If you’re thinking about leasing a car or you’ve already had a lease and you’re about to return it, you may be wondering if a small door ding will result in an extra charge. In most cases, the answer to that will be no. Lease contracts typically allow for a small amount of wear and tear, and typically if the ding or dent is less than the size of a quarter, the dealer isn’t going to charge you. Whether any paint came off the car also plays a part, and the dealer is more likely to charge you if there’s missing paint.
When in doubt, it’s always better to take the car to a body shop and pay for the repairs yourself out of pocket. It may not be pleasant to spend your money on repairs for a car that you’re going to return anyway, but if the dealer can charge you for something, they will, and you’re going to pay them much more than you would pay if you got the car repaired yourself.
Before returning your leased car, it’s best to perform a thorough inspection to make sure that the car is in good condition and there isn’t anything that is going to result in additional charges. The first place to look is the tires. You don’t want mismatched tires, where your front and back tires are different brands, or tires that have under 1/8 of an inch of tread left. The inspector will always check the tires, and the cost of replacement tires through a dealer is hefty. You’re better off replacing them yourself.
The bumper is one of the most likely places for the car to have damage. Even bumping a curb or someone getting careless with their shopping cart can mark up your bumper. You’ll want to follow the same rule for the front and rear bumper as you would with the door – if there are any marks that are greater than the size of a quarter or any areas where paint came off, you’re better off getting them fixed yourself.
For large dents where there isn’t any paint damage, you can usually get the best deal if you contact a mobile dent repair company. These companies come to you and can quickly get rid of dents.
Scratches also fit the definition of wear and tear, so you won’t get charged just because there’s a scratch or two on the car when you return it. Once again, you can use a common household item to figure out if you need to get anything fixed, and in this case it’s a credit card. The general rule is that if you can cover the scratch completely with a credit card, you won’t get hit with a bill for it. Anything larger and you should take care of it.
When it comes to wear and tear on a leased car, most of it comes down to common sense. The dealer can’t nickel and dime you for every little scuff, as your lease contract specifies that they can only charge for excessive wear and tear. But if the car does have large, noticeable damage, you’ll pay much less on repair costs if you take it in yourself than if you leave it for the dealer to handle. If you do end up with a repair bill, you may be able to have it added to the payments on your next lease, provided you lease a car through the same dealer.