Damaged leased vehicles – what constitutes damage?

Leasing suppliers are well known for being very thorough during the review process for an end of contract lease vehicle. It’s not uncommon for the customer (business) to receive a report asking for several hundred pounds for repair work, and as a result damage charges are the biggest cause of conflict between fleets and leasing companies.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association’s Fair Wear and Tear Guides for cars, LGVs and HGVs are used extensively across the leasing industry and these guides act in both the customers and suppliers best interests. However, they are not always followed and where this is the case conflicts usually arise; it’s when leasing suppliers start making up their own rules, without industry input, that the complaints start piling in.

So can leasing suppliers get away with anything?

In short, no they can’t.

Suppliers can only get away with what’s clearly defined in the fleet-supplier contract, and that contract has to be worded and set out in such a way that makes it legally binding. It also has to be signed – which it shouldn’t be, if you are unsure of its contents.

One of those contents will cover fair wear and tear. Fair wear and tear is a critical include, because it clearly defines what types of deterioration are acceptable. But exactly what types of deterioration are acceptable varies from contract to contract – there is no standard. And so, it really does pay to read through all leasing contracts thoroughly.

What constitutes damage?

Damage is called excessive wear and tear in the leasing industry and where there’s excessive damage, you’re not going to be covered by a fair wear and tear clause.

Fair wear and tear will include general appearance, documentation and keys, all paintwork and bumpers and trim, all windows and glass and mirrors, tyres and wheels, mechanical condition (at appraisal level) and interior condition. Here is a run-down of what’s generally acceptable and what’s not acceptable on various vehicle components:


  • Acceptable: All small scratches outside the driver’s line of sight.
  • Not acceptable: Any chips, cracks, holes or scratches in the driver’s line of sight.


  • Acceptable: Minor scuffs, usually up to 25mm in length.
  • Not acceptable: Deep scuffs, broken paint, dents, cracking and impact damage.


  • Acceptable: Small stone chips, dents under 10mm, light scratches up to 25mm.
  • Not acceptable: Dents over 10mm, impact damage, and multiple dents on one panel.


  • Acceptable: Minor kerb damage with scuffs usually up to 25mm, peeling.
  • Not acceptable: Deep kerb damage, buckled or bent alloys.


  • Acceptable: Small scratches on scuff panels and plastics, slight wear to upholstery.
  • Not acceptable: Deep scratches to any surfaces, ripped seals, permanent staining to upholstery, any damage caused by external devices such as sat-nav units.

End of contract leased vehicles must also be delivered to the supplier clean and tidy – some suppliers do go as far as charging for valeting work.

How can I minimise the risk of incurring costs?

It’s important to consider that for every bit of excessive wear and tear on a leased vehicle, you are going to pay for it – at a price that’s going to recover the lease supplier’s costs, not just repair the vehicle.

And so, it’s going to be more cost-effective to have any end of contract vehicle repaired yourself. We recommend downloading the BVRLA guide applicable to you, and using it to create a checklist of the things you need to have done to the vehicle in question; the aim is to put right what would cost you more at lease return.

The BVRLA recommends you carry out the appraisal of the vehicle 10-12 weeks before the vehicle is due for return, so that you can arrange to have any unacceptable wear and tear rectified. If you’d like to find out more about the BVRLA’s recommendations for returning a vehicle at the end of its lease period, check out this page at the BVRLA website.

It goes without saying, however, that your lease contract may restrict your ability to do this, with a clause stating that only minor damage like dents, scuffs and chipped windscreens can be repaired by the customer during the lease period. Under these circumstances, you should follow the leasing supplier’s terms. The last thing you want is a legal dispute. It’s also important to remember that all repairs must be completed to an acceptable standard – if the leasing supplier can spot it, then it’s not good enough.


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