This guide explains the fair wear and tear process for lease vehicles, including a breakdown of what is contained in the guidelines and examples of some the most common problems that result in customers having to pay lease-end penalty charges.
This guide also contains advice about maintaining your lease vehicle and the preventative action you can take to keep your lease vehicle in acceptable condition and minimise de-hire charges.
Find out more about how fair wear and tear guidelines work below.
Please note, the information provided on this page is intended as a guide only.
What is fair wear and tear?
Fair wear and tear is the natural deterioration that occurs to a car or van as a result of normal use throughout the period of its lease. It is not to be confused with damage caused by an accident, negligent behaviour or poor treatment.
If you are returning your vehicle to the finance provider at the end of your agreement, it will be inspected for any damage that falls outside ‘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.
The same fair wear and tear rules apply for business and personal customers, although there are three different guides for different types of vehicle:
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. These independent guidelines ensure the rules are clear, easily understood 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 finance provider will have 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 to ensure you avoid any unexpected costs at the end of your lease contract.
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 Nationwide Vehicle Contracts on 0345 811 9595.
What is contained in the guidelines
Before returning your vehicle, please ensure you consult the official wear and tear guidelines from your finance provider. The guidelines detailed what is acceptable for different areas of the vehicle and include specific guidance with regards to the following areas:
General appearance and road safety
Documentation and keys
Paintwork, body, bumpers and trim
Windows, glass, door mirrors and lamps
Tyres and wheels
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’
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 also applies to vans however, there are some elements which relate to van-specific guidance. For example:
Wear and tear guidelines for vans
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 acceptable.
Graphics and decals
Badges, labels or advertising fitted to the bodywork or glass of the vehicle should be removed prior to return and any damage caused by their attachment or removal must be rectified. Any difference in paintwork colour following their removal is not acceptable.
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.
How to prepare for returning your vehicle
If you’re reaching the end of your lease contract, taking the time to prepare your car or van properly for inspection could be the difference between paying a penalty charge and not.
Naturally, it is impossible to cover every single form of damage but the tips below should help give you an idea of the minimum return standards expected and how you can rectify any damage you find.
Start preparations early
When vehicles are returned at the end of their contract, they should be in good condition for their age and mileage. 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 check the vehicle against the condition guidelines and 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 finance provider will inspect your vehicle in natural daylight so you should do the same to avoid missing faults, dents or scratches that may otherwise be difficult to see otherwise.
Inspect your vehicle when it’s dry – A wet car will make it much harder for you to spot scratches and dents. If the car has just been washed, or it has been raining, make sure it’s dried thoroughly before inspection.
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
Ensure any personalised number plates are removed - Drivers should liaise with the finance provider in plenty of time to ensure that any personalised number plates are transferred from the lease vehicle to a new one prior to collection.
Conducting your own assessment
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.
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.
Check glass areas thoroughly
Inspect all lamps, lenses windows and mirrors for any chips, cracks or holes.
Check wheels, trims and tyres for damage
When you are making your checks to the vehicle be sure to check the spare wheel too.
Inspect the interior of your vehicle
Having cleaned and valeted the interior, check for any odours, tears, burns or stains.
Inspect all dashboard and other controls
Everything must be fully functional, including audio equipment and accessories.
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.
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, it is important that you speak to your finance provider first to determine whether its approval is required. Usually, all repair work must be completed to a professional standard by repairers who provide full warranty on their work.
For small areas of damage such as chips, dents and scratches, a SMART (small and medium area repair technique) repair may be appropriate provided your finance provider gives approval. It is advised that you use a SMART repair organisation to carry out the repair work. SMART repairers that are members of the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association (VBRA) and are obliged to comply with an OFT-approved Code of Practice which sets high standards for repairs and customer service.
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. Regular maintenance and servicing should be carried out by an accredited servicing outlet and the vehicle service record must be stamped at each service.
Regular cleaning of both the interior and exterior will also help to ensure the vehicle looks good. Polishing the vehicle exterior around four times a year will help reduce the effects of any stone-chip damage, limit the effects of air-borne contamination (e.g. birddroppings), remove traffic grime and make routine washing easier.
Other standards that you will be expected to follow include:
Maintaining the vehicle is accordance with the vehicle manufacturer's guidelines
Keeping the vehicle in a good condition to maintain its performance and preserve its safety features and emission standards
Following the manufacturer's recommendations regarding fuel and fuel blends, additives such as AdBlue, lubricants and battery recharging (if an electric or hybrid vehicle)
Reporting any suspected manufacturer's faults identified on any part of the vehicle, its bodywork or trim as soon as possible
Ensure the vehicle’s exterior is sufficiently clean to allow a detailed inspection
Make sure the vehicle is roadworthy and no warning lights are illuminated on the dashboard
All electronic safety features and devices must be in working order
There must be at least 50 miles of fuel (or residual charge in the battery if an electric vehicle) in the vehicle
Documentation and keys
All documentation such as the owner’s manual etc. must be in the vehicle on return
The vehicle service book must be date-stamped by an authorised repairer
For service records that are held electronically, a printed copy of the maintenance/service record must be retained
For vehicles older than three years, a valid MOT certificate must be place
A full set of keys, including master and spares, must be returned with the vehicle
Any radio and security code cards must be in the vehicle on return
Paintwork, vehicle body, bumpers and trim
There should be no rust or corrosion on any part of the bodywork or trim of the vehicle
Small dents of up to 15mm are acceptable provided there are no more than two per panel and the paint surface is not broken. Dents on the roof are not acceptable
Scratches and abrasions up to 25mm are acceptable provided the primer or bare metal is not showing
All badges, labels or advertising fitted to the bodywork or glass of the vehicle should be removed prior to collection
Any difference in paintwork colour noted following the removal of advertising, labelling or logos is not acceptable
Convertible roofs must be fully operative and free from rips and tears
A tow bar, if fitted, must be in good, rust-free condition with electrical connections working properly. A ball cover must be in place.
Windscreen, windows and glass
Light scratching on the windscreen is acceptable provided it does not interfere with the driver’s line of sight. Chips, cracks or holes are not acceptable
Any cracks or chips in the lights, which restrict the function of the light must be repaired
Missing, cracked or damaged door mirrors are not acceptable
Adjustable and/or heated door mirrors must work correctly
Panoramic roofs must be fully functioning, with no chips, cracks or holes.
Windscreen wipers must be present, secure and in a good condition and the washer reservoir must have sufficient liquid
Wheels, tyres and trims
All tyres, including the spare, must be legal with more than 1.6mm of tread
Any damage to wheel trims or alloys (for example, caused by kerbing) must be rectified
Dents and holes on steel rims and the main body of the wheel, are not acceptable.
The spare wheel or tyre mobility set must be on-board and meet legal requirements
All original wheel caps and locking wheel nuts must be returned
The vehicle must meet current MOT standard
No warning lights should be illuminated on the dashboard
Brake discs or drums caused by excessive wear or metal to metal contact from worn out disc pads is not acceptable
Engine damage due to running vehicle with insufficient coolant, oil or with broken internal components is not acceptable
Any significant impact damage to the vehicle’s underside is not acceptable
The interior of the vehicle must be valeted and cleared of rubbish
All interior fittings (e.g. rear view mirrors) must be present and intact
All upholstery and trim must be clean and odourless with no visible burns, tears or staining
Scratches on treads, sills and seals that reflect normal use are acceptable
Torn or split floor coverings or damage to surrounding trim panels are not acceptable
Accessories such as parcel shelves, load covers, boot liners, restraining straps and nets must be returned with the vehicle
Equipment and controls
Any personal items must be removed from the vehicle prior to return
Any personal data stored in the vehicle’s satellite navigation or media system must be erased
All original equipment, accessories and controls (including sat nav SD cards) must be present and operate correctly
Any accessories mounted on the dashboard such as mobile phone holders, dash cams and portable sat nav units must be removed and any holes or other damage must be neatly repaired
On the day of collection, a qualified inspector will complete a full visual inspection of the vehicle and will assess its condition. Any damage deemed outside of fair wear and tear will be noted on a condition report, along with the cost of repairing the damage or replacing any missing items. The inspector will ask you to sign the condition report once they have completed their review.
If you do not agree with the inspectors report, you will need to note the detail of your disagreement on the document provided. This will not remove or reduce the cost of the damage but will prompt a review process by the finance provider. Here, a damage team will look to see if the damage in the imagery provided matches the recharge cost quoted and whether the charges will stand. If not, the costs may be removed.
Please remember that in all cases, you or your nominated handover representative, will have seen this damage at the point of vehicle handover, and thus should have full knowledge of the damage as found and recorded on the inspection sheet.
For more information and advice, consult the fair wear and tear guide provided by your finance provider.
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