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Illustration of a calculator with the tape unravelling upward, forming a road with a car going up the steep incline
Kiersten Essenpreis for Money

Leasing used to be the cheapest way to get a late-model luxury car into your garage. That’s just another thing COVID-19 has changed.

Before the pandemic, leasing offered a way for buyers to keep themselves in a steady stream of new vehicles with lower monthly payments than an auto loan. Lessees would never own their vehicles, but rapid price depreciation and predictable maintenance costs would soften the blow.

Nowadays, a buyer in search of a new luxury vehicle at an affordable price is better served by a 72-month auto loan, says Tyson Jominy, vice president of data & analytics at J.D. Power.

He describes this as a “staggeringly poor time to be leasing,” and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Here’s what’s going on.

The cost of buying vs leasing a car