Your relationship with a leasing company can be somewhat complex. On the one hand, they own the car, even though you negotiated the purchase price. On the other hand, when you turn the car back in, you’re selling your used car — back to its owner.
As strange as this might sound, approaching the transaction with that mindset will benefit you tremendously when it comes to how to reduce lease turn-in fees.
Here’s what you need to know.
Wear-and-Tear Charges Can Add Up
While minor things like door dings are typically overlooked, worn-out tires can be quite costly. Further, if the car came with run-flat tires, the leasing company will want to see run-flat tires in place when you return it. Otherwise, they’ll charge you the price of a full set.
Significant damage to windshields and bumpers will have you reaching into your pocket as well. Ditto nonfunctioning equipment such as the audio system, navigation system and power windows. You can usually take care of all of these things on your own at a lower cost than the leasing company will impose upon you.
Missed Maintenance Could Cost You as Well
New car warranties require maintenance to be performed as prescribed by the manufacturer. While you don’t have to get it done at a dealer, you should hold on to all of the receipts — and get the car’s maintenance book stamped — so you can prove you did what was required to keep the warranty intact.
Even the best lease deals can become costly if you skip the maintenance.
Stay Within Your Mileage Cap
Lease payments are lower than loan payments because you pay only for the depreciation the car experiences over the term of your lease. To ensure sufficient value remains in the vehicle at the end of the term, the lessor will impose a mileage limit.
Miles driven is one of the key aspects of the value of any car. If you exceed your limit, you can expect to be charged as much as $.25 per mile for each one over the agreed-upon number. Avoiding these extra charges is as simple as knowing what you’ll need upfront, contracting for that amount and then keeping the mileage at or below the agreed-upon level.
Missing Equipment Will Incur Fees
If your SUV has a rear-seat video system and it came with a pair of headphones, the leasing company will expect those headphones to be there when you return the car.
Speaking of SUVs, you’d be surprised how many people forget to reinstall third-row seats and roof racks after driving without them in place for years. Spare tires and spare tire covers will be expected to be there as well. Some navigation systems came with CD-ROMs (though they are pretty rare these days).
You’ll be charged for all of these things if they’re missing.
Get a Pre-Inspection
Request a pre-return inspection at some point during the last 90 days of your lease term (the earlier the better). This will help you identify deficiencies for which charges will be imposed — with enough time to get them corrected on your own.
You’ll only have a few hours to effect corrections if you show up on the last day of your lease for the inspection. Most people in that situation just bite the bullet and agree to whatever demands the company makes.
That’s a costly mistake. Going in early will give you time to shop around for the best deals on items you might need to purchase, or issues you might need to pay someone to remedy.
Think Like You’re Selling a Used Car
What you’re doing is getting the car in the best possible shape, just as you would if you were selling it as a used car. And, as we mentioned above, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re just selling it back to its owner. This is why understanding how to reduce lease turn-in fees puts money back into your pocket.