How to Return a Car at the End of a Lease

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Prepare for the Car Lease Inspection

Most manufacturers’ websites provide specific information about the end-of-lease process and a detailed definition of wear and tear, which also is called “wear and use.” Toyota Financial Services created a lease turn-in site so people can better understand what will happen and see what kinds of damage will incur a charge.

For example, inspectors for Toyota look for any dents or scratches that are bigger than an area that can be covered by a credit card. They don’t charge customers for wheel gouges smaller than an inch or normal tire wear.

Before the inspection, experts recommend removing all personal items and washing the vehicle. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars, but a detailing job might also be a good idea. It’s definitely to your advantage to present your car in the best light you can.

It also might be the time for some touch-ups.

Are there light scratches? Some cut only through the outer layer of paint called the clear coat. A thorough detailing can sometimes eliminate these scratches. If a scratch is deeper, and you are pretty sure the manufacturer will charge you for it, buy a small bottle of touch-up paint from the manufacturer’s parts department. However, the experts suggest using a thin-bristle brush from an art store, not the thicker brush that comes in the touch-up paint bottle.

A number of independent paint product companies, such as Dr. ColorChip and Langka, also have products that can match original manufacturer colors. If you carefully follow the directions, you can get good results.

If your automobile has multiple small dents that haven’t broken the paint, you can call a paintless dent remover. Sean McMullan of dent remover Crayford Coachworks in Los Angeles says he does a lot of pre-lease-return business. Owners who are about to wrap up a car lease come to him to remove all manner of dents and dings. He estimates that his fees are about a third of what a body shop would charge for the same repair.

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