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Turning in Your Car Lease? Here are Tips to Avoid Costly Charges

If you are currently leasing a car, or plan to in the future, you might be wondering what happens when the lease is up and you turn the car back in. Unless you plan to trade in or sell the car when the lease matures, you will have to get the car inspected so that …

If you are currently leasing a car, or plan to in the future, you might be wondering what happens when the lease is up and you turn the car back in. Unless you plan to trade in or sell the car when the lease matures, you will have to get the car inspected so that the leasing company can assess any damages, repairs, mileage overages in order to bill your for them accordingly. If you don’t want to incur some hefty charges, here are some tips.

Lease pre-inspection

Ari Janessian, a Youtuber and auto broker, recommends that you first get a lease-end pre-inspection done by a third-party company to get an estimate as to how much you will owe if you turn in the lease. The inspector will look at the tires, check the body for any scratches, and note the mileage in order to give you and accurate appraisal so that you know what to expect when you turn it in.

Stay with the brand

When you turn in your lease and walk away or if you decide to go with another brand, then you will be charged a disposition fee. The free ranges from around $300 to $600, depending on the brand and there is no way around it. That is, unless you stick with the same brand that you already have. For example, you’re leasing a Honda Civic and trade it in for an Accord when the lease ends, then the Honda will most likely waive that disposition fee for you.

A worker cleans new cars at a dealership lot
A worker cleaning cars at a dealership | ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

Dents and scratches

Scratches and dents might seem like the toughest part when it comes to turning in your lease because your car may have received a lot of them during the time that you had it. Not to worry, as Janessian states in his video that “two-inches in the normal guideline” when it comes to the leasing company charging you for scratches and dents. If your car has of those imperfections that are less than two inches in length, then the leasing company will most likely waive it off.

However, if you do have a lot of scratches and dents that are larger than two inches, then Janessian recommends that you get the dents repaired via paintless dent removal as most of those companies will charge you less than the leasing company. And for the scratches, he recommends that you pick up a bottle of “Goo Gone” at your local auto parts store and try buffing them out yourself. Just make sure to get the one that’s compatible with automotive clear coats.


When it comes to the tires on the car, you will need to replace them if they have under 4/32-inch of treadwear left on them. A quick and easy way to measure the tires on your car is to take a quarter (coin), flip it upside down, place it in the shallowest part of the tires tread depth, and if the tread reaches Washington’s head, then they are good to go. If not, then you might need to replace them.

Since the leasing company can charge you a hefty amount for new tires, one cost-effective way to replace them is to buy a set of used tires on eBay or a tire shop. You’re not going to be using them anyway, so you might as well save some money.

Replacement keys

Every new car comes with at least two keys. However, as time goes on, you’re bound to lose or misplace one of them, but there’s no need to worry. According to Janessian, you can buy a replacement key off of eBay and then call up a locksmith and have them cut a program to your car for you. The cost of using this method is typically a fraction of what the lease company would charge you for one.

Handing over car keys
Handing over the keys | Burak Fatsa/Getty Images

Excess mileage

When you signed up for your lease, there was a mileage cap on it for every year. For example, you may have signed up for 10,000, 12,000, or even 15,000 miles per year, and if you drove a lot during the time you had the car, then chances are that you went over the allotment. If so, you can always call the leasing company and buy more miles prior to turning the car in. Considering most leasing companies will charge you between 15 to 25 cents per mile, buying more miles might actually be more cost-effective.

A person inspecting a car in the factory
An employee carries out car inspections | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Sell your lease

Lastly, if you get your pre-inspection done and decide that the total amount of damages and repairs are just too much for you to pay for, then we suggest getting the car appraised at Carmax or Carvana. If the amount that they appraise it for is more than what the “lease buyout” amount is for, or at least close enough to break even, then this will be the easiest way to get rid of your lease and circumvent the extra lease-end charges. But if it’s more effective to just pay the lease-end penalties for the repairs, then go that direction instead.


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