Car leasing – what is fair wear and tear?

How can you ensure that your dream car doesn’t turn into a leasing nightmare?

Most of us have heard a horror story about someone returning their lease car only to be faced with a whopping great charge. How can you ensure that your dream car doesn’t turn into a car leasing nightmare?

When your vehicle is returned at the end of your contract – it will be thoroughly inspected. The BVLRA provide an industry wide standard for the condition of a vehicle that constitutes deterioration due to normal usage. If your vehicles condition does not fit within the fair wear and tear guidelines you will be charged for the cost or the repairs and/or replacement parts.

While it may be easy to enforce a no eating, drinking and smoking rule inside our cars – it’s much less easy to control where stones may chip the paintwork! For this reason, blemishes to the outside of the vehicle often cause the most lost sleep before a vehicle is returned. Nobody will be expecting a vehicle back in perfect condition, some minor scrapes and bumps will be expected.

Here is a brief summary of the fair wear and tear guide for car leasing:


Acceptable wear
Small chips – if there is no correction present
Scratches up to 25mm – with no visible primer or bare metal
Dents up to 10mm – maximum 2 dents per panel with unbroken paint surface
Small areas of chipping to the door edges

Chargeable damage
Any impact related damage
Chipping that requires a panel to be re-painted
Sticky residue from the removal of stickers / badges

Tyres and wheels

Acceptable wear
Surface deterioration on alloy wheels
Scuffs up to 25mm on alloys
Tyres with 1.6 mm tread depth or more

Chargeable damage
Damage to the side wall of tyres
Damage to wheels/alloys caused by kerb collisions
Any crack or holes in wheel trims
Tyres with a tread less than 1.6mm deep

Glass and mirrors

Acceptable wear
Light windscreen or passenger window scratches – that are not the within drivers line of sight
Some surface damage to the light casings

Chargeable damage
Chips to the windscreen
Missing or damaged door mirrors
Cracks or holes in light casings that allow water through
Lights that are not working

Prepare well in advance…

Perform an inspection of your vehicle two to three months before your contract is due to expire. This will give you time to identify and arrange any required repairs. Check the inside of the vehicle for tears or cigarette burns on both interior coverings as well as covering in the boot as these will not be accepted.

Check that all mechanisms are working and all original fittings are present.

The vehicle must be current MOT standard – over worn break discs or a slipping clutch will mean charges! The tyres must meet the minimum UK standard with a tread depth of at least 1.6 mm.

On the day of handover…

Ensure your vehicle has been cleaned inside and out ready for inspection – a clean car will ensure the most accurate report on its condition.

Leave all supplied documents in the vehicle (including service history, guides and handbooks).

Return both the main and any spare keys with working batteries.

Remove all your personal items from the vehicle and clear the satellite navigation memory to remove any personal data (such as addresses visited).

Please note that the fair wear and tear guidelines do change from time to time, for current advice please visit BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear guides.

Further reading on car leasing

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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Car leasing

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