When it comes to new car ownership, leasing makes a lot of sense. If it fits your lifestyle (key distinguisher, by the way), leasing allows you to continually swap to a new car every couple of years with what’s generally considered a low down payment and low monthly payment. As long as you stay under the agreed-upon mileage limit, it could be quite beneficial to your monthly expenses.
But there’s another benefit of leasing that isn’t always talked about. If you’re inclined to buy the car—either cash or with finance—at the end of the term, you might be in a situation where the car has depreciated so much that you could own it for significantly cheaper than otherwise, such as off the lot as certified pre-owned. Not an uncommon trope with luxury cars. It all depends on the car’s residual value, and if that’s pretty darn low, this is worth considering.
Especially if it’s a luxury vehicle made by a brand with historically hilarious depreciation. Let’s go over a few candidates that are worth rooting for the demise of.
Kickin’ it off with a bang! Fingers-crossed, not the mechanical type. According to CarEdge.com, Jaguar has the worst residual value at 72.19%. This means the car lost just under 28% of its value after just three years. Who knows, it could drop even further—drop baby drop!
The F-Type is no exception, and this cat is definitely worth putting up with for three-plus years as its supercharged, 444-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 and rear-wheel drive is so incredibly-freaking fun. It’s also great to look at, quite luxurious inside, and its overall handling is quite good. There’s a little bit of aftermarket support for its engine, too, so once that horsepower figure no longer impresses, there’s room for more.
Currently, a 2024 R-Dynamic P450 RWD—the least expensive coupe model—comes out to $79,175. Lob 28% off, and that brings it down to just over $57,000. Still a decent chunk of change, but chock-full of equity in the looks and performance department. Which will also age more gracefully than many other modern cars.
Mercedes-Benz’s residual value is a little better than Jaguar’s, but still a whopping 78%, meaning it lost 22% of its value after three years.
So, why not spend those three or more years in opulent, E-Class comfort? The E 450 All-Terrain has an incredibly good ride quality and handles quite well for its class and stature. Thanks to the All-Terrain bit, it handles itself surprisingly well off-road—though, don’t expect to do any rock crawling. Finally, its turbocharged three-liter inline-six puts out 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, so it has ample power to get sideways in the dirt.
A 2023 model commands around $75,000, right before a new generation for 2024, which could bode extra well for depreciation—makes you wonder if even deeper, sweeter deals could be had with remaining 2023 stock in 2024. Based on the above 22% drop, $58,500 could be the figure to keep in mind after three years of faithful German luxury.
Right in the middle of the F-Type and All-Terrain is the Alfa Romeo Giulia, which has a residual value of about 75%. This means that once it adds 30,000 to 45,000 miles to its odometer, 25% of its value flies out the window. The math isn’t perfectly accurate, as the figures I found are based on 2021 numbers or about two years ago. But still, it’s fun to think about, and surely not a whole lot different now.
To calm our figures down a touch, let’s use the more value-minded Ti trim as an example, which comes to $44,685 out the door. At this level, you get rear-wheel drive, 280 horsepower, and 306 pound-feet of torque out of an entertaining turbo-four, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and a 0-60 time of just five seconds. Not bad at all. Plus, it’s better looking than many other compact luxury cars in its segment; you’re more likely to look back at it every time you park it.
After three years, the value could drop to as little as $33,500, possibly more. Three-years worth of $600 payments—as promoted on Alfa’s website at the moment—is $21,600, so imagine the number that the leasing company might give you after knocking off that chunk.
Do you have equity in a leased car?
If some of the numbers above don’t seem all that appealing, there’s one more factor to consider: Lease equity. According to Leasehackr, this is defined as the car’s payoff number against the potential price that you sell the car for. Meaning, you decide to keep the car post-lease and then resell it for a potential profit.
If a car were to beat depreciation—meaning be worth more money—that money could be used for something else, such as added to a down payment on another vehicle. If it’s worth $35,000, yet the lease company figured it’d be worth $29,000 at the end of the term, that’s potentially $6,000. While this was definitely a thing over the past couple of years with supply shortages, the market has started cooling off, so there’s less chance of it happening now. Though, you never know.
Regardless, it’s good to know you have options at the end of a lease. You could either take advantage of depreciation and own a car for less than market value, or potentially make a tiny piece of coin at the end and put it into something else.