Can You Put A Hitch On A Leased Car? (Mistakes To Avoid)


Tow hitch

A car hitch is a useful tool, it turns an otherwise single-use vehicle into a Swiss army knife.

But can you put a hitch on a leased car? Most car lease companies won’t have an issue with the fitting of a tow hitch but do check the terms and conditions of your lease agreement.

In this post, I’ll cover what most lease companies will permit under a standard lease agreement and costly tow hitch mistakes to avoid.

Check Your Lease Terms And Conditions

Service history

I’ve worked in the automotive service and repair business as a technician for over twenty years. In the last ten years, leased cars have become really popular and I’ve found lease companies generally reasonable to deal with.

But let’s not assume that you have permission to fit the hitch, a leasing company t&c’s will vary as will the lease type.

So it’s worth taking a close look at their terms and conditions. The first blaring obvious condition is, you don’t own the vehicle and so you are absolutely right to first check that fitting accessory is permitted.

In my experience, most lease companies won’t have an issue with a tow hitch, but they may stipulate that it’s carried out by an authorized installer, using original equipment.

Tow Hitch Mistakes To Avoid

Fitting tow hitch

There are a few common mistakes that car owners make when it comes to buying and fitting a tow hitch.

These include:

  • Buying the wrong class hitch
  • Car not hitch compatible
  • Buying poor quality after market hitch
  • Removing the hitch before lease surrender

Wrong Hitch Class?

Car hitches are broken into classes from one to five. A class one hitch has a gross trailer weight of 2000lbs a diameter of one and a quarter inches and is matched to a car’s chassis size, it’s the entry-level hitch.

Class five is for trucks and heavier loads, 20,000 lbs the hitch opening moves up to two and a half inches.

  • Class 1: Passenger cars
  • Class 2: Sedans
  • Class 3: Pickups, Minivans, SUV’s
  • Class 4: SUV’s and Large Pick-ups
  • Class 5: Heavy Duty Commercial Trucks

When it comes to picking the right hitch, you’ll need to consider the trailer weight and the car size. Both of these variables will dictate the class of tow hitch legally permitted.

Car Hitch Not Compatible

VIN plate

Some cars just aren’t suitable for a tow hitch, that’s not to say that an after-market supplier won’t offer one. So, you’ll need to check your owner manual, there’ll be a section about trailer weights and towing.

Alternatively, call your dealer and have your chassis number handy, this will help identify your exact model.

Generally, sports cars, small mini and micro cars, small-engine cars, and full electric cars won’t be suited to towing a trailer

Poor Quality After Market Hitch

Aftermarket tow hitches once certified are fine to use. But be mindful, if fitting it requires drilling holes into the trunk floor or chassis, it may cause issues with your lease company.

Lease companies will allow for normal wear and tear and will usually specify in the small print how many scratches and dings per panel are permitted.

Tow hitch

Drilled holes however are not permitted and so if discovered could present a problem that will cost $$$ to solve.

Another common issue with aftermarket hitches is the wiring socket loom. Modern cars as you know, use computers (we call them modules or control units) to run the engine and electrics.

A standard car may have a dozen smaller control units, they’re used to manage certain functions.

Without getting into the weeds here, control units are very sensitive to any changes in wiring resistance, the changes are the signals they use to communicate.

Trouble is, poor quality aftermarket hitches may come with a very basic wiring loom that’s designed to splice (cut and join) right into the existing car wiring loom.

This affects the signals that the control unit sees and things can get a little crazy, it can cause lights and signals to stop working, reversing cameras and parking sensors to go on the blink.

It’s also possible to damage the control unit, and they aren’t cheap.

My preference is to use the original equipment hitches, they won’t require any drilling and will be a perfect fit.

Wiring diagram

In addition, the wiring loom will likely come with its own trailer hitch control module, which will communicate with other computers on the car and let them know when you’re towing.

They in turn can perform tasks like turning off reversing sensors which obviously won’t work when the trailer is fitted, but they can also adjust engine, transmission, and braking performance in response to trailer load.

Removing The Hitch Before Surrender

Towhitch

Removing the hitch sounds like a reasonable thing to do, especially as it’s your property, you paid for it.

Problem is, when fitting tow hitches to modern cars, the instructions often require cutting a section from the rear plastic bumper to accommodate the swan neck.

Ordinarily, this is so low down on the bumper that even if the hitch was removed you wouldn’t notice the hole. But some cars, the hole be like the Grand Canyon, and you could find taking the hitch off, cost a lot more than it’s worth.

Fitting tow hitch

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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