Leasing a vehicle is great if you like driving a brand new car while paying a lower monthly car payment. But what if you want to make modifications to your leased car? Since you don’t actually own the car, there are limitations to what you can and cannot do with it. And leasing companies tend to be sticklers about the condition they want you to keep their vehicle in.
In this article, we break down the types of modifications you can make to your leased car without violating your contract.
What Can and Can’t You Do to a Leased Car?
Unlike when you finance your vehicle, you will not take ownership of a leased car after paying off a balance.
You pay a fixed monthly rate to borrow the vehicle from the leasing company for a specific amount of time. This means the lessor will have very restricting terms and conditions for you to abide by while you drive their vehicle.
What’s usually included in your contract is a provision that the dealership must get the vehicle back in the same condition it was in when you initially drove it off of the lot. This makes customizing your leased vehicle tricky.
If you are insistent on altering your leased vehicle, your best bet is to make non-permanent modifications that can be removed before the end-of-lease date.
What Customizations Are Allowed?
If you decide to customize your leased vehicle make sure you educate yourself on the terms and conditions of your leasing agreement. You do not want to do anything that will violate the contract that you signed.
Check with your lessor and find out what, if any, modifications they approve of. In general, it should be okay to make most vehicle alterations that are non-damaging, temporary, and removable.
Avoid adding a fixed modification such as an aftermarket spoiler. Although it could technically be removed, installing one would require drilling holes into the car.
If your goal is to make your leased vehicle appear more sporty or more luxurious, consider upgrading the tires or rims. It’s one of the simplest modifications you can make. Just hang onto the original wheels until the end of the lease and put them back on the vehicle before you return it to the dealership.
You can also enhance your leased vehicle by swapping in aftermarket exhaust and intake systems as well as radio and electrical components. But make sure that the installation and removal of these parts will not cause damage to any of the stock portions of the car. Keep all of the original parts so you can reinstall them on the vehicle before the end of the lease term.
Some lessors will allow you to tint the windows on your leased vehicle under certain circumstances. More on that below.
Can I Put Tints on My Leased Vehicle?
Getting a car tinted involves the application of a thin plastic film to the windows. This film darkens the glass. Before tinting your leased vehicle, you should ensure the lessor is okay with it. Also refer to your local state laws, as each state allows for certain degrees of window tinting on vehicles. And some states don’t allow vehicles to be tinted at all.
If your state and lessor permit window tinting, check if your dealer offers it as part of their detailing services. Having the dealership perform this service is your best and least risky option.
Your lessor may grant you the option to hire a third-party installer to tint the windows on your leased vehicle, but keep in mind that this is riskier than using your dealership. If the third-party installer does a lousy job of installing the tint, you may have to pay for damages. At the very least, you would need to remove the poorly installed tint before returning the vehicle at the end of your lease.
Can I Tune My Leased Car?
If you are looking to improve the performance of your leased vehicle and have considered tuning its engine control unit (ECU)—this could actually be a very costly mistake. Tuning the ECU would immediately void the warranty on the vehicle. And if your dealer finds out about the modification, you will be required to pay for the damages.
It’s not recommended that you tune your leased vehicle unless you know you are going to buy it when the lease is up.
What Are Some of the Possible Penalties?
Making modifications to your leased vehicle without approval from the lessor could cost you big time.
Some significant alterations to the vehicle will void the manufacturer’s warranty. A voided warranty leaves you on the hook to pay out of pocket for vehicle repairs that otherwise would have been covered under the warranty.
You might also have to pay up at the end of your lease if the condition of the vehicle does not meet the dealer’s standards.
Before you officially return the vehicle there will be an end-of-lease inspection of the car. This inspection is generally conducted by the dealer around 60 to 90 days before the lease expires.
If there are any unapproved aftermarket modifications found during the vehicle inspection, you will be asked to remove them. The dealer has the right to charge you costly fees and penalties since you violated the leasing agreement.
What if I Plan on Buying It?
Before putting pen to paper on a lease agreement for a vehicle you already know you want to modify, look into financing the vehicle instead. This may take more cash out of your pocket in the short term, but it could save you money and trouble down the line if modifications are something you really want to purchase.
If you have already signed the lease, you can usually purchase the vehicle after the lease term ends. Typically dealers will give you first priority to buy the vehicle before putting it back on the market. Your lease agreement should include a purchase price point, which is the price at which the dealer is willing to sell the vehicle to you after the leasing agreement ends (don’t forget about this).
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