What happens if I damage my lease car?

Damaged your lease car? Don't worry, here's what you have to do...

  • What happens if I damage my lease car?
  • What is the BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide?
  • How much will damage charges cost?
  • How do I dispute damage charges?
  • How can I avoid damage charges?

You have your lease car for quite a while. It may not seem that 1-5 years is any time at all in the scheme of things, but over that time you will do a lot of driving. It’s possible that during the time you have the vehicle you may end up damaging it because accidents do happen.

So, what actually happens when you damage your lease vehicle?

It’s important to remember that when you lease a car or van, you don’t actually own it. This means you have to look after it to ensure that when you return it, it’s in pretty good condition. If you loaned someone a camera or something else you valued you’d want them to take good care of it and return it to you in the same condition, right? Well, the Finance House feels the same about the vehicle you’ve leased.

But if you damage that vehicle, then you could incur charges.

small scratch on car

Of course, there is some leeway. The Finance House isn’t expecting you to keep it in pristine condition for the length of your contract, that would be silly. This means that when they are examining your vehicle at the end of your contract they will allow for something called fair wear and tear.

The subject of what happens if you damage a lease vehicle is something we’ve advised quite a few people on since OSV was founded in 1997 and it’s a subject we continue to advise on today.

We felt that an article explaining what happens if your leased vehicle is damaged and how you can avoid incurring costs would be helpful.

What happens if I damage my lease car?

At the end of your lease contract, the vehicle will undergo an inspection. When this happens will depend on your Finance House. Some will arrange to carry it out a week before the end of your lease, while some will inspect the vehicle on the day of collection.

A benefit of having a Finance House that inspects it a week before is that if there is anything that needs fixing, you have a week to do so. But, it entirely depends on your Finance House.

During the inspection, they will tell you if they find any damage to the vehicle that you will be required to pay for.

Shortly after the car has gone back to the finance house you will receive an invoice for the damage. Which you will have to pay, of course. Unless you want to dispute it, but more on that later.

There is leeway. Most finance houses have to abide by the BVRLA (British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association) Fair Wear and Tear guide.

What is the BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide?

The BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide is the industry standard for fair wear and tear.

It is something that all dealerships, Finance Houses and brokers must abide by when inspecting cars for collection.

Inspector looking at vehicle damage

If your vehicle broker is a member of the BVRLA then you will be given the guide at the start of your contract. Keep hold of it, because this is invaluable when it comes to checking your car before the inspection.

The Fair Wear and Tear Guide states what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of the car’s condition when it is returned to the finance house.

What counts as fair wear and tear?

So, what is allowed and what isn’t?

There is a whole booklet dedicated to this, and we aren’t going to list everything because we’d be here forever. However, here’s a brief overview of some of the things they are looking for. For more information and pictures, refer to your BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide.

What is acceptable

  • Scratches up to 25mm are acceptable (except where primer or bare metal is showing)
  • A scratch that does not interfere with the driver’s line of sight
  • Scuffs up to 25mm on alloy wheels
  • Tyres must meet UK legal requirements
  • Light staining to the driver seat area
  • Damage to the lens but has not broken the glass (and there’s also no water ingress)

What isn’t acceptable

  • Unrepaired impact damage
  • A dirty interior/exterior (otherwise they can’t inspect)
  • Adhesive residue
  • Windscreen chip
  • Wheel damage – due to kerbing
  • Abrasions longer than 25mm
  • Scratches over 25mm

Hopefully, that has given you a rough idea. If anything, it’s reminded you to invest in a tape measure.

How much will damage charges cost?

There’s no way to tell how much you will get charged for damage. It depends on a lot of things, including the manufacturer and what the damage is.

This is why it’s important for you to get any damages fixed before you hand the car back. This is because you can shop around a little bit. The finance house, however, won’t care how much it costs because they aren’t paying for it.

Invoices with calculator and computer

However, you should get it repaired at a manufacturer’s garage. If you don’t, then it may not meet the manufacturer’s guidelines and you could get charged. So, you can go to a third party garage but do so at your own risk.

How do I dispute damage charges?

If you feel like you have been unjustly charged for damages, then you can dispute it.

You need to get in contact with the finance house as soon as possible. Each finance house has its own process, so we can’t say exactly what will happen. Some will want you to phone them, others email, and some will want you to file a formal complaint by post.

You need to see what they are charging you for and refer to the BVRLA guidelines. If you feel you are within the guidelines, then you have a good chance of getting the charges dropped.

However, if the finance house maintains that they are going to charge you for it, then you can contact the BVRLA. They can help you with conflict resolution, and their decision is final.

How can I avoid damage charges?

The best way to avoid getting charged for damage on your lease car is by getting everything repaired before the inspection. Also, we recommend taking photos of each panel, wheel and interior before the car is collected. Make sure those pictures have a date and time that coincides with when the car was picked up. This can be used as evidence if you find it necessary to dispute any charges from the Finance House after your contract ends.

When you are inspecting your car before the Finance House inspector arrives, we would recommend that you look at your lease vehicle as if you were going to purchase it second hand. If, when you are looking at it, you notice anything that you would query, then you should get it fixed. And be honest, if you would try and get the price reduced then you could end up getting charged. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Windscreen damage being repaired

At OSV we have a unique product available called SMART Care. If you’re concerned about the cost of repairs at the end of your lease contract, SMART Care will provide you with protection for small and medium repairs for the duration of your agreement. It covers minor damage to the interior, exterior and alloy wheels using the latest paint technology, alloy wheel refurbishment and paintless dent removal process to restore your vehicle.

If you’d like to find out more about SMART Care

Please get in touch with the OSV Team on 01903 538835 OR

Ultimately, if you damage your lease car you will be charged. Obviously, there is leeway as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. If you think you have been wrongly charged then you can dispute it. The key is to keep your BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide for reference at all times. It will be invaluable come collection day.

Rachel Richardson
  • 6th February 2020

2 Comments

  • Adam mcgregor| 3rd October 2019 at 8:48 am Reply

    Hi
    Can I have a bit of advice please I am returning a fiat 500 after a three year lease and I have a scratch and scuff mark which is only just outside the fair wear and tear guidelines. It is under the front near side panel not in an obvious position but noticable. Is the lease company likely to charge for a whole bumper or are they likely to be reasonable with there charges.
    Thanks adam

    • Rachel Richardson| 3rd October 2019 at 9:51 am Reply

      Hi Adam,

      Thank you for your question. We have just checked with our vehicle experts and they have recommended that you contact the Finance House and explain the situation. They will be able to tell you how much the repair will cost you. Once you have done this you will be able to check and see if there is anywhere that is more affordable. However, one thing that we were advised of is that if the repair is made somewhere that the same materials aren’t used and the repair isn’t up to the quality of the dealership you will be charged full price for the problem to be rectified.

      If you are looking for a new lease vehicle, please get in touch with Amanda on 01903 223391 and she will be able to direct you to one of our skilled vehicle experts.

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