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DIY Lease Return Inspections

How to inspect your car the way the lease companies do it.

You don't need a hand held computer, our check sheet will serve the same purpose.

Is this fair?

When you return your car, your lease company or a subcontractor will carry out a lease return inspection to assess damage and wear for which you will be charged. To avoid these charges we strongly recommend that you have your own inspection to identify problem areas so that you can get them fixed before the final return.

Follow the simple steps outlined below:-

1. A few weeks before your car is due to go back, you should take steps to prepare it. It needs to be very clean so that it can be inspected, but it also needs to be returned in a clean condition under the terms of your contract - if you haven't cleaned your car regularly inside and out, we suggest having it professionally valeted.


2. Next, carry out your own appraisal of your car using your BVRLA Fair Wear & Tear Standard guide to ascertain what damage and wear is acceptable. Make sure you read the print, and don't just look at the pictures which are the worst case not the least. You will need to use our online guide and out printable check-list .

3. You may find that you want to ask a friend to help you, it never hurts to have a second opinion. Even if you can't find somebody to inspect the whole car with you, you can ask them their opinion on what you found.

If you do it your self, you will need to properly clean the car and use your BVRLA Fair Wear & Tear Standard to check for damage etc (there is a checklist and descriptions in the book (Go by the description, not the pictures.) - we also have a checksheet you can print out.

Checking your Lease Car the way the lease company does it.

this information is also on the printable checksheet.

Lease companies follow a checking system.  Their inspection usually has about twice as many checks as an MOT.  They are looking for anything that falls outside of the fair wear and tear standard.

Any scratch, no matter how big, will fail if it has gone through to the base coat of paint. Any scratch larger than one inch (25mm) will fail.

Dents will fail if they are over 10mm, but smaller dents will also fail if the paintwork is cracked or chipped through the basecoat. A panel with three or more dents will fail, regardless of how big the dents are.

Most lease companies check your car twice or even three times.  So they don't miss anything.

You need to check your car the same way they do. First you need to park your car, with lots of room around it.  You need to take up two parking spaces, at least. The car needs to be clean, dry and the lighting needs to be good, so try to do it on a clear bright day.


You need to crouch down and check every panel one-by-one.  Then turned the car round, so the light is coming from a different direction and check the car again.  A small scratch over 25mm could mean a charge to respray the whole of that panel so take great care not to miss any.

Bird's dropping Marks

You need to look on the roof, bonnet, boot for etching made by bird lime.  If your car is tall, you will need a step ladder to do this properly.


Dents are best seen from a distance, usually two car lengths away, and then you need to do a close up inspection too - it often helps if you have two people doing this.
To find dents you need to stand well back from the car and look down the length and along the body at an angle, carefully looking for distortions in the reflection panel-by-panel. Rock from one foot to the other and crouch down so that you use a reflection to scan across each panel -- you may want to park near something that forms a patterned reflection such as railings or a brick wall. That's the way BVLRA Inspectors trained us to do it. You're looking any tiny dents – anything over 10mm is a fail. This is the width of your little fingernail. 

Previous body work repairs

Lots of people are being charged-back for unacceptable repairs at the moment - so don't get caught out.  You may think if you have had a repair done at an approved body shop or crash repair centre, that you will be okay, but it is your responsibility to ensure it has been done properly.  The lease inspector will not know if you've had it done by an approved company or on the cheap – they only know if the repair is to an acceptable standard.
A crash centre having an insurance company's seal of approval is no guarantee that they will always turn out good quality work – often it is just a sign that they are willing to work within an insurance company's pricing guidelines! So you need to check the colour differences, rough areas, pimples, sanding-down marks under the paint work, masking lines, runs, blemishes misaligned panels and rust.  If you can't see any problems, then feel for them.

If you have any doubts, you can bring the car to us and we will check this for you for free.

Sills and front and back valances.

You need to get on your hands and knees and look at these carefully your seal must be very clean. Digs, dents and scratches under these areas are very common.  Under the edge of your front valance is a common place to find scuffs that many people get caught-out with.


You need to check to see if there are any small cracks, and you need to push the headlights to make sure they don't move.  If they move, you need to look under the bonnet to see if any brackets are broken.

Wheels and Tyres

You need to check all the way across the tire for wear. Carefully check on the tread where depth indicators are, or if you have a depth gauge use that. They will not accept uneven tyre wear -- refer to your guide.
The alloy wheels can have some light scuffing on the rim relative to the vehicle's age and mileage, but damage on the spokes is not acceptable.


Check the screen very carefully, a chip next to the tax disc or behind the rain sensor could easily be missed.  Some lease companies will charge you for a new screen at main dealer price.  Some will charge you for a repair.  You should be able to get these done free on your insurance.

Service Book

Make sure all the entries are stamped. If the dealer has forgotten one you need to go back to them and get them to stamp it.
This shouldn't be a problem as they will have a record of the service on their computer.


Holes under the pedals caused by high heel shoes are something we find regular.  These can lead to extremely big charge backs – the cost of a new carpet and the labour costs of fitting it at dealership prices can be shocking, while smart repairs to carpets can be relatively cheap.  Inspect the areas down the sides of your seats.  You need a torch, make sure there is no cigarette burns or singes.

Door Shuts

This is recess where the door fits into the car body and includes the hinge and lock mechanism area.
Seatbelt buckles cause damage to these areas if they get caught when you slam a door. These areas can also suffer scuffing from your shoes as you climb in and out.


Gouges caused when loading large items  are easy to miss -- the inspectors won't.  It's on the checklist so don't get caught with this one. As with carpets, the charges for parts and labour for replacing a headlining can be very expensive. So if you have any damage on the headlining it is best to address it and see if a smart repair can be done… if it can it would be a fraction of the cost of replacement.


Stains and smells are not acceptable, although the charges are not heavy on these clean them anyway.  It doesn't cost you a lot and it can make the difference.  Remember the lease company needs to sell this car, and they will charge you for stains if they are charging you for something else.

Inside the Boot

Make sure the spare wheel and tyre are in good order – the same rule applies here as the other wheels (see above). Check the spare wheel well has no signs of bad repairs.  Make sure your parcel shelf, is fitted correctly and has no damage. Some people remove the parcel shelf on hatchbacks to make more room – if the car is returned without it you will be charged for a replacement.

Are we done yet?

If you did all of the above in under 20 minutes, then you haven't done it properly! An experienced inspector might be able to do some cars in 20 minutes, but we would expect a novice to take at least 45 minutes.

Do it again!

Get a friend who knows what the looking at to go through the whole car with you again.  We get a second opinion, a fresh pair of eyes to go through the checklist again and you should too.  You would be amazed what gets missed on the first inspection. That’s why its important to take this seriously. Remember that every little piece of damage can potentially cost you money.

If you find anything and are unsure, send a picture to the Q&A section of our website. We will tell you whether it's acceptable or not and what you can do about it, even if you don't bring the car to us.

© 2008 New Again -

Once you have found all the problems you will need to get them fixed. It may be the case that you can replace damaged trim and things like wing mirrors yourself after sourcing them from a dealership, a used parts dealer or on ebay. But we would recommend getting any other areas of damage done by a professional. You can either find a company like Clean Image that can do most of the work, or you can find individual companies and book them.

We are here to help

If there is anything you are unsure of, you can pop in to New Again for a chat. We give free advice and are always happy to help. If you aren't near by, you can ask your questions on "Ask the Experts".

If this all seems to much like hard work, you can book your car in at New Again (contact) we will either do an appraisal with you, or you can leave the car with us and we will do a full inspection using our checklist based on the Fair Wear and Tear Standard, after which you will be given a full report and recommendation for any work that needs to be undertaken.

Either way, the car will need to be clean for us to inspect it. You can clean the car yourself, or you have have our lease return valet, or any valet from our standard menu.

In addition to this, you will also need to ensure that you have all your keys, manuals, service book and all items that you may have taken from the car. See your BVRLA Fair Wear & Tear guide for details.

REMEMBER - address this 4-5 weeks ahead of your lease return date, do not leave it till the last moment, you may need to book your car in for repairs.

Return Day

Once you have had your car prepared for return, you should follow the following steps.


Things that people often forget



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This page was last updated on Sat, 31 March, 2012
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