Leasing a car provides an affordable way to drive a new vehicle without buying it outright. With a lease, you essentially rent the car for a fixed period, usually 2-4 years, by paying for the vehicle’s depreciation during your lease term plus fees and interest. At the end, you return the car rather than own it. Leasing can be more budget-friendly than traditional car buying and financing.
Timing is critical to get the best lease deal. The optimal time to start a new car lease depends on several factors – seasonal promotions, model year changeovers, personal finances, and more. Properly timing your lease agreement can help you score lower monthly payments, bigger savings, and greater overall value. Understanding when dealerships and manufacturers offer the most attractive lease terms and aligning with your situational needs allows you to lease strategically. Here’s an in-depth look at how to optimize your lease for maximum savings.
Factors to Consider for Optimal Lease Timing
Like many big ticket purchases, car leases are subject to seasonal discounts and promotions. Dealerships typically offer the best lease terms in the Fall and Winter months when sales are slower. September through November is prime time to look for lease specials as dealers are eager to clear outgoing model year inventory. Additional lease incentives may be advertised around major holidays like Christmas, Presidents’ Day, and Memorial Day when showroom traffic increases.
Aim to start your lease search 4-6 weeks ahead of a major holiday or seasonal sale period for access to the best promotional offers. Avoid starting a lease in the Spring and Summer months when demand is higher and you’ll have less negotiating leverage.
Model Year Changeovers
The transition between outgoing and incoming model years is another opportune time to lease. Outgoing models are discounted more heavily to make room for new inventory. You can find the best offers on a current model year vehicle in August and September before the new models come out.
On the flipside, if you want the latest model year, try to delay your lease until the new cars start arriving, usually between September and November. You’ll pay MSRP for a brand new design, but leasing early in the model year means you’ll be driving the current style for more of your lease term before the next redesign comes out.
Personal Financial Situation
Your personal financial timeline also plays a role in determining optimal lease timing. Here are some scenarios to consider:
- Waiting for stable income – If you’re about to graduate, change jobs, or relocate, it may be better to delay a lease until you have steady income to qualify and set your budget.
- Getting a tax refund – Time your lease to align with your tax refund for the most cash in hand to pay any initial fees.
- Access to special financing – Take advantage of manufacturer financing deals that may be offered certain months and allow you to lease at little to no interest, especially if you have good credit.
- End of previous loan/lease – Try to schedule a lease to start just as your current loan or lease ends to transition easily into the new vehicle.
How Long in Advance to Shop for a Lease?
Once you’ve determined the best timeframe to start your new lease, you’ll want to begin researching lease offers and negotiating with dealers about one month in advance. This gives you enough lead time to compare multiple options without locking yourself in too early. You can request quotes and pricing information to find the best specials during your target leasing period.
When visiting dealerships, let them know you plan to lease a vehicle next month and see what upcoming promotions may be available. With 1-2 weeks until you’re ready to sign, you can finalize negotiations and paperwork knowing you secured the best possible deal. Avoid signing a lease more than 3-4 weeks in advance or new incentives could surface and leave money on the table.
The Best Times to Lease a Car in 2023
Now that we’ve covered the key factors for optimal lease timing, here is an overview of the best months to lease a new car based on seasonal promotions, model year changeovers, and sales events:
- August & September 2023 – Take advantage of deep discounts on outgoing 2023 models to get the best bang for your buck. You’ll find limited availability but substantial cost savings before the model year turnover. Shop Labor Day sales events in early September.
- October & November 2023 – Choose from a full selection of new 2024 models and lease early in the model year for maximum time with the latest styling and features. Keep an eye out for lease incentives around Halloween and Thanksgiving.
- December 2023 – Look for year-end sales and specials timed with holiday shopping and gift giving. Dealerships want to finish the year strong and will offer premiums on high-demand models.
- January & February 2024 – Kick off the year with a new car by capitalizing on Presidents’ Day promotions and early 2024 incentives. Low showroom traffic works to your advantage for negotiating leverage.
- March & April 2024 – As winter turns to spring, shops want to thaw sales with aggressive lease deals. St. Patrick’s Day and Easter specials can offer big savings.
Other Tips for the Best Lease Deals
Beyond timing your lease strategically, there are a few other tips to ensure you get the lowest possible payment and overall cost:
- Negotiate the selling price – Focus on lowering the purchase price rather than monthly payment or fees. A lower capitalized cost upfront will reduce your monthly payment over the lease term.
- Understand the money factor – Ask for buy rate when negotiating to get the true interest cost. A lower money factor saves on financing charges.
- Limit mileage – Opt for a lower annual mileage allowance if you don’t drive much. Every mile under saves you money.
- Make a larger down payment – Reducing the capitalized cost with a bigger down payment saves on depreciation charges.
- Skip add-ons and fees – Reject extras like extended warranties that raise the total lease cost.
The best time to lease a car occurs when you combine optimal seasonal timing, strategic model year selection, and smart negotiating tactics. Consider the promotions, inventory changes, and sales events timed with holidays throughout the year and you can maximize your leasing dollar. Pair this with good credit, reasonable mileage needs, and significant down payment to ensure you drive away with the lowest possible payment. Monitor lease offers beginning 30-60 days before your ideal lease start date and pounce once the right deal emerges. With the keys to strategic leasing in hand, you’ll be well on your way to driving a brand new car for less.