“I’m coming to the end of my first car lease. What in the holy guacamole do I need to do?”
After 36 months, it’s time to bring that sucker home. But how does the lease-end process work, exactly? Do you need to remove bumper stickers, clean the inside, or get it inspected and repaired? Should you buy your lease, return it outright, or re-lease another car or SUV? And what’s the deal with airline food, anyway?
Don’t worry too much about returning your vehicle lease; it’s actually quite easy, so long as you follow these tips before that fateful turn-in date.
Once my lease ends, what is the best way to walk away and avoid extra fees?
Here are some steps you can take to avoid extra costs at lease-end.
When you lease a car, your lease agreement will clearly state the amount you must pay the manufacturer (not the dealer) to return the car once your lease ends – this is commonly referred to as the “disposition fee.” These charges will fluctuate but are non-negotiable; check your lease agreement prior to returning the vehicle to see how much you owe.
You can avoid paying a disposition fee by electing to purchase or finance your leased vehicle instead. On your original lease agreement, you will find the vehicle’s “residual value,” or the estimated value of your vehicle at lease-end. This is the amount you must pay to buy the car outright. This price is usually non-negotiable, but speak to your salesperson for details.
Damage/Wear & Tear
The other common fee will be the charge for wear and tear (or “excessive wear and use”). If you return your vehicle with above average or significant damage, you’re likely to be billed for those repairs. What counts as “above average” varies from dealer to dealer and auto brand to auto brand. However, expect any large cosmetic tears in upholstery, chipped paint, deep scratches, and damaged glass or mirrors to be paid for, courtesy of your wallet.
If you have bumper stickers or decals, ask your dealer if it’s necessary to remove them prior to returning your leased car. In most instances – especially if you’re a repeat customer or the vehicle is in near-mint condition – the dealer will remove those decals for you. (Just get it in writing.)
Some auto brands offer damage waivers to loyal customers. This should be brought up at the time of signing your lease contract; if you have questions, search through your documents or speak with your car dealer for advice about waiving damage.
As a loyal customer*, you’re able to take advantage of a $500 Excessive Wear-and-Use Waiver* when returning a Honda lease, for a total of $1,000 waived. Other manufacturers’ waivers will vary.
Unless you’ve had your dealer replace the entire set of tires on your vehicle, it’s important to return the car with the same four wheels as when it was leased. Returning a car lease with mismatched or aftermarket tires will oftentimes result in an added charge.
Additional fees will accrue if you go over your mileage restriction – this is usually 10,000 or 12,000 miles per lease year – and can range from 10 to 20 cents per overage mile. Do not go over your allotted miles!
If you are about to go over that mileage limit, and the vehicle is close to reaching its lease-end or termination date, contact your car dealer to discuss options. They may be able to roll the remainder of your monthly lease payments into a new car loan or vehicle lease.
Change the Oil
Modern vehicles will have an “oil life” tracker, letting you know when you need to visit a service center. If your vehicle needs an oil change, then get one before turning the lease in. (Click here to schedule an oil change in Miami.)
Clean the Car
Even if you’ve been a lackluster lessee for the better part of 3 years, a good auto detailing, car wash and vacuuming inside the car can undo some visual neglect. When you get a lease-end inspection and return the car to your dealer, you’ll have a better chance to pass with flying colors.
Simply put, if you treat the car well and perform all routine maintenance, turning your car lease in will feel like returning a rental vehicle. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.
Do I have to schedule a lease-end inspection?
Unless the dealership is buying your vehicle lease to sell as used, they do not necessarily perform inspections. They’re only responsible for checking the odometer and noting the vehicle was turned in on such-and-such date. That said, you don’t need to get a pre-return inspection on your car lease. A representative from the manufacturer will do this regardless of any lease-end inspection you conduct, and you will be billed for any necessary repairs.
However, we strongly suggest you get your lease checked out. It’s always best to get an inspection before returning a vehicle lease, usually at least one month prior to the lease-end date. A vehicle lease inspection helps you save money by identifying problems that you’d be charged to repair at an excessive rate. For example, if you have a cracked side mirror, visiting a service center or body shop to get it replaced is usually cheaper than accepting any damage fees from the leasing company.
If you are returning a Honda lease, you can schedule an end-of-lease inspection by contacting your Honda dealer or calling 800-340-4080. (Have your account number and VIN ready.) Honda lease-return inspections usually take less than one hour, and it’s advisable that you be there to monitor the process, though this is not required.
I’m not ready to hand in my lease. What are my options?
You have the option to extend your lease under certain circumstances, so long as you speak to your leasing company in advance. Do not keep your lease past your turn-in date! You’ll be charged for additional fees, and your vehicle may even be repossessed, with any resulting fees of that service being passed to you.
Should you require assistance with your lease payments or extending your lease term length, especially due to the coronavirus pandemic, please speak with your leasing company. There are surely programs available, no matter your location or the vehicle manufacturer.
Don’t I have to return my vehicle to the original dealer?
In most instances, you can return your leased vehicle to any dealer officially licensed to sell your vehicle’s brand. For instance, if you lease a Honda Accord in Miami, you can return it to any of our South Florida Honda Dealers.
Still, it’s a smart idea to call your car dealership ahead of time to ensure they will accept the lease return. If a dealer does not want to accept the lease return, contact the corporate offices to report the incident; corporate will speak to that dealer and/or recommend an alternative turn-in location for your car lease.
Is it worth it to buy my leased car?
If your vehicle is worth more than its agreed-upon residual value – again, residual value is the value that was placed on the vehicle when you signed the lease contract – then you have equity, and it is financially worthwhile to purchase it. Get your Blue Book Value to identify the cost difference, and don’t be afraid to get trade-in value estimates from various local dealers.
In fact, you can sometimes return (sell) your leased vehicle to another dealership for more than the residual value! That dealership will handle paying off the lease balance for you in many cases, though it’s best to ask your dealer about this option and if there are additional tax obligations.
A loyal customer is one who purchases or leases another new Honda or Acura automobile within 30 days prior to or after the turn-in date.
Honda Leadership Leasing includes a $500 Excessive Wear-and-Use or Damage Waiver. Loyal customers may qualify for an additional waiver and may be eligible for a turn-in fee waiver. Total Excessive Wear-and-Use or Damage Waiver amount not to exceed $1,000.