Mazda 3 lease

What happens at the end of a car lease?

There is only one option available to you when you come to the end of your car lease: you simply hand the car back. The vehicle will be collected free of charge from your home or work address. And, providing that the mileage limit and standards for fair wear and tear are not exceeded, there will be nothing else to pay.

This simplicity is just one of the benefits of leasing and why many people choose it as their preferred financing option. It is starkly opposed to the time and hassle involved in selling on a vehicle yourself and involves no depreciation risk.

Nevertheless, the collection process for lease vehicles can still be a mystery to many. So, here is what returning a leased vehicle entails, from start to finish.

Jaguar I-PACE driving down country lane

Returning a leased car

The first thing to note about returning a leased car is that the organisation funding your lease deal will contact you a few months ahead of the termination of your current lease contract. You are not expected to make this first contact.

However, you are relied upon to be helpful in arranging to return the lease car when the closure of your lease contract looms. With months of notice, this process is designed to ensure that a convenient collection is easy to achieve for both parties. However, if suitable arrangements are not possible before the end of the lease contract or if a collection date is missed, a late fee is likely to apply. This will be outlined in your lease contract.

On collection day, the vehicle will be carefully inspected by a trained assessor. They will check mileage, exterior and interior damage and any accompanying equipment (such as spare keys) or documentation. Anything missing or damaged beyond reasonable standards will be chargeable by the funder after they have collected the car.

Volvo S60 cockpit

Before you return your lease car

There are a few things you can do ahead of the collection of your lease car to make the process run more smoothly:

The BVRLA are a regulating body for all reputable brokers. They set an industry-wide standard that governs the conditions deemed fair for lease cars to be returned in at the end of their contract. Contrary to popular belief,  lease cars are not expected to be returned in showroom condition and these guidelines highlight what damage is considered fair for the vehicle’s age and mileage.

  • Carefully check your vehicle’s exterior

At least two months before your collection is due, thoroughly check over the exterior of your car for bumps, scrapes and scratches. Anything that exceeds the standards set out in the BVRLA fair wear and tear guide will be chargeable if it isn’t fixed before collection. Tip: ensure the vehicle is clean and that you are assessing it in dry and well-lit conditions. Assess your vehicle objectively and ask for an alternative opinion to be absolutely sure.

  • Carefully check your vehicle's interior

As with the exterior of your vehicle, carefully inspecting the interior well ahead of collection will ensure you can fix any issues ahead of time. Check your upholstery and roof for stains or odours, ensure the dashboard is functional and test all equipment is working appropriately. Tip: Fixing any damage on your vehicle before collection will be more cost-effective than leaving any repairs unattended.

  • Ensure the vehicle is thoroughly cleaned

Whether you’re handy with a pressure washer or would rather leave it to the professionals, ensuring your vehicle is sparkling clean, inside and out, leaves no room for errors during its inspection. The funder will send trained examiners to assess the vehicle on collection day and a clean vehicle makes this process easy. It also protects you from any stressful quibbling later down the line for things they could have missed due to dirt or residue.

  • Empty the car of all personal items

It goes without saying that any personal effects should be removed from the car ahead of collection. Check glove boxes, seat pockets or netting and door bins with extra care! It is unlikely that any missed items, no matter how valuable, will be returnable to you. So a thorough clear out is worth the time and effort.

  • Arrange your paperwork

Have any original documents at hand, your service history documentation and a valid MOT certificate (if required). You’ll also need all keys for the vehicle that were given to you on delivery.

Renault Captur parked

Leasing my next car

We recommend considering your new lease vehicle a few months before the end of your current contract. This will not only take into account delivery or build times on your new vehicle, but will give you extra time to find and consider the best deal for you

Factory order lease cars

If you are hoping to customise your lease car with options, or simply want a vehicle that isn't currently in stock, you will likely need to opt for a factory order vehicle. A factory order means your car is built from scratch at the manufacturer factory and then transported to the UK. 

The factory order process can take a few months depending on when a build slot can be secured and the availability of the necessary parts. However, build time will be considerably longer when there are supply or transportation delays or work force restrictions (as is the case at time of writing due to COVID-19). So, if you know you are after a factory order vehicle for your next lease car, make sure you give yourself plenty of breathing space.

In stock lease cars

If you are choosing a stock vehicle - which means the car is already built and in the UK - the time you need between placing an order and taking delivery of the car can actually be as little as a few weeks. However, we still recommend starting your search well ahead of time as this gives you the best chance of finding the best lease deal.

Utilise your dedicated Leasing Consultant who will discuss your preferences and requirements. Knowing this, they can navigate the frequently-changing world of lease car rates and pluck out the most suitable ones at the right time. Rather than be rushed into a deal through fear of being left without a car, more time will allow more informed consideration.

Renault Clio be the sea

Returning your lease car

Returning your lease car should be as simple and convenient as it was to start your lease. The funder will contact you a few months ahead of your contract end to arrange collection of the lease vehicle from your home or work address. The car will then be assessed and returned to the funder and any additional charges based on excess mileage or vehicle condition will be billed to you shortly after. By this point, you are likely to have already sorted your replacement lease car and can begin to enjoy your new wheels!


If you have any more unanswered questions regarding returning your lease vehicle, head to our handy FAQs.