Which Cars Better to Lease or Buy

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 2022 Honda Civic, with a residual value of 68% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $24,315, that means it will depreciate by only about $7,000 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, CarsDirect and NADAGuides 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 2022 Honda Civic Sport $24,315 $289 68.0% Buy
2 2022 Subaru Ascent $33,420 $400 68.0% Buy
3 2022 Honda Ridgeline RTL $41,095 $496 68.0% Buy
4 2022 Subaru Forester $26,320 $318 67.0% Buy
5 2022 Subaru Outback Base $28,070 $338 65.0% Buy
6 2021 Mazda CX-5 Touring $29,685 $367 64.1% Buy
7 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Crosstrek $24,645 $290 64.0% Buy
8 2021 Subaru Forester $25,845 $302 64.0% Lease
9 2021 Mazda CX-9 Touring $39,025 $435 63.1% Lease
10 2022 Honda Pilot EX-L $40,285 $464 63.0% Lease
11 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe $28,185 $303 63.0% Lease
12 2022 Honda HR-V LX $22,645 $274 63.0% Buy
13 2022 Kia Seltos LX $23,665 $277 62.0% Lease
14 2022 Kia K5 Nightfall Edition $25,685 $287 61.0% Lease
15 2021 Mazda CX-30 Select $26,625 $309 61.0% Lease
16 2022 Kia Forte LXS $20,585 $252 61.0% Buy
17 2022 Kia Niro LX $25,865 $277 60.0% Lease
18 2022 Subaru Legacy Base $23,955 $290 60.0% Buy
19 2021 Mazda Mazda3 Preferred $26,495 $303 60.0% Lease
20 2022 Hyundai Sonata SE $25,175 $262 60.0% Lease
21 2022 Kia Sorento LX $30,665 $368 60.0% Buy
22 2022 Kia Sportage LX $25,265 $281 59.0% Lease
23 2022 Kia Stinger GT-Line $37,135 $421 59.0% Lease
24 2022 Hyundai Kona EV $35,225 $352 58.0% Lease
25 2021 Hyundai Nexo $60,120 $438 58.0% Lease
26 2022 Hyundai Elantra $20,875 $242 58.0% Lease
27 2022 Hyundai Ioniq $24,625 $263 57.0% Lease
28 2021 Hyundai Sonata SE $24,955 $245 57.0% Lease
29 2021 Hyundai Venue SE $19,935 $221 57.0% Lease
30 2021 Kia Forte LXS $20,385 $232 55.0% Lease
31 2021 Hyundai Kona $23,485 $248 54.0% Lease
32 2021 Hyundai Elantra $20,655 $235 54.0% Lease
33 2022 Kia Niro EV EX $41,165 $310 53.0% Lease
34 2022 Hyundai Tucson $27,875 $300 52.6% Lease
35 2021 Hyundai Tucson SE $24,885 $249 52.0% Lease
36 2022 Hyundai Kona $24,175 $281 50.9% Lease
37 2021 Hyundai Kona EV $38,575 $249 50.0% Lease
38 2021 Kia Niro EV EX $40,265 $300 49.0% Lease
39 2021 Hyundai Ioniq $34,250 $224 48.0% Lease
40 2022 Lexus GX 460 $58,730 $657 % Lease
41 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Laredo $41,570 $494 % Buy
42 2022 Chevrolet Traverse LT $38,270 $439 % Lease
43 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer LT $27,770 $279 % Lease
44 2022 Lexus RXL 350 $55,865 $647 % Lease
45 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Sahara 4xe $53,185 $393 % Lease
46 2021 Chevrolet Trax LT $25,890 $239 % Lease
47 2021 Volkswagen Arteon 2.0T SE $36,995 $423 % Lease
48 2021 Cadillac XT4 Luxury $37,865 $457 % Buy
49 2021 Dodge Durango GT $39,172 $473 % Buy
50 2022 Chevrolet Blazer LT $35,470 $361 % Lease
51 2021 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury $55,015 $661 % Buy
52 2022 Jeep Compass Latitude $29,575 $350 % Buy
53 2022 Lexus ES 250 $48,265 $589 % Buy
54 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo E $37,950 $373 % Lease
55 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer LT $25,870 $260 % Lease
56 2021 Chevrolet Colorado LT $36,470 $356 % Lease
57 2022 Lexus RX 350 $53,335 $579 % Lease
58 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sport S $39,950 $340 % Lease
59 2022 Chevrolet Trax LT $25,890 $266 % Lease
60 2021 Chevrolet Traverse LT $37,770 $394 % Lease
61 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury $39,665 $490 % Buy
62 2022 Ram 1500 BIG Horn $43,290 $498 % Lease
63 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L $44,415 $448 % Lease
64 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 PRO $39,995 $468 % Lease
65 2021 Cadillac XT5 Luxury $46,065 $512 % Lease
66 2022 Hyundai Venue SE IVT $20,125 $227 % Lease
67 2022 Chevrolet Camaro LT1 $37,665 $318 % Lease
68 2021 Chevrolet Blazer LT $34,670 $324 % Lease
69 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport $38,555 $428 % Lease





My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar No-Haggle, CarsDirect, and NADAGuides 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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About The Author

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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