RealCarTips Logo

Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

July 26, 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 74% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $35,563, that means it will depreciate by only $8,559 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 7594 SR 4x4 Double Cab V6 6-Speed Short Bed $32,918 $377 74.0% Lease
2 2019 Subaru Ascent 2.4T 8-passenger $32,970 $403 67.0% Buy
3 2018 Toyota 4Runner SR5 $37,325 $459 66.0% Buy
4 2018 Toyota Tundra SR5 $38,664 $449 65.0% Lease
5 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i 6MT $22,710 $258 63.0% Lease
6 2018 Toyota Sequoia SR5 $53,478 $653 62.0% Buy
7 2018 Subaru Outback 2.5i $26,810 $291 62.0% Lease
8 2018 Toyota Highlander LE $32,324 $357 62.0% Lease
9 2018 Honda Pilot 6 Speed 2WD EX-L $37,755 $435 61.0% Lease
10 2018 BMW 3 Series 320i Sedan $38,695 $451 60.0% Lease
11 2018 Honda CR-V Continuously Variable Transmission 2WD LX $25,245 $307 60.0% Buy
12 2018 Subaru Impreza 2.0i 4D 5MT $19,355 $186 60.0% Lease
13 2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan 6 Speed Manual $24,995 $289 59.0% Lease
14 2018 Honda Fit Continuously Variable Transmission Sport $19,195 $209 59.0% Lease
15 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i 6MT $23,710 $271 59.0% Lease
16 2018 BMW X6 X6 sDrive35i $65,645 $812 59.0% Buy
17 2019 Mazda CX-3 Sport $21,365 $258 58.0% Buy
18 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe SE $31,830 $337 58.0% Lease
19 2018 Mazda CX-9 Sport $33,125 $375 58.0% Lease
20 2018 Mercedes C-Class C 300 Sedan $42,495 $506 58.0% Buy
21 2019 Infiniti QX50 ESSENTIAL $44,345 $471 58.0% Lease
22 2018 BMW i3 BMW i3 $47,745 $438 58.0% Lease
23 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback Continuously Variable Transmission LX $21,845 $264 57.0% Buy
24 2018 Mercedes CLA CLA 250 Coupe $35,495 $415 57.0% Lease
25 2019 Kia Sportage LX $24,745 $306 57.0% Buy
26 2018 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,145 $258 57.0% Lease
27 2018 Acura MDX 9 Speed $45,195 $485 57.0% Lease
28 2018 Honda HR-V Continuously Variable Transmission 2WD LX $21,465 $248 57.0% Lease
29 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE Hybrid $30,540 $343 57.0% Lease
30 2018 Honda Civic Si Coupe 6 Speed Manual $24,995 $289 57.0% Lease
31 2018 Nissan Titan S KC 4x4 $37,945 $425 57.0% Lease
32 2018 Kia Niro LX $24,590 $287 56.0% Lease
33 2018 Toyota RAV4 LE $25,654 $309 56.0% Buy
34 2018 Honda Civic Sedan Continuously Variable Transmission LX $20,635 $245 56.0% Buy
35 2018 Mercedes GLA GLA 250 SUV $36,195 $432 56.0% Buy
36 2018 Nissan Armada SV 4x2 $47,695 $566 56.0% Buy
37 2018 Acura RDX 6 Speed $36,995 $360 56.0% Lease
38 2018 Kia Optima LX $23,495 $287 56.0% Buy
39 2018 Subaru WRX WRX 6MT $27,855 $346 56.0% Buy
40 2018 Subaru Legacy 2.5i $23,055 $272 55.0% Buy
41 2019 Kia Sorento LX $28,480 $325 55.0% Lease
42 2018 Lincoln Continental Premiere $46,155 $554 55.0% Buy
43 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid LX $28,840 $321 55.0% Lease
44 2018 Kia Sportage LX $24,590 $287 55.0% Lease
45 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid Hybrid LE $28,949 $345 55.0% Buy
46 2018 Infiniti QX60 3.5 $44,295 $493 55.0% Lease
47 2018 Genesis G80 NULL $42,745 $518 55.0% Buy
48 2019 Acura TLX 8 Speed Dual-Clutch $33,995 $389 55.0% Lease
49 2018 Mazda CX-3 Sport $21,085 $239 55.0% Lease
50 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 4dr Sdn $26,385 $321 54.0% Buy
51 2018 Toyota Camry LE $25,149 $309 54.0% Buy
52 2018 Lincoln MKX Premiere $39,960 $474 54.0% Buy
53 2018 Nissan Pathfinder S AWD $34,115 $374 54.0% Lease
54 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Sport $23,895 $278 54.0% Lease
55 2018 Honda Civic Coupe Continuously Variable Transmission LX $21,045 $245 54.0% Lease
56 2018 Lincoln MKC Premiere $34,280 $387 54.0% Lease
57 2018 Hyundai Kona NULL $22,130 $260 54.0% Buy
58 2018 Nissan Murano S $32,190 $382 53.0% Buy
59 2018 Hyundai Tucson NULL $23,530 $246 53.0% Lease
60 2018 Lincoln MKZ Premiere $36,530 $411 53.0% Lease
61 2018 Hyundai Sonata 4dr Sdn SE $22,935 $245 53.0% Lease
62 2018 Nissan Rogue S AWD $27,560 $302 53.0% Lease
63 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Blue $23,085 $278 52.0% Buy
64 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport S AWD $24,970 $271 52.0% Lease
65 2018 Toyota C-HR NULL $23,495 $287 52.0% Buy
66 2018 Acura ILX 8 Speed Dual-Clutch $29,095 $263 51.0% Lease
67 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4L $25,930 $281 51.0% Lease
68 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug In Hybrid Blue $25,835 $317 50.0% Buy
69 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0L $32,800 $374 50.0% Lease
70 2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t LUXE $40,145 $407 50.0% Lease
71 2018 Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback Sport $21,290 $258 50.0% Buy
72 2018 Infiniti QX30 NULL $30,945 $383 49.0% Buy
73 2018 Mazda Mazda3 Sedan Sport $20,040 $239 49.0% Buy
74 2019 Ford Flex SE $31,570 $387 49.0% Buy
75 2018 Ford EcoSport S $20,990 $213 49.0% Lease
76 2018 Kia Sorento L $26,890 $271 49.0% Lease
77 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT 5dr HB AT $21,235 $255 49.0% Buy
78 2018 Infiniti Q70L Q70L 3.7 LUXE LWB $52,795 $563 49.0% Lease
79 2018 Toyota Corolla iM iM $20,670 $248 48.0% Buy
80 2018 Ford Edge SE $30,310 $347 48.0% Lease
81 2018 Kia Forte5 LX $19,195 $230 48.0% Buy
82 2018 Ford Flex SE $31,280 $350 48.0% Lease
83 2018 Kia Cadenza $33,190 $388 47.0% Lease
84 2018 Infiniti Q70 Q70 3.7 LUXE $51,295 $544 47.0% Lease
85 2018 Infiniti Q60 2.0t LUXE $43,295 $462 46.0% Lease
86 2018 Kia Forte LX $18,795 $230 46.0% Buy
87 2018 Nissan Maxima S $34,655 $403 46.0% Lease
88 2018 Kia Optima Hybrid $26,890 $312 45.0% Lease
89 2018 Genesis G90 NULL $69,345 $857 45.0% Buy
90 2018 Hyundai Elantra 4dr Sdn $18,835 $220 45.0% Lease
91 2017 Infiniti QX70 with Package $51,145 $585 45.0% Lease
92 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid Continuously Variable Transmission $34,295 $364 44.0% Lease
93 2018 Ford Transit Connect XLT Passenger Wagon $27,025 $310 44.0% Lease
94 2018 Ford Escape S $24,935 $309 43.0% Buy
95 2018 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid NULL $36,105 $350 43.0% Lease
96 2018 Ford C-MAX Hybrid SE $24,995 $249 42.0% Lease
97 2018 Ford C-MAX Hybrid SE $24,995 $249 42.0% Lease
98 2018 Ford Focus S Sedan $18,825 $202 41.0% Lease
99 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Hybrid S $26,285 $279 41.0% Lease
100 2018 Kia Soul EV EV $34,845 $249 33.0% 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

Each week, I'll keep you up-to-date on the latest car deals and news that might affect your purchase. This includes...
  • Best Rebates, Incentives, and Lease Deals
  • Latest Car Buying Scams and Tricks
  • The Best & Worst Time to Buy a Car
  • Which Cars You Should Avoid
Enter Your Email Below

(Absolutely NO SPAM, easy to unsubscribe)
×

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.

Latest Weekly Car Buying Tips    RSS Feed

August 16, 2018
August 9, 2018
August 2, 2018
July 26, 2018
July 19, 2018
July 12, 2018
July 5, 2018
June 28, 2018
June 21, 2018
June 14, 2018
June 7, 2018
May 31, 2018
May 24, 2018
May 17, 2018
May 10, 2018
May 3, 2018
April 26, 2018
April 19, 2018
April 12, 2018
April 5, 2018
March 29, 2018
March 22, 2018
March 15, 2018
March 8, 2018
March 1, 2018
February 22, 2018
February 15, 2018
February 8, 2018
February 1, 2018
I welcome your car buying questions. Email Me and I'll be glad to answer them!