More Information About Excessive Wear-and-Tear Charges

Excessive wear and tear is wear that exceeds the standards stated in your lease agreement. Many leases state wear-and-tear standards in specific terms. Any standards set by the lessor must be reasonable. Just like excess mileage, excessive wear and tear will usually decrease the value of a vehicle, whether it is leased or purchased. If you return the leased vehicle at the end of the lease term, you will probably have to pay extra charges if you exceed the wear-and-tear standards.

The residual value in your lease assumes that your vehicle will be returned in a certain condition. You should be aware of the lessor's wear-and-tear standards and follow them if you want to return the vehicle at scheduled lease termination without paying excessive charges. Examples of excessive wear and tear include

  • Broken or missing parts
  • Dented or damaged body panels or trim
  • Cuts, tears, burns, or permanent stains in the fabric or carpet
  • Excessively worn tires (often 1/8" tread at the shallowest point)
  • Cracked or broken glass
  • Poor-quality repairs or repairs that do not meet the lessor's standards.

Most lessors require the vehicle to be maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations. This requirement does not mean that the vehicle has to be serviced by one of the manufacturer's franchise dealerships. However, you should be prepared to document that the required service was provided by an auto service professional. If you can't show that the vehicle was properly maintained, you may be charged for excessive wear caused by the lack of proper maintenance or for the cost of performing past-due service. Charges that the lessor assesses for returning the vehicle to the condition stated in your lease may be limited by state law to either actual repair costs or reasonable estimates of the costs of repairing the damage or excessive wear.

For a discussion of excessive wear-and-tear charges at early termination, see the section Early Termination.