How Does a Lease Car Return Work?

Here's what you need to know about returning your leased car.

If leasing a new car is in your immediate future, you need to fully understand everything in the contract prior to signing because the agreement forms are different from a car loan form you normally sign. When you lease a vehicle, it is a short term arrangement (typically 36 months) that you pay for the use of the car. Towards the end of the lease, you need to turn in the car, or purchase it to become the owner. Note that when you first make that agreement to lease the car, the law requires the auto dealership to give you a list of fees associated with returning the leased vehicle.

Car Lease Details

From the first day you agree to lease the car, you will be provided the return date of the leased car. At that time you will be legally obligated to the list of all things that may affect the charge for your lease return. In general, you can only close out the transaction once you make all your payments – which will consist of the total number of miles you drove, the wear and tear on the vehicle, and any additional closing costs that you may have incurred.

Returning Your Leased Car

When the date for turning in your vehicle approaches, you typically will return the car to the dealer that originated the lease. At that point a lease manager will inspect the vehicle for the miles you clocked, wear and tear, and other factors that may affect the lease return process. To help yourself make the most of the inspection, it is best to treat the vehicle as if you were going to sell it. Get the car cleaned thoroughly both inside and out, replace minor worn out parts such as windshield wipers, have all your maintenance records handy to prove that you treated the car well, and try to repair any damage to the vehicle you may have caused.

After the inspection, the lease manager will tell you if there are any additional charges you may have accrued. After paying the end of lease costs, you can just walk away from the vehicle with no strings attached.