What is considered fair wear and tear on a leased vehicle?

Date Posted 17th March 2020
Read Time 6 min read

When returning your lease vehicle, you have to ensure that any deterioration sits within the fair wear and tear guidelines. 

These are set out by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and are recognised industry-wide. But for you, the customer, what do they actually mean? 

What Is Fair Wear And Tear? 

According to the BVRLA, “fair wear and tear occurs when normal usage causes deterioration to a vehicle.”

That statement, however, shouldn’t be confused with damage. If you have damaged your vehicle through either an event or series of events, such as impact, inappropriate stowing of items, harsh treatment or negligence, that will not be classed as fair wear and tear. 

That all sounds fairly understandable. But there are other aspects which you may not think are included. For example, documentation. 


When you return your leased vehicle, all documentation must be present and intact. 

That includes its registration document (V5C), any MOT or servicing certificates, the vehicle’s operating manual and any radio codes, if applicable. 


If you fail to provide any of these when taking the car back, you will be subsequently charged. 


When you return your car, it has to be alongside the same amount and type of keys you received when you picked it up. 

So, if you received two keys – you have to bring two keys back. If they were both remote control central locking, then they should be on return – and fully functional, too. 

It is also worth noting that your locking wheel nut is also classed as a key under the fair wear and tear guidelines. So, make sure you have it to hand when you take your car back. 


Now we have covered some of the areas you may not have expected to fall under fair wear and tear, we come to the more recognisable aspects, such as appearance. 


Small chips or areas of chipping, including those on the door edges, are accepted as fair wear and tear. 

If there is a need for the panel, bumper or piece of bodywork to be repaired or resprayed, then it is not. 


Dents in the bodywork up to 10mm are accepted, providing there are not more than two on the same panel. However, dents to the roof or any swage line are not and will come with a charge. 


Scratches up to 25mm are accepted, as long as the amount is relative to the vehicle’s age and mileage and the primer or bodywork material is not showing. 

Mercedes-Benz Logo

Badges & Labels

If you decide to take any badges off your lease car, it must be done professionally and they must be restored before you hand the vehicle back. 

If you add any custom detailing, the car must be returned to its original state before you take it back. 

Other Bits

Above is not an exhaustive list of what you need to be aware of when returning your car. There are other aspects, including tow bar, convertible roofs and wheel arch trims. 

If it is not included in your original documentation, BVRLA will be able to provide you with the extensive list. 

Windows, Glass & Door Mirrors


Ligh scratching on windows or windscreens is acceptable, providing it does not interfere with the driver’s line of sight or affect any heating elements. 

Any chips, cracks and holes are not accepted. 

It is worth noting that if you have a chip repaired and it is in the driver’s sightline, it will not be accepted. If however, it is anywhere else on the windscreen or window and repaired professionally, it will. 

Door Mirrors

If the door mirror is missing, cracked or damaged there will be subsequent charges. As well, if they are heated or electric, they must be fully functional when you hand the car back. 

BMW Headlight


All headlights must work. Minor scuffs or scratches up to 25mm are accepted. However, any further damage to the light or casing is not. 

Wheels & Tyres


Scuffs totalling up to a total of 50mm on each wheel are permitted. Anything greater than that is not. 

Any dents or holes to the wheel, as well as any damage to the wheel spoke or alloy hub will also come with a charge. 

Alloy Wheel

If your car has a spare tyre, it must be present along with all necessary tools. If you have a puncture repair kit, it must be serviceable and be returned in good order with a full canister. 


All tyres, including the spare, must be of minimum UK tread depth and all tyres must match the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

There must be no damage to the tyre, and any evidence of under or over-inflation is also not accepted. 


As for the mechanics, the vehicle must have been serviced in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations and be in a state to pass an MOT on return. 


Vehicle Interior

The vehicle interior must not be damaged in any way, including upholstery, equipment and carpets. 

All seats that were originally supplied with the vehicle must be present and fully functional, as well as all interior fittings, such as seatbelt fittings, radio and rearview mirror. 

Interior wear through normal use will be accepted. 

Finishing Touches

When it comes to handing the car back, the vehicle must be in a position to be inspected. Therefore, having both the interior and exterior cleaned is advised. 

If the vehicle cannot be inspected, or any of the deterioration does not fall under the BVRLA guidelines, you will face extra charges. 

Why Do I Get Charged? 

Simply put, you get charged because you have failed to keep up your end of the contract you made when taking the car. The charges are to cover the depreciation the dealer faces to return the car to its former state. 

Car interior

When you sign a lease, you agree to keep the vehicle in sound working order. If you damage the vehicle, fail to keep up with servicing or lose any documentation, keys or accessories, you are not keeping to that agreement. 

Hippo’s Advice

To ensure you do not face any charges when you hand the car back, there are a few rules you can keep to. 

  1. Make sure you keep the car in good condition
  2. Service the car in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations
  3. Bring the car back in the same condition as you took it away
  4. Stick within your agreed mileage

If you follow those four rules, you are drastically reducing the chances of being charged any additional fees when your lease comes to an end. 

I Still Have Questions

If you have further questions about any of the fair wear and tear guidelines, speak to one of our experts using the information below. 

Call Us | Email Us

Alternatively, consult the BVRLA guidelines. 

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