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What is ‘fair wear and tear’ on a lease car’s tyres?

By Stephen Turvil | November 23, 2022

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Lease car tyres: there may be a penalty charge if you return a car with poor tyres. The supplier will inspect its tread depth, wear pattern, and look for damage.

What is ‘fair wear and tear’ on a lease car’s tyres?

To avoid a penalty charge, a lease car’s tyres must be in good condition when returned to the supplier at the end of your contract. They do not have to be like new, though. ‘Fair wear and tear’ is expected. However, you may be penalised if there is inappropriate tyre wear or serious damage. What defines ‘fair wear and tear’ differs by supplier, so let us summarise what is typical.

Lease car: tyre specification

When the car’s supplier inspects a tyre, it checks it is the correct specification. In other words, the specification has to match the car manufacturer’s recommendation to avoid a penalty. The tyre’s specification is revealed by a code on its sidewall. 225/55 R16 91 V, for instance. It is dangerous to have an unsuitable tyre. 

Fair wear and tear Meets or exceeds the specification recommended by the car’s manufacturer. 
Unacceptable  Wrong size, speed rating, and/or load rating. 

Lease car: tyre tread depth

A tyre must have enough tread depth. If not, the vehicle might struggle for traction while accelerating on wet roads. Also, lack of tread increases the vehicle’s stopping distance on wet surfaces. 

Fair wear and tear Meets the minimum standard needed to pass an MOT. Specifically, 1.6mm of tread across the central 75% of the tyre’s width and around its circumference.
Unacceptable  Below MOT standard.

Lease car: even tyre wear

A car tyre must have even wear when returned. Uneven wear can compromise traction, make the vehicle noisy, and cause vibrations in an extreme case. Uneven tyre wear can be caused by incorrect pressure. Either too high or too low is a problem. Other causes include faults with the vehicle’s suspension, brakes, and tracking. 

Fair wear and tear Tyre wears evenly across its tread.
Unacceptable Tread is far shallower on the outside than the inside because the car’s suspension is faulty.

Lease car: tyre damage

A tyre cannot be seriously damaged when the car is returned to its supplier. Expect a penalty charge if it is. In the most serious case, a damaged tyre can explode and cause a collision.

Fair wear and tear Light cosmetic scuffs.
Unacceptable Puncture, bulge, excessive cracking on the sidewall.

Lease car: spare

If the vehicle was supplied with a spare tyre rather than a puncture repair kit, the supplier inspects it too. 

Fair wear and tear Present and in good overall condition.
Unacceptable Missing or in bad condition. 

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