What Makes a Good Lease Deal?

How do you know a good lease deal when you see one? Where do you find the best deals?

Being able to recognize a good deal — or a bad deal — is an important part of successful automobile leasing. Just because a lease seems to have a low monthly payment doesn’t make it a good deal.

Negotiating or finding a low lease price (cap cost) is an important part of a good car lease deal.

But so is getting a high lease-end residual value.

And a low money factor or lease rate. (see Car Lease Rates Explained)

And a low acquisition fee or bank fee.

It’s the combination of all of these elements that makes the best lease deal with the lowest monthly payment.

It’s possible, for example, to have a nice high residual and a not-so-good lease price, and still have a good deal overall. Or a low money factor might compensate for a low residual to make a good deal. All factors, in combination, must be taken into consideration when evaluating lease deals.

To the uninformed automotive consumer, a lease is nearly always seen as a good deal simply because the monthly payments are lower than loan payments for the same car.

This is how dealers want it, and it’s why they emphasize monthly payments, not prices.

Consumers who get caught in a dealer’s lease payment game will nearly always pay too much.

You can’t simply look at monthly payments to evaluate a car lease deal. You could easily pay more than sticker price and still have what you believe are attractive monthly payments. This is the reason many people who are leasing today are overpaying, and the reason dealers love to lease.

Dealers count on a high percentage of their leases being based on full MSRP, or more — to uninformed customers who don’t know any better.

So how do you know what is a good lease deal, and what isn’t?

Those car leasing ads in the newspaper — are they great deals or not? How about the deal your dealer just made to you — is it a fair offer or a rip-off? How about that car-lease TV commercial you saw last night?

See our article, Understanding Car Lease Ads, for some answers.

Lease Deal Analysis

If you’re not sure what a good car lease deal looks like, how will you know when you see one? How will you recognize a bad deal? How will you know what deal to ask for when you’re negotiating with your dealer?

It’s extremely important to be able to quickly determine whether a lease deal is worth considering, based on the combined interaction of cap cost, cap cost reductions, term, residual value, and money factor.

For example, it is not sufficient to know that you are getting a great interest rate (money factor), or a discounted price (cap cost) — because your lease-end residual value may have been adjusted lower to compensate.

Use a Lease Evaluation Calculator

You can do lease deal calculations and comparisons yourself, if you know how, or you can use the exclusive Lease Deal Evaluator calculator — a part of our optional Lease Kit — that enables you to easily size up any lease deal for any vehicle make and model. It bases its evaluation on the combination of all lease factors. It’s a great tool that helps you equalize the odds in the game of leasing.

It’s one thing to know what a good deal is, it’s another to actually find one. Where are the good deals to be found?

Where to Find Good Car Lease Deals

There are essentially three ways to find good car lease deals:

1. Promotional Offers -Newspaper, radio, and TV ads are prime sources for locating special promotional car lease deals, as are car makers’ web sites. Car manufacturers frequently offer special limited-time subsidized, or subvented, lease deals on some of their models. They do this by discounting price and either boosting residuals or lowering interest rates (money factor), or both. The combination of all these elements makes for some great deals.

If you notice in newspaper ads that all your local dealers for a particular manufacturer are offering the same or similar lease deals, it’s likely to be one of that manufacturer’s subvented deals, and probably worth your serious consideration. Manufacturer-sponsored lease deals are nearly always genuinely good deals – better than a deal you could negotiate for yourself. Just make sure you like the car model being promoted and can live with any restrictions that may be specified in the small print of these ads.

You may also must have a good credit report and credit score to actually get the deal as advertised. Be sure you know your credit standing before you visit a dealer to lease.

Get your Experian Credit Report FREE at freecreditreport.com

2. Car pricing services – Get discounted prices from one or more of the popular car referral or pricing services now available on the web, such as our own  Car Deal Finder. You simply tell us what vehicle you want, we contact dealers in your area who have agreed to provide the best prices, and the dealers contact you to present their offers. It’s best to ask for quotes from multiple dealers at the same time so that you’ll have plenty of information to compare.

We recommend Edmunds.com which is unique in that they not only show you the MSRP, dealer discounted prices, incentives and rebates but you can also do all the rest of your research there to find specs and features, safety and reliability ratings, test results, and actual consumer reviews.

This technique can get you the best lease prices when fully subvented deals are not available from the manufacturer for the vehicle you want. A highly discounted price combined with an average money factor and residual is still a good deal.

3. The Best Car Deals web site contains a list of current lease deals on many makes and models. The deals come from manufacturers who are placing special lease prices, high residuals, and low money factors on certain models. The deals are genuinely good deals but you should make sure you can live with the term (usually 36 months), annual mileage limit (usually 10K-12K miles per year), and the specified down payment, if any.

See Cheapest Cars to Lease for an explanation of how to determine which car makes/models make the best and cheapest lease cars. The best lease deals are not necessarily on the cheapest car, but the one with the highest residual value.

Don’t Forget Insurance

Lease finance companies require full coverage insurance, which might be more than you normally have had on other vehicles. Paying too much for insurance can offset your savings on a great lease deal. Since full coverage rates can vary widely between insurance providers, it’s always a good idea to check different companies. Get your free auto insurance quote from Esurance in minutes & start saving today!


Using these methods will get you good lease deals but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get the best deal possible. A little negotiating and haggling may still be required if you want a better deal.

Please read the next topic, Negotiating Car Lease Deals.


adminFinding Good Car Lease Deals