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Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

June 27, 2019

When it comes to leasing, depreciation cost will be the largest portion of your monthly payment. Depreciation is the difference between what the vehicle is worth at time of lease, and what it's worth at the end of your lease (called Residual Value). So it makes sense to lease a car with low depreciation cost, or put another way - high residual value.

Residual value is calculated as a percentage of MSRP. The higher the percentage, the lower your depreciation cost during a lease. For example, if a car has an MSRP of $30,000 and the leasing company has calculated a residual value of 50% after 36 months, that means the total depreciation cost will be $15,000 (that's if you purchase the car at MSRP, which you better not do if you're reading RealCarTips - any price you negotiate below MSRP will reduce your overall depreciation cost).

Below, you'll find a list of the vehicles with the highest 36-month residual values. These are the vehicles you will be paying the least when it comes to depreciation - and which may be better to lease than to purchase, especially if you plan to keep it for only 3 years and not drive more than 12,000 miles per year. The vehicle with the best residual value right now is the 2019 Toyota Tacoma SR5, with a residual value of 76% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $36,183, that means it will depreciate by only $8,455 over 3 years (if you were to pay full MSRP).

Keep in mind residual values are best-guess estimates, and sometimes leasing companies set them higher than what they actually expect the vehicle to be worth (as a hidden incentive so lease payments are lower). And sometimes, market conditions change during the lease, and the actual worth of the vehicle ends up being way lower than the residual "guesstimate". Since the residual value is set in stone, this is why these vehicles may be a better choice to lease than purchase, especially the ones with residuals over 60%.

However, not all vehicles with high residual values offer good lease deals (due to other factors such as interest rates and other fees). For these types of deals, it's better to purchase the vehicle rather than lease - check out the final column in the table below to see if it's better to lease or buy the vehicle.

As always, I recommend using TrueCar No Haggle and Edmunds Price Promise to see the lowest prices your local dealers are willing to offer on these leases.

Better to Lease or Buy

Rank Vehicle Trim MSRP Lease Payment ($0 Down) Residual Better To...
1 2019 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $36,183 $373 76.0% Lease
2 2019 Toyota Tundra SR5 $39,374 $468 70.0% Buy
3 2019 Nissan Titan S CC $41,520 $462 67.0% Lease
4 2019 Nissan Armada SV $49,415 $467 67.0% Lease
5 2020 Kia Telluride LX $32,735 $388 66.0% Buy
6 2019 Toyota Highlander LE $36,154 $343 64.0% Lease
7 2019 Toyota RAV4 LE $28,085 $314 64.0% Lease
8 2019 Toyota Mirai Mirai $59,430 $427 63.8% Lease
9 2019 Subaru Forester $25,270 $305 62.0% Buy
10 2019 Subaru Ascent $32,970 $403 62.0% Buy
11 2019 Honda Civic Si $25,220 $289 61.0% Lease
12 2020 Kia Sportage LX $25,035 $310 61.0% Buy
13 2019 BMW 3 Series 330i $44,145 $535 61.0% Buy
14 2019 BMW 5 Series 530e iPerformance $56,345 $619 61.0% Lease
15 2020 BMW 3 Series M340i $56,245 $695 61.0% Buy
16 2019 Honda Pilot EX-L $38,805 $438 60.0% Lease
17 2019 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i $22,870 $284 60.0% Buy
18 2019 BMW i8 $152,195 $1,291 59.0% Lease
19 2019 BMW X3 sDrive30i $43,045 $508 59.0% Buy
20 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe SE $26,795 $310 59.0% Lease
21 2019 BMW X2 sDrive28i $40,295 $458 59.0% Lease
22 2019 BMW X6 sDrive35i $66,245 $732 59.0% Lease
23 2019 Kia Niro LX $24,895 $273 58.0% Lease
24 2019 Honda CR-V LX $25,395 $309 58.0% Buy
25 2019 BMW i3 $47,595 $438 58.0% Lease
26 2019 Subaru Outback 2.5i $27,320 $295 58.0% Lease
27 2019 Acura MDX $45,295 $505 57.0% Lease
28 2019 Hyundai Tucson SE $24,245 $292 57.0% Buy
29 2019 BMW 4 Series 430i $47,945 $538 57.0% Lease
30 2019 Mercedes C-Class C 300 $43,995 $534 57.0% Buy
31 2019 Acura ILX $26,895 $316 57.0% Buy
32 2019 Honda Civic LX $21,570 $245 57.0% Lease
33 2019 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,395 $308 57.0% Buy
34 2019 Mercedes CLA 250 $35,895 $396 57.0% Lease
35 2019 Mercedes E-Class E 300 $54,495 $670 57.0% Buy
36 2019 Infiniti QX50 Luxe $40,395 $469 56.0% Lease
37 2019 Genesis G80 $43,045 $499 56.0% Lease
38 2019 Mazda CX-9 Sport $33,325 $395 56.0% Buy
39 2019 Mercedes GLA 250 $36,745 $443 56.0% Buy
40 2019 BMW 7 Series 740i $86,345 $944 56.0% Lease
41 2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i $19,480 $219 56.0% Lease
42 2019 Toyota Camry LE $25,544 $295 56.0% Lease
43 2020 Kia Optima EX $30,235 $364 55.0% Buy
44 2019 Lincoln MKC Standard $34,990 $423 55.0% Buy
45 2019 Infiniti QX60 Pure $45,245 $481 55.0% Lease
46 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe XL SE $31,995 $380 54.0% Buy
47 2019 Infiniti Q50 RED Sport 400 $52,245 $526 54.0% Lease
48 2019 BMW 6 Series 640i xDrive Gran Turismo $73,545 $847 54.0% Lease
49 2019 Kia Forte LXS $20,115 $220 54.0% Lease
50 2019 Nissan Pathfinder S $34,390 $375 54.0% Lease
51 2019 Toyota C-HR LE $22,304 $256 54.0% Lease
52 2019 Toyota Corolla SE $23,649 $266 54.0% Lease
53 2019 Ford Expedition XLT $53,525 $645 54.0% Buy
54 2019 Nissan Murano S $32,745 $384 54.0% Buy
55 2020 Acura TLX $33,995 $393 54.0% Lease
56 2019 BMW 2 Series 230i $38,895 $461 53.0% Buy
57 2019 Subaru Legacy 2.5i $23,430 $282 53.0% Buy
58 2019 Lincoln MKZ Standard $36,990 $453 53.0% Buy
59 2019 Kia Sportage LX $24,795 $267 53.0% Lease
60 2019 Hyundai Sonata SE $23,220 $280 52.0% Buy
61 2019 Audi S4 3.0T Premium Plus $61,290 $682 52.0% Lease
62 2019 Kia Sorento LX $32,335 $331 52.0% Lease
63 2018 Lincoln Continental Premiere $46,155 $555 52.0% Buy
64 2019 Acura TLX $33,995 $360 51.0% Lease
65 2019 Kia Optima LX $23,915 $239 51.0% Lease
66 2019 Kia Stinger 2.0L $33,985 $360 51.0% Lease
67 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Sport $23,895 $278 51.0% Lease
68 2019 Nissan Rogue S $27,875 $342 51.0% Buy
69 2019 Genesis G70 $35,895 $413 50.0% Lease
70 2019 Kia Niro EV EX $39,495 $421 49.0% Lease
71 2019 Ford Flex SE $31,670 $350 48.0% Lease
72 2019 Infiniti Q60 3.0t Pure $41,745 $502 48.0% Buy
73 2019 Kia Cadenza Premium $34,095 $398 48.0% Lease
74 2019 Nissan Maxima S $35,410 $424 47.0% Buy
75 2019 Hyundai Ioniq $31,235 $302 46.0% Lease
76 2019 Honda Clarity $34,320 $403 46.0% Buy
77 2018 Ford EcoSport S $20,990 $219 44.0% Lease
78 2019 Ford EcoSport S $21,090 $260 43.0% Buy
79 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Energi Titanium $35,590 $420 37.0% Buy
80 2019 Nissan LEAF S $30,885 $342 36.0% Lease

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar and Edmunds are the quickest way to see the lowest car prices in your area. These sites show you no-haggle prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually really good. This should be the first step you take when negotiating your car price. Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
- Gregg Fidan

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Gregg Fidan

About: Gregg Fidan


Gregg Fidan + is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.

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