Wear And Tear Guidelines On Leased Vehicle

A leased car is a vehicle that you rent from a leasing company for a specified period, typically two to four years. Instead of owning the vehicle, you make monthly payments to use it, with the option to purchase it or return it at the end of the lease term.

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Wear and tear refer to the gradual deterioration of a vehicle due to regular use over time. This includes minor scratches, dings, and mechanical wear that naturally occur during driving.

Types of wear and tear include cosmetic damage such as minor dents and scratches, interior stains and fabric wear, and mechanical issues like worn brakes or tires. Normal wear and tear are expected, while excessive wear and tear, such as large dents, significant scratches, or mechanical damage, goes beyond what is considered typical use.

Excess wear and tear on a leased vehicle results in additional charges when the vehicle is returned at the end of the lease. These charges are costly and are assessed to cover the repairs needed to restore the car to an acceptable condition for resale.

To prevent excess wear and tear charges, regularly maintain the vehicle with timely servicing and repairs. Avoid eating and drinking inside the car to reduce interior damage, and park in safe areas to avoid the risk of dents and scratches. Use protective measures like seat covers and floor mats to keep the interior in good condition.

What Is Excess Wear And Tear?

Excess wear and tear refers to damage or deterioration of a leased vehicle that involves significant damage, such as deep scratches, large dents, cracked or broken glass, heavily worn tires, and substantial interior damage, such as ripped upholstery or significant stains. 

Leasing companies provide specific guidelines to help lessees understand what is acceptable and what is not. For example, they specify acceptable tire tread depth, the extent of allowable scratches and dents, and the condition in which the vehicle’s interior should be maintained. 

Suppose the vehicle exceeds these guidelines upon return. In that case, the lessee incurs additional charges to cover the cost of repairs and refurbishment necessary to bring the car up to a resalable condition.

These excess wear and tear charges are significant and are designed to ensure the leasing company can restore the vehicle to a state that meets resale standards. Therefore, lessees must be aware of these guidelines throughout the lease period and take measures to maintain the car properly. 

What Are The Wear And Tear Guidelines On Leased Vehicles?

Wear and tear guidelines on leased vehicles outline the acceptable condition of a vehicle upon return, distinguishing between normal wear and tear and excess wear and tear. Leasing companies set these guidelines to ensure the car remains in good condition for resale. The following are typical wear and tear guidelines on leased vehicles; 

Exterior Condition

  • Minor scratches and small dings are acceptable.
  • Large dents, deep scratches, and rust are considered excess wear.
  • No broken or cracked glass or lights.

Tires and Wheels

  • Tires should have an acceptable tread depth, usually specified in the lease agreement.
  • No sidewall damage or mismatched tires.
  • Wheels should be free of significant scuffs or damage.

Interior Condition

  • Light stains and wear on upholstery are acceptable.
  • No tears, burns, or large stains on seats, carpet, or headliner.
  • All interior components should be intact and functional.

Mechanical Condition

  • Routine maintenance should be up to date, with records available.
  • No warning lights indicating unresolved mechanical issues.
  • Brakes and other essential systems should be in good working order.

Body And Paint

  • Minor chips in the paint are acceptable.
  • No significant areas of paint damage or unaddressed rust.
  • No signs of body repairs that do not match manufacturer standards.

Windshield and Windows

  • Small chips that do not obstruct the driver’s view are acceptable.
  • No cracks or significant damage to the glass.

Lights and Signals

  • All lights and signals must be functional.
  • No broken lenses or missing lights.


  • All mirrors should be intact and fully functional.
  • No significant damage or cracks.


  • Minor scuffs are acceptable.
  • No large dents or broken bumper components.

Documentation and Keys

  • All original documentation, manuals, and spare keys should be returned with the vehicle.
  • Any missing items result in additional charges.

Leasing agreements often provide specific details on what constitutes excess wear and tear, such as measurements for acceptable scratch length or tire tread depth.

What Are The Common Types Of Excess Wear And Tear?

Common types of excess wear and tear on leased vehicles include significant exterior damage such as large dents, deep scratches, and cracked or broken glass. These issues exceed the minor cosmetic blemishes expected from regular use and often require professional repairs to restore the vehicle to a resaleable condition.

Interior damage is another frequent type of excess wear and tear. This damage includes ripped or heavily stained upholstery, damaged dashboard or console components, and broken interior features like seat adjusters or electronic controls. Such damage significantly impacts the vehicle’s resale value and usability.

Mechanical issues also constitute excess wear and tear if they result from neglect or misuse. Examples include:

  • Heavily worn or bald tires.
  • Brake damage.
  • Other mechanical failures stem from inadequate maintenance or harsh driving conditions.

Leasing companies expect lessees to keep the vehicle in good working order, and failure to do so leads to additional charges.

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Excess wear and tear cover substantial damage or deterioration that goes beyond everyday use, including exterior, interior, and mechanical issues. These damages typically require more extensive repairs and lead to extra costs for the lessee at the end of the lease term.

What Is Considered Normal Wear And Tear On A Leased Vehicle?

Normal wear and tear include minor surface scratches and dings on the exterior, light scuff marks, and minor paint chips. These are typically superficial and do not affect the overall appearance or functionality of the vehicle. 

Normal wear and tear on a leased vehicle refers to minor, everyday damages and signs of use that occur while driving normally. These are acceptable and expected conditions that do not result in additional charges when the vehicle is returned at the end of the lease term.

Normal interior wear and tear include slight wear on the seats and carpeting, minor stains, and small dashboard scratches or other interior surfaces. These minor imperfections are considered part of regular use and are generally acceptable.

Normal wear and tear include moderate wear on tires and brakes. As long as the tires are not bald and the brakes are functioning correctly without excessive wear, they fall within the bounds of everyday use. Leasing companies understand that regular driving results in some wear, and these conditions are typically outlined in the lease agreement to provide clarity to the lessee.

Normal wear and tear involve the minor, everyday use that a vehicle naturally undergoes, and leasing companies do not penalize lessees for these expected signs of use.

How Can You Minimize Wear And Tear On Your Leased Vehicle?

Regular maintenance, careful driving, and interior protection from damage are three ways to minimize wear and tear on your leased vehicle.

  1. Regular Maintenance: Adhere to the vehicle’s maintenance schedule with timely oil changes, tire rotations, and inspections. Address issues immediately to prevent them from becoming more significant, costly problems.
  2. Careful Driving: Drive gently, avoiding rapid acceleration and hard braking. Always park in safe, covered areas to protect the car from environmental damage and reduce the risk of dents and scratches.
  3. Interior Protection: Use seat covers and floor mats to shield the upholstery and carpeting from stains and wear. Avoid eating or drinking inside the vehicle to prevent spills, and clean the interior regularly to maintain its appearance.

By following these steps, you can keep your leased vehicle in good condition and reduce the likelihood of incurring excess wear and tear charges at the end of the lease term.

What Are The Implications Of Excess Wear And Tear On Leased Vehicles?

Excess wear and tear on a leased vehicle leads to significant financial consequences for the lessee. When the car is returned at the end of the lease term, the leasing company inspects it for damage that exceeds normal wear and tear—any identified excess wear and tear results in additional charges to cover the cost of repairs.

These charges can add up quickly, impacting the overall cost of the lease. In some cases, lessees find that the combined cost of the lease payments and the excess wear and tear fees make leasing less economical than initially expected. 

If the damage is substantial, it affects the lessee’s ability to lease another vehicle in the future, as leasing companies are hesitant to approve a new lease for someone who has previously returned a car in poor condition.

How Do Leasing Companies Inspect For Wear And Tear?

The four ways leasing companies inspect for wear and tear are exterior inspection, interior inspection, mechanical inspection, and documentation and reporting. This process typically involves a thorough examination by a trained inspector.

  1. Exterior Inspection

The inspector examines the vehicle’s exterior for any dents, scratches, or damage beyond minor cosmetic blemishes. They use standardized criteria to measure and evaluate the extent of the damage, checking for deep scratches, large dents, and any structural damage that would require significant repair.

  1. Interior Inspection

Inside the vehicle, the inspector looks for damage to the upholstery, dashboard, and other components. They also check for stains, rips, tears, and excessive wear on the seats, carpeting, and trim. The condition of the interior must meet the leasing company’s standards for everyday wear and tear.

  1. Mechanical And Functional Inspection

The inspector tests essential systems such as the engine, brakes, transmission, and tires. They ensure that all components are working correctly and check for any signs of neglect or abuse that might indicate excess wear and tear.

  1. Documentation And Reporting

The inspector documents all findings, often taking photographs to provide evidence of the vehicle’s condition. A detailed report is generated, outlining any areas of excess wear and tear. This report forms the basis for any additional charges the lessee might incur.

What Steps Should You Take Before Returning A Leased Vehicle?

Before returning a leased vehicle, thoroughly clean and inspect it, address any minor repairs, and review the lease-end inspection guidelines. Follow these five steps before returning a leased car;

  1. Clean the vehicle inside and out to ensure it is presented in its best possible condition. This includes washing the exterior, vacuuming the interior, and removing any stains or debris from seats and carpets.
  2.  Inspection of the vehicle to identify any minor damages, such as small dents, scratches, or interior stains. Address these issues with minor repairs or professional cleaning services to avoid excess wear and tear charges.
  3. Carefully review the leasing company’s lease-end guidelines to understand their specific criteria for acceptable wear and tear. Ensure all required maintenance has been performed and that you have all necessary documents, such as service records and the owner’s manual.
  4. Remove all personal items from the car and ensure that any accessories that came with it, such as extra keys, floor mats, or the spare tire, are returned.
  5. Consider scheduling a pre-return inspection with the leasing company to estimate any potential excess wear and tear charges. This will allow you to fix any problem before the final return and potentially save on costs.

Can You Purchase Wear And Tear Protection For A Leased Vehicle?

Yes, you can purchase wear and tear protection for a leased vehicle. This protection plan covers certain damages that exceed normal wear and tear, potentially saving you from incurring high fees when the lease ends.

What Are The Benefits Of Maintaining A Leased Vehicle Properly?

Proper maintenance of a leased vehicle helps avoid excess wear and tear charges and ensures the vehicle remains in good working condition. It also enhances your leasing history, making it easier to lease another vehicle in the future.

How Does Wear And Tear Impact The Lease-End Process?

Excess wear and tear leads to additional charges at the end of the lease term, as the leasing company will bill you for repairs needed to bring the vehicle back to an acceptable condition. Properly maintaining the vehicle and addressing minor damages beforehand helps minimize these costs and streamline the return process.


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