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Can you customize a leased car?

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    The answer to this question is “No.” With very few exceptions, your leased vehicle must be in original condition when you return it, except for expected mileage, use and wear, or you’ll face hassles and costs at lease end.     

    Whether you’re new to leasing or looking to upgrade your current lease, you may be wondering what liberties you can take with your vehicle. While there may be upgrades or customizations you can make on a leased vehicle, you’ll want to steer clear of many others to avoid hassles and additional costs at the end of your lease.

    What to know about customizing your leased car

    Before you begin customizing your leased car, it’s important to note that every lessor expects their car returned in its original form. To ensure the car is up to their standards, there is an end-of-lease inspection about 60 to 90 days before your lease officially ends. If the inspection finds any aftermarket modifications to the vehicle, the lessor will request you remove any modifications, or there will be a fee that can be costly. Any damage to the car, like scratches and dings or a damaged interior will also be noted during the inspection and potentially result in fees.

    What customizations are allowed on a leased car?

    You can check with your lessor or refer to your lease agreement for specific rules, but the safest approach is the mindset mentioned above: you must return the car in original condition.

    Modifications you may be considering:

    • Tinted windows—Let your dealer do it. A window tint is a thin laminated film that’s installed on a car window creating privacy, thermal insulation and glare reduction. If your lessor allows window tinting, the dealer may also offer tinting services as an upgrade, so ask them to add window tint for you and make sure you check your state laws to ensure window tinting is legal. This will ensure you won't be charged for this kind of modification.  If you hire a third party, check with your lessor first, and make sure they’re a reputable shop because if they do a poor job tinting your windows, or if your lease doesn’t allow window tinting at all, you’ll be the one facing financial consequences when you return the vehicle.
    • Wheel and tire upgrades—Upgraded tires and wheels are yours to keep. You can replace your wheels or tires if you’re looking for a different style. If you replace them for aesthetic purposes, keep the originals and have them put back on before the end of your lease. If you need to replace the wheels or tires because of wear and tear, communicate this with your lessor to ensure your replacement won’t cause any trouble, and check to see if they are under warranty.
    • Radio and electrical components; New exhaust and intake systems—you get to keep these too. Like wheel and tire upgrades, you can replace radio and electrical components as well as exhaust and intake systems, and pretty much everything else, but proceed with caution so you don’t disturb other working parts of your vehicle. Hiring a professional to help may be an option worth exploring but remember to keep all the original parts so you can put them back before your lease ends.

    The bottom line: What happens if I customize my leased car?

    Can you customize a leased car? Well, the answer is generally no. If you decide to get your windows tinted or partake in any other modifications, get approval from your lessor first.  By returning your car to its original state prior to turning it in, you should be in the clear. 

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