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What is fair wear and tear on a lease car?

When you lease a car it's important to keep it in good condition for when you hand it back at the end of your contract. However, understanding what constitutes fair wear and tear and who evaluates the car's condition can be unclear.

Auto Trader

Words by: Auto Trader

Published on 12 May 2023 | 0 min read

What is fair wear and tear?

Wear and tear is a term used to describe the everyday deterioration of a car's condition when it’s being used normally. When you return your car to the finance company at the end of a lease they’ll naturally want it in good condition, but it’s not expected to be perfect. Everyday use leaves its mark on any car, and it’s no different when leasing.
At the end of your car leasing contract your car will be inspected to make sure that any damage to both the interior and exterior fall under the category of ‘fair wear and tear’. The inspection will simply confirm whether there are any more major issues that should have been fixed before the vehicle was returned. The governing body for leasing in the UK is the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, or BVRLA for short. They set out the guidelines for what constitutes fair wear and tear, and all lease customers and companies have to follow the standard they set for what is considered fair. Fair wear and tear guidelines do not refer to any specific damage that might have been caused by a collision, accident or improper vehicle use. Thinking of leasing a van? Read our van-specific guide on fair wear and tear for leasing

How can I check for fair wear and tear on my lease car?

Firstly, it’s always helpful to read up on the BVRLA website about the specifics of fair wear and tear so that you know what you’re looking for. Then plan to inspect your leased car a few months before the end of your contract. This is recommended as it'll give you plenty of time to get any damage sustained outside of the BVRLA guidelines fixed.
How to conduct your own fair wear and tear vehicle inspection:

Get a second opinion

Ask someone else to look at the car with you to get their opinion. This can help you stay objective and they might spot things that you’d have missed alone.

Make sure the car is clean

If your car is not clean inside and out it can be hard to judge any damage. A spot of mud or dust can hide scuffing on a bumper for example, so make sure you’ve thoroughly cleaned your vehicle ready to inspect.

Ensure the car is fully dry

Paintwork on a car often looks very different when it’s wet, so to make sure you can see any scratches properly make sure the car is completely dry when you inspect it.

Check the car in good lighting

Make sure the car is in an open and bright space when you inspect it so that you're not restricted when viewing it, or missing any issues because of shadows.

Search everywhere

The whole car will be inspected before you return it so make sure you do the same. Check mirrors, fittings on the dashboard, and seat belt fixings - everything is worth checking over.

Remove any personal items

Don’t leave anything inside the car. Before you return the vehicle you may want to get it valeted as well to ensure you’ve not missed anything, and that the upholstery is clean and doesn’t smell.

Gather all keys and documents

Make sure that you have all the keys you were provided on delivery, as well as documents like a manual if one was provided, the car's signed service history, MOTs if applicable, and any optional extras that the car came with.

When is fair wear and tear officially inspected?

Before your collection date at the end of your lease contract, someone from your leasing company will contact you to come and perform an arranged inspection. They’ll note down any issues that appear to be outside of fair wear and tear guidelines and let you know if you're likely to get a charge for damages.

Can I contest my inspection if I think the decisions are wrong?

Yes, you can, but you’ll need to follow a specific process for contesting your inspection. If you believe that the wear and tear on your vehicle falls within the guidelines you pay for an inspection by an independent engineer that both parties agree is neutral. They will inspect the car again and make a judgement on whether the wear and tear on your car is within the guidelines set by the BVRLA.
If they rule in your favour, the inspection cost will be refunded to you and you won’t pay for the incorrectly assessed damage. If the ruling doesn’t go your way, however, you will cover the costs and be liable. It’s important to know that if you do contest wear and tear this way, the independent engineer’s decision will be final, and you won’t be able to pursue the matter further.

What are some examples of fair wear and tear?

Lease providers are always specific in your agreement documents about what they expect, but some general examples of acceptable wear and tear include:
• Minor scratches up to 25mm are acceptable, as long as they don't expose the primer or bare metal. • The light lens can have some damage, but not if the glass is cracked and water is getting in. • Scratches on the windscreen are okay if they don't block the driver's view. • Alloy wheels can have scuffs up to 25mm. • Tyres with some wear are fine as long as they meet the legal requirements in the UK. • If there are only light stains on the driver's seat area and no rips, holes, or tears, that's acceptable.

What are some examples of unacceptable wear and tear?

Some examples of issues that should be fixed to avoid any charges are: • The bodywork should be free from any chips or dents. • The windscreen should not have any chips, or scratches that could obstruct the driver's view. • Any damage to the wheels or trims should be avoided. • Scratches, scuffs, or scrapes on the paintwork that are larger than 25mm should be repaired. • There should be no rips, burns, or holes in the seats of the vehicle, or strong unpleasant odours. • Any impact damage should be repaired. • The vehicle should not have any adhesive residue on it from fixings or repairs.

What else should I know about wear and tear when leasing a car?

Wear and tear charges can become a worry for some drivers looking to lease for the first time, or put people off of leasing altogether. It’s important to remember that some wear is expected and you should enjoy using your leased car. As long as you are taking reasonable care when using the vehicle, and keeping up with its servicing and maintenance you won’t go far wrong. If you have any queries about your car, always get in touch with your leasing company, they’ll always be happy to help guide you.

Find out more about car leasing

If you’re new to car leasing, take a look at our easy-to-understand leasing guides that covers everything from how car leasing works to buying vs leasing and much more. If you’re ready to find your next vehicle, browse our latest car leasing deals.