Ed. Note: At this stage of electrified vehicle development, while some consumers do purchase, a large proportion also lease for various reasons including to avoid liability of ownership for cars that are rapidly changing. This does not necessarily mean leasing is purely better, and following is one retired engineer’s account of his experience.

My 2012 Volt was the first vehicle I ever leased. Therefore the process involved in returning it was an unknown to me. I assumed that the dealer, Chapman Chevrolet in Tempe, Ariz., was familiar with the process but much to my surprise they were not.

I had been in contact with the lease company (Ally Financial) and they knew I was going to return it. They had a checklist of things that they wanted me to do like make sure there were no dings or dents in the car, that the tires had a pre-specified amount of tread on them, that there were no rips in the upholstery and that I had not exceeded the miles that were allowed by my contract. All of these requirements I easily met. I had replaced the tires with new Michelins one year earlier and was well under the miles that my contract allowed.

Ally also wanted warranty recall work done for the rear deck lid shocks and a software fix associated with engine starts before I returned the vehicle. So, I made an appointment with Chapman’s service department to have the recalls done just prior to returning the car.

Once the minor fixes were made under warranty, I was told by Chapman customer support to go to the sales department to return my car.

This is where the fun started. When I walked into the sales department and told them I had a lease return they didn’t know what to do. One person asked another and that person asked someone else and I eventually ended up with a fairly cranky individual that started trying to figure out what to do.

After some time he came out with a phone number and told me I needed to call Ally because I needed lease return paperwork. By this time I was starting to get a little cranky myself but called Ally and they requested to talk to the sales person. They informed the sales person that we needed to fill out an odometer statement.

The required odometer statement is shown in figure below.

Odometer statement.

Odometer statement.

You can see two sections on this odometer statement. The first section requires a statement of the number of miles on the vehicle. The lessee signs the odometer statement. The second section states that the car has never been in an accident, or if it has the insurance claim for the repairs needs to be listed. The lessee signs the damage report section of the odometer statement.

At the bottom of the odometer statement you can see an important disclaimer that says that Ally will have a third party inspect the vehicle at a later date to verify what the lessee has attested to on the odometer statement.

Here in lies the rub. The vehicle now gets taken by the dealer and put in an outside lot somewhere until the third party inspector can come and inspect the vehicle and take it away to auction. How do I know that the vehicle is not damaged during this period of time which could be as long as THREE WEEKS? The answer is that I don’t know. If the vehicle get’s damaged in the next three weeks while in the dealers outside parking lot I would be the one responsible for the damage. How could I prove otherwise?

So until I have actually received a letter from Ally I will not know if I am off the hook.

Lucky I still had OnStar working in my car. I had it set up to give me daily “Vehicle Location Alerts”. These alerts come to me daily in my email at 3:30. I get a notification as shown in the figure below.

OnStar vehicle location alert.

OnStar vehicle location alert.

Since I get the address where my vehicle is located I can go to google maps to see exactly where it is. Turns out it is not at the dealership it is a couple of blocks away. I was able to see the location using Google “Street View”. The location as viewed from the street is shown in figure below.

Google “Street View” of Chapman storage facility.

Google “Street View” of Chapman storage facility.

I was relieved that my vehicle seems to be stored in a fenced area. This was good news indeed. As of this writing, seven days have passed and my Volt is still sitting outside in the lot in the full Phoenix summer sun. It will be interesting to see how long it takes this “third party” inspector to come and inspect my car and take it away to auction.
What could I have done better to protect myself during this time where my car is in never-never land? One good suggestion was to take high resolution photos of the car before turning it in.

Lessons learned: Returning a leased vehicle is easy. Fill out the odometer statement, send it to the lease company and your done. Take some high resolution photos of the car when you turn it in so you have some proof as to its condition at that time.

As an aside to this story I think my lease was a good deal for me. The buyout on my car would have been $28,000 plus tax or around $30,000. My total lease payments were $18,000. I got by with a whole lot less depreciation than I would have if I had bought the car and traded it in or sold it myself.

George Bower is a retired aerospace engineer, environmentally mindful, and occasional tech writer for GM-Volt.com and HybridCars.com.

This article originally appeared on GM-Volt.com