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What Happens at the End of a Car Lease?

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woman car shopping buying leasing at car dealership keys

Many drivers prefer leasing a vehicle rather than owning one. This route can present an affordable way to drive a vehicle that you don’t currently have enough money to purchase, while also circumventing the depreciation rate of the car.

However, what happens when your vehicle lease is over? Here’s what to expect so you can easily navigate the lease closure process.


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Photo: SellersGM

Vehicle Inspection

Whether the lease is closed-end or open-end, you’ll want to schedule a vehicle inspection 30 to 90 days before the lease’s expiration date. Usually the leasing company will call you to inform you of your imminent lease closure and help you schedule the inspection. Leasing companies typically use an independent company to conduct the inspection at either your home or office.

A “wear square” device that inspectors often use to determine the size and severity of damages to the leased vehicle.
Photo: SellersGMThis inspection usually lasts around 45 minutes. The inspector will evaluate the vehicle to determine whether the vehicle has experienced normal wear and tear allowed for in the lease terms, or whether it has experienced excessive damage that would require you to make the repairs before the lease expires. Some examples of “excessive damage” would include tears or stains to upholstery, abnormal tire wear, dents and scrapes on the exterior, and a cracked window or a windshield.

If it turns out the the vehicle does need some repairs, it’s usually cheaper to take the vehicle to your own mechanic. Some lessees ask for a short-term lease extension if they need more time to make the repairs.

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young driver holding out key

Purchase or Turn-In

After the inspection, you must decide whether to turn-in the vehicle or to purchase it. If you prefer to drive the latest vehicles without making a long-term commitment, leasing another vehicle might be a good route to go. If, however, you decide to bite the bullet and commit to purchasing the vehicle, then the dealership will walk you through the appropriate paperwork and procedures.

Sell the Vehicle

You can either buy the vehicle then resell it later on your own. Another option is to use the equity of a returned lease car as a down payment on your next car. This can help lower your monthly payments on your next car, whether you lease or purchase it.

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News Sources: EdmundsPocket Sense