Plug-in electrics offer big savings with lease incentives
Right now, a lease on a new plug-in car can save you thousands over purchasing the car outright.
Lease deals from Ford, Toyota and Nissan all pitch 36-month contracts for less than $300 per month with less than $2,800 down. Most of these manufacturers also offer zero percent financing for up to 60 months.
But even if you want to purchase a plug-in outright, we found it's significantly cheaper to lease one and then buy it after the term expires.
Nissan, for example, is offering a $10,150 lease discount on the 2012 Leaf SV that allows customers to pay $199 per month after $1,999 down. When adding acquisition fees and the resulting purchase price after three years, the total cost is $25,847, nearly $3,000 less than buying one. Even if you receive the full $7,500 tax credit, the Leaf costs $28,550. The offer ends Jan. 31.
Sales of plug-in cars, both hybrid and full-electric, totaled more than 53,000 in 2012, according to data compiled by HybridCars.com. The Chevrolet Volt accounted for nearly half. An oversupply of lithium-ion batteries, slow or limited nationwide rollouts of new electric models and a general lack of demand has pushed automakers to roll out the kind of incentives buyers normally see on pickups and SUVs.
To that end, Ford is offering a $10,750 lease discount on the Focus Electric at Southern California dealers that sets a $249-per-month lease after $2,138 down. Ford said individual dealers determine the car's purchase price after three years, but even if the final price is greater than $15,198 (according to Kelley Blue Book), buyers will still save thousands off the $39,995 MSRP through this lease. For cash buyers, Ford is offering $2,000 rebates when financed through the company's credit arm and zero percent APR for 60 months. Their offers end April 1.
The Chevrolet Volt is available for $329 per month for 36 months after $2,599 down. Like Ford, Chevrolet dealers set the final purchase price. With an estimated $18,000 residual, this purchase is a wash, at about $32,114 total after a three-year-lease or $32,495 outright -- again, assuming you receive the full tax credit.
For the Toyota Prius Plug-in, which can only allow a maximum $2,500 tax credit due to its smaller battery, it's better to buy. Toyota offers $4,000 to $5,000 cash back and zero percent APR for 60 months, which on base models will equal a $28,985 price -- even better than the $269-per-month lease and $2,799 down.
Don't think automakers are suddenly generous or desperate. In a lease, the automakers own the vehicles, which allows them to claim the full federal tax credit and create such attractive monthly prices. So, in reality, Nissan and Ford are offering $3,000 rebates. That's still an impressive deal, especially considering that other similar models aren't discounted at all.
Unless you owe $7,500 worth of federal taxes on April 15, you won't receive the full $7,500 tax credit. Many automakers advertise the $7,500 credit to look like a cash rebate, except it's not. The IRS credits a variable amount up to $7,500 based on your taxable earnings, and only after all your deductions have been taken. According to the IRS, most American families earning less than $100,000 per year will not receive the full credit. Leases allow the buyer to save right away.
With $3,445 down, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV can be leased for $221 per month for 24 months. At the end, Kelley Blue Book estimates the i-MiEV will be worth $11,391, about 38 percent of its $30,675 price when new. Mitsubishi did not specify a purchase price when the lease expires, but at that low resale price, we bet it's safer to lease and score a fire-sale deal should you want to keep it.
Remember, not all these deals are available in all areas -- and not all dealers choose to participate -- so check online before heading out.
[Source: The automakers via Automobile]
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