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Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

January 31, 2019

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 2019 Toyota Tacoma SR5, with a residual value of 74% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $35,983, that means it will depreciate by only $7,608 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 2019 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $35,983 $373 74.0% Lease
2 2019 Nissan Armada SV $48,810 $462 69.0% Lease
3 2019 Toyota Tundra SR5 $39,893 $468 68.0% Buy
4 2019 Toyota Highlander LE $36,149 $373 65.0% Lease
5 2018 Toyota Mirai Mirai $59,325 $427 64.0% Lease
6 2018 Toyota Tundra SR5 $43,084 $467 62.0% Lease
7 2019 Subaru Ascent $32,970 $403 62.0% Buy
8 2019 Honda Civic Si $25,220 $299 62.0% Buy
9 2019 Subaru Forester $25,270 $297 62.0% Buy
10 2019 BMW 3 Series 330i xDrive $47,395 $528 61.0% Lease
11 2019 Honda Pilot EX-L $38,755 $467 61.0% Buy
12 2019 Infiniti QX60 Pure $45,245 $481 60.0% Lease
13 2018 BMW 3 Series 320i $38,695 $421 60.0% Lease
14 2019 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i $22,870 $284 60.0% Buy
15 2019 Acura ILX $26,895 $316 59.0% Buy
16 2019 Honda CR-V LX $25,395 $309 59.0% Buy
17 2019 BMW X6 sDrive35i $66,245 $822 59.0% Buy
18 2019 Acura MDX $45,295 $505 59.0% Lease
19 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe $26,545 $310 59.0% Lease
20 2018 BMW X2 sDrive28i $39,295 $428 59.0% Lease
21 2018 BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance $66,445 $712 59.0% Lease
22 2019 Honda Civic LX $21,570 $255 58.0% Buy
23 2019 Subaru Outback 2.5i $27,320 $323 58.0% Buy
24 2018 BMW i3 $47,745 $428 58.0% Lease
25 2019 Mercedes C-Class C 300 $43,995 $534 58.0% Buy
26 2019 Kia Niro LX $24,740 $281 57.0% Lease
27 2019 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,345 $308 57.0% Buy
28 2019 Mercedes CLA 250 $35,895 $445 57.0% Buy
29 2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i $19,480 $219 56.0% Lease
30 2018 Mercedes C-Class C 300 $42,495 $506 56.0% Buy
31 2018 Honda CR-V LX $25,295 $278 56.0% Lease
32 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe XL $31,830 $360 55.1% Lease
33 2019 Lincoln MKC Standard $34,990 $425 55.0% Buy
34 2019 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Luxe $39,295 $422 55.0% Lease
35 2019 Toyota Camry LE $25,270 $285 55.0% Lease
36 2018 Honda Accord LX $24,490 $281 55.0% Lease
37 2018 BMW X1 sDrive28i $37,945 $465 54.0% Buy
38 2018 Honda Civic Si $25,020 $280 54.0% Lease
39 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe SE $31,830 $337 54.0% Lease
40 2019 Lincoln MKZ Standard $36,990 $453 53.0% Buy
41 2019 BMW i3 $47,595 $518 53.0% Lease
42 2018 BMW 2 Series 230i $38,695 $441 53.0% Lease
43 2019 Nissan Pathfinder S $34,390 $374 53.0% Lease
44 2019 Subaru Legacy 2.5i $23,430 $282 53.0% Buy
45 2019 Toyota C-HR LE $22,139 $256 53.0% Lease
46 2018 Mazda CX-5 Sport $25,145 $288 53.0% Lease
47 2018 Toyota Camry LE $28,870 $314 52.0% Lease
48 2019 Kia Forte LXS $19,985 $229 52.0% Lease
49 2019 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 Luxe LWB $52,795 $573 52.0% Lease
50 2019 Nissan Rogue S $27,765 $341 52.0% Buy
51 2018 Lincoln Continental Premiere $46,155 $568 52.0% Buy
52 2019 Acura TLX $33,995 $360 52.0% Lease
53 2019 Kia Sportage LX $24,745 $271 52.0% Lease
54 2019 Hyundai Sonata SE $23,185 $270 52.0% Lease
55 2018 Audi Q5 2.0T Premium $48,575 $596 52.0% Buy
56 2018 Toyota RAV4 LE $27,354 $295 51.0% Lease
57 2019 Kia Sorento LX $28,480 $300 51.0% Lease
58 2019 Kia Stinger 2.0L $33,895 $381 51.0% Lease
59 2018 Honda Civic LX $21,070 $235 51.0% Lease
60 2018 Hyundai Sonata SE $22,935 $255 51.0% Lease
61 2018 Genesis G80 $42,745 $518 51.0% Buy
62 2018 Hyundai Tucson $23,530 $246 51.0% Lease
63 2018 Lincoln MKX Premiere $39,960 $454 51.0% Lease
64 2018 Lincoln MKZ Premiere $36,530 $397 50.0% Lease
65 2018 Nissan Murano S $32,260 $382 50.0% Buy
66 2019 Kia Optima LX $23,820 $261 50.0% Lease
67 2019 Infiniti Q70 3.7 Luxe $51,295 $553 50.0% Lease
68 2019 Hyundai Kona $24,845 $289 49.7% Lease
69 2018 Nissan Rogue S $27,630 $329 49.0% Buy
70 2019 Nissan Maxima S $35,410 $423 49.0% Buy
71 2019 Kia Cadenza Premium $33,800 $391 49.0% Lease
72 2019 Ford Flex SE $31,670 $347 48.0% Lease
73 2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Luxe $40,145 $422 48.0% Lease
74 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0L $32,800 $371 48.0% Lease
75 2018 Audi A4 2.0T Tech ultra Premium $40,325 $486 47.0% Buy
76 2018 Kia Sedona LX $29,990 $368 47.0% Buy
77 2019 Hyundai Ioniq $30,700 $302 46.0% Lease
78 2018 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 Luxe LWB $52,795 $573 46.0% Lease
79 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT $21,235 $255 45.0% Buy
80 2018 Ford Flex SE $31,280 $353 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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