That four-door sedan you called your own for several years now has to go back to the dealership. The lease is up and your contract spells out penalties if the car is damaged or if you go over your allotted miles.

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Of course there’s bound to be normal wear and tear, but you want to make sure that your borrowed car is in shape for the next person who may want to buy or lease it. Here are some ways to ensure that you aren’t charged car lease fees once you turn those keys over.

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Read the fine print. This cannot be stressed enough as it will save you stress in the long run. ?Read every part of the contract again. See what is covered and what isn’t. If you’re not sure or don’t understand the contract, call up your dealership and ask questions!

Parting with the car

Remember, the car was never yours to begin with. The dealer will want the car back in the condition that you received it. Have the car washed and detailed thoroughly before returning.


Make repairs to damaged bumpers, windshields or tires. Rotate your tires regularly during the time you have the car and make sure both the taillights and headlights are in working condition.

Other equipment such as radios, heat/AC and navigation systems should be working properly. You will be charged a fee if the inspector at the dealership sees any flaws to the equipment. Some leasing companies will offer insurance that will cover the costs of unforeseen damages and wear and tear, but read the fine print.

Keep all receipts and document repairs. Go to Auto Zone and buy some cream that removes light scratches.


Have the car thoroughly inspected before you turn the car in.  If the car has any minor defects or repairs that are needed, take it to a trusted mechanic and get them fixed. It could mean the difference between paying hundreds of dollars as opposed to thousands of dollars the dealership may charge. Try to have the car inspected at least a month before the scheduled turn-in date.

The keys

Usually when a car is leased, the dealership will give two pairs of keys, in case one pair is lost or stolen. Some dealerships can charge in the hundreds for a lost set of keys. If your key does end up missing, you can go to a shop or hardware store to have a duplicate made for a fraction of what the dealership would charge.

Exceeding mileage

This is an important aspect of leasing a vehicle. The leasing company will offer varying mileage allowances. For example, if a car company offers a range of 10,000 miles to 20,000 per year and you go over the amount, you will most likely be charged in the range of 10-15 cents per mile you went over, depending on your lease.  The leasing companies are really stern about this and they will not cut you any slack.  You could end up paying thousands of dollars due to excess mileage. Again, read the fine print.


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Kaia Zawadi

Kaia is a freelance writer for who specializes in real estate, saving and banking.