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5 dumb car-leasing mistakes to avoid

Not maintaining the car
Not maintaining the car | bgwalker/E+/GettyImages

Not maintaining the car

If the car has damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear, the driver could be on the hook for additional fees when it's time to return it to the dealer, says Jacobson.

Generally, if a car has a scratch but the mark is less than the size of a driver's license or business card, many companies will consider it normal use. They probably won't charge a penalty, says Jacobson.

Jacobson says that if there's damage to the car, the customer will have a chance to have it fixed on his own dime before turning it in. Otherwise, the leasing company will assess a value to the damage.

In terms of "normal wear," the definition can vary, and drivers shouldn't assume that their own lease servicers will be lenient. "Some will nitpick the car to pieces," says Jacobson. "Before getting the vehicle, consumers should ask what the lease-end-condition guidelines are."

Barbara Terry, an automobile columnist and author of the book "How Athletes Roll," says if the car is significantly damaged, drivers can expect a bill for repairs at "full market price."

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