Car Wear and Tear - What's Normal?

What can be considered normal wear and tear for a car? This is an important question to ask, especially when you’re leasing a vehicle where you have to return it to the car leasing company in good condition, or if you are purchasing using a Person Contract Purchase plan. But generally, any car owner or driver should have an idea of the usual wear and tear of vehicles, so they know what to expect and when to take their cars to a garage for servicing, maintenance, and repairs. 

Fair Wear and Tear: What Does it Mean?

Car finance companies know and understand that a vehicle that’s been used for a number of years and has been driven for several thousand miles will no longer be in the same condition as a brand new car. That’s why they accept that during the course of using a car, it will suffer from “fair wear and tear.” 

What does the term “fair wear and tear” mean exactly? This may include light scratches, stone chips on the windows and body, even a few minor dents on the car. However, if the vehicle has incurred torn seats, cracked headlights, and serious dents, then these are no longer the usual wear and tear expected on a used car. 

Acceptable Car Wear and Tear

  • Minimal paint chips that aren’t rusting
  • Small dents without broken paint
  • Light scratches and small scuffs
  • Scratches on wheel trims and on unpainted trim

If the car has rust or there have been body repairs and poor paint jobs, deep scratches, large dents, and marks from stickers, these are not acceptable. The underside of the car, as well as the catalytic converter, should also be free of any damage. 

Windows and Mirrors
  • Small chips that have been repaired by a professional
  • Light scratches on the windscreen 
  • There shouldn’t be any damage on the driver’s side of the windscreen

If there are any chips and scratches on the driver’s line of vision, then it is major damage to the vehicle because it compromises the driver’s safety. Along with this, cracked or damaged mirrors and lights, broken adjustable mirrors, and heated screens that are no longer functioning are also not acceptable as fair wear and tear. 

  • Light scratches and scuffing of the wheel trims
  • The tyres should still meet the minimum legal tread depth

When the alloy wheels are damaged and corroded, it is not usual tyre wear and tear. Also, dented wheel rims or trims, used tyre inflation canister, and missing spare wheel and tools are unacceptable. 


If there are light scratches and marks on sills and seals and treads, this is alright. However, when there are tears on the seats, burns or holes on the carpets and trim, missing parts and faulty media systems, those are considered to be serious damage to the car. 

Mechanical Condition

The car should still be safe to drive and roadworthy. It should be able to pass the MOT test without any issues. If the car has its warning lights on, has grooved brake discs or faulty engine, as well as the gearbox, then it has incurred major damage that is not fair car wear and tear. 

When are Charges for Damage Applied?

Any fees and charges for a damaged car are issued when your contract ends and you have returned the vehicle to the car leasing company. The company will then inspect the car so they can assess if the car has incurred damage that is more than the usual wear and tear. In about four weeks, they will notify you if any rectification work is needed and how much you need to pay for it. 

Rectification charges don’t only apply to car leasing contracts. You might also encounter them when you choose to part-exchange a car. In this case, the car dealer will offer to settle the outstanding balance with the car finance company so that the remaining debt can be cleared and then they can buy the car outright. 

However, if the car is in poor condition and it is already worth less than the car finance company’s expected value for it, then you might have to pay a top-up payment to cover the car’s refurbishment. After that, the dealer will accept it for a part-exchange deal and then pay off the car finance company. 

How to Avoid Damage Charges

The best way to avoid having to pay charges for car damage is also the most obvious one – take good care of the car. When you hand back the vehicle to the car leasing company and it’s still in an acceptable condition, you won’t have to pay anything else and just walk away. It’s easy as that. 

However, if the car has suffered from damage, you might want to consider getting quotes to get them repaired. You may also get in touch with the car leasing company so that you’ll know how much they’ll charge to rectify specific types of damage. At this point, you may then assess whether you’d spend less on finding a garage for the repair work or just pay the car leasing company at the end of your contract. 

When getting any damage repaired, make sure that professionals and specialists will be the ones to do the repair work. Any poor quality repair job might cause even higher damage charges when you return the vehicle to the car leasing company. 


Knowing what’s fair wear and tear is important so you’ll know what the car leasing company expects from the car when you hand it over. It’s crucial that you understand what’s no longer usual wear and tear and what’s major damage. If the car has incurred major damage, inform your car leasing company so you’ll know the best course of action. 

While a leased car isn’t under your ownership, this doesn’t mean you can be careless with it. Make a point to check the car regularly and make sure it gets serviced as recommended. Taking good care of a leased vehicle means you can avoid having to worry about paying for damage charges at the end of your contract. 👍 🚘