When should I arrange the return of my current vehicle? When should I start looking for my next vehicle?

We look at when you should arrange the return of your lease vehicle...

If your lease agreement is coming to an end, then you will need to arrange for the return of your lease vehicle. You will also have to start looking for your new vehicle.

The question is, when do you start this process?

We always recommend the sooner the better. Modern life is busy, and leaving it until the last minute can cause undue stress and panic, but how early you start the process really depends on you and the vehicle that you want.

So in this article, we look at when to arrange the return of your current vehicle, and when you should start looking for your next vehicle.

When should I arrange the return of my current vehicle?

You will have to arrange for the return of the vehicle by the end date of the vehicle contract.

Either you will have to ring the finance house and arrange the collection or they will contact you. However, you should check this a few months before your contract is due to end, save for any last minute confusion.

We recommend that you arrange a date for your vehicle to be returned at least a month before that date. This will give you plenty of time to ensure that your vehicle is prepared for return.

What should I do to prepare for my vehicle to be returned?

When your vehicle goes back to the finance house, it will undergo an inspection. When you have a lease car, you do not own the car, and therefore you have to keep it in good condition. This condition will have to be in line with the BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide. This Guide is the industry standard and applies to all lease vehicles on their return to the finance house.

Learn more about the BVRLA and how they can benefit you as a customer

When your vehicle is due to be returned, either the finance house will send someone to inspect the vehicle a week before or the vehicle will be inspected on the day of return. It depends on the finance house which they do, so we recommend doing your own inspection before the vehicle is to be returned.

Look around your vehicle with the BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide and if you spot anything that you might think will be picked up on, get it repaired. You will have to be strict, it’s better to get something fixed than get fined. The reason being is you can then shop around for the best repair deal, the finance house will not. Therefore, you could end up paying considerably more than if you got it fixed yourself.

If you are in doubt as to whether something needs repairing, we advise you contact the finance house. They will tell you whether you should get it fixed or not.

man in a white polo shirt inspecting a scratch on his red car

We also recommend that you take photos of the vehicle the day before it is due to be returned, with time stamps on those photos. This is in case you are charged for damage and you want to dispute it.

What happens if I get charged for damage?

If your vehicle is returned and you do get fined for damage, then you will have to pay for it. You will get sent an invoice shortly after your vehicle has been returned.

However, if you think that you have been wrongly charged, then you can dispute it. This is where the pictures will come in handy. You can also take it to the BVRLA and they will judge whether the charge was fair or not. Their word is final.

Do you honestly know what to do if your lease vehicle undergoes damage? Don't worry we have got you covered

When should I start looking for my new vehicle?

You will have to start looking for your new vehicle before you arrange the return of your current one. However, how long before depends again on what you want and your individual situation.

If you are looking at a factory order, then you will want to plan ahead. A factory order vehicle is one that is built from scratch when you put your order in. This means you have full control over the colour, the interior and the specification. However, it does mean that it will take longer than if you were to get a stock car. A stock car is one that is already in stock and ready to be delivered.

person sitting at a wooden table with a takeaway coffee looking at car deals on an ipad

If you are going to get a factory order vehicle, then we advise you put in an order three months before you need the vehicle. This will leave enough time for the production process and leave some room for any potential delays.

However, it takes roughly three months for us to decide which vehicle we want. So we advise you start looking at a new vehicle six months before you need your new one. You can use the first three months to do some research. This could be reading reviews, watching video reviews, talking to friends and family or looking on car forums.

By the time it comes to order your vehicle, you will hopefully know exactly which vehicle you want.

So for a factory order, we recommend six months. Three for research, three to give time for the vehicle to be built and delivered to your door.

If you are looking for a stock car, then you can wait a little longer before looking for a new vehicle. This is because the vehicle has already been built and is in stock ready for delivery. However, you still have to give some time for ordering and arranging the delivery, as well as going through the documents process. We recommend giving it around six weeks before you need your vehicle. This will give some time for any delays and will avoid you getting stressed about running out of time. You will also have to give some time for research, so anything between three months and six weeks to get a stock car.

What is a lead time? Why is it important?

A lead time is, by definition, the time between ‘the initiation and completion of a production process’.

In the context of car leasing, it is the time between placing your order and your vehicle arriving at your door. The lead time for a vehicle varies on a number of things, and it can either be a short lead time or a long lead time. Either way, your vehicle broker should be able to tell you the estimated lead time when you are looking at vehicles.

Some of the things that impact lead time, including;

  • Demand
    • If the vehicle is in high demand then there could be a waiting list which will impact lead time
  • The time of year
    • If the manufacturer is developing another model or another model is getting a face-lift then this may put an additional lead time on the model
  • Order cycles
    • If you have ordered a vehicle that is not yet on the forecourts, this will lengthen the lead time.
car on the assembly line with orange robots sparking in the for front

Lead times are only an estimate, but they are a good estimate. Sometimes it will take longer but sometimes it will also be sooner. However, as we said, your vehicle broker should be able to give you an estimate of the lead time and should also keep you updated if this changes.

In conclusion, you should arrange for the return of your lease vehicle a month before the vehicle is due to go back. This gives you time to inspect your car yourself and get any repairs fixed before the inspection by the finance house. We also advise that you take photos of your vehicle with a timestamp should you be charged for damage. If you are looking at getting a factory order car then we recommend looking six months before you need your next vehicle. This will give you plenty of time to research your vehicle and order it. However, if you are getting a stock car, then you can leave it until a little bit closer to the time. We recommend anything between six weeks and three months, depending on how much research you want to do or whether you want a last minute deal. We advise people every day on returning their lease vehicle, and we also help them with their research for their new vehicle. So if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

Do you know how and what you should do when returning your leased vehicle? Head over to check out our top tips which will ensure the process runs smoothly
Rachel Richardson
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