If you’ve ever sold a used car, you probably know exactly what you need to do when it comes to preparing your leased car for turn-in. After all, when you return a car at the end of your lease you’re basically selling a used car back to its owner.
Looking at it from that perspective, it follows there are some things you need to do to avoid paying disposition fees, excess mileage or wear and tear charges. This is also a good time to compare the car’s actual market value to the residual value. You might have equity in the car.
Wash Yes, Detail Not Required
A clean car certainly makes a better impression than a dirty one. Wash it, vacuum the carpets and clean the upholstery as well as you can. If the seats or carpets are stained, do make it a point to clean them as much as possible. Springing for a full detail is overkill though. Don’t feel like you need to go that far.
Gather All Accessories
It’s amazing how many little things can find their way out of your car over a period of three years. Maybe you took the owner’s manual in the house one afternoon to read up on something and never got around to putting it back. Or maybe the little tool kit that came with car was used in your garage to fix something else and you forgot to put it back. You will be charged for these items if they’re missing.
Articles typically overlooked include:
• Extra keys
• Keyless entry remotes
• Navigation system DVDs
• DVD remote
• Cargo covers
• Cargo nets
• Third-row seats
• Owner's manual
• Wheel Locks
• Spare Tire Cover
Hopefully, this list will jog your memory regarding any little odds and ends that came with the car so you can be certain they’re put back when you turn the car in.
Schedule a Pre-Return Inspection
The car will be inspected when you bring it back for the last time. However, you can request an inspection a month or so before the end of your lease to give yourself an opportunity to gather any missing objects or correct issues.
Keep in mind; lease deals typically require you to return the car in the best possible condition. If you find out about problems with time left in your lease to correct them, you will save money.
Fix It Yourself
By and large, it’s less expensive to correct issues on your own than it is to leave them to be assessed as additional charges. If the car needs tires, replace them with four of the same make and model — if the car came with run flats, the replacements need to be as well. Tires don’t have to be the same brand that came on the car, but they should be from a respected manufacturer.
Damaged bumpers, cracked windshields, non-functioning accessories will all get you hit with additional charges. Taking care of these on your own gives you more control over the cost. Leaving them to a dealer is handing over a blank check.
Excess Mileage Matters, Minor Scratches Won’t
If you’ve gone over your mileage cap, you can often purchase extra miles during the lease term. If you wait until you turn the car in, you’ll usually pay more. On the other hand, a minor scuff here or there will be looked upon as normal.
Again, the pre-return inspection will stand you in good stead in this regard.
By and large, preparing your leased car for turn-in is a common-sense exercise. If you’ve ever sold a used car yourself, you know what to do. If you haven’t, the above advice will help you make it through the process just fine. Who knows? In so doing, you might even realize you like the car so much you decide to keep it.