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Nationwide Vehicle Contracts lists a step-by-step lease inspection checklist to help you prepare your leased car for return in the UK

Leasing a car has become a popular option for many individuals in the UK. It offers the opportunity to drive a new vehicle without the commitment of ownership. However, as the lease term comes to an end, it's crucial to ensure that the car is in proper condition to avoid any additional charges for excessive wear and tear. In this guide, we'll provide you with a step-by-step lease inspection checklist to help you prepare your leased car for return in the UK.

Step 1: Review Your Lease Agreement

Before beginning the inspection process, take a moment to review your lease agreement. Understand the guidelines set by the leasing company regarding acceptable wear and tear. This will give you a clear idea of what to look for during the inspection. Carefully read through your lease agreement to understand the specific guidelines set by the leasing company regarding wear and tear. Different leasing companies might have varying definitions of acceptable wear and tear. Familiarize yourself with their policies so you know what to expect during the inspection.

Step 2: Gather Necessary Supplies

To conduct a thorough inspection, gather the necessary supplies before starting the inspection. Here's what you'll need:

  • Flashlight: This will help you see hidden details, especially in poorly lit areas.
  • Notepad and Pen: Use these to document any issues you find.
  • Camera or Smartphone: Take clear photos of any damages as evidence.
  • Cleaning Supplies: You might need a microfiber cloth, interior cleaner, and glass cleaner for a thorough cleaning.

Step 3: Exterior Inspection

Start with the exterior of the car. Take note of any issues you find and document them with photographs. During the exterior inspection, pay attention to the following:

  • Dents and Scratches: Check the body panels for any dents, scratches, or paint chips. Make note of their size and location.
  • Bumpers: Inspect the bumpers for scuffs, scratches, or cracks.
  • Wheel Arches: Look for signs of corrosion or damage in the wheel arches.

Step 4: Wheels and Tires

Inspect the wheels and tires for damage, including excessive wear and tear, cuts, or bulges. Check the tire tread depth to ensure it meets the legal requirements in the UK. Examine the wheels and tires carefully:

  • Tire Wear: Check the tread depth on each tire. Make sure they meet the legal requirements, which are typically at least 1.6mm in the UK.
  • Wheel Damage: Inspect the wheels for any signs of curb damage, cracks, or bends.
  • Spare Tire: Don't forget to check the condition of the spare tire as well.

Step 5: Lights and Indicators

Test all the lights and indicators, including headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and reverse lights. Make sure they are all functioning correctly. Check the following:

  • Headlights: Check the low beams, high beams, and fog lights.
  • Brake Lights: Have someone press the brake pedal while you verify that all brake lights illuminate.
  • Turn Signals: Test the turn signals and hazard lights.
  • Reverse Lights: Ensure the reverse lights are functioning correctly.

Step 6: Interior Examination

Move to the interior of the car. Check the condition of the seats, upholstery, and carpeting. Look for any stains, tears, or excessive wear. Test all the features inside the car, such as the air conditioning, radio, and power windows. Inspect the interior of the car:

  • Seats: Check for any stains, tears, or wear on the seats. Look under seat covers if applicable.
  • Upholstery: Examine the door panels and dashboard for any damage or wear.
  • Carpeting: Vacuum the carpets and check for any stains or damage.
  • Controls: Test all controls, including the air conditioning, heating, radio, and infotainment system.

Step 7: Check Under the Hood

Open the hood and inspect the engine bay. Look for any signs of leaks, corrosion, or unusual noises. If you're not familiar with car engines, consider getting a professional inspection. If you're comfortable with basic engine inspection, open the hood and look for the following:

  • Leaks: Check for any fluid leaks, including oil, coolant, and brake fluid.
  • Corrosion: Look for signs of corrosion on metal components.
  • Unusual Noises: Listen for any unusual noises when the engine is running.

Step 8: Fluid Levels

Check the fluid levels, including oil, coolant, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Top up any fluids that are low.

  • Oil: Use the dipstick to check the oil level and top up if needed.
  • Coolant: Verify that the coolant level is within the recommended range.
  • Brake Fluid: Check the brake fluid reservoir level.
  • Windshield Washer Fluid: Make sure the reservoir is filled.

Step 9: Documentation

Compile all your inspection notes and photographs into a comprehensive document. This will serve as evidence of the car's condition at the time of the inspection.

  • Notes: Write down the issues you found and their locations.
  • Photos: Include clear photos of each issue.
  • Date and Time: Document when you performed the inspection.

Step 10: Cleaning

Before returning the car, give it a thorough cleaning, both inside and out. Wash the exterior, vacuum the interior, and clean any stains or marks. A well-maintained car is more likely to pass inspection.

  • Exterior: Wash the exterior to remove dirt, grime, and bird droppings.
  • Interior: Vacuum the interior and use appropriate cleaners for the dashboard, seats, and other surfaces.
  • Stains: Address any stains or marks on upholstery or carpets.


Properly inspecting and preparing your leased car for return in the UK is essential to avoid additional charges for wear and tear. By following this step-by-step lease inspection checklist, you'll be well-equipped to identify any issues and address them before returning the vehicle. Remember that early preparation can save you both time and money in the long run, ensuring a smooth conclusion to your leasing experience.

For more information, why not check out our The Ultimate Road Trip Checklist for Exploring the Scenic UK blog? We also produce a range of weekly blogs on various topics, which can be found in the blog section of our website.

Nationwide Vehicle Contracts is one of the UK's leading car leasing brokers and offers a range of leasing deals to suit every need. To find out more, check out our comprehensive car leasing guides or call one of our experts on 0345 811 9595.