Returning A Leased Car for the First Time? Here’s How It Works

Now that your vehicle lease is expiring, you may be curious about what comes next. Does someone come pick up the car from you? Do you need to hand it over to your dealer? What about turn-in fees? Are you going to have to pay out of pocket for that little coffee stain?

The process to return your leased car is not super complex; oftentimes, turning in your lease is as easy as 1-2-3. Still, your lease-end questions are valid. To help you out, we’ve compiled answers to some of the more common questions our Kansas City car dealers have been asked over the years.

How do I turn in my leased vehicle?

Generally speaking, returning your lease at the end of your contract is straightforward: you either turn it in and walk away, turn it in and buy it, or turn it in and lease another vehicle. So, where to start?

First, you’ll need to know your lease-end date, which can be obtained on your original contract and paperwork. If you are unsure, or your dog ate your contract, we recommend contacting your originating dealer. (In fact, if you need an answer to any question on this page, it’s best to call your dealer.)

Once you know the due date, you can begin scheduling a lease-return inspection. Your auto leasing company will reach out to you to schedule this inspection – you may need to call them if you haven’t been contacted within 3 weeks of your end-of-lease date – which will probably be performed by a third-party lease return inspector. These inspections can be performed in under an hour at your home, your office, some seedy gas station on the outskirts of town – you name the place.

Before your inspection, however, we highly recommend performing your own look-see. If you spot any damage, stains, scratches, or issues, no matter how minor you believe them to be, you should take photos and consider getting them fixed or repaired. This could save you hundreds on disposition fees.

After your pre-return inspection is handed into your leasing company, you’ll be notified if any charges will be applied for “excess wear and tear.” Make those fixes, then contact your leasing company for another inspection. It’s always in your best interest to return your leased vehicle with a crystal-clear pre-return inspection report.

Now you’re entering the final lap. Contact your originating dealer to schedule a return. If you’ve already paid for your last month, you can return the vehicle at any time.

Bring your leased vehicle into the dealership. Before taking the next step, be sure to collect a signed and dated return receipt from your dealer’s rep. Feel free to also take pictures of the vehicle, inside and out, to ensure no charges are added to your return after turning it in.

Now you’re free to move forward with another vehicle or dealer. Your returned vehicle will find a nice, new home (probably).

Is it a requirement to schedule an end-of-lease inspection?

Most auto brands and car lease companies will require an inspection prior to lease-end, yes. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, when you return your lease into the dealer, they’ll perform a quick inspection before shipping it off to the big boys.

Again, it’s always in your best interest to conduct an inspection! Returning your leased vehicle without one is akin to buying a house without seeing the inside. Ask for an inspection at least 30 days before returning your vehicle, which should give you enough time to get repairs done.

Must I schedule an end-of-lease return, too?

You typically do not need to schedule a lease-end return to your dealership, though your dealer will appreciate if you did. But as long as you’re handing over the keys by your due date, you’re solid.

Is there a fee at the end of a car lease?

Unless you’re a loyal customer who re-leases through the same leasing company, you can expect some charges when turning in your leased vehicle. Fees can be assessed for mileage overages, excessive wear, late turn-in, and general disposition fees. These calculations for these charges will be outlined in your contract.

How can I get out of end-of-lease or disposition fees?

If you don’t end up buying the vehicle at the end of your lease, or you don’t continue leasing through your financing company, you’ll likely be on the hook for disposition fees, which can be up to $1000. These are unavoidable.

However, you can reduce your fees by having your vehicle cleaned and detailed, getting bodywork done, fixing windshield chips, and keeping your mileage under the cap.

What happens if I return a leased car with damage?

You’re probably liable to pay for those damages, although it’s best to get your car repaired at an independent auto body shop rather than through the leasing institution. (It’s oftentimes much cheaper this way.)

What happens if I return my car lease with different tires?

You should return your lease with stock OEM tires. If you don’t have the original tires – say, one of them got torn up on a notoriously bad pothole – you should contact your leasing agent for advice. They can provide you a quote for a new set of tires.

Do I need to remove bumper stickers before turning in my lease?

To be safe, yes. Bumper stickers can damage vehicle paint, which will certainly increase the likelihood of seeing an Excess Wear charge on your invoice.

(In the future, put bumper stickers on your rear window; they’re easier to remove and won’t damage the glass.)

What happens if I return my leased vehicle late?

You can request grace periods from your lender, but don’t expect leniency if you are a month past your due date. Once your end-of-lease date comes, you can bet your leasing company will hound you. Late fees will be assessed, repossession is certainly on the table, your credit will take a hit, and you could even get into legal trouble for refusing to hand in the vehicle.

Can I return a vehicle lease early?

Yes, but you’ll be on the line for any termination fees as outlined in your contract.

Is it possible to get out of a car lease?

Not without termination fees. Leasing companies aren’t going to forgive your payments unless legally obligated to. You can try a third-party “car lease trade” service, which connects you with other lessees. (We don’t advise going this route, but it’s something to consider.)

If you need assistance with your car lease, contact your dealer for advice and suggestions. They may be able to work with you and lower your monthly payments by extending your lease terms.

Can I return a leased car to a different dealer?

As long as it’s a dealership that leases your vehicle’s brand, the answer is typically yes. You can return your lease to any dealer, in any state, though we suggest contacting that dealer before strolling and dropping keys on the desk.

If you’re new to Kansas City and need to return a leased SUV, truck, car, or minivan, see if one of our Kansas City auto dealerships can help. We accept lease returns on all Toyota, Chevy, GMC, Buick, Nissan, and Hyundai models. Contact a member of our sales team to schedule your lease turn-in. At McCarthy, we’d love to help you choose another new vehicle to lease or purchase, too! Browse our inventory today.


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