The September Best Lease Deals for Sedans show it can pay to be a contrarian.
When everybody else is so gaga for trucks, crossovers and SUVs in the midst of a new-vehicle shortage, you’re more likely to find the vehicle you want, with a more-favorable deal, if you look at sedans, instead.
Some buyers seem to be doing just that. Hyundai Motor America reported, for instance, its car sales were up about 8% in August versus August 2020, while its truck sales were down about 10% for the month, thanks in part to inventory “challenges.”
Meanwhile, Market Scan picked both the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sedan and the 2021 Hyundai Sonata internal-combustion model as Best Lease Deals for September.
New-vehicle inventory, cars and trucks together, is down by 1.4 million vehicles, or 56%, as of mid-August, compared with the same period last year, and down 2.5 million, or more than 70%, versus pre-COVID 2019, according to Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive.
Analysts blame high consumer demand and low supplies, due in part to a computer-chip shortage, for the low selection of unsold cars and trucks.
That makes finding exactly the car you want a challenge.
Here’s the list of Best Lease Deals for Sedans, for September:
Best Lease Deals for Sedans
1. 2021 Polestar 2
- $61,200 average suggested retail
- $598.76 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
There might be an opportunity in this month’s Best Lease Deal on the 2021 Polestar 2, an all-electric vehicle from Volvo Car’s Polestar sub-brand. The 2022 model, which is due to go on sale around October, gets a more affordable version, with a single electric motor, instead of the standard, two-motor set-up in the 2021, and a lower sticker price, starting at about $45,900 suggested retail. That’s as low as $34,900 after potential federal, state, and utility incentives, the company says. Competing with the newer, cheaper model is a good reason for Polestar to give the remaining 2021s a marketing push, in the form of a good lease deal. Click here to read our review of the dual-motor 2021 Polestar 2 and for comparison the single-motor 2022 Polestar 2.
- That monthly payment isn’t necessarily out of line, considering the sticker price. The monthly payment on the comparably priced 2020 Jaguar XF (below) is higher.
- Tax breaks. Volvo Cars says the 2021 Polestar 2 qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax break, plus another $2,000 in certain states.
- The two electric motors generate a total of 408 hp, and 487 ft-lbs. of torque, the twisting power responsible for launching a car from a standing start.
- The upcoming, single-motor version of the 2022 Polestar 2 gives up some performance versus the dual-motor, but it gets greater driving range on a single charge, largely because it’s lighter.
- The cool, Polestar sub-brand and the space-age, electric-vehicle technology help, but the Polestar 2 is still pretty pricey – for what most people would probably consider a fancy, electric Volvo.
2. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
- $31,958.33 average suggested retail
- $327.08 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
You just might be able to find one, since it’s a car, and not a truck, and trucks are in greater demand. Hyundai Motor America reports Hyundai Sonata sales, for all models, are up 62% year-to-date through August, but up only 4% for the month of August, versus August 2021. Meanwhile, its truck sales were down for the month, also likely because of inventory. Hyundai says inventory has become a “challenge,” because of the computer-chip shortage.
- The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid gets up to 686 miles of range from gasoline and battery power, for an EPA-estimated 52 mpg combined city-highway fuel economy.
- The 2022 version of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a carry-over model from 2021, so that lowers “fear of missing out,” or FOMO, for short. There’s no need to skip the 2021 and wait for 2022.
- Hyundai’s so-called SmartSense advanced driver assistance systems include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Advanced Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go
- Some reviewers say the ride and handling experience is ho-hum, although they give high marks for the level or features for the money, a key part of the brand’s appeal.
- Front-drive only, no AWD option
3. 2021 Toyota Corolla
- $24,629.09 average suggested retail
- $258.29 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The 2021 Toyota Corolla is still pretty striking in terms of exterior design, considering the Corolla, now in its 12th product generation, was all-new in 2019 for the 2020 model year. The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition adds updated suspension changes, a bold body kit and new 18-inch wheels. All 2021 Corolla grades add Android Auto compatibility and two additional airbags. Click here to read our overview of the Toyota Corolla.
- Affordable. There aren’t many cars – or trucks or crossovers — on the U.S. market nowadays, in the mid-$20,000 range suggested retail.
- Warranty. ToyotaCare covers scheduled maintenance for 2 years, 25,000 miles.
- Safety. 2021 models add rear side airbags, bringing to car’s total to ten airbags. Standard safety features include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Automatic High Beams, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and more.
- It’s pretty small, obviously, but the back seat in the sedan isn’t bad compared with many competitors.
- Blind Spot Monitor with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert is optional instead of standard on less-expensive versions.
4. 2021 Infiniti Q50
- $47,975 average suggested retail
- $513.08 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
From least expensive to most expensive, the Infiniti Q50 comes with trim and equipment packages called Pure, Luxe, Sensory, and Red Sport 400. That last one gets a 400-hp, twin-turbo V-6. The others get a 300-hp version of the same engine. Infiniti added the “Sensory” trim and equipment level a year ago. Features for “Sensory” include sportier front and rear exterior styling.
- Safety. For the 2021 model year, Infiniti made standard driver assist technologies that were previously from the Luxe grade and higher, like Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and more.
- Posh interiors, although many features are optional, or limited to a particular package.
- Wide range of choices.
- Pricey at the high end.
- Some reviewers criticize the ride and handling for being too stiff.
5. 2021 Acura TLX
- $46,275 average suggested retail
- $508.73 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Through its captive finance company, Acura is offering a Best Lease Deal on the 2021 Acura TLX. At the same time, Acura is rolling out a new, more powerful, and more expensive variant beginning in June: the 2021 TLX Type S. It starts at $53,325 suggested retail. That high sticker may add some appeal to the less-expensive versions, and a lease deal also helps.
- The 2021 Acura TLX is a redesigned model that was just launched a year ago.
- Safety. It’s the first model in the Honda-Acura lineup to get a new, passenger-side airbag designed to mitigate potential brain injury in front-end, angled collisions. It uses three inflated chambers designed to “catch” the occupant’s head, like a catcher’s mitt.
- Value for the money. According to Acura, the 2021 TLX is the most affordable and the most powerful model in a competitive set that includes the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. (The affordability claim compares models equipped with optional all-wheel drive.)
- All-wheel drive is optional, suggested retail $2,000.
- Acura’s naming scheme. The ILX and the TLX are sedans. The RDX and MDX are SUVs. The NSX is an exotic sportscar. To be fair, there aren’t many Acura models to learn, and other brands aren’t always any better at coming up with memorable names that convey some meaning.
6. 2021 Honda Civic Sedan
- $25,515 average suggested retail
- $277.82 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The 2021 Honda Civic Sedan has been a lame duck ever since its all-new, redesigned replacement arrived in June, the 2022 Honda Civic Sedan. That makes it a good time to get a good lease deal on the outgoing model, while they last. Market Scan also included the new, 2022 Honda Civic Sedan as one of its Best Lease Deals for the month: $25,515 average suggested retail; $286.32 average best monthly lease payment (non-captive). Click here to read our review of the Honda Civic Sedan.
- Affordable. Automakers are switching to offer bigger and more profitable trucks and crossovers, while passenger cars in the low- to mid-$20,000s range are getting scarce.
- Safety. All Honda Civic sedans get the so-called Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technologies. Those include Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System, with Forward Collision Warning, plus Lane Keeping Assist System and more.
- Loyalty. IHS Markit said in 2020 that the Honda Civic had the highest repurchase loyalty in the car segment.
- FOMO: The 2021 model misses out on changes for the redesigned 2022 model, which include upscale, high performance Si and Type-R variants. The good news is, there’s a Best Lease Deal on the 2022, too.
- The 2021 styling last got facelifted in 2018, and it’s getting a little dated.
7. 2020 Jaguar XF
- $62,110 average suggested retail
- $683.32 average best monthly lease payment (non-captive)
Why We Picked It
The monthly lease payment on the 2020 Jaguar XF is what one could expect for a car that costs more than $62,000 with options, taxes and fees. The 2020 Jaguar XF missed out on a repositioning for the 2021 model year, including a new, lower-priced, entry-level trim and equipment package, and that could explain why there are still some unsold 2020s, when many other brands are well into the 2022 model year.
- The Jaguar EliteCare warranty is 5 years, 60,000 miles, with scheduled maintenance included.
- Scarcity. Sales of the Jaguar XF are a tiny fraction of competitors like the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes-Benz E Class, according to Motor Intelligence.
- Exterior styling
- FOMO: Besides the lower-priced, entry-level model for 2021, the 2020 model missed out on some other improvements, like a new infotainment system and “over-the-air” software updates that don’t require a trip to the dealership.
8. 2021 Lexus ES
- $46,373.18 average suggested retail
- $526.23 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The 2022 Lexus ES gets a mid-lifecycle facelift, so it’s a logical time to put a Best Lease Deal on the outgoing 2021 model. The current, seventh-generation Lexus ES debuted in 2018 as a 2019 model. Last year, for the 2021 model year, the Lexus ES got a new all-wheel-drive model, the 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD, and the limited-production 2021 ES 350 Black Line Special Edition. High-end versions of the 2021 Lexus ES also got Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Click here to read our review of the Lexus ES.
- Styling. The Lexus ES and the Toyota Camry share Toyota’s GA-K platform, short for Global Architecture. The Lexus version looks and feels the part, of an entry-level luxury sedan. Some product generations ago, pundits tended to dismiss Lexus ES sedan “a really, really nice Toyota Camry.”
- Greater availability of all-wheel drive
- Safety features, such as (optional) Standard Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
- FOMO: The 2021 model misses out on improvements that come with the facelift for 2022, such as Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, standard across the Lexus ES sedan lineup.
- The styling cuts both ways. The current-generation Lexus ES was an early mover in the industry’s “truly giant front grille” styling trend. It’s a certifiable trend, though, so a lot of customers must like it.
9. 2021 Toyota Avalon
- $41,041 average suggested retail
- $479.67 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The 2021 Toyota Avalon is another product based on the Toyota New Global Architecture. The 2021 gets optional all-wheel drive, a first for the Toyota Avalon model. Fuel economy isn’t bad for the AWD model, an EPA-estimated 34 miles per gallon highway, 25 mpg city. There’s also a new, blacked-out Nightshade package of features and options, for 2021. Click here to read our review of the Toyota Avalon.
- Greater all-wheel-drive availability
- Safety systems include: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams.
- Roomy interior
- Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Rear Cross Traffic Braking are optional, on less-expensive versions.
- The Avalon is about to become an orphan. It goes away after the 2022 model.
10. 2021 Mazda6
- $31,031 average suggested retail
- $361.23 average best monthly lease payment (non-captive)
Why We Picked It:
The 2021 Mazda6 is truly a lame duck – Mazda North American Operations confirms it’s discontinuing the Mazda6 after the 2021 model year, along with the Mazda CX-3 subcompact crossover, citing “shifting consumer needs.” That’s an apparent reference to the consumer stampede to pickups, larger crossovers and SUVs. But that’s probably good news, if you’re in the market for a Best Lease Deal, on an attractive sedan like the 2021 Mazda6. Click here to see our review of the Mazda6, one of the highest-scoring family sedans we’ve tested.
- Timing. A discontinued model is a classic opportunity to get a good deal, unless it’s some scarce, collectible classic people want to snap up before it disappears. The Mazda6 is a fine car, but it’s not one of those rarities.
- Affordability. A sticker price of around $30,000, especially including options, taxes and fees, as Market Scan does, isn’t that high, by current standards.
- Safety. What Mazda calls i-Activsense standard safety features include Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop-and-go function, Advanced Smart City Brake Support with Pedestrian Detection, Smart Brake Support with Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
- Front-drive only, no all-wheel drive.
- Stocks are probably dwindling. Mazda North American Operations reports U.S. Mazda6 sales in August were down 24% versus August 2020, and down 35% year to date.
Market Scan Information Systems Inc., Camarillo, Calif., identifies Best Lease Deals based on constantly scanning actual offers in the market, and comparing the best average monthly lease payment it can find, versus an average suggested retail price for that model. Market Scan’s monthly payment is all-inclusive, including options, taxes and dealer fees. Therefore, it may not be as low as special lease deals advertised on dealer and manufacturer web sites, which typically don’t include taxes or fees, and may be for a stripped-down model that lacks popular options. All of those factors would serve to raise the real-world monthly payment. Market Scan also assumes: a 36-month lease term; a customer cash contribution of 5% of suggested retail; and a prime-rated credit score of 720. Deals may vary by region, and subject to change without notice. Market Scan doesn’t disclose which lender is making the offer, but it does say whether it’s the lender’s “captive” finance company.
FAQ (frequently asked questions)
If you can’t simply wait several weeks or months for a new vehicle that’s in short supply, lucky you. But what if you really need a new car or truck and can’t wait?
Auto industry experts recommend expanding your online search to a bigger radius, maybe even out of state. You never know, dealerships in the Sunbelt might have more all-wheel-drive cars than they need, and dealerships in the Snowbelt might have too many convertibles. With inventories tight all over, dealerships are also getting good at trading with each other, to find scarce inventory. It also may be necessary to settle for your second or third choice, or possibly a car instead of a truck, if a car is all you can get.
It seems like the best deals are on low-interest loans?
The fact is that interest rates in the U.S. economy in general are close to historical lows, and that makes it cheaper for banks, and automakers and their captive lenders, to offer cut-rate loans as opposed to lease deals. “Lease is going to be under threat,” in a low-interest-rate environment, said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive. In addition, truck buyers are more inclined to take out a loan instead of a lease. That’s partly for practical reasons, because truck owners put a lot of wear and tear on their trucks, and partly philosophical. Truck owners on average prefer “buy and hold” as a strategy, instead of leasing a new vehicle every three years. As trucks take over the market, interest in leasing does appear to be down.
So why lease?
Auto industry analysts are a little mystified that lease share remains below pre-COVID averages, since new-vehicle prices are way up, and leasing allows the customer to get more vehicle for the money, or the same vehicle for less money, compared with a loan. That’s because the lease customer in effect borrows only the difference between the up-front cost and the residual value, what the vehicle is estimated to be worth at lease-end. A loan customer borrows the entire amount. On average, lease payments are around $100 per month cheaper than the average loan payment, according to Experian Automotive.