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 2021 Toyota Tacoma SR5, with a residual value of 78% over 3 years. With an MSRP of $37,407, that means it will depreciate by only about $6,500 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 2021 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $37,407 $331 78.0% Lease
2 2022 Nissan Frontier SV CC SWB $39,455 $446 72.0% Lease
3 2021 Toyota 4Runner SR5 $43,064 $481 70.0% Lease
4 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe $28,425 $313 68.0% Lease
5 2021 Toyota Highlander LE $40,378 $452 66.0% Lease
6 2021 Nissan Frontier SV CC SWB $35,700 $420 66.0% Buy
7 2021 Toyota Venza LE $34,014 $384 66.0% Lease
8 2021 Toyota RAV4 LE $29,184 $345 65.0% Buy
9 2021 Honda Passport EX-L $38,035 $373 65.0% Lease
10 2022 Kia Carnival MPV LX $33,275 $407 64.0% Buy
11 2022 Kia Seltos LX $23,665 $277 64.0% Lease
12 2021 Toyota C-HR LE $23,573 $277 64.0% Buy
13 2022 Kia K5 Nightfall Edition $25,685 $287 64.0% Lease
14 2022 Kia Sorento LX $30,665 $368 63.0% Buy
15 2022 Honda Pilot EX-L $40,285 $423 63.0% Lease
16 2022 Honda HR-V LX $22,645 $274 63.0% Buy
17 2022 Nissan Pathfinder S $37,130 $416 62.0% Lease
18 2021 Kia Sorento LX $30,565 $349 62.0% Lease
19 2022 Hyundai Sonata SE $25,175 $264 62.0% Lease
20 2022 Acura MDX Technology $52,945 $618 61.0% Lease
21 2022 Kia Niro LX $25,865 $277 61.0% Lease
22 2021 Nissan TITAN S CC $44,910 $545 61.0% Buy
23 2021 Honda Accord Sport $28,445 $332 61.0% Lease
24 2022 Toyota Prius Prime LE $29,474 $335 60.0% Lease
25 2022 Kia Sportage LX $25,265 $275 60.0% Lease
26 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SE $41,424 $460 60.0% Lease
27 2021 Hyundai Venue SE $19,935 $221 60.0% Lease
28 2022 Hyundai Elantra $20,875 $245 60.0% Buy
29 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe $28,185 $303 59.0% Lease
30 2022 Kia Stinger GT-Line $37,135 $421 59.0% Lease
31 2022 Hyundai Tucson $26,175 $303 58.0% Lease
32 2021 Hyundai Nexo $60,120 $438 58.0% Lease
33 2021 Hyundai Sonata SE $24,955 $245 58.0% Lease
34 2021 Kia Niro LX $25,865 $267 58.0% Lease
35 2021 Acura TLX Technology $42,545 $460 57.0% Lease
36 2021 Hyundai Elantra $20,655 $235 56.0% Lease
37 2021 Kia Forte LXS $20,385 $232 56.0% Lease
38 2021 Hyundai Kona $23,485 $248 56.0% Lease
39 2021 Nissan Murano S $34,420 $404 56.0% Buy
40 2022 Kia Niro EV EX $41,165 $310 56.0% Lease
41 2021 Toyota Mirai XLE $52,330 $574 55.0% Lease
42 2021 Hyundai Tucson SE $24,885 $249 54.0% Lease
43 2021 Nissan Maxima SV $38,635 $451 54.0% Lease
44 2022 Nissan LEAF S $28,350 $295 54.0% Lease
45 2021 Hyundai Kona EV $38,575 $249 52.0% Lease
46 2021 Nissan Altima 2.5 S $26,030 $310 52.0% Buy
47 2021 Kia Niro EV EX $40,265 $300 52.0% Lease
48 2022 Hyundai Kona EV $35,225 $352 50.0% Lease
49 2020 Kia Niro EV EX $40,265 $291 48.0% Lease
50 2021 Honda Clarity $34,415 $291 47.0% Lease
51 2021 Hyundai Ioniq $34,250 $239 46.0% 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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