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If you are returning your vehicle to the finance company at the end of your agreement, it will be inspected for any damage that falls outside what is deemed ‘fair wear and tear’. You will be liable to pay for any excess damage that is found, in the form of lease-end penalty charges.

Find out more about how fair wear and tear guidelines work below.

    What are fair wear and tear guidelines?

    Fair wear and tear is the damage that occurs to a car or van as a result of normal use throughout the period of its lease. It is not damage caused by an accident, negligent behaviour or poor treatment.

    The same fair wear and tear rules apply for business and personal customers, although there are three different guides for different types of vehicle:

    • Cars
    • LCVs (light commercial vehicles including vans) and minibuses
    • HGVs (heavy goods vehicles – those over 3.5 tonnes GVW)

    The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) – the leasing industry’s trade body – provides general guidelines as to what constitutes fair wear and tear. This ensures the rules are clear, easily understood, accepted across the industry and fair for everyone involved.

    How to get a copy of the fair wear and tear guidelines

    Although the BVRLA provides the general guidelines, each funder will produce its own set of fair wear and tear rules, broadly based on the general guidelines. It is the guidelines from your specific finance provider that you must follow.

    If you are nearing the end of your lease and would like to get a copy of the fair wear and tear guidelines for your vehicle, please contact your sales advisor.

    What is contained in the guidelines

    The information provided on this page is intended as a guide only. Before returning your vehicle, please ensure you consult the official wear and tear guidelines for your vehicle. Contact your sales advisor to obtain a copy.

    The guidelines state that the areas of which the vehicle’s condition is inspected are:

    • General appearance and road safety
    • Documentation and keys
    • Paintwork, body, bumpers and trim
    • Windows, glass, door mirrors and lamps
    • Tyres and wheels
    • Mechanical condition
    • Interior
    • Equipment and controls

    The guidelines also include:

    • An explanation as to why end-of-lease charges exist
    • Guidance as to how to go about checking your vehicle for damage prior to handover
    • Photographs to illustrate acceptable and unacceptable damage on vehicles returned at the end of a lease
    • Glossary of terms defining various types of damage, for example ‘abrasion’, ‘dent’ and ‘chip’

    Common problems

    Some of the most common problems that result in customers having to pay lease-end penalty charges include:

    • Damage to wheels and trims
    • Chips or dents on the bodywork
    • Scuffs, scratches and scrapes to the paintwork
    • Rips, burns or holes in the vehicle’s seats

    Wear and tear guidelines for vans

    For the large part, much of the information contained within the guidelines for cars applies to vans; the van must be returned with no excess damage to avoid penalty charges. However, there are some elements of van-specific guidance. For example:

    • Loading area – Scuffing, scratches, abrasions and small dents that do not interfere with the function of the compartment are permitted, but any considerable damage caused by improper loading is not
    • Graphics and decals – Scuffing, scratches, abrasions and small dents that do not interfere with the function of the compartment are permitted, but any considerable damage caused by improper loading is not
    • Additional roof fittings – Any additional beacons, lights, antenna or other roof fittings can remain, as long as they are fully functional and comply with legal requirements

    What to do when your vehicle is due for collection

    The quick pointers below will help to ensure the collection of your car or van goes as smoothly as possible:

    • Make sure all keys, documentation and other accessories are presented
    • If there is any damage outstanding, ensure you inform your leasing company
    • Ensure all personal effects are moved from the vehicle, including any unrelated keys on the key fob
    • If your vehicle has a sat nav fitted, delete any personal information, such as your home address, from it
    • When the car or van has been inspected for damage, all apparent wear will be documented and you will be given the opportunity to agree the condition of the vehicle

    How to prepare for returning your vehicle

    Car keys being passed from one person to another

    If you’re reaching the end of your lease contract and are planning on returning the car or van to the finance company, taking the time to prepare your car or van properly for inspection could be the difference between paying a penalty charge and not.

    Start preparations early

    The BVRLA advises that you inspect your vehicle for damage 10 to 12 weeks before it is due to be returned. This should give you enough time to arrange for any necessary repairs to be carried out.

    • Be honest – Be as objective as possible and ask a friend to help you by providing an honest opinion
    • Choose a good light – The leasing company will inspect your vehicle in clear light; you should do the same to avoid missing faults
    • Ensure your vehicle is clean both inside and out – Water marks and dirt can mask bodywork damage and all interior upholstery must be stain-free

    Conducting your own assessment

    1. Inspect one panel at a time. Walk all the way around the vehicle, checking each panel at a time for significant damage. Be sure not to forget the roof
    2. Inspect the sides of the vehicle from a crouching position. Kneel down at the front and rear of the car or van and look along each side to help you spot any missed damage
    3. Check glass areas thoroughly. Inspect all lamps, lenses windows and mirrors for any chips, cracks or holes
    4. Check wheels, trims and tyres for damage. Don’t forget to check the spare wheel too
    5. Inspect the interior of your vehicle. Having cleaned and valeted the interior, check for any odours, tears, burns or stains
    6. Inspect all dashboard and other controls. Everything must be fully functional, including audio equipment and accessories
    7. Check vehicle documentation. For a car or van to achieve its highest possible resale price, it must have all the relevant documentation and up-to-date service and maintenance history. Ensure you are able to provide:
      • V5C registration document (if applicable)
      • Service history
      • MOT certificate (if applicable)
      • Operation manual
      • Key and radio codes etc.

    How to rectify any damage

    If you discover any damage that you believe is likely to incur a penalty charge as part of your inspection, you can arrange to correct the damage before the vehicle is returned. Before having any maintenance work carried out, ensure you speak to your leasing company first to determine whether its approval is required.

    Regular service and maintenance

    The most effective method of avoiding penalty charges is to keep on top of the vehicle’s maintenance and appearance throughout your lease period. Keep it clean and polished, ensure that regular service and maintenance is carried out by accredited garages, and ensure that the vehicle’s service record is stamped each time.

    For general information and advice on maintenance, view our Vehicle Maintenance Guide.

    Chips, dents and scratches

    • Any damage should be repaired as soon as possible after it occurs
    • All work must be completed by a professional who provides a full warranty
    • Speak to your leasing company directly if you have any concerns

    Windscreen and windows

    • Any damage to the driver’s line of sight must be repaired immediately
    • Small cracks can easily be SMART (small and medium area repair technique) repaired
    • Ensure any appropriate approval is given by the leasing company before work is carried out

    Wheels, tyres and trims

    • Regularly check that tyre pressures are kept at the recommended PSI to avoid unnecessary wear
    • Any damage to wheel trims or alloys (for example, caused by kerbing) must be rectified
    • Ensure any appropriate approval is given by the leasing company before work is carried out

    Vehicle interior and equipment

    • Drivers or passengers should not regularly smoke in the vehicle to avoid causing a residual smell and staining. Any staining must be removed before return
    • All general equipment, controls, accessories and in-car entertainment systems must be replaced equipment of a similar spec if stolen or lost
    • Ensure any appropriate approval is given by the leasing company before work is carried out

    For more information and advice, consult the fair wear and tear guide provided by your leasing company.

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