'For a long time, contract hire companies have overlooked the condition of vehicles, mainly because the used market has been buoyant. But with the second-hand market still not improving, contract hire companies know that, to dispose of the vehicles, they must be in a reasonable condition and if they are not they will only sell at a vastly reduced rate. To overcome this, fleets are having to foot the bill.'
A spokesman from BCH Vehicle Management said: 'Stone chips and blemishes are to be expected but in some cases we are getting cars back in a disgraceful state. We are warning companies to educate drivers about the money they are costing the company. We try to be fair but, in many cases, we are not talking about a bit of damage: we are talking a disgrace.'