Ever wondered what happens when you return a lease car? For starters, The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) recommend that you inspect your lease car 10-12 weeks before you hand the keys back to the provider. But how does collection of your vehicle work? And do you have to be home when it all takes place?

Read our complete guide and learn how not to come unstuck at the end of your agreement.

What happens at the end of a car lease?

As long as you haven't exceeded the agreed mileage cap in your contract and the car isn't damaged, you can simply return your leased vehicle. Afterwards, you can take out a new deal on a different model, or look elsewhere and walk away.

Regardless of whether you have leased a car for personal use or through your business, the procedure at the end is the same.

Your chosen provider will contact you around four months before the exact end date of your contract to discuss the options you have going forward.

It's up to you to decide whether you want to replace the car with a newer model on a separate agreement. Or, if you've paid off the total cost of your deal (including any charges for damage, missed and late payments, or exceeding the agreed mileage cap) you can walk away.

Once you've made up your mind, it's then time to arrange the car's collection.

Arranging collection

You can arrange collection of your car around 30 days before your deal is due to finish. That's if the finance provider hasn't already contacted you about it - which they may do. However, don't rely on them to do so on your behalf.

Being proactive when arranging your vehicle's pickup is the best way to avoid 'failed collection' charges. This applies when no contact has taken place between yourself and the provider to confirm a suitable date and time for the return of your leased car.

Ensure you give the provider 7-10 working days' notice when booking a handover slot. This way you will avoid incurring extra fees for running over your agreement's end date.

Remember: check with your provider what their opening times are when arranging collection. Some providers will specify that they can't offer this service on weekends and bank holidays.

What happens if I return my lease car late?

Failing to return your lease car on the agreed date will undoubtedly result in hefty end of deal fees. If there's no communication with the provider to tell them you can't make a particular because of an emergency, for example, the finance house will likely repossess the vehicle.

Not only will this hit you in the wallet, but your credit score is going to be negatively affected from keeping the car beyond the final payment. On top of this, it's likely that certain finance providers won't allow you to lease through them in future based on this experience. As a result, you could find yourself extremely limited when it comes to methods of acquiring your next car.

Should you wish to hand the car back before your final monthly payment is taken out, you'll need to make the provider aware of this at least a week in advance. Be aware that an early settlement fee will be applied, the sum of which will take into consideration the last cost.

8 tips to prepare your lease car for collection

After you've confirmed the collection date for your lease car, straight away you should take the time to get your car in good condition for inspection on the day.

As a guide, the BVRLA recommends you do the following so that you don't get hit with added charges for any damage considered greater than 'fair wear and tear'.

  1. Assess the car as honestly as you can and ask a friend, family member or colleague to help you.
  2. Choose a time and place with good light in order to make sure that you don't miss any faults.
  3. Before assessing the car, make sure it's been washed and dried so that any faults aren't masked.
  4. Walk all the way around the car and examine closely each panel. Don't forget the roof, bonnet, doors and body for extensive damage
  5. Have a good look at lamps, lenses, windows and mirrors for chips, cracks and holes.
  6. Check tyres and any spares for damage. Inspect the wear on the tread across each tyre, making sure it's even. Also look at the wheels, wheel trims and spokes for any scratches or deterioration.
  7. Remember to clean and valet the inside of the car and check for any odours, tears, burns, stains and wear on the seats.
  8. While inside, check controls, including audio equipment and accessories to make sure they're present and working.

While most providers use the BVRLA's guide as a standard for assessing the condition of its cars, it's worth checking your contract for any additional points highlighted which we may have missed.

Alongside notes from the provider about what they deem as an acceptable condition, there should also be a paper copy of the governing body's Fair Wear and Tear guide. Both should be referred to when you're looking over your vehicle 10-12 weeks ahead of your collection date.

What is Fair Wear and Tear?

Fair Wear and Tear is an industry standard set by the BVRLA which highlights what condition a leased car should be kept in.

Acceptable wear and tear

So, what constitutes 'fair'? Within the guidelines these common wear and tear problems are considered as such and won't be met by with a bill at the end of your deal:

  • Small dents (up to 15mm and no more than two per panel and none on the roof).
  • Scratches and abrasions (up to 25mm), as long as the bare metal isn't showing.
  • Light scratching on windscreen is acceptable if it doesn't interfere with driver's vision.
  • Tyres with more than 1.6mm of tread.
  • Scratches on sills, seals and treads that reflect normal use.

Unacceptable wear and tear

Before returning your leased car, make sure the vehicle doesn't have any of these issues to avoid extra charges:

  • Rust or corrosion on bodywork or trim of the car.
  • Broken paint surface and dents larger than 15mm and/or on the roof.
  • Scratches and abrasions over 25mm.
  • Difference in paintwork colour.
  • Rips or tears on roof or upholstery - the latter should have no burns and should be odourless and clean.
  • Chips, cracks or holes in windscreen, lights.
  • Tyres worn to a point where tread depth is less than 1.6mm.
  • Damage to wheel trim or alloys.

Remember: It's your responsibility to take a leased car to an approved garage and have any damage such as the above repaired. If you're unsure whether a particular garage is suitable, contact your provider to check.


Beyond just the physical state of your lease vehicle, another check you need to make when preparing your car for collection is the mileage done. This will be displayed on the odometer (or 'clock') which, depending on the model of car, will be above the steering wheel on the dashboard or housed within the infotainment system.

If you have gone above the agreed mileage or suspect that you will do before the car is collected, you should contact your provider immediately. There may be the option to make a 'Mileage Amendment' that will mean you're not charged an excess mileage fee following inspection.

This fee will differ depending on the finance provider who leases you the car but can be anywhere from 3p to 30p.

Remember: A Mileage Amendment is not available for every contract and it will have to be agreed at the discretion of the finance house. Should this get the go ahead, your monthly payments will be recalculated, and you will be issued with a new quote to factor this in.

What to expect on collection day

When the day finally arrives where you hand over the keys to your provider, there are several things you need to be aware of.

A vehicle inspection from a collection agent who will be from an independent company will make up the bulk of the process. This involves a check over the entire car to check for glaringly obvious signs of damage and to ensure the mileage on the odometer isn't above what was initially agreed.

Remember: It's important to be there when the inspection takes place so that you can check and sign off what the collection agent has recorded.

If you don't agree with what was recorded in the inspection, you can contest the report. You will need to pay for the evidence to be examined by a qualified engineer who wasn't a part of the original inspection and has been agreed by both parties involved. A full refund for the examination will be given by the provider if their decision is in your favour, though disputes which can't be resolved will go to the BVRLA.

Remember: If you lose an appeal, you won't be refunded and you won't be able to appeal again.

Collection documents

There are certain documents you'll need to hand over on the day, too. These are:

  • Up-to-date service book.
  • Valid MOT certificate (only if the length of your contract requires you to do so).
  • Full set of keys and any masters.