One of the benefits of leasing a car in California is the flexibility it offers at the end of the lease term. As a lessee, you can choose to buy out your current leased vehicle, lease another car (either from the same brand or try something new), or simply return the car and walk away. (For more on leasing see The Beginner’s Guide to Leasing)

However, turning in a lease under mileage can be confusing (and potentially expensive). There are three areas that current lessees should consider as lease end approaches:

  • What charges may be due at the lease end?
  • Is buying the leased vehicle a good option?
  • What happens if you go over mileage on a lease?
  • What do you want to drive next?

We will address each of these questions on turning in a leased car with low mileage or on turning in a leased car under mileage in this guide to help you explore your options and plan. 

What Charges May Be Due At The Lease End?

Potential lease-end charges can include mileage overage, excess wear, late charges, and disposition fees. We’ll examine each of these individually.

Mileage Overage

Leases come with a pre-set mileage allowance per year. A three-year lease with a 12,000/year mileage allowance should be returned with less than 36,000 miles to avoid overage charges.

Divide your current mileage by the number of months you’ve had the vehicle and then multiply that number by the number of months in the lease to estimate how many miles will be on the vehicle at lease end (assuming a fairly consistent driving pattern over the term of the lease).

  • Under-mileage: If your estimated mileage will be under your allowance, you can just return the vehicle at the end of the lease. If you purchased additional mileage (but didn’t use it), this is often refundable, but there is no credit for being under the mileage in the lease contract.
  • Over-mileage: What happens if you go over mileage on a lease? If your estimated mileage will be over your allowance you have three options—either arrange to drive the vehicle less, pay the mileage penalty at the end of the lease (typically $0.15-$0.30 per mile depending on the brand) or buy the vehicle at the end of the lease.

Excess Wear

Leased vehicles must be returned in very good condition to avoid extra charges. It may be worthwhile to consider having a professional repair any dents or scratches before turning in the vehicle. If the tires have less than 1/8-inch tread, they should be replaced to avoid potentially costly tire replacement charges at the dealership.

Cartelligent offers aftermarket products that can make the lease return process easier and more cost-effective. If you purchased Safe Lease when you leased your vehicle, it will protect you against up to $5,000 of wear and tear damage including worn tires, dings, dents, scratches, wheel damage, windshield chips, and interior stains and tears—and there’s no need to go through the hassle of getting these repaired.

Late charges

Every leased car must be returned by the lease termination date on the contract. The vehicle can be returned to any dealer of the same brand. (If you are using Cartelligent for your new vehicle you can just return your current leased car to us.) Some banks may offer a small grace period of a few days, but beyond that, fees will begin to accrue.

Disposition fee

A disposition fee is usually due when the leased vehicle is returned (the exact amount will be specified in your contract). Many brands will waive this charge if you lease another vehicle with them.

Is buying the leased vehicle a good option?

If you love your current vehicle and would like to buy it outright, that’s an option. Many of our clients will opt to lease the latest version of their current model rather than buy out their letter to take advantage of technology and safety innovations in the newer model.

If your current vehicle needs work or is over mileage, it can be tempting to buy out the loot to avoid penalties. However, we typically don’t recommend this to clients. The purchase amount is prearranged at lease signing and assumes the vehicle will be in top condition and at the allowed mileage. This means that this cost may be more than the vehicle is worth. Your Cartelligent agent can help you decide if it makes more sense for you to pay any penalties or buy out the leased vehicle.

What do you want to drive next?

Now comes the fun part—deciding which vehicle you’d like to drive next.

Leasing another vehicle allows lessees to take advantage of the benefits of driving a newer car while maintaining a low monthly payment. Cartelligent makes it easy to lease another vehicle from the same brand or to try something new.

Lease (or buy) another vehicle from the same brand

Many manufacturers will incentivize returning lessees to choose another vehicle from their brand. In addition to financial incentives such as loyalty rebates, some will waive the last few lease payments to help clients get into the newer model before their lease is over.

Lease (or buy) another vehicle from a different brand

Part of the fun of leasing can be the flexibility to drive a different car every few years. Some manufacturers will even offer rebates to current lessees of competing brands. These can make trying a new brand easier (For more on our most leased brands see our Which car brands do people lease or buy page).

Special order exactly what you want

Regardless of whether you stay with your current brand, it can often make sense to consider special ordering your new vehicle. Ordering allows you to get exactly the features you want on your new car—and avoid paying for other features you don’t want. We particularly recommended ordering European vehicles that can be configured in literally thousands of ways. Talking to your Cartelligent agent three to four months in advance will give you time to determine if ordering will be a good strategy for you.

Return the car and walk away

Of course, you are under no obligation to lease or buy another vehicle unless you wish to. If you no longer need the car, you can simply return it and walk away.

Return Your Leased Vehicle At Cartelligent

Whether turning in a leased car with low mileage or if you’re turning in a leased car under mileage, Cartelligent can make leasing a car in California efficient while getting you a great price on a new vehicle. Call our team of car-leasing experts at 888-427-4270 or get started today.