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Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

February 18, 2021

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 2021 Toyota Tacoma SR, with a residual value of 82% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $34,127, that means it will depreciate by only about $5,900 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 if you're planning to keep it short-term.

As always, I recommend using TrueCar No Haggle, RydeShopper and CarsDirect to see the lowest prices your local dealers are willing to offer on these leases.

Better to Lease or Buy

Rank Vehicle Trim MSRP Lease Payment ($0 Down) Residual Better To...
1 2021 Toyota Tacoma SR $34,127 $232 82.0% Lease
2 2021 Toyota Tundra SR5 $43,733 $462 73.0% Lease
3 2021 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Engine $39,964 $365 71.0% Lease
4 2021 Nissan Frontier SV CC SWB $35,600 $393 71.0% Lease
5 2020 Nissan Frontier SV CC SWB $35,245 $353 67.0% Lease
6 2021 Toyota RAV4 LE $28,984 $287 67.0% Lease
7 2021 Toyota Sienna LE $35,855 $393 67.0% Lease
8 2021 Toyota Highlander LE $40,103 $364 67.0% Lease
9 2021 Subaru Ascent $33,345 $360 66.0% Lease
10 2021 Toyota Venza 2.5L 4-Cyl LE $33,914 $325 66.0% Lease
11 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Crosstrek $24,645 $290 66.0% Buy
12 2020 Honda Ridgeline RTL $39,995 $403 66.0% Lease
13 2022 Acura MDX $47,925 $538 65.0% Lease
14 2021 Subaru Forester $25,845 $302 65.0% Lease
15 2021 Honda Passport EX-L $39,985 $406 65.0% Lease
16 2020 Honda CR-V EX $31,535 $327 65.0% Lease
17 2021 Subaru Outback Base $27,845 $312 64.0% Lease
18 2021 Toyota C-HR LE $22,985 $228 64.0% Lease
19 2021 Honda Civic Sport $25,095 $277 64.0% Lease
20 2021 Honda CR-V EX $29,035 $328 64.0% Lease
21 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5S $23,225 $267 64.0% Lease
22 2021 Honda HR-V LX $22,395 $248 63.0% Lease
23 2020 Honda Fit LX $17,985 $220 63.0% Buy
24 2021 Mazda CX-3 Sport $21,965 $248 63.0% Lease
25 2021 Honda Pilot EX-L $39,835 $414 62.0% Lease
26 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Base $87,198 $1,013 62.0% Lease
27 2020 Toyota Highlander LE $39,700 $452 62.0% Lease
28 2021 Mazda CX-5 Sport $26,545 $314 61.6% Buy
29 2021 Mazda CX-9 Sport $35,335 $364 61.5% Lease
30 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SE 2.5L $41,209 $423 61.0% Lease
31 2021 Acura TLX $38,525 $438 61.0% Lease
32 2021 Nissan Sentra SV $21,810 $269 61.0% Buy
33 2021 Acura RDX $39,425 $481 61.0% Buy
34 2021 Mini Clubman Cooper S $35,350 $403 61.0% Lease
35 2021 Honda Odyssey EX $36,365 $385 61.0% Lease
36 2021 Subaru Impreza Base $21,020 $249 61.0% Buy
37 2021 Toyota Mirai XLE $51,905 $584 60.5% Lease
38 2021 Nissan TITAN S CC $44,410 $517 60.0% Lease
39 2021 Honda Accord $27,565 $325 60.0% Buy
40 2020 Honda Civic LX $21,795 $249 60.0% Lease
41 2021 BMW 5 Series 530i $55,745 $634 60.0% Lease
42 2021 Toyota Corolla 4-Cyl LE $21,744 $203 60.0% Lease
43 2021 BMW Z4 sDrive30i $52,395 $645 60.0% Buy
44 2021 BMW M5 $113,045 $1,400 60.0% Buy
45 2021 Kia K5 LXS $25,455 $276 60.0% Lease
46 2021 Kia Sorento LX $30,560 $368 60.0% Buy
47 2021 Nissan Armada SV $56,715 $693 59.0% Buy
48 2021 Toyota Prius Prime LE $29,474 $209 59.0% Lease
49 2021 BMW 3 Series 330i $44,395 $518 59.0% Lease
50 2021 Toyota Prius LE $28,389 $310 59.0% Lease
51 2021 Mazda Mazda3 2.0L $21,645 $224 59.0% Lease
52 2020 Toyota C-HR LE $22,818 $248 59.0% Lease
53 2021 BMW i3 $47,395 $392 58.0% Lease
54 2021 Hyundai Nexo $59,970 $438 58.0% Lease
55 2021 Kia Seltos LX $23,110 $259 58.0% Lease
56 2020 Hyundai Nexo $59,910 $438 58.0% Lease
57 2021 Mini Cooper Hardtop 2 Door $23,250 $287 58.0% Buy
58 2020 Honda Accord $26,865 $306 58.0% Lease
59 2021 BMW 4 Series 430i $48,045 $577 58.0% Buy
60 2021 Mini Countryman Cooper $29,950 $364 58.0% Buy
61 2021 Acura ILX $27,125 $310 57.0% Lease
62 2021 BMW X3 sDrive30i $45,235 $548 57.0% Buy
63 2021 Kia Soul LX $20,110 $249 57.0% Buy
64 2020 Hyundai Sonata SE $24,595 $232 57.0% Lease
65 2021 Infiniti QX50 Pure $38,975 $447 57.0% Lease
66 2021 BMW X4 xDrive30i $54,195 $655 57.0% Buy
67 2020 Mercedes CLA 250 $39,295 $484 57.0% Buy
68 2021 Kia Sportage LX $25,110 $265 57.0% Lease
69 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club ( $33,990 $413 56.0% Buy
70 2020 Mercedes C-Class C 300 $43,895 $544 56.0% Buy
71 2020 Mercedes E-Class E 350 $55,045 $677 56.0% Buy
72 2021 Subaru Legacy Base $24,170 $289 56.0% Buy
73 2020 Hyundai Venue SE $19,725 $221 56.0% Lease
74 2020 Hyundai Kona $23,275 $238 55.9% Lease
75 2021 BMW 2 Series 230i $39,145 $480 55.0% Buy
76 2020 Mercedes AMG GT $116,895 $1,290 55.0% Lease
77 2020 Kia Niro LX $25,710 $262 55.0% Lease
78 2021 BMW 7 Series 740i $92,095 $971 55.0% Lease
79 2021 Mazda Mazda6 Sport $25,470 $314 54.6% Buy
80 2020 Nissan Sentra SV $21,710 $249 54.0% Lease
81 2021 Kia Forte LXS $20,355 $224 54.0% Lease
82 2021 BMW 8 Series 840i $92,695 $1,127 54.0% Buy
83 2020 Acura MDX $45,525 $491 54.0% Lease
84 2021 Nissan Altima 2.5 S $26,205 $323 53.0% Buy
85 2021 Toyota Camry LE $26,551 $261 53.0% Lease
86 2021 Infiniti Q50 Luxe $42,725 $476 52.0% Lease
87 2021 Nissan Maxima SV $38,485 $432 52.0% Lease
88 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport S $26,905 $312 52.0% Lease
89 2021 Nissan Murano S $34,040 $398 52.0% Lease
90 2020 Mercedes S-Class S 450 $98,995 $1,171 52.0% Buy
91 2020 Lincoln Continental Standard $47,300 $573 51.0% Buy
92 2020 Kia Cadenza Technology $38,885 $431 51.0% Lease
93 2020 Toyota Camry LE $26,382 $267 51.0% Lease
94 2020 Nissan Murano S $33,910 $349 51.0% Lease
95 2021 Genesis G70 2.0T Standard $37,025 $425 50.0% Lease
96 2020 Infiniti QX50 Pure $38,275 $428 50.0% Lease
97 2020 Nissan Altima 2.5 S $25,640 $309 49.0% Buy
98 2021 Hyundai Kona Ev EV $38,375 $353 49.0% Lease
99 2020 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Pure $37,425 $431 48.0% Lease
100 2020 Infiniti QX60 Signature Edition $51,275 $537 48.0% Lease
101 2021 Kia Stinger GT-Line $34,125 $402 48.0% Buy
102 2020 Nissan Maxima S $35,945 $404 48.0% Lease
103 2020 Nissan Pathfinder S $35,200 $378 48.0% Lease
104 2021 Honda Clarity $34,395 $291 47.0% Lease
105 2020 Kia Niro EV EX $40,210 $291 47.0% Lease
106 2020 Hyundai Ioniq EV $34,040 $225 47.0% Lease
107 2020 Hyundai Elantra $20,295 $195 46.0% Lease
108 2020 Hyundai Elantra Gt $21,645 $257 45.0% Buy
109 2020 Hyundai Kona Ev EV $38,365 $277 45.0% Lease
110 2021 Nissan LEAF S $32,545 $239 45.0% Lease
111 2020 Nissan LEAF SV $35,115 $256 41.0% Lease
112 2020 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium $36,195 $446 37.0% Buy
113 2021 Volvo XC60 T5 Momentum $43,545 $519 % Buy
114 2021 Chevrolet Traverse LT $36,275 $349 % Lease
115 2021 Lexus LX 570 3-row $98,610 $1,002 % Lease
116 2020 Hyundai Tucson SE $24,690 $287 % Lease
117 2021 Audi A4 40 Premium $41,945 $459 % Lease
118 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ES 2.0 $24,190 $282 % Lease
119 2021 Buick Encore GX Preferred $26,070 $283 % Lease
120 2021 Jeep Renegade Latitude $27,830 $309 % Lease
121 2020 Dodge Charger SXT $35,090 $424 % Buy
122 2021 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0T SEL R-Line $43,395 $478 % Lease
123 2021 Chevrolet Colorado LT $35,375 $298 % Lease
124 2021 Land Rover Discovery Sport S $41,900 $475 % Lease
125 2020 Volkswagen Passat SE $25,845 $284 % Lease
126 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport $37,040 $392 % Lease
127 2021 Audi SQ5 3.0T Premium $56,545 $606 % Lease
128 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio $47,695 $468 % Lease
129 2020 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock $40,490 $446 % Lease
130 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L $43,790 $494 % Lease
131 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport $54,840 $628 % Lease
132 2021 Audi A7 e 55 Premium Plus $75,945 $809 % Lease
133 2021 Ram 1500 BIG Horn $46,480 $489 % Lease
134 2021 Hyundai Kona SE $23,375 $248 % Lease
135 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury $39,465 $460 % Lease
136 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport S $30,855 $368 % Buy
137 2021 Chevrolet Malibu LT $27,595 $258 % Lease
138 2021 Lexus ES 250 $45,355 $441 % Lease
139 2021 Jaguar F-Pace S P250 $53,895 $596 % Lease
140 2020 Cadillac CT4 Luxury $34,865 $427 % Buy
141 2021 Lexus RXL 350 $57,435 $577 % Lease
142 2021 Audi e-tron Premium $71,090 $661 % Lease
143 2021 Cadillac XT5 Luxury $45,865 $468 % Lease
144 2021 Volvo S60 T5 Momentum $38,995 $421 % Lease
145 2021 Chevrolet Suburban LT $65,560 $763 % Lease
146 2021 Lexus IS 300 $40,330 $443 % Lease
147 2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude Lux $31,640 $357 % Lease
148 2020 Chevrolet Bolt LT $37,495 $284 % Lease
149 2020 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0T SE $35,995 $381 % Lease
150 2021 GMC Canyon Elevation $39,070 $325 % Lease
151 2020 Jaguar F-Pace Premium 25t $47,800 $518 % Lease
152 2021 Audi Q5 e 55 Premium $56,140 $554 % Lease
153 2021 Hyundai Sonata SE $24,595 $252 % Lease
154 2021 Chevrolet Blazer LT $33,175 $276 % Lease
155 2021 Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum $34,795 $432 % Buy
156 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer LT $26,575 $240 % Lease
157 2021 Lexus LS 500 $77,550 $927 % Buy
158 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Sprint $44,745 $468 % Lease
159 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL 1AT $37,710 $396 % Lease
160 2020 Lexus LS 500 $77,675 $839 % Lease
161 2021 Buick Encore Preferred $26,470 $232 % Lease
162 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo E $35,715 $434 % Buy
163 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Limited $47,340 $520 % Lease
164 2021 Chevrolet Camaro 1LZ $36,470 $274 % Lease
165 2020 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S Ulev $19,695 $235 % Buy
166 2021 GMC Terrain SLE $30,470 $248 % Lease
167 2020 Jaguar XE S P250 $39,900 $417 % Lease
168 2021 Audi S5 Sportback 3.0T Premium $55,345 $674 % Buy
169 2021 Hyundai Venue SE $19,925 $221 % Lease
170 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia $44,295 $428 % Lease
171 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWC $37,705 $376 % Lease
172 2020 Ram 1500 BIG Horn $42,580 $469 % Lease
173 2021.5 Volkswagen Atlas S $31,555 $358 % Lease
174 2021 Chevrolet Trax LT $24,695 $203 % Lease
175 2021 Lexus NX 300 $40,445 $432 % Lease
176 2021 Audi A6 45 Premium Plus $60,440 $677 % Lease
177 2021 Porsche 911 Carrera $111,900 $1,365 % Buy
178 2021 Hyundai Elantra SE $20,645 $245 % Buy
179 2020 Maserati Levante $77,185 $948 % Buy
180 2021 Buick Envision Essence $33,870 $378 % Lease
181 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sport $34,810 $361 % Lease
182 2020 Dodge Durango SXT Plus $36,485 $425 % Lease
183 2021 Volkswagen Atlas S $33,245 $371 % Lease
184 2021 Chevrolet Equinox LT $28,375 $238 % Lease
185 2021 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque S $43,300 $514 % Buy
186 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan S $24,945 $290 % Lease
187 2020 Jeep Renegade Latitude $27,390 $292 % Lease
188 2020 Buick Envision Preferred $35,570 $320 % Lease
189 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross ES 1.5T $24,780 $299 % Buy
190 2021 Dodge Durango SXT Plus $37,485 $454 % Buy
191 2021 Lexus RX 350 $48,845 $538 % Lease
192 2021 Audi A8 L 60 $104,945 $1,235 % Buy
193 2021 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock $38,090 $413 % Lease
194 2021 Cadillac XT4 Luxury $37,665 $386 % Lease
195 2021 Volkswagen Passat S $23,995 $274 % Lease
196 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT $44,575 $408 % Lease
197 2021 Lexus GX 460 Premium $58,240 $598 % Lease
198 2021 Jaguar F-Type 2.0L P300 $61,600 $624 % Lease
199 2020 Cadillac CT5 Luxury $38,765 $436 % Lease
200 2021 GMC Acadia SLE $35,670 $286 % Lease
201 2021 Lexus UX 200 $34,785 $397 % Lease
202 2020 Jaguar E-Pace SE P250 $43,700 $489 % Lease
203 2021 Audi Q5 45 Premium $45,495 $516 % Lease
204 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe SE $28,025 $293 % Lease
205 2021 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury $54,665 $579 % Lease
206 2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 $46,545 $536 % Lease
207 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe LT $62,860 $717 % Lease
208 2021 Lexus LC 500 $99,300 $1,114 % Lease
209 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe SE $27,450 $264 % Lease
210 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint $43,545 $428 % Lease
211 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport S $41,500 $436 % Lease
212 2021 Buick Enclave Essence $44,070 $462 % Lease
213 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport $37,060 $380 % Lease
214 2020 Chevrolet Trax LT $24,075 $196 % Lease
215 2021 Chevrolet Bolt LT $37,495 $312 % Lease
216 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport S $30,545 $368 % Buy
217 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali $58,170 $504 % Lease
218 2020 Jaguar I-PACE S $69,850 $866 % Buy
219 2021 Audi S4 3.0T Premium $50,945 $568 % Lease
220 2021 Hyundai Tucson SE $24,875 $249 % Lease

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar, RydeShopper, and CarsDirect are the best 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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