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Can I modify my lease car?

Got a lease car that you’d like to make a few changes to? Here’s what you can, and can’t, do when it comes to lease vehicle modifications.

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Many drivers want to get the best out of their car while they own, or run, it. And that often includes changing its looks, improving its performance or fuel economy, or altering its use.

If you own the car privately, that’s entirely your decision and you can go ahead with whatever changes you want (remembering to tell your insurance company of any modifications).

But when you lease or finance a vehicle – as many millions of drivers do in the UK – it’s a slightly different story. While leasing does not necessarily exclude you from making changes, you just have to approach it differently.

Most leasing companies will allow certain mods to their cars as long as any work can be reversed at the end of the term and put back to how it was at the start of the contract.

That includes cosmetic changes such as adding alloy wheels, performance changes like remapping the car’s engine, and usage changes such as adding a towbar or roof rack.

What you are permitted to have done all depends on the individual leasing company, but these companies will often allow changes if they are not going to leave any lasting damage or marks on the car when you return it. So it’s always worth asking to see what you can do and it’s important that you seek permission before you make any changes.

If you don’t do that, you could end up invalidating the warranty on the car or, worse still, you might get hit with a penalty when you come to hand back the vehicle, to cover the costs of returning it to its original condition.

Cosmetically, drivers often want to add alloy wheels, window tinting, or even a complete vinyl wrap, especially if this is a business car. All of these features are often allowed as they are quite simple to return to original when the car is handed back.

The same goes for replacement tyres, adding a roof box, or remapping the car’s engine (reprogramming or ‘chipping’ the ECU control unit) to improve performance or fuel economy. All of these can be reversed.

While the roof box addition is OK, don’t fit roof bars unless you have permission as these can leave permanent marks on a car’s bodywork. And wrapping a car should be done by a high-quality professional so that any markings, such as advertising slogans or artwork, can be safely removed as if they were never there.

Adding a towbar is more problematic because it usually involves drilling holes in the car’s underneath which the lease company might not like. The same goes for adding body extras such as front or rear spoilers, any changes to the interior trim or suspension modifications. 

Not everyone will like your choice of mods so, even if you are permitted by the leasing company to make them, the lender could increase your monthly payments to make up for any shortfall that comes from devaluing the vehicle with your modifications.

Private number plates don’t leave any damage so there shouldn’t be a problem if you want to add yours to a lease car. But this can only be done once you have taken delivery of the vehicle and you will have to get permission from the leasing company of course. And make sure you also tell the DVLA licensing authority and your insurer if you are planning on changing the plate marking.

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Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.