Can You Modify a Leased Car?

Significant modifications may be a no-go, but what might be allowed? Our guide will help you determine what you may be able to do.


Before you dive into the world of aftermarket accessories such as lift kits, custom wheels, and upgraded speakers, you may find yourself asking some big questions—and not just what color you want. Chief among them is likely: can you modify a leased car? The answer is yes, but it is followed by some caveats that require reading through the terms of your lease.

Modifying a Leased Car

Unlike when you take out an auto loan, your restrictions on a leased car are a different story. The vehicle belongs to the lender and there is an end date that stipulates when you must return the vehicle. While a lease may allow for you to perform certain modifications, it is likely that the agreement stipulates that the vehicle must be in the same condition at the end of the lease that it was when you first brought it home from the dealership.

If a lease agreement does allow for some temporary modification leeway, it likely only refers to parts that can be easily removed. A custom paint job or aftermarket speaker components that require cutting into the car's wiring harness are almost certainly a no-go on a leased vehicle. That doesn't mean you can't put custom wheels on a leased car, but you will need to hang onto the original wheels and have them reinstalled prior to returning the vehicle. A good rule of thumb is that if the aftermarket modification requires tools beyond a lug wrench to install, it probably violates the terms of the lease agreement.

That said, a lease may allow for the installation of certain factory-authorized parts sold through the dealership's accessories department. Such accessories may include suspension lifts developed by Jeep and Toyota for use in their off-road vehicles.

Before you buy any modifications, be sure to ask the leaseholder, and check the lease agreement, for clarification on what you can and cannot do to the vehicle.

Other Considerations When Modifying a Car

One thing worth considering is that while aftermarket components installed after your car leaves the factory may spruce up its appearance or performance, they can lead to premature wear or component failure that may not be covered by your vehicle's original warranty. That said, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law that prohibits a warranty-issuer from canceling coverage just because of the presence of a modification. An automaker must prove that an aftermarket part contributed to failure of an item. It's unlikely that a trunk-mounted spoiler would lead to a broken air conditioning system, for instance, but a suspension lift could result in premature failure of a driveshaft.

When having a vehicle modified prior to the start of the lease, whatever you may pay to have installed on it likely needs to stay with the car since it belongs to the leaseholder. You may pay thousands of dollars for that suspension lift, but it is not yours to remove and keep before you return the vehicle.

Easily removed accessories are another story. If you add all-season rubber floor mats, trunk mats, or a clip-on cell phone mount after signing the lease, you may keep those at the end of the lease.

So, can you modify a leased car? As you can see, the answer depends on how far you intend to go.

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz has had cars in his blood ever since he gnawed the paint off of a diecast model as a toddler. After growing up in Dallas, Texas, he earned a journalism degree, worked in public relations for two manufacturers, and served as an editor for a luxury-lifestyle print publication and several well-known automotive websites. In his free time, Andrew loves exploring the Rocky Mountains' best back roads—when he’s not browsing ads for his next car purchase.