Happiness is a 3-year lease

More and more drivers are concluding that they don’t need to own. And our survey shows that lessees are almost as happy as buyers.

Published: April 08, 2015 10:20 AM
Photo: Paul Sahre

Leasing a car used to be just for the wealthy—or for those who wanted to look the part. Now it has gone mainstream.

Indeed, 23 percent of all vehicle transactions last year were leases, according to the most recent industry data. More car shoppers are discovering that leasing works for satisfying Mercedes tastes on a Mazda budget.

And people who lease seem generally pleased with their decision, according to Consumer Reports’ latest Annual Auto Survey, tallying more than 46,845 leased new 2011-15 model year vehicles driven by our subscribers.

We also found, in a follow-up survey regarding 11,215 leased vehicles, that more than half of drivers who are currently leasing also had leased their previous vehicle.

What’s more, experienced lessees are far more brand-loyal than other drivers. About 65 percent of lessees in our survey stayed with the same brand when they signed their current lease. “That’s double the amount of those who financed or bought their last car,” said Simon Slater, Ph.D., Consumer Reports senior research associate.

Leasing is gaining in allure because shoppers can get a more expensive vehicle for their money. (The reason: Monthly payments are tied only to the car’s depreciation rather than to its entire value.) And lease-return programs lend themselves to drivers retaining the same brand because the lessee will need new wheels when the term expires. Also, automakers often offer great incentives.

But does leasing deliver more owner satisfaction than ownership or financing?

ConsumerReports.org subscribers can read the full article, complete with survey findings by brand.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the May 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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