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Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

September 27, 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 72% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $35,563, that means it will depreciate by only $8,759 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 $35,563 $392 72.0% Lease
2 2018 Nissan Frontier SV 4x4 AT SWB $32,575 $404 67.0% Buy
3 2019 Subaru Ascent 8-passenger $32,970 $403 65.0% Buy
4 2019 Subaru Forester Forester $25,270 $297 64.0% Buy
5 2019 Mini Clubman Cooper $27,250 $335 63.0% Buy
6 2019 Mini Hardtop 2 Door Cooper $24,000 $296 63.0% Buy
7 2018 Toyota Tundra SR5 $39,549 $431 63.0% Lease
8 2019 Mini Convertible Cooper $29,000 $355 63.0% Buy
9 2019 Acura MDX 9 Speed $45,295 $505 62.0% Lease
10 2019 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i 6MT $22,870 $284 62.0% Buy
11 2019 Infiniti QX50 LUXE $40,395 $469 61.0% Lease
12 2019 Subaru Outback 2.5i $27,320 $323 61.0% Buy
13 2018 Toyota Highlander LE $36,009 $353 61.0% Lease
14 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i 6MT $22,710 $258 61.0% Lease
15 2019 BMW 3 Series 330i xDrive Sports Wagon $47,395 $558 61.0% Buy
16 2018 Subaru Outback 2.5i $26,810 $291 60.0% Lease
17 2018 BMW 3 Series 320i Sedan $38,695 $431 60.0% Lease
18 2018 Toyota Sequoia SR5 $57,288 $703 60.0% Buy
19 2018 Honda Pilot 6 Speed 2WD EX-L $37,755 $402 60.0% Lease
20 2018 Honda CR-V Continuously Variable Transmission 2WD LX $25,245 $307 59.0% Buy
21 2018 BMW X2 X2 xDrive28i $41,295 $445 59.0% Lease
22 2018 BMW X6 X6 sDrive35i $65,645 $802 59.0% Buy
23 2018 BMW i3 BMW i3 $47,745 $438 58.0% Lease
24 2019 Mercedes CLA CLA 250 Coupe $35,895 $435 58.0% Buy
25 2018 Subaru Impreza 2.0i 4D 5MT $19,355 $196 58.0% Lease
26 2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan 6 Speed Manual $24,995 $289 58.0% Lease
27 2019 Infiniti QX60 PURE $44,995 $481 58.0% Lease
28 2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i 4D 5MT $19,480 $225 58.0% Lease
29 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i 6MT $23,710 $271 57.0% Lease
30 2018 Mercedes CLA CLA 250 Coupe $35,495 $425 57.0% Buy
31 2018 BMW 4 Series 430i Coupe $47,345 $588 57.0% Buy
32 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback SE $23,833 $285 57.0% Buy
33 2019 Infiniti Q70L Q70L 3.7 LUXE LWB $52,795 $631 57.0% Buy
34 2018 Mercedes C-Class C 300 Sedan $42,495 $506 57.0% Buy
35 2018 Honda Civic Si Coupe 6 Speed Manual $24,995 $289 56.0% Lease
36 2018 Acura MDX 9 Speed SH-AWD $47,195 $499 56.0% Lease
37 2019 Kia Forte LX $19,985 $234 56.0% Lease
38 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback Continuously Variable Transmission LX $21,845 $264 56.0% Buy
39 2018 Mercedes GLA GLA 250 SUV $36,195 $442 56.0% Buy
40 2018 Nissan Armada SV 4x2 $47,795 $527 56.0% Lease
41 2018 Mazda CX-9 Sport $33,125 $395 56.0% Buy
42 2018 Lincoln Continental Premiere $46,155 $554 55.0% Buy
43 2019 Infiniti Q70 3.7 LUXE $51,295 $612 55.0% Buy
44 2018 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,145 $278 55.0% Lease
45 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Hybrid XLE $38,643 $480 55.0% Buy
46 2019 Kia Sportage LX $24,745 $287 55.0% Lease
47 2018 Honda Civic Sedan Continuously Variable Transmission LX $20,635 $245 55.0% Buy
48 2018 Kia Optima LX $23,495 $287 55.0% Buy
49 2019 Toyota C-HR LE $22,139 $266 55.0% Buy
50 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE Hybrid AWD-i $30,215 $295 55.0% Lease
51 2018 Lincoln MKX Premiere $39,960 $474 54.0% Buy
52 2018 Kia Niro LX $24,590 $287 54.0% Lease
53 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid Hybrid LE $28,949 $314 54.0% Lease
54 2019 Acura TLX 8 Speed Dual-Clutch $33,995 $370 54.0% Lease
55 2018 Nissan Titan SV KC 4x2 $38,445 $399 54.0% Lease
56 2018 Lincoln MKC Premiere $34,280 $387 54.0% Lease
57 2018 Subaru WRX WRX 6MT $27,855 $330 54.0% Buy
58 2019 Kia Optima LX $23,820 $277 54.0% Lease
59 2019 Kia Sorento LX $28,480 $316 54.0% Lease
60 2018 Nissan Pathfinder S AWD $34,135 $374 54.0% Lease
61 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe SE $31,830 $337 54.0% Lease
62 2018 Honda Civic Coupe Continuously Variable Transmission LX $21,045 $245 53.0% Lease
63 2018 Nissan Rogue S AWD $27,580 $302 53.0% Lease
64 2018 Lincoln MKZ Premiere $36,530 $411 53.0% Lease
65 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid LX $28,840 $321 53.0% Lease
66 2018 Nissan Murano S $32,210 $382 53.0% Buy
67 2018 Toyota RAV4 LE $27,045 $275 53.0% Lease
68 2018 Subaru Legacy 2.5i $23,055 $272 53.0% Buy
69 2018 Toyota Camry LE $25,070 $285 53.0% Lease
70 2018 Hyundai Kona NULL $22,130 $260 52.0% Buy
71 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport S AWD $24,990 $261 52.0% Lease
72 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 4dr Sdn $26,385 $321 52.0% Buy
73 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Sport $23,895 $288 52.0% Buy
74 2018 Hyundai Tucson NULL $23,530 $246 52.0% Lease
75 2018 Hyundai Sonata 4dr Sdn SE $22,935 $245 51.0% Lease
76 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid NULL $23,085 $278 51.0% Buy
77 2018 Kia Sportage LX $24,590 $277 51.0% Lease
78 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug In Hybrid NULL $25,835 $317 50.0% Buy
79 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4L $25,930 $281 50.0% Lease
80 2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t LUXE $40,145 $407 50.0% Lease
81 2018 Toyota Sienna LE $34,785 $412 50.0% Buy
82 2018 Acura ILX 8 Speed Dual-Clutch $29,095 $263 50.0% Lease
83 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0L $32,800 $388 49.0% Buy
84 2018 Infiniti Q70L Q70L 3.7 LUXE LWB $52,795 $573 49.0% Lease
85 2019 Ford Flex SE $31,570 $387 49.0% Buy
86 2018 Ford EcoSport S $20,990 $213 49.0% Lease
87 2018 Ford Edge SE $30,310 $335 48.0% Lease
88 2018 Ford Flex SE $31,280 $350 48.0% Lease
89 2018 Infiniti Q70 Q70 3.7 LUXE $51,295 $553 47.0% Lease
90 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT 5dr HB AT $21,235 $255 47.0% Buy
91 2019 Kia Optima Hybrid NULL $28,905 $335 47.0% Lease
92 2018 Kia Cadenza $33,190 $388 46.0% Lease
93 2018 Nissan Maxima S $34,665 $403 46.0% Lease
94 2018 Ford Explorer Explorer $33,135 $391 46.0% Buy
95 2018 Infiniti Q60 2.0t LUXE $43,295 $462 46.0% Lease
96 2018 Kia Forte5 LX $19,195 $220 46.0% Lease
97 2019 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid NULL $36,210 $364 45.0% Lease
98 2017 Infiniti QX70 with Package $51,145 $585 45.0% Lease
99 2018 Kia Forte LX $18,795 $220 45.0% Buy
100 2018 Hyundai Elantra 4dr Sdn $18,835 $220 45.0% 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.
- 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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