The allure of a new car and low monthly payment options draw many people to lease a car, even though they could face serious fines and extra charges when they return the vehicle at the end of the lease term. If you’re leasing a car, however, you can take steps to avoid getting dinged by lease return charges.
Sweat the small stuff
Just about every vehicle on the road has some scratches, nicks, chips and dents; parking lots and garages can’t protect a vehicle completely. Inevitably, doors get dinged and bumpers scuffed. And even if the blemishes on your leased car are small, don’t think the dealership won’t notice. Even small flaws can quickly rust and grow into large headaches, so fixing the problem as soon as possible is always the best solution.
Like a pair of shoes, constant use will cause tires to wear down quickly. Tires are often one of the first places a dealer will look when inspecting a vehicle, and besides being a safety concern, bald or damaged tires can cost you big when your lease is up. Tires with less than one-eighth of an inch of tread need to be replaced before the dealership’s inspection. An easy trick to get an idea of whether your car needs new tires is the “penny test.” Simply place a penny in the tread of each tire with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If the top of Lincoln’s head shows, it’s time for new tires.
To get the most life out of your leased car’s tires from the get-go, check tire pressure regularly and rotate your tires about every six months. When your lease end date draws near, do a full check on all tires and replace any that show cuts, cracks or bulges in the sidewalls or treads. Purchasing new tires may seem expensive, but paying for them to be replaced by the dealership will likely cost you even more.
It’s in the details
Before you hand over the keys for inspection, make an effort to get the vehicle looking and working exactly as it did when you drove it off the lot. Check that all features, including the sound system, keyless entry, windows and any other components, work properly and that all extras, from luggage racks to the spare tire cover, are accounted for. Though these extras may seem insignificant compared to the vehicle itself, the leasing company will check every single aspect of the vehicle when you return it.
To give your lease a good-as-new appearance, consider having the vehicle detailed before inspection. Turning over a vehicle that has already been thoroughly cleaned will make for an easier and less costly trade-in.