The Best Budget-Friendly EV Lease Deals in 2021

Two people in a leased electric car

Electric cars are growing in popularity, but it’s still far more common for drivers to lease a new electric car rather than to buy one. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, as many as 80% of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the U.S. are being leased, as are 55% of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

One of the biggest factors encouraging people to lease their electric car is the purchase price: electric cars are more expensive than conventional cars, so leasing a new vehicle can be a more affordable option for many drivers.

But that’s not the only reason to consider an electric car lease. There are plenty of EV lease deals on the market that can get you behind the wheel of a fuel-efficient new car in no time, saving you money as you lower your emissions.

Buying an Electric Car vs. Leasing

Electric cars have lower fuel and maintenance costs when compared to conventional cars, making them a smart choice for many drivers. And while there are plenty of used electric cars available, these tend to be older models that don’t have the same range and battery capacity as the newest EVs.

For some drivers, that makes leasing an EV the better option. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of leasing an electric car.

Pros

Lower up-front costs. If you don’t have the money to spend on a brand-new EV, then leasing allows you to drive one of the latest models without paying the full sticker price to own it outright. Monthly lease payments are typically lower than loan payments, so you’ll have an easier time fitting it into your budget.

Less risk. One of the risks of owning an electric car is that you won’t be able to resell it for anywhere near what you paid for it. That’s because electric cars depreciate quickly, and old EV models can become obsolete in just a few years. With leasing, this isn’t a concern, because you can easily upgrade to a newer model at the end of your lease.

Manufacturer’s warranty. All new EVs come with a battery warranty for up to eight years. After that, you’ll have to pay for a replacement battery yourself. If you lease an EV, you’ll be covered for the full length of your lease and won’t have to worry about diminished battery capacity as the car ages.

Cons

Mileage limits. Most vehicle leases limit you to a certain number of miles per year — usually around 12,000. If you drive more than that, you’ll have to pay a fee of around 20 to 25 cents per mile, which can add up quickly.

Additional fees. You may be required to maintain a more expensive insurance policy than you otherwise would. You may also be liable for excess wear and tear costs, as well as an early termination fee to break the lease.

No tax credit. New EV purchases are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, and potentially state and local rebates as well. Drivers can’t claim the tax credit for leased vehicles, but the automaker can.

Depending on your tax situation, this may actually work out in your favor, because the discount will be reflected in your lease payments and you won’t have to wait until you file your taxes to claim it.

How to Lease an Electric Car

Salesperson explains an EV lease deal

If you’ve never leased a car before, then you may have questions about the process. In most cases, you can simply go to a dealership and test drive a car, just as you would if you were buying it. But the pricing and terminology involved are totally different, so it’s worth brushing up on the process before you start looking for an EV lease deal.

Research the Market

The best place to start your search is by looking up the latest EV models and comparing manufacturer-advertised leases for each one. While you may not find the exact same deal at your local dealership, this will give you a good baseline of what each car model is currently worth. You can also compare range, battery capacity, and other specs.

Do the Math

When you buy a car, you can use the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) as a starting point, and negotiate from there. With a lease, it’s a little trickier, because your payments will be based on the capitalized cost and the residual value.

In simple terms, what you’re paying for is the difference between what the car is worth now and what it will be worth at the end of your lease. Understanding this terminology before you get started will help you during the negotiation process.

Test Drive Your Top Picks

Next, go to a dealership and take the car for a spin. Not all models are available to be leased, and even if they are, they may not come with all of the same options that are available if you were to order the car for purchase.

You may have to visit multiple dealerships or test drive several cars before finding one that you like at a dealership near you.

Negotiate the Lease Terms

Most leases last for around two to four years, and may come with the option to buy the car when the lease ends. The terms will also stipulate who pays for maintenance and what level of insurance you’re expected to maintain.

Don’t just accept all of the terms of the as-is: You can negotiate the monthly payments, the mileage limit, and even the interest rate.

Follow the Maintenance Schedule

Once you’ve signed the lease and driven the car home, take good care of it and stick to the recommended maintenance schedule.

If your lease covers maintenance costs, great. If it doesn’t, it’s still important to take it in for servicing on time, because you’ll be responsible for any issues that turn up because you’ve neglected routine maintenance.

When the lease ends, you’ll schedule an inspection and return the car and the keys. If you want, you can lease a new EV from the same dealer.

The Best EV Lease Deals

EV lease deals vary widely from one manufacturer to the next, and even from region to region. These are some of the best deals we could find at the time of writing, but you’ll need to confirm that they’re still available at your local dealership.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV: $214/month

Chevrolet is currently advertising a national lease offer of $214/month for 36 months for the Chevy Bolt EV. It has a 30,000 mile limit over three years, which works out to 10,000 miles per year, less than some other lease deals.

Current lessees with a good credit score who qualify for a new lease only pay $214 at signing, while everyone else pays $1,714 at signing, making this an affordable way to get one of the most popular EVs on the market.

2021 Nissan LEAF: $199/month

The 2021 Nissan LEAF is available for $199/month for 36 months, with only $199 due at signing. The total cost comes out to $7,164 over the length of the lease, with the option to buy the car for an additional $14,679. With this offer, drivers are responsible for the cost of maintenance and repairs.

2021 Hyundai IONIQ Electric: $189/month

Hyundai is advertising a special lease offer available for $189/month for 36 months, with 12,000 miles per year included. With $1,999 due at lease signing, the up-front costs are higher than for some other lease offers. If you want, the 2020 model is available for a lower cost of $169/month and just $999 due at lease signing.

2021 Hyundai KONA Electric: $199/month

The Hyundai KONA Electric is also available for lease, with $199/month payments and $1,999 due at signing. Drivers pay 20 cents per mile over the 10,000/year limit, as well as a $400 disposition fee, which covers the dealer’s cost to resell it. This fee may be lower in some states, depending on local regulations.

2021 BMW i3: $299/month

The BMW i3 has the highest up-front cost on this list, with $3,999 due at signing and monthly payments of $299/month. It also gets fewer miles per charge — only 126 to 153 miles. Still, this is one of the best prices you’ll find for a BMW. It includes 30,000 miles over three years, and has a disposition fee of $350.

Choose the Right EV for You

Couple loading their electric car

These are just a few of the best lease deals available. You’ll also find lease deals for the Tesla Model 3, Kia Niro EV, Mustang Mach-E, and other popular models.

If you decide to lease an EV, be sure to look out for rebates such as the California Clean Fuel Reward and other regional incentives.

And don’t forget to look up deals that are specific to your area. For example, if you live in San Francisco or the Bay Area, where electric cars are common, there may be more options than in other areas of the country.

You’ll also want to think about other factors, such as your lifestyle and commuting habits, as well as whether you’ll need to install an EV charging station at home.

All told, leasing an EV can be a great way to drive a fuel-efficient vehicle without the down payment you’d need to buy a new car.

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