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New Car Leasing, Part 2

Residual Values
One of the key elements of a lease is the residual value. The residual value, which represents the theoretical value of the vehicle at the end of the lease, is important because it has such a strong effect on the monthly payment. Lease payments are calculated by adding the average depreciation per month to the rent charge per month as shown by the lease payment equations below:

Avg. Depreciation Per Month = (Cap Cost minus Residual) / Months

Rent Charge Per Month = (Cap Cost plus Residual) x Factor

Base Monthly Payment = Avg. Depreciation per month  +  Rent Charge Per Month

Leasing companies often subvent (subsidize) leases by inflating the residual value above what the vehicle will be worth at the end of the lease. This artificially high residual can dramatically reduce the payment and lower the total cost of the lease. However, a higher residual usually means a higher purchase option price at the end of the lease and higher costs in the event of early termination.

Note: Although the above lease payment equations are relatively simple, there are many elements to a lease agreement that can quickly cloud the picture resulting in the consumer losing track of where the money is going. That's why we recommend the use of a top-notch leasing program such as Expert Lease Pro to help you crunch the numbers and avoid getting ripped off. See below for more info on Expert Lease Pro.

Common Questions about Residual Values

1. How do I obtain the residual value on a lease? Unfortunately the only source for the actual lease residual is the dealership. This information can sometimes be found in the fine print at the bottom of newspaper ads often described as lease-end value (LEV) or purchase option price. The residual value will also appear in the disclosure section of your lease agreement.

2. How do I tell if I am getting a good residual? We recommend comparing the residual from the dealer to the values in the National Auto Research "Black Book" Residual Guide. Residuals are expressed as a percentage of MSRP and indicate what the vehicle will be worth in 2, 3, 4 and 5 years. Black Book residuals are conservative and reflect a wholesale or trade-in type value. By looking at the difference between the residual set by the leasing company and Black Book's residual, you can get a feel for how aggressive the lease terms are. For example, if the dealer is quoting 59% of MSRP and Black Book lists 50% of MSRP for the same vehicle and lease term, the difference of 9% represents the subsidy on the residual. Typical residual subsidies range from 0 percentage points (no subsidy) to 10 or 11 points (very aggressive) over the Black Book number. Black Book residuals are included as part of Chart Software's Expert Lease Pro (see below).

3. Which is better, a high residual or a low residual? All other things being equal (vehicle price, money factor, months, miles and fees), a higher residual should result in lower monthly payments and total cost of the lease. However, there is a catch: If your lease has an inflated residual and you terminate the lease early, the leasing company will charge you for unpaid depreciation in addition to early termination fees. In other words, they will recover the entire subsidy on the residual which could easily be $1,000 to $2,000 (or more). So if you sign up for an aggressively subsidized lease, be sure you are in a position to go the distance and make all of the payments required by the lease.

4. I plan on buying the car at the end of the lease. Does this mean I should look for a low residual so that my purchase option price will be lower? No. If you do that, your monthly payments will be a lot higher. In spite of what dealers say, it's rarely - if ever - cheaper to lease first, then buy the car at the end, so if you're going to lease, be sure to lease the smart way: Aim for low monthly payments that result from a very aggressive, subsidized residual. Then, at the end of the lease (if you still want to buy the vehicle), negotiate for a price that is significantly lower than the inflated residual/purchase option price. If the leasing company won't budge on the price, turn in the keys and walk away.

About Expert Lease Pro

ExpertLease screen shotThis product from Chart Software is arguably the best software package available for analyzing automotive leases. Originally developed in 1992 by Chart Software founder Charles Hart, Expert Lease Pro has been used by over 5000 consumers and businesses to successfully negotiate the lease or purchase of both new and used vehicles. Although designed for consumer use, Expert Lease Pro has also been used by state prosecutors to investigate car dealers and lease companies for deceptive leasing practices. Expert Lease Pro is also used by many professional car buying services and consultants as their main tool for negotiating deals. Money magazine calls Expert Lease Pro "An Equalizer: a computer program that lets you fill in the missing details...Saved Leo Galanti $3,000!"

Here are some of the things you can do with Expert Lease Pro:

  • Analyze both leases and loans.
  • Spot hidden fees and undisclosed costs.
  • Make sure that trade equity and cash down payments are properly credited.
  • Tell you which is cheaper: Lease, Loan or Cash.
  • Make Lease Comparisons.
  • "Black Book" Residuals are included for all new vehicles.
  • Look up Dealer Invoice and MSRP for any new vehicle, including options.
  • Includes "CarDeals" report which lists all rebates and factory-to-dealer incentives.
  • Create tables of monthly payments.

Expert Lease Pro costs only $69.95 and it's money well spent. Think about it: If Expert Lease helps you spot one hidden fee or win just one concession during negotiations, it could easily pay for itself 10 times over. Listen to what some recent users of Expert Lease Pro have to say about the program:

"Thanks for putting me 'in the drivers seat' in more ways than one. I was in total control during the lease negotiation. I now have a new pickup and have got a really good deal by using your program as suggested in the user guide. Your program was worth every penny."

M. Sonnabend, 
Estimated savings with Expert Lease Pro: $2,000

"This is a really amazing product. I just got a new car with almost $2,000 savings to my pocket. This is the most powerful negotiation weapon I have ever seen. Thank you."

Yakov. P., Brooklyn, NY., via e-mail

"I made the decision to lease after careful consideration of the facts. As an accountant I knew the 'right' economic model could exist if only there was a way to calculate the Ever Changing Variables.

Your software got me the facts, quickly...I thank you, my family thanks you, several thousands ($$$) times over!!"

Scott and Diane Dunham, via e-mail

"(Expert Lease Pro) gives you a great psychological boost: You and the dealer have the same information and the means to manipulate it."

Wall Street Journal Smart Money Magazine

Click here for more information on Expert Lease Pro software.

Click here to purchase and download Expert Lease Pro using a secure on-line order form.


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