Choosing a car that maintains its value can help you score lower monthly payments.
Leasing has become more and more common as car prices continue to rise. If you’ve decided to lease instead of buy, choosing a car that holds its value and doing your research can help you score a good deal. Reading through the terms of your contract carefully will help you understand the full costs of leasing.
1. Pick a car that maintains its value
While you’re on the hook for interest, taxes and fees when you lease a car, you’re also responsible for depreciation for the years you drive it. When you choose a car that maintains its residual value — how much your car is worth when the lease ends — you’ll spend less overall.
Online resources like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book publish annual lists of car models that keep the most value. In 2019, that car was the 2019 Toyota Tacoma: It maintained nearly 70% of its value after three years. This is extremely high when compared to the national average of 50%. The better your car holds its value, the lower your lease payments are.
2. Understand the car’s price
Once you’ve found a car you’re interested in leasing, research prices before you visit a dealership. Models come with different options and features, so view average sales prices from sources like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to keep yourself informed. Keep an eye on the invoice price — the price the dealership paid for the car — and any other rebates that might apply so you can negotiate more easily.
3. Check manufacturer leasing specials
Manufacturers often offer leasing specials to help create more demand for a specific model. Many focus on getting the monthly payment low — usually by reducing the interest rate — or requiring a minimal down payment. You can typically find these special offers on the manufacturer’s website. When browsing deals, pay attention to how much you’ll have to put down, signing fees you might have to pay and how long the lease will last.
You should also be on the lookout for restrictions, since lease specials tend to come with plenty of fine print. Often manufacturers will put tight restrictions on mileage and increase the overage fee should you go over the limit. To make the most of a leasing special, compare it to other manufacturers and make sure the incentives actually benefit you.
4. Get quotes from multiple dealerships
Once you know which car has a good resale value and you understand its average price, take some time to request quotes from multiple dealerships. You should ask if the dealership has the car you want in stock — including any add-on features you want — and what leasing offers are available.
Specify how much you can afford to pay up front, including the down payment and drive-off fees. Then ask what kind of interest rate — known as the lease factor — you can expect. You can use our car lease calculator from here to see how much a lease payment will be based on the car’s price, interest rate and fees.
Shopping for a car locally?
5. Compare leasing offers
Read through the fine print of the different leasing offers you’re considering to understand the full costs involved. A leasing special that offers a lower interest rate but comes with more fees and a larger down payment may cost you more in the long run than opting for a higher rate with fewer fees and money up front.
After you’ve gathered a few quotes and compared them thoroughly, get back to the dealership that offered the most bang for your buck. If two dealerships offered similar terms, you might be able to use a competitor’s quote to negotiate a better deal.
6. Customize your lease to meet your needs
Once you’ve found a leasing offer you think you’re interested in, be exact when you discuss the terms. Most people choose a 36-month lease with the ability to drive 12,000 miles per year, but work with the salesperson to customize it to fit your exact needs. Negotiating a higher mileage limit from the get-go can help you avoid overage fees down the road. You’ll also want to ask about your end-of-lease options — especially if you think you might want to buy the car when your term is up.
Getting a good deal on a car lease starts with choosing a car that maintains its value and comparing offers from multiple dealerships. Read through the terms and conditions carefully so you understand any fees you might be saddled with at the end of your contract.
When you’re ready to get started, our guide to leasing a car can help walk you through the process.