23 January 2012 by Parkers Team

  • The best way to keep your fleet manager happy
  • We explain fair wear and tear and how to spot it
  • Tips for drivers when appraisal time comes around

Repairing damage to company cars is big business in the UK, but is also one of the biggest headaches for fleet managers.

Contract hire companies rightly expect vehicles to be returned in a good condition relative to their mileage. It is up to the fleet manager to make sure this is the case, and hence this issue is one of the biggest causes of friction between fleet managers and the contract hire firms as well as company car drivers and their fleet managers.

In some cases company car drivers will even be asked to pay for damage to their cars if it is deemed unacceptable, so it's definitely worth knowing what is and isn't acceptable, and how to keep your car in a state that will ensure your fleet manager - and hence the contract hire company - is happy when your lease comes to an end.  

We've detailed what's expected from you and how you can carry out your own appraisal to head any problems off before you hand the car back at the end of your lease.

What to look for

  • Appearance: the car's bodywork should be sufficiently clean so it can be thoroughly inspected. The interior should also be clean, clear of rubbish and all ashtrays/cubbies emptied.
  • Paint damage: repairs are generally required when a chip or scratch goes through the base coat. However, small chips on areas such as the door shuts are acceptable - relative to vehicle age and mileage.
  • Vehicle glazing: all glass should be kept clean. Damage in the driver's direct line of sight or affecting heating elements will need immediate repair and door mirrors should be clean.
  • Bodywork dents: dings of up to 10mm in diameter are acceptable (if, as above, the base coat has not been penetrated). However, several dents on the same panel is not acceptable and will probably cost the driver money to repair.
  • Scratches: scratches of up to 25mm in length are acceptable - once again as long as they have not penetrated the base coat. Scratches longer than 25mm are not acceptable and are likely to incur a charge.
  • Alloy wheels or hub caps: minor scuffing to the wheel is acceptable, but dents or major damage is not. The spare wheel, jack and all tools must be present and intact.
  • Body damage: all painted areas will be examined when the car is handed back after the lease period. Evidence of sub-standard repair is not acceptable
  • Upholstery: there's going to be an element of wear to the seats relative to the mileage the car has covered, but rips, tears or burns are not acceptable. All seats the car originally came with must also be present.

Appraisal tips for drivers

  • Try to carry out the appraisal of your car around 10 weeks before the vehicle is due for return to the contract hire firm. This will allow time to have any faults fixed that may end up costing your fleet manager money.
  • When you're looking at your car try to be as honest and objective as you can. It may be an idea to ask a friend or colleague to help.
  • Choose a time and place with good natural light and try not to do it in the rain. This is how the leasing company will examine your vehicle. Appraisals carried out in poor light or wet weather are likely to miss faults.
  • Before appraising the vehicle make sure that it has been washed
  • Walk all the way round the vehicle and examine closely each panel including the roof, bonnet and boot. Kneel down at both the front and rear of the vehicle, and look along each flank. This will help you pick out marks and dents that may otherwise be difficult to see.
  • Inspect all glass including headlamps, lenses, windscreens, windows and mirrors for chips or cracks that may incur extra costs.
  • Check the tyres (including the spare) for damage and that the wear on the tread across each tyre is even. Inspect alloy wheels or hub caps for scratches, dents or major scuffing.
  • Empty and clean the interior, making sure all ashtrays and storage areas are free from rubbish.
  • Check upholstery for tears, burns and stains.
  • Inspect all dash trims, switches and buttons for damage.