What is Fair Wear and Tear on a Lease Car?

When you lease a vehicle, at the end of your contract, the car will be checked over for any damage. The details of this would have been part of your original agreement when you signed the lease. Most contracts state that ‘fair wear and tear’ is acceptable, but anything beyond this, you’ll be charged for. The question is, what constitutes fair wear and tear?

If you’re thinking about leasing a vehicle, you won’t want to be facing huge fees when your term comes to an end. So to help you understand fair wear and tear a little better, we’ve explored this topic in more detail below:

What is Fair Wear and Tear?

When taking out a lease on a car for an extended period of time, or even just hiring one for a few days, it’s your responsibility to return the vehicle in a good condition. It will be understandable though if you don’t return the car in the exact same condition as when you got it. A few bumps and scratches, especially over the course of several years, are completely understandable.

The difficulty is determining what is ‘fair’ and what is ‘unacceptable’ wear and tear. The British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) states that fair wear and tear ‘occurs when normal usage causes deterioration to a vehicle.’ This means that damage from an accident, or negligent or harsh treatment of the vehicle, would not be covered by the lease.

The following are common lease repairs, but whether or not you will be charged extra for the repairs will depend on the extent of the damage:

  • Scratches or chips on the paintwork of the vehicle
  • Holes or rips in the interior upholstery
  • Dents in the bodywork of the car

We’ve looked at the five main areas you should consider in terms of damage, before returning your leased vehicle, below. And if you’re unsure about the line between ‘fair’ and ‘unacceptable’ damage, it may be a good idea to take the car to your local garage, to get it checked over.

wear and tear car

1. General Appearance of the Car

When looking at the wear and tear of a vehicle, the first thing you should do is consider the overall appearance of the car. So when you return the vehicle, it’s a good idea to get it cleaned and valeted, so that it looks its best. Check your tyres and other essential parts before returning the vehicle too.

It’s also important to check that all of the documentation that came with your vehicle is returned. This may include the V5C registration document, owner’s manual, service book and last MOT receipt. Any spare parts or keys that were provided with the car will also have to be given back.

2. Age and Mileage of the Vehicle

While you can’t change the age of a vehicle, you may be surprised to know that this affects what is considered to be fair wear and tear. The age of the car is important in relation to its mileage. For instance, an older vehicle that has already done a few thousand miles would probably already have some wear and tear, whereas a brand new car should be in immaculate condition when you get it!

The mileage you agree to in your contract will also affect what is considered to be normal wear and tear. If you sign up to a lengthy, high-mileage contract, it would be expected that there would be a bit more damage from usage than with a shorter, low-mileage contract.

3. Interior of the Car

The inside of the car, just like the outside, should be clean when you hand back the keys. There shouldn’t be any obvious stains, holes, scratches or dents to the interior either, whether it’s on the seats, carpets, or dashboard. Some minor wear will probably be acceptable – anything that is evidence of everyday use – but if you think that the damage is extensive, it may be best to get it repaired before giving back the car. It will probably work out cheaper to go through a garage than be charged a fee through your contract.

It also goes without saying that all the seats that came with the vehicle should still be there when it is returned, along with any other additional equipment that came with the car, such as boot covers, and restraining straps and nets.

fair wear and tear

4. Tyres and Wheels of the Vehicle

When it comes to the tyres of the car, these will obviously need to be in roadworthy condition when you return the vehicle. So the tyre pressure will need to be within the limits of the car’s make and model, while the tread must be within legal limits. Any dents or holes in the wheel trims will also need to be addressed.

If your car came with a spare wheel, or any tyre changing tools such as a jack, these will furthermore need to be handed back with the vehicle. They should be stowed away safely, and be in full working order.

5. Mechanical Condition of the Car

Overall, you will be expected to hand back the vehicle in a safe and working condition. It would need to pass an MOT and should not have any damage that would be the result of a lack of maintenance or servicing. There shouldn’t be any warning lights illuminated either, unless they are only advisory lights, like the countdown to the vehicle’s next service.

Something else to consider is the type of vehicle you lease. If you were to lease a pickup truck, a few marks in the load bed would be expected. In a luxury sports car though, such marks in the boot would probably not be deemed acceptable wear and tear.

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