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How to save hundreds of pounds when returning your lease car.

This article is a case study of one of the many cars that we inspect prior to return to the lease company.  We think that this article is worth doing to show you just how difficult and involved this subject can be… but for those of you that want to cut to the chase, we estimated that the refurbishment recharges on this vehicle would amount to £1584.00*
We also showed the customer how to avoid ALL these refurbishment recharges by spending just £365.82.

That’s quite a saving in anybody's book! This article includes all the figures, so read on to find out.

Showing the customer around the car.

When this customer brought his car to us he had already looked around it and identified a scuff on the rear wheel arch and a cigarette burn. As far as he was concerned that was pretty much the full extent of the damage.

The car was fairly clean, it had been washed a couple of days before, but we know from experience that unless a car is really clean it is easy to miss things -- the damage tends to end up in many of the same places that get dirty. As part of our lease return inspection a special valet is included which we carried out on the car, and this is when further damage was revealed. Here is what we found:-

1. Scratches on Bonnet
The scratches were much longer than the allowed 25mm and therefore should incur a recharge. This lease company would class this as a 'repair and paint' on a large sized panel and would charge £257.00*.
In actual fact, £257 to repaint the bonnet is a fair price because in reality, a car body repair shop would actually have to paint the bonnet and the tops of both front wings, and fade the lacquer out down the wings in order to avoid the repair showing. This would probably work out more expensive than what the lease company actually charges.
Scratches can be a tough call for Lease Return Inspectors, they don't carry equipment to measure how deep the scratch is (nor do we for that matter) and so they can't tell if a scratch can be buffed out, or if it will require the whole panel to be painted. So they have to assume the worst. If you think this is harsh, remember you didn't have to hand the car back in that condition for him to make the call! It's far better for you to have this damage inspected and quoted.
We had our paint correction specialist look at the scratches and he judged the damage to be only in the lacquer and he thought he could buff the scratches out for £50. Although it must be said often we don't know for sure until we try. But as we don't charge unless we get results, it is certainly worth letting us have a go.
Saving = £207

2. Chips and Dents on Nearside Front Door.
The lease company normally charges from £41* to remove a dent, there were two on this door, however, there were chips on the door edges that were through to the metalwork and these were not acceptable. This alone would be classed as a 'repair and repaint' on a medium sized panel incurring a recharge of £206.
Again, this charge is not unreasonable. To paint a door, a good car body shop would have to fade out onto the next panel, meaning that up to three panels could need painting depending on the position of the damage and colour, so a real-life repair would mostly likely cost more than the recharge.
We charge £60+vat for the first dent, but the second dent on the same panel we do for free. As for the chips on the door edges, we felt that on this car we could repair them, and this would be classed as an "acceptable repair". We quoted £19.95 for the chips, although this was to do them on the whole car.
This gives a grand total of £90.45 for this panel.
Saving = £115.55

3. Dent on Near Side Rear Door
This panel had just one dent greater than 10mm. As mentioned above, this lease company charges from £41* per dent. Our deal with dents is that you get one dent for £60+vat, the second on the same panel is free, all dents after this are £30+vat. As the first one and the free one were done on the previous panel, we would charge £35.25inc for this one.
Saving = £5.75

4. Chips on Near side Front Wing
The front wing had some chips. Judging by what the lease company tells us is on their recharge matrix, they would charge £206.00 for a repair and repaint on a medium panel... however, experience has shown us that they are more likely to charge something like £45* for a few stone chips. We would touch these stone chips in (this is a job most people can do for themselves). We have already included the price for doing the stone chips to the whole car on panel 2.
Saving = £45+

5. Scratches and Scuff on Tailgate
As already mentioned in our description of panel 1, a lease return inspector has to assume that scratches cannot be removed by any means other than by 'repair and paint'. And as this is a large panel it would incur a refurbishment recharge of £257*.
Once again our paintwork correction specialist said he could most probably buff the scratches to an acceptable standard for £15.
Saving = £242

A scuff on a wheel arch.

6. Rear Bumper scuff and scratch (Two areas of damage).
An area of the bumper had a scuff which tailed off into a long scratch. This would be classed as a paint and repair by the lease company, and the bumper has it's own price which is £180*. This is very, very reasonable, again this is less than you would pay at most decent body shops.
Although we would concur that this area of damage needed to be repaired and painted, we would only repaint the damaged area while the bumper is still on the vehicle (this is what is called a Small Area Respray/Smart Repair) rather than taking the bumper off and repainting the whole thing at a body shop. Our standard price for this is £99.87inc. The other area of damage was the scuff the customer had noticed which was next to the rear wheel arch (pictured above). This would fail, but was probably not as bad as it looked, we guessed that much of it would machine polish out, and if the remaining scratches were touched in, it might just pass. This we would class as a cosmetic repair at £25. (There is no guarantee that the cosmetic repair would be good enough, we would have to try it to see. A safer option would be to have a smart repair on both areas even though this may well work out as much as the recharge. But it's worth doing because there are other factors to take into account. Most leases have a threshold of between £100 and £150. You won't be charged for damage amounting to less than this, and you can use this for swallowing damage which is not economically viable to repair -- more on this later. ).
Saving = £55.13

chips on a door edge.

7. Off Side Front Door Chips and Dent.
As on panel No.2 on our list, this is enough damage to warrant a 'repair and repaint' on a medium sized panel which would incur refurbishment recharges of £206*.
Our price for a second dent would be £35.25, and the chips are already paid for (whole car included on the price, panel two).
Saving = £175.75

8. Scratches on Roof
Once again, the lease inspector has to assume that these scratches can only be removed by repairing and repainting a roof, which is a large sized panel, and so would incur a recharge of £256*. And once again, our paintwork correction specialist was confident that he could remove the scratches to an acceptable standard for £15.
Saving = £242

Driver's Floor matt worn through.

9. Driver's Floor matt worn through
We would normally advise the driver to throw the mat away - as it were the matt that was damaged and not the carpet. But as it was an original Renault mat that came with the car we advised the driver to contact the lease company and check the situation. Many lease companies will not charge for missing or damaged car mats*.
A major lease company advised us that if the mats are very tatty, it is best to throw them away so that the car doesn't look tatty during the inspection -- although it must be said that as tatty as they were, this was a high mileage car and it could be argued that this were fair wear and tear. Some lease companies may insist that you replace the car mats because strictly speaking, they are a feature of the car.

Off side Sill Dented.

10. Off side Sill Dented
When the car was brought to us, although fairly clean, it wasn't really clean and the sills were covered in a fine layer of dirt. It was only once we cleaned the car properly that the dents became obvious. Areas such as this are low down and unless you are looking, things like dents can be hard to spot, especially if the car is dirty. But lease car inspectors do this every day and know where to look, chances are this is the kind of thing that you could get caught out on.
Because this is a box section and possibly double skinned, paintless dent repair probably wouldn't be possible, so the lease company would class this as "repair and paint". The sill has its own size class and would be charged at £90*.
This charge is very reasonable and we don't know of a good body shop that would repair and repaint this for less money. So we advised against having this repaired on this occasion because it is not economically viable, and more importantly, the lease company has a threshold of £150* meaning that if all the other work was done, this damage would not be charged.

11. Cigarette Burn
The lease company would charge £45* for a cigarette burn which is about the going rate for a smart repair. However, we do not like this kind of smart repairs, they involve filling the burn hole with a soft glue and then sprinkling fibres onto the glue. The repair can look very good when done by an expert, however they don't last very long when on an area of wear such as a seat base, and unfortunately, most burns tend to be on high wear areas. As this kind of repair only lasts a month or so, we consider it a cover-up, and to be little more than hiding the damage. New Again will not carry out this kind repair as we don't think it's fair to the person who ends up with the problem a month down the line when it comes back again. However, in this case it is irrelevant because added to the £90 for the dented sill, the bill will still come in under the £150 threshold*.

If you add together all the potential* end-of-lease recharges they come to £1584.00.
If you add together all the quotes for repairs this comes to £365.82,
plus the cost of our inspection which is £79.95, the total is £445.77
This means a total saving of £1138.23

We chose this particular car as an example because we thought it was fairly typical, the amount of damage we found was fairly normal. What was also typical was the fact that the driver had already looked at the car and had underestimated the amount of damage. So it's likely that had his fleet manager not sent him to us he would have been surprised by a large bill several weeks later.

*Please note, charges vary across different lease companies. For this article, we consulted a large lease company who were kind enough to tell us the charges for the actual damage we quoted. This serves and an example only and charges may vary. Please note also that the threshold of charges may also vary, both across both different lease companies, but also depending on your lease contract - the threshold amount is not always made available, but they will probably tell you if you ask nicely.

†Under the terms of a lease contract, and under BVRLA guidelines, all repairs must be carried out to an acceptable standard.

A few years ago, there was a fair chance that the lease return inspector would have missed some of the damage that we found. These inspectors are very good at their jobs and do this day-in-day-out, however, they are sometimes rushed or having to work under less than ideal conditions in poor light or poor weather. One of the biggest lease companies told us that every year they lose £1.5 million due to damage their inspectors have missed. This is why they have tightened up many check the cars twice or even three times.
But even if they did miss things, it doesn't really work to your advantage. Firstly, you have no idea which damage the lease inspector is likely to miss. Secondly, the lease company has to make up any loss elsewhere, so we pay for it in higher monthly charges.

However, you can reap the rewards of helping the lease company with this problem -- especially if you are a fleet manager. Those nice people in the Damage Control Departments of lease companies tell us that they have good customers, and they have customers who are a royal headache, who cause them lots of work, and cost them lots of money! Life would be much easier for them if your cars were just returned in good condition. There is a strong possibility that they will reward you with better deals if you consistently return cars with very little damage and few recharges. Our feedback from lease companies certainly suggests that this is the case.

(This customer followed our 6 step guide.)

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This page was last updated on Fri, 8 April, 2011