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Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

March 29, 2018

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 2018 Toyota Tacoma, with a residual value of 74% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $32,045, that means it will depreciate by only $8,331 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.

Rank Vehicle Trim MSRP Lease Payment ($0 Down) Residual Better To...
1 2018 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $32,045 $345 74.0% Lease
2 2017 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $35,497 $377 72.0% Lease
3 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i 6MT $22,710 $248 71.0% Lease
4 2018 Subaru WRX WRX 6MT $27,855 $320 69.0% Lease
5 2017 Toyota Highlander LE $35,305 $345 69.0% Lease
6 2018 Subaru Outback 2.5i $26,810 $281 69.0% Lease
7 2017 Nissan Frontier SV 4x4 AT $29,835 $341 67.0% Lease
8 2017 Subaru WRX WRX 6MT $27,515 $310 67.0% Lease
9 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i $26,520 $271 67.0% Lease
10 2018 Toyota Tundra SR5 $38,664 $439 66.0% Lease
11 2017 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i 5MT $22,570 $239 66.0% Lease
12 2018 Toyota Highlander LE $35,759 $355 66.0% Lease
13 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i 6MT $23,710 $261 66.0% Lease
14 2017 Toyota Tundra SR5 $40,063 $468 65.0% Lease
15 2017 BMW X3 X3 xDrive35i $51,595 $608 64.0% Buy
16 2017 BMW X4 X4 M40i $60,745 $728 64.0% Buy
17 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE Hybrid $30,060 $330 64.0% Lease
18 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i 6MT $23,470 $251 64.0% Lease
19 2018 Infiniti QX30 QX30 $30,945 $361 63.0% Lease
20 2018 Mazda CX-9 Sport $33,070 $374 63.0% Lease
21 2018 Honda Pilot 6 Speed 2WD EX-L $37,735 $457 63.0% Buy
22 2018 Kia Sorento LX $28,040 $340 63.0% Buy
23 2016 Nissan Frontier SV CC 4x4 AT $28,935 $311 63.0% Lease
24 2018 Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe 2.0L 296HP $62,130 $673 63.0% Lease
25 2017 Honda Fit LX $17,765 $202 63.0% Lease
26 2017 Toyota 4Runner SR5 $37,139 $420 63.0% Lease
27 2018 Acura RDX 6 Speed $36,775 $388 63.0% Lease
28 2017 Honda HR-V 2WD LX $21,205 $248 63.0% Lease
29 2018 Jaguar XE 25t $37,615 $392 62.6% Lease
30 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback LX $21,375 $246 62.0% Lease
31 2017 BMW 5 Series 550i xDrive Gran Turismo $75,195 $930 62.0% Buy
32 2018 Acura MDX 9 Speed $45,195 $500 62.0% Lease
33 2017 Toyota RAV4 LE $27,564 $275 62.0% Lease
34 2017 Toyota Yaris iA Yaris iA $17,915 $209 62.0% Lease
35 2017 Toyota Corolla LE $20,024 $206 62.0% Lease
36 2017 Nissan Titan S CC 4x2 $35,975 $418 62.0% Lease
37 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport SE $37,695 $435 61.6% Lease
38 2017 Kia Optima LX $23,095 $264 61.0% Lease
39 2017 Toyota Corolla iM iM $20,540 $232 61.0% Lease
40 2018 VW Tiguan NULL $25,495 $268 61.0% Lease
41 2018 BMW 3 Series 340i xDrive Gran Turismo $57,895 $658 61.0% Lease
42 2018 BMW X4 X4 M40i $61,745 $758 61.0% Buy
43 2017 Nissan Pathfinder S 4x4 $32,990 $316 61.0% Lease
44 2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan 6 Speed Manual $24,990 $284 61.0% Lease
45 2018 Subaru Legacy 2.5i $23,055 $252 61.0% Lease
46 2017 Honda Civic Sedan LX $20,415 $238 61.0% Lease
47 2017 BMW 3 Series 330i xDrive Sedan $43,395 $468 61.0% Lease
48 2017 BMW X1 X1 xDrive28i $38,595 $428 61.0% Lease
49 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE $23,460 $248 61.0% Lease
50 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport SE $40,775 $495 60.4% Buy
51 2017 Range Rover Evoque SE 5 DOOR $41,800 $483 60.4% Lease
52 2017 Jaguar XE 25t $35,750 $355 60.1% Lease
53 2018 VW All-New Tiguan NULL $26,540 $327 60.0% Buy
54 2018 Mini Countryman Cooper $28,950 $346 60.0% Buy
55 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i 4D 5MT $19,215 $213 60.0% Lease
56 2018 Kia Sportage LX $24,395 $271 60.0% Lease
57 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE Hybrid $30,364 $320 60.0% Lease
58 2017 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 SE $23,595 $263 60.0% Lease
59 2017 Kia Sportage LX $24,095 $255 60.0% Lease
60 2018 Acura TLX 8 Speed Dual-Clutch $33,950 $389 60.0% Lease
61 2018 VW Atlas Launch Edition $34,425 $421 60.0% Buy
62 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback LX $21,740 $264 60.0% Buy
63 2018 Mini Hardtop 2 Door Cooper $24,650 $277 60.0% Lease
64 2017 Honda Pilot 6 Speed 2WD EX-L $37,580 $438 60.0% Lease
65 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe 4dr GLS $31,695 $330 60.0% Lease
66 2018 Range Rover Evoque SE 5 DOOR $46,035 $563 59.3% Buy
67 2018 Toyota RAV4 NULL $27,309 $285 59.0% Lease
68 2016 Mercedes E-Class E350 4MATIC® Wagon $64,155 $791 59.0% Buy
69 2018 Honda Civic Si Coupe 6 Speed Manual $24,990 $284 59.0% Lease
70 2017 Mazda CX-5 Sport $24,985 $268 59.0% Lease
71 2017 Audi Q3 SUV 2.0T $32,750 $371 59.0% Lease
72 2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5i $22,815 $242 59.0% Lease
73 2018 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,125 $258 59.0% Lease
74 2017 Acura MDX 9 Speed $45,025 $481 59.0% Lease
75 2017 Honda Civic Coupe LX $20,825 $238 59.0% Lease
76 2018 BMW i3 BMW i3s with Range Extender $54,795 $508 58.0% Lease
77 2017 Lincoln MKC Premiere $33,805 $392 58.0% Lease
78 2017 Toyota Camry SE $24,929 $228 58.0% Lease
79 2017 Acura RDX 6 Speed $36,645 $360 58.0% Lease
80 2017 Mercedes GLA GLA250 4MATIC® SUV $38,525 $453 58.0% Buy
81 2018 Subaru Impreza 2.0i 5D Sport 5MT $23,455 $249 58.0% Lease
82 2017 Honda Civic Si Sedan 6 Speed Manual $24,790 $257 58.0% Lease
83 2017 Mercedes SLC SLC300 Roadster $51,375 $633 58.0% Buy
84 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe NULL $31,800 $380 58.0% Buy
85 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid Hybrid LE $27,879 $282 58.0% Lease
86 2017 BMW i3 BMW i3 with Range Extender $50,995 $438 58.0% Lease
87 2017 Toyota Sienna LE $33,480 $373 58.0% Lease
88 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid Hybrid LE $28,695 $350 58.0% Buy
89 2017 Nissan Rogue S AWD $26,495 $288 58.0% Lease
90 2017 Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe $68,100 $605 57.8% Lease
91 2018 Genesis G80 NULL $42,725 $518 57.0% Buy
92 2017 Toyota Prius v Two $27,510 $335 57.0% Buy
93 2018 Honda Civic Coupe LX $20,940 $239 57.0% Lease
94 2017 VW Golf 4-door S $21,815 $259 57.0% Buy
95 2017 Honda Odyssey 6 Speed LX $30,790 $355 57.0% Lease
96 2018 Toyota Camry SE $26,095 $306 57.0% Buy
97 2018 Infiniti QX60 3.5 $44,295 $546 57.0% Buy
98 2018 Kia Optima LX $23,395 $249 57.0% Lease
99 2018 Kia Niro LX $24,490 $278 57.0% Lease
100 2018 Hyundai Sonata 4dr Sdn SE $22,935 $280 56.0% Buy

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar, Edmunds, and 1-800 Car Show 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.

California Residents - Important:

There is a new online car buying service called Roadster, available only to California residents, which I highly recommend you try - especially if you hate the stress of haggling with a car salesman. They provide an expert concierge who negotiates the price of the car and delivers it to your home with zero hassle - you never have to interact with a dealership. Here is my in-depth review of Roadster and why I recommend it.

- 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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