dog in car window

Should I Lease a Car As a Pet Owner?

Can I lease a car if I have a dog?

This is a common question. Many people think that owning a pet rules out car leasing. They worry that they’ll get denied for the lease or hit with excessive cleaning fines at the end.

Fortunately for pet lovers everywhere, it’s perfectly fine to lease a car with a four-legged friend as your passenger. You won’t get turned down for this. The only issue is keeping the inside of the car clean enough.

In this article, let’s see how to decide if leasing a car as a pet owner is right for you, and how to keep your leased vehicle in peak condition even with a dog.

What happens when you return a lease car

Before you decide whether or not to lease a car with a pet, let’s consider what happens at the end of a lease term, when you return the vehicle.

Most important is the inspection. The inspector will look for any significant damages to the vehicle. What counts as “significant” varies by company, but Toyota, for example, won’t charge you for dents or scratches small enough to be covered by a credit card.

Stains less than half an inch might be overlooked, but more than that could count as excess wear and tear.

It’s a good idea to have your car thoroughly washed and cleaned inside and out, and get some touch-up’s or a light detailing job so the car looks its best.

A good cleaning job is essential, especially if your dog has been riding in the car for the last few years. If the car is dirty, you might get hit with fines for stains and excess cleaning fees.

Wear and tear programs

Some lease companies offer programs to protect you in the event of minor damage. These “wear and tear” programs, such as we provide at Capital Motor Cars, allow that repair costs of up to $5,000 will be waived at the time of returning the car.

This includes common issues like dents, small scratches, paint chipping, and (most importantly for pet owners) stains inside the vehicle.

Signing up for a wear and tear program takes some of the stress out of leasing a car. As professional dealers here at Capital Motor Cars, we understand that some signs of use are inevitable. If a car was meant to stay in pristine condition, we would have to just leave it in the garage!

Questions to ask yourself before signing the contract

There’s no cut-and-dry answer for everyone, but there are a few factors you can consider when deciding if leasing a car will be a smart move for you and your pet.

dog with SUV

  • What type of pet do I have?

Are we talking about a turtle or a Great Dane? Obviously, different animals leave a different mark on your car. Small dogs that can ride in a carrier or on a passenger’s lap don’t pose much of a challenge.

However, if you have a large, active dog that likes to splash around in the mud and needs its own seat, you might have to do some planning and adjustment to protect your lease car. (See the last question below.)

  • What is in my contract?

Depending on the terms of your contract, you may have more or less leeway when it comes to cleaning or minor damage.

Some car companies are very strict and will charge you for every tiny stain or scratch. Others may let you off as long as the car is generally well cared for.

It also depends on the type of lease you have. With an open-ended lease, where you pay the difference between the car’s residual value and its actual value at the end of the lease term, you may receive some refund if you’ve complied with mileage and wear and tear policies.

With the more common closed-ended leases, you will have to actually pay off any damage.

  • How good care do I take of my car?

Now’s the time for some radical self-honesty.

Are you the type of person who regularly brings their car to the car wash and gives the inside a good vacuum? Or are you more into shoving old coffee cups under the seat until guests start noticing a weird smell?

A little cleaning every day saves a big clean-up job later. This goes double if you have a dog riding in the car.

If you lease a car and you want to avoid extra cleaning fees at the end, make a commitment to keep the interior at a high level of cleanliness. Vacuum every week, clean the seats (you can use a mix of water and baking soda to remove stains from fabric) and keep a towel in the car so you can dry Fido’s muddy paws before he gets in!

A dog hair roller or plain masking tape is perfect for getting fur out of the seats.

  • Can I set up the car to accommodate my pet

dog pickup truck

Consider making some minor additions to your car to protect it from dirt and hair.

Leather or faux-leather seats will be easier to clean than cloth, but don’t pass up on a good car just because it has fabric seats. You can buy removable seat covers for the back row.

Keep your dog confined to a single seat with a harness that attaches to the seat. That way at least the mess won’t spread so much. Plus, it’s safer for the dog. Why should only humans get to wear a seatbelt?

If you have a large vehicle and you don’t use the trunk so much, you can install a car crate for your pet. Then you avoid entirely the problem of having a dog in the car itself. Most dogs don’t mind riding in a crate – they might even prefer it to the seats, if they’re the nervous type – and it also will protect them in case of accident.


Leasing a car is a great option for many people. It’s a wonderful (and affordable) way to get behind the wheel of the latest new vehicles, without the strain and commitment of buying.

Even for pet owners, leasing might be the best way to go. With the support of a good dealer, you can choose from any model on the market, to find one that’s comfortable for you and your four-legged best friend.

Whether you lease the vehicle or buy it, many dogs enjoy driving around in cars. Keep your dog safe by putting him or her in a crate or secure harness. Don’t let them climb in your lap or under your feet while driving.

And, much as they might love it, never let them stick their head out the window! Dust and flying debris can hurt their eyes, and it could end in tragedy if you drive too close to a pole or another car.

Having a dog in the car only requires a little extra care and attention to cleanliness. Regular cleaning, even just a few minutes every day or after you drive, will keep the car interior fresh and avoid cleaning fees at the end of the lease period.