Living Up To Your Automotive Lease Obligations

How keeping your car in top shape can save you money on your automotive lease.
By Alison Lakin, Associate Editor
Your auto lease is finally up. Are you planning to just turn the car in and start looking for your next one? Hold on a quick second; depending on how you've driven and what condition the vehicle is in, you might have incurred some hefty fees over your leasing term.

Terminating Your Lease
First thing's first, don't try to trade your vehicle in early unless money grows on trees where you come from. The trade qualifies as an "early termination" and will likely result in fines. Think of it in terms of cashing in a CD before maturation date. 

Most leases only include a certain number of miles. For every mile more you drive during your tenure with the car, you incur a charge. If you find yourself in this situation, you might be able to purchase the car for the residual value to avoid paying the mileage fees. Be careful though, as the residual value of the car might be priced higher than what you'd be paying for that additional driving. Do some research and crunch the numbers, you may come out ahead in the end.

Keeping up with general maintenance on your leased car will save you money in the long run. This means taking care of oil changes and tire rotations, services that are common during the first couple years of owning a new car. 

If you're regularly servicing the car, make sure to keep the records and bring them with you when you return it. This is your evidence that you've been taking care of your automobile.

Wear and Tear
Imagine that instead of simply returning your leased vehicle, you're trying to sell it. Would you do anything differently? Probably so. The person checking your car is just like a buyer. This can be dangerous since the manufacturer wants the vehicle to be as close as possible to how it was when it was rolled off the lot.

A great way to avoid extra costs is to clean your car thoroughly. A full detailing can make a huge difference. If it's clean, it demonstrates that you took care of the car during the time it was in your hands. Spending a little bit of money to have someone else shine it up (or scrubbing it yourself) will make the car return process more straightforward.

Head to a body shop and get minor repairs taken care of as well. A few dings here and there should be included under standard wear and tear in your lease, but it may be prudent to repair them if you feel you have an excessive amount. Any chips in the windshield or broken windows should be looked at and repaired too. Lastly, check your tires before returning your vehicle.

If you follow these basic steps, then returning your leased car should be a quick and easy process. 

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