deterioration to a car. What people often forget is that finance companies expect there to be what they call "fair wear and tear" on a car, after it has been used for several years.

How do you make sure the wear and tear on your car is fair?

Carry out an appraisal of your car 10-12 weeks before the car is due for return, because this will allow you to arrange to have any unacceptable wear and tear rectified.

Here's some top tips to help you make sure your car is in suitable condition:

  1. Clean your car inside and out: Do this on the day of inspection because a dirty car is difficult to inspect, and this could mean the inspection might have to be rescheduled.
  2. Check in daylight: Inspect your car for any scratches/dents in full natural daylight away from any shadows so that you can clearly see any damage.
  3. Dry not wet: It's hard to see damage, such as scratches on a wet car.
  4. Check side on: You're much more likely to see damage if you look down your car panels side on.
  5. Check everywhere: That's mirrors, windows, lamps and less obvious panels such as the roof for chips and cracks.
  6. Phone a friend: Always ask for a second opinion. A friend with a keen eye might spot something that you missed.
  7. Give EVERYTHING back: This includes all sets of keys, original documents, the full signed and stamped service history, optional equipment fitted, valid MOT certificate if applicable, all emergency equipment supplies.
  8. Remove personal items: Check that you've taken everything that belongs to you out of the car upon return.
  9. Tyre check: Check the wear on the tread across each tyre is even, inspect wheels, wheel trims and wheel spokes for scratches and deterioration.
  10. No bad smells: The resale value of the car will be affected if there are stains on the upholstery causing unpleasant smells. A professional valet prior to returning your car will save you more than it costs.
  11. Inspect all controls: This includes audio equipment and accessories – they should be present and fully functional.

What is the collection procedure?

At the end of the lease, when the car is to be collected, a representative from the leasing company must check and agree on the car condition. All damage will be noted on the car collection sheet and you will be asked if you are happy with the inspection.

If there's a dispute about the condition or damage of the car, customers have the right to pay for an examination of the evidence by an independent engineer – the engineer will be unrelated to the original inspection and agreed by both parties. If the engineer votes in the customer's favour, the BVRLA will refund the cost of the examination to the customer.

It's important to remember that different finance companies imply different standards of "fair wear and tear". Here are a few examples of what is generally expected:

  • Windscreen
    Acceptable: Small scratches outside of the driver's eye sight.
    Unacceptable: Holes, chips and cracks in the glass, and scratches inside the driver's direct line of sight.
  • Wheels
    Acceptable: Minor damage up to 25mm in length. Wheels also meet minimum legal requirements.
    Unacceptable: Scoring and other damage to wheel surface. Damage to side walls or uneven tread wear.
  • Wing mirrors
    Acceptable: Minor damage as long as no paintwork is damaged.
    Unacceptable: Missing, damaged or cracked wing mirrors.
  • Bumpers 
    Acceptable: Minor scuffing up to 25mm in length.
    Unacceptable: Deep scuffs where paint is broken, dented and cracked areas.
  • Bodywork 
    Acceptable: Small areas of chipping. Light scratches up to 25mm in length, relative to the car's age. Dents up to 10mm providing paint is not broken.
    Unacceptable: Chips or scratches over 25mm in length that have exposed the bare metal or primer or have rusted. Any impact damage or multiple dents on a single panel.
  • Interior upholstery
    Acceptable: Should be clean and tidy, with only slight wear and soiling through normal use.
    Unacceptable: Burns, tears or permanent staining. Any damage caused by fitting the equipment such as mobile phones.