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Living Up to Your Automotive Lease Obligations

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, returning your leased auto might not be so painless; in fact, you might have incurred some hefty fees over your leasing term.

Terminating Your Lease
First things first, if you’re bored of your car, don’t try to trade it in early unless money grows on trees where you come from. Sure, you can do it, and the leasers will be more than willing to take the car. However, this is because they’ll be getting extra cash from you since the trade qualifies as an “early termination” and will definitely result in heavy fines. Think of it in terms of cashing in a CD before maturation date and you get the picture.

Most leases only include a certain number of miles. For every mile more you drive during your tenure with the car, they’ll charge you. Think about how much it hurts when you go over your cell phone minutes. Multiply that by a few thousand road trip miles and you’ll be in bad shape pretty quickly.

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. Either way will cost you cash though. 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 when the day of reckoning finally arrives. This means oil changes and tire rotations, services that are common during the first couple years of owning a new car. DriverSide has a maintenance schedule to make keeping up with this stuff a lot easier.

“Servicing the car is very important,” says Linda Booms, General Manager of Re-Marketing for VW. “It affects the resale value. You’d want to keep all the receipts from the services and, to take it a step further, the dealership actually stamps them. When we have the vehicle we actually inspect to see if the receipt has been stamped.”

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; he’ll be sniffing around the car, seeing what things they can point out to haggle with you on the price. 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.

“We look to see if the keys, the owner’s manuals, any accessories that came with the vehicle have been returned. The wheels can get damaged or swapped out. We want the car to be returned the same as it was when it was manufactured,” Booms continues.

A great way to avoid extra costs: clean your car thoroughly. A full detailing can make a huge difference in the car. If it’s clean, it shows 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 will make the car return process pricelessly 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, 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. They love to get you for worn tires and will charge you an arm and a leg for a new OEM approved set. If your tires are looking shabby, find a place that will give you a set for a discount, thus saving you some money when you turn the car in. Make sure the set matches though, or they’ll charge you for a new set regardless.

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