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Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

February 22, 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 76% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $27,783, that means it will depreciate by only $6,668 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 SR 4x4 Access $27,783 $316 76.0% Lease
2 2017 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $35,228 $430 68.0% Buy
3 2018 Toyota Tundra SR5 $39,209 $416 66.0% Lease
4 2018 Toyota Highlander LE $35,759 $335 65.0% Lease
5 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i 6MT $22,710 $248 64.0% Lease
6 2018 Toyota 4Runner SR5 $37,125 $459 64.0% Buy
7 2018 Honda Pilot EX-L $37,735 $438 63.0% Lease
8 2018 Subaru Outback 2.5i $26,810 $281 63.0% Lease
9 2018 Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe 2.0L 296HP $62,130 $673 63.0% Lease
10 2018 Jaguar XE 25t $37,615 $392 62.6% Lease
11 2018 Honda Fit Sport $19,190 $228 62.0% Buy
12 2017 Mercedes CLA CLA250 Coupe $35,675 $391 62.0% Lease
13 2018 Acura MDX 9 Speed $45,195 $500 61.0% Lease
14 2018 BMW 5 Series 530e $56,495 $652 61.0% Lease
15 2018 Mercedes C-Class C300 Sedan $42,495 $524 61.0% Buy
16 2018 VW Tiguan NULL $25,495 $268 61.0% Lease
17 2017 BMW X1 X1 xDrive28i $38,595 $428 61.0% Lease
18 2018 BMW 3 Series 320i Sedan $38,695 $421 61.0% Lease
19 2018 BMW X4 X4 xDrive28i $49,845 $608 61.0% Buy
20 2017 BMW 3 Series 330i Sedan $41,395 $448 61.0% Lease
21 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i 6MT $23,710 $261 61.0% Lease
22 2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan 6 Speed Manual $24,990 $284 61.0% Lease
23 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport SE $40,775 $495 60.4% Buy
24 2018 Mercedes GLA GLA250 SUV $36,195 $441 60.0% Buy
25 2017 Honda Pilot 6 Speed 2WD EX-L $37,580 $409 60.0% Lease
26 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback LX $21,740 $264 60.0% Buy
27 2018 Honda HR-V 2WD LX $21,445 $248 60.0% Lease
28 2018 Range Rover Evoque SE 5 DOOR $46,035 $563 59.3% Buy
29 2018 Honda Civic Sedan LX $20,530 $239 59.0% Lease
30 2018 Mazda CX-9 Sport $33,105 $385 59.0% Lease
31 2017 Mercedes C-Class C300 Sedan $41,725 $494 59.0% Buy
32 2018 BMW X6 X6 sDrive35i $65,645 $782 59.0% Buy
33 2018 Acura RDX 6 Speed $36,995 $368 59.0% Lease
34 2018 Honda Civic Si Coupe 6 Speed Manual $24,990 $284 59.0% Lease
35 2018 Nissan Armada SV 4x2 $47,695 $587 59.0% Buy
36 2018 Mercedes CLA CLA250 Coupe $35,495 $423 59.0% Buy
37 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE Hybrid AWD-i $30,115 $281 59.0% Lease
38 2018 BMW X5 X5 xDrive40e $66,445 $722 59.0% Lease
39 2017 Range Rover HSE 3.0L V6 $100,500 $1,235 58.6% Buy
40 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport SE $41,490 $436 58.4% Lease
41 2017 BMW i3 BMW i3 $47,145 $398 58.0% Lease
42 2018 Subaru Impreza 2.0i 4D 5MT $19,355 $190 58.0% Lease
43 2018 Kia Niro LX $24,490 $271 58.0% Lease
44 2018 BMW i3 BMW i3 $47,745 $428 58.0% Lease
45 2017 Mercedes GLA GLA250 SUV $36,525 $431 58.0% Buy
46 2017 Mercedes SLC SLC300 Roadster $51,375 $633 58.0% Buy
47 2017 BMW X5 X5 sDrive35i $59,695 $692 58.0% Lease
48 2018 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,125 $268 58.0% Lease
49 2017 Jaguar XE 25t $38,350 $382 57.5% Lease
50 2018 Subaru WRX WRX 6MT $27,855 $328 57.0% Buy
51 2018 Nissan Pathfinder S 4x4 $34,115 $401 57.0% Buy
52 2018 Honda Civic Coupe LX $20,940 $239 57.0% Lease
53 2018 Toyota RAV4 LE $26,895 $266 57.0% Lease
54 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe NULL $31,800 $380 57.0% Buy
55 2018 Infiniti QX60 3.5 $44,295 $493 57.0% Lease
56 2017 Range Rover Evoque SE 5 DOOR $45,195 $524 56.2% Lease
57 2018 Acura TLX 8 Speed Dual-Clutch $33,965 $360 56.0% Lease
58 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid LX $28,840 $307 56.0% Lease
59 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid Hybrid LE $28,919 $302 56.0% Lease
60 2018 Kia Sportage LX $24,395 $267 56.0% Lease
61 2018 Infiniti QX30 NULL $30,945 $383 56.0% Buy
62 2018 Genesis G80 NULL $42,725 $518 56.0% Buy
63 2017 Kia Optima LX $23,095 $255 56.0% Lease
64 2018 Jaguar XF 25t $49,665 $556 55.1% Lease
65 2018 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0T quattro $42,475 $502 55.0% Buy
66 2018 Toyota Camry LE $25,109 $267 55.0% Lease
67 2018 Subaru Legacy 2.5i $23,055 $252 55.0% Lease
68 2018 Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T Plus quattro $49,375 $593 55.0% Buy
69 2018 Mazda CX-3 Sport $21,085 $249 55.0% Buy
70 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE $23,495 $224 55.0% Lease
71 2017 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,020 $268 54.0% Lease
72 2017 Lincoln MKC Premiere $33,805 $397 54.0% Buy
73 2018 Nissan Rogue S AWD $27,560 $317 54.0% Lease
74 2018 Hyundai Sonata 4dr Sdn SE $22,935 $270 54.0% Buy
75 2017 VW Golf 4-door S $21,815 $249 54.0% Lease
76 2018 Infiniti Q60 2.0t LUXE $42,295 $491 54.0% Lease
77 2018 VW Atlas NULL $31,675 $363 54.0% Lease
78 2017 Infiniti QX80 with Theater and Driver Assistance Packages $70,145 $792 54.0% Lease
79 2018 Toyota Corolla iM iM $20,485 $223 53.0% Lease
80 2017 Lincoln MKZ Premiere $36,095 $414 53.0% Lease
81 2017 Lincoln Navigator Select $64,710 $785 53.0% Buy
82 2017 Kia Niro LX $24,095 $268 53.0% Lease
83 2018 Acura ILX 8 Speed Dual-Clutch $29,065 $302 53.0% Lease
84 2018 Kia Optima LX $23,395 $248 53.0% Lease
85 2018 VW Passat S $23,845 $259 52.0% Lease
86 2017 Nissan Pathfinder S 4x4 $33,355 $371 52.0% Lease
87 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe 4dr $31,750 $330 52.0% Lease
88 2018 Kia Sedona LX $29,850 $364 52.0% Buy
89 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 4dr CUV Sport $25,900 $320 52.0% Buy
90 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport S AWD $24,610 $296 52.0% Buy
91 2018 Toyota Corolla LE $20,029 $223 52.0% Lease
92 2017 Lincoln MKX Premiere $39,185 $473 52.0% Buy
93 2018 Nissan Sentra NULL $20,360 $250 52.0% Buy
94 2017 Mercedes B-Class B-Class Electric Drive $41,925 $457 52.0% Lease
95 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0L $32,800 $374 52.0% Lease
96 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Blue $23,085 $278 51.0% Buy
97 2017 Infiniti QX50 with Package $36,545 $371 51.0% Lease
98 2017 Kia Sportage LX $24,095 $260 51.0% Lease
99 2018 Ford EcoSport S $20,990 $222 51.0% Lease
100 2017 VW Golf SportWagen S $22,400 $259 51.0% Lease

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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