Toronto, Ontario – Some consumers are being surprised by unexpected charges for “excess wear and tear” when they are returning their leased vehicles, according to the Automobile Protection Association (APA). The association said that appraisals of $800 to $1,500 are fairly commonplace, while it received one report of an estimate of more than $5,000.

The APA said that consumers returning Chrysler and General Motors comprise a significant portion of complaints, while other brands reported to APA’s Toronto office include Mazda, BMW and Toyota. Consumers who had previously leased cars said that the sort of wear-and-tear that was previously ignored now generates hefty repair estimates.

APA offers the following tips on leased vehicles:

Bumper damage: Plastic-covered bumpers on modern vehicles are very easily damaged. Leasing guidelines allow for some cosmetic damage, but if repairs are required, it can be $400 or more per bumper.

Tires: Many leasing guidelines require that three or all four tires be of the same size, type, performance and quality of the original tires. According to some guidelines, each axle must have two of the same brand tires on it. A consumer returning a non-complying vehicle would be billed for four new tires; APA suggests a cheaper solution is to replace the tires with four used ones, or two new tires to match two existing tires on the vehicle, before returning it. Some automakers will accept the return of a leased vehicle with winter tires on it only during the winter months, or require all-season or summer tires to be included in the trunk, so check before returning the vehicle.

Windshield damage: Scratches larger than credit-card size, stars, cracks, bulls-eyes and large chips will usually result in a charge. If possible, repair or replace before returning the vehicle, as you will likely be charged for an original equipment windshield.

Interior damage: Holes, tears and cuts are all chargeable. Most can be repaired, while seat and carpet stains can be removed by a professional. Tears in vinyl door panels can be repaired in many cases. The lessor will likely charge to replace an entire seat cover or trim panel instead of paying for a repair.

Dents and scratches: Leasing companies have guidelines for the size and number of permissible dents and surface blemishes on a vehicle. In most cases, the guidelines are fairly tolerant, but in case of doubt, the best plan is to deal with an appraiser working for you who is aware of the leasing company’s policies. Dealers often use “paintless” dent repairers who can tap out dents without the use of body filler or repainting.

Keys: Lessors expect the vehicle to be returned with the two original supplied ignition keys.

APA recommends that two or three months before the end of the lease, take a look at the vehicle and note any cosmetic deficiencies, and call the dealer to book an appointment a month before the lease is over. If you become aware of issues that need correcting during the inspection, this is the time to seek advice from a specialist for the required repair. If you are turning in a leased vehicle that will be inspected afterwards, take detailed photos of the interior and exterior, including existing damage, to ensure that you have a record should you receive a claim for damage that occurred subsequent to its return.

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