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These Cars Better to Lease Than Buy

July 13, 2017

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 you may find it better to lease than to purchase, especially if you plan to keep it for only 3 to 4 years and not drive more than 12,000 miles per year. The vehicle with the best residual value right now is the 2017 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Double Cab, with a residual value of 71% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $34,583, that means it will depreciate by only $10,029 over 3 years, or $278 per month (if you pay 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%.

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.

RankVehicleTrim MSRP Monthly Payment $0 Down Term (Months) Annual MilesResidual %
12017 Toyota TacomaSR5 Double Cab $34,583 $377 361200071
22017 Subaru Outback2.5i $26,520 $271 361200068
32018 Subaru Forester2.5i Manual $23,710 $261 361200066
42017 Subaru Crosstrek2.0i Manual $22,570 $239 361200065
52017 Toyota HighlanderLE $35,325 $345 361200065
62017 BMW X3xDrive28i $44,695 $472 361000064
72017 BMW X4M40i $60,745 $702 361000064
82017 BMW 5 Series535i Gran Turismo $63,995 $735 36750063
92017 BMW 3 Series330e iPerformance $46,745 $392 36750063
102017 Subaru WRXWRX Manual $27,515 $310 361200063
112018 Subaru WRXWRX Manual $27,855 $328 361200062
122017 Subaru Forester2.5i Manual $23,470 $251 361200062
132017 Toyota TundraSR5 Double Cab $38,599 $488 361200061
142018 BMW X4xDrive28i $49,845 $642 361000061
152017 BMW X1sDrive28i $36,595 $402 361000061
162017 Toyota Land Cruiser  $85,645 $1,073 361200061
172017 Mercedes C-ClassC300 4MATIC $43,725 $509 361000061
182017 BMW 4 Series430i Coupe $44,795 $452 361000061
192017 Toyota RAV4 HybridXLE Hybrid $30,060 $310 361200061
202017 Subaru Impreza2.0i 4D Maual $19,215 $213 361200060
212018 Mercedes GLAGLA250 4MATIC $38,195 $473 361000060
222018 Toyota C-HRXLE $23,460 $277 361200060
232017 Kia SportageLX $25,595 $264 361200059
242017 Toyota RAV4LE $27,050 $266 361200059
252016 Mercedes E-ClassE350 4MATIC Wagon $64,155 $791 361000059
262018 BMW 5 Series530e iPerformance $56,245 $746 361000059
272018 Mercedes CLACLA250 Coupe 4MATIC $37,495 $453 361000059
282017 Subaru Legacy2.5i $23,165 $222 361200059
292017 BMW 2 Series230i xDrive Coupe $37,795 $445 361000058
302017 BMW i3  $47,145 $372 361000058
312017 Mercedes GLAGLA250 SUV $36,525 $431 361000058
322017 BMW X5xDrive40e iPerformance $66,295 $696 361000058
332017 Kia NiroLX $24,095 $268 361200058
342017 BMW X6sDrive35i $65,595 $766 361000058
352017 Mercedes SLCSLC300 Roadster $51,375 $633 361000058
362017 Hyundai Santa FeGLS $31,695 $330 361200057
372017 Mercedes SLSL450 Roadster $92,925 $1,196 361000057
382017 Mercedes GLSGLS450 SUV $73,645 $960 361000057
392017 Mercedes CLACLA250 Coupe $35,675 $431 361000057
402018 BMW 4 Series430i xDrive Coupe $49,145 $592 361000057
412017 Hyundai Tucson2.0 FWD SE $23,595 $263 361200056
422017 Hyundai Ioniq HybridBlue $23,035 $268 361200056
432017 Toyota CorollaLE $20,044 $206 361200056
442017 Toyota Yaris iA  $17,915 $199 361200056
452017 Toyota SiennaLE $33,480 $334 361200056
462018 BMW 7 Series740e xDrive iPerformance $93,395 $1,212 36750056
472017 Mercedes E-ClassE400 Cabriolet $67,625 $781 361000056
482017 BMW 6 Series650i Coupe $91,695 $1,212 361000056
492018 Kia SorentoLX $30,830 $315 361200055
502017 Ford F-150King Ranch $52,375 $645 361200055

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar No-Haggle, Edmunds Price Promise, 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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