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These Cars Better to Lease Than Buy

August 17, 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 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 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 (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%.

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 TermAnnual MilesResidual %
12018 Subaru Crosstrek2.0i 6MT $22,710 $248 361200071
22017 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $34,583 $377 361200071
32018 Subaru Outback2.5i $26,810 $281 361200069
42017 Subaru Outback2.5i $26,520 $271 361200068
52018 Subaru Forester2.5i 6MT $23,710 $261 361200066
62017 Toyota HighlanderLE $35,325 $345 361200065
72017 Subaru Crosstrek2.0i 5MT $22,570 $239 361200065
82017 BMW X4X4 xDrive28i $47,945 $588 361000064
92017 BMW X3X3 sDrive28i $42,695 $498 361000064
102017 Subaru WRXWRX 6MT $27,515 $310 361200063
112017 Subaru Forester2.5i 6MT $23,470 $251 361200062
122017 Honda FitCVT LX $17,765 $202 361200062
132017 BMW 3 Series320i Sedan $37,700 $391 361000062
142018 Audi Q3 SUV2.0T $35,975 $425 361000062
152018 Subaru WRXWRX 6MT $27,855 $328 361200062
162018 Subaru Legacy2.5i $23,055 $252 361200061
172017 BMW X1X1 sDrive28i $37,535 $438 361000061
182017 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid $30,060 $300 361200061
192017 Honda HR-VCVT 2WD LX $21,205 $238 361200061
20 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback LX $21,375 $248 361200061
212017 BMW 4 Series430i Coupe $44,795 $478 361000061
222017 Mercedes C-ClassC300 Sport Sedan $41,725 $504 361000060
232018 Kia SportageLX $24,395 $271 361200060
242018 Toyota C-HRXLE $23,460 $277 361200060
252018 Volkswagen Tiguan  $26,540 $327 361200060
262017 Subaru Impreza2.0i 4D 5MT $19,215 $213 361200060
272018 Volkswagen AtlasLaunch Edition $34,425 $421 361200060
282017 Honda Civic SedanCVT LX $20,415 $220 361200059
292017 Toyota RAV4LE $27,050 $266 361200059
302018 Mercedes CLACLA250 Coupe $35,495 $431 361000059
312017 Mercedes SLCSLC300 Roadster $51,375 $633 361000058
322017 BMW i3BMW i3 (94 ah) $47,145 $398 361000058
332017 Mercedes GLAGLA250 SUV $36,525 $431 361000058
342017 BMW X5X5 xDrive40e $66,295 $722 361000058
352017 Kia OptimaLX $23,095 $254 241200058
362017 Nissan TitanS CC 4x4 $40,610 $439 361000058
372017 BMW X6X6 sDrive35i $65,595 $792 361000058
382017 Subaru Legacy2.5i $22,815 $242 361200058
392017 Mercedes CLACLA250 Coupe $35,675 $431 361000057
402018 BMW 4 Series430i Gran Coupe $46,975 $578 361000057

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

Each week, I'll keep you up-to-date on the latest car deals and news that might affect your purchase. This includes...
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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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