The ongoing shortage of new cars and trucks means that just finding the car or truck you want may be as big a challenge as it is to find a great lease deal. Still, it’s worth knowing what the Best Lease Deals for SUVs and Crossovers are in September 2021.
September is the start of the traditional model-year changeover. It’s the time of year when many automotive brands normally would crank up discounts on last year’s models, in September and October. This year, that would be 2021s, to make room for the 2022s.
The model-year changeover is proceeding, but on average, the discounts are lacking because of the inventory shortage, analysts said. Nick Woolard, senior director, Manufacturer & Partner Analytics for TrueCar, estimates new-vehicle inventory for sale is about 78% 2021s, and 20% 2022s. However, he said total inventory is roughly one-third what it was in 2019, pre-Covid.
The computer chip shortage hasn’t spared any automotive brands and it seems to have hit the domestic brands harder. Because of temporary production shutdowns, many domestic models are in short supply.
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Domestics are notably absent from this month’s list of Best Lease Deals, except for the 2021 Chevrolet Trax. It was the sole exception last month, too. With their bigger SUVs in small supply and big demand, there’s not much reason for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis to put lease deals on them.
Here’s the list:
1. 2021 Hyundai Kona EV
- $42,783.33 average suggested retail;
- $303.21 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Market Scan cites three versions of the Hyundai Kona in its Top 20 Best Lease Deals for the month, led by No.1, the 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric (EV). It has an average sticker price above $40,000, versus an average best monthly lease payment of around $300. The others, which are not ranked in the Top 10, are the 2022 Hyundai Kia Elecrtric, and the internal-combustion-engine 2021 Hyundai Kona. Click here to read our overview of the Hyundai Kona Electric.
- Estimated range of 258 miles on a full charge, based on Hyundai internal testing
- Federal tax credit up to $7,500, plus likely additional state incentives.
- No charge for scheduled maintenance for 3 years/36,000 miles, whichever comes first
- Available only at dealerships in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
- A facelifted Hyundai Kona EV is already on sale for the 2022 model year, with different front-end styling, so the 2021s are getting dated-looking. On the other hand, according to Market Scan. the best average monthly lease price on the 2022 is more than $100 higher than the 2021.
2. 2020 Kia Niro EV
- $42,960.00 average suggested retail;
- $322.83 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Between different model years and different drivetrains, Market Scan lists separately five versions of the Kia Niro among its Top 10 Best Lease Deals. They’re listed together here, to save space. Besides the 2021 Niro EV, the others are the 2022 Kia Niro EV, and the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid. Like a full-on EV, the battery for the plug-in hybrid is recharged by plugging it in. That’s in contrast to a “traditional” hybrid, which gets recharged by the gasoline engine and by recapturing some of the energy used in braking. Click here to read our review of the Kia Niro EV.
- The Kia Niro EV comes with a federal tax credit up to $7,500, plus many available state incentives.
- Estimated range for the EV of 239 miles on a full charge, based on Hyundai internal testing. Including all model years, sales of the EV more than quadrupled, to 967 in August, versus August 2020, according to Motor Intelligence.
- The Kia Niro plug-in hybrid gets an estimated range of 560 miles, on a full battery charge and a full tank of gas, and it’s eligible for a federal tax credit of $4,543, according to Kia. Sales of the plug-in hybrid were only 150 units in August, down 37% versus August 2021. Year to date through August, sales were up 81%, to 2,324, according to Motor Intelligence.
- Electric-only range for the plug-in hybrid is just 26 miles. The gasoline engine kicks in under heavy acceleration, or when the battery charge is low.
- If possible where you live, it’s better to have a 240-volt recharging station installed at home, to recharge an EV. A plug-in hybrid can be recharged using regular household electricity. It’s slow, and a home recharging station greatly speeds it up, but potentially possible. For a full-on EV, regular household current would be too slow to be practical for most people who used their EV as a daily driver.
- Kia offers EVs only at select retailers, with limited availability in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.
3. 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid
- $40,190 average suggested retail;
- $378.94 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Market Scan rates all three model years of the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) currently on offer among its Top 10 Best Lease Deals for the month, with very little difference among the ratings, based on monthly payment versus sticker price. While the 2020 model is rated highest, it may be worth considering the newer models, for slightly more per month. For the 2021, average suggested retail is $39,956.67, and average best monthly lease payment is $381.46. For the 2022, they are $40,356.67 and $392.05, respectively. Click here to read our review of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
- Federal tax incentive of $5,836 (2020 model)
- New dashboard with digital display.
- 4WD at the push of a button
- The 2021 and 2022 model get a bigger federal tax incentive, $6,587.
- The 2020 model gets less electric-only range, at 22 miles, versus 24 miles for thee 2021.
- All three of these models become lame ducks, when a new redesign arrives in the second half of 2022, with more power and longer range, probably as a 2023 model.
4. 2022 Chevrolet Trax
- $23,805 average suggested retail
- $238.83 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It
The 2022 Chevy Trax gets a new, more powerful version of the four-cylinder turbo engine in the 2021 model. Market Scan also identified the 2021 Chevy Trax as a Best Lease Deal — just below the 2022 model, and just out of the Top 10. Mathematically, the deals are similar for either model year. That makes the 2022 model a better deal, considering the improvements. For the 2021, average suggested retail is $24,045; average best monthly lease payment, $241.75. Click here to read our review of the Chevrolet Trax.
- Comfortable interior, at least in front.
- Infotainment system with 7-in. touchscreen is standard.
- The 2021 misses out on the 155-horsepower engine in the 2022 model, up from 138 for the 2021 model year.
5. 2021 Honda HR-V
- $26,175 average suggested retail
- $264.44 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The Honda HR-V is Honda’s entry-level model for the U.S. market. The 2022 model went on sale in July. That makes the 2021 the “old” model, but features and content are carried over from the 2021 model, so it’s no great sacrifice in those terms, to lease the older model. According to American Honda, HR-V sales were up 26% in August, versus August 2020. HR-V sales set a record in August, for the seventh month in a row, the company said. Year-to-date sales for the HR-V through August were up 73%. Click here to read our overview of the Honda HR-V.
- Affordable. Suggested retail for the base model starts at $22,140, including $1,120 destination, but that total doesn’t include tax, license, registration, dealer fees, and options, which are included in Market Scan’s calculations.
- Higher trim levels (only) get a suite of safety features the company calls Honda Sensing, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System with Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and more.
- Wide variety of levels for price, trim, and equipment, including front- or all-wheel drive
- Entry-level models are missing some of the better high-tech safety features, although the Honda brand gets good ratings for safety, even without all the bells and whistles.
6. 2021 Toyota Venza
- $37,265 average suggested retail
- $381.06 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why we picked it:
The 2021 Toyota Venza is more of a tall station wagon than a crossover-slash-SUV, but Toyota considers it a crossover. It’s all-new for the 2021 model year. The Toyota Venza comes equipped exclusively with a hybrid powertrain, and Toyota’s advanced Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive, using electric motors to drive the rear wheels. It has a 2.5-liter gasoline engine and three electric motors. Click here to read our review of the Toyota Venza.
- Estimated mileage 40 mpg city/37 mpg highway.
- Safety features include Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, like automatic braking to avoid pedestrians and bicycles, as well as other vehicles.
- Styling, if you like your crossovers station wagon-ish.
- Between the hybrid setup and AWD, the powertrain is really complex — although Toyota points out its hybrid technology is “proven.” That’s certainly the case, since the Toyota Prius is the category leader in hybrids.
7. 2021 Toyota Highlander
- $43,754 average suggested retail
- $449.18 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The Toyota Highlander, now in its fourth generation, got a complete redesign for the 2020 model year, based on a new vehicle platform called Toyota New Global Architecture. It’s shared with the Toyota Sienna minivan, the Toyota Venza crossover (above), the Toyota RAV4 small crossover utility vehicle (below), and the Toyota Avalon sedan. Click here to read our review of the Toyota Highlander.
- New-look, big-grille Toyota exterior styling
- Safety features are what Toyota calls Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, while some other models still have version 2.0.
- Sportier, (optional) trim and equipment package called XSE Grade, with specially tuned electric power steering and tuned suspension.
- The giant front-end grille – two giant grilles, really, upper and lower – are not to everyone’s taste, but big grilles are in, and not just at Toyota.
8. 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime
- $40,937.50 average suggested retail
- $419.40 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Toyota says the 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid is the fastest four-door model in the Toyota lineup from zero to 60 miles per hour, at 5.7 seconds. (Still faster: the two-door Supra.) The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 went on sale in December 2018 for gasoline models. Traditional hybrids debuted in March 2019, followed by the plug-in hybrid last year Market Scan also includes the gasoline-engine 2021 Toyota RAV4 among its Top 20 Best Lease Deals, rating it not far below the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime.
- Performance: The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime generates a combined 302 horsepower, between a 176-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, and battery power. The only Toyota faster is the Supra sports car.
- Toyota says it has a segment-leading electric-only range of 42 miles on battery power.
- Standard all-wheel drive kicks in when the electric motor powers the rear wheels when needed, such as accelerating on start-up, when cornering, and in slippery conditions.
- It’s pricey, for a RAV4 (before the tax credit).
- * The “traditional,” non-plug-in hybrid, with all-wheel drive, starts below $30,000, but it’s also less capable.
- Some dealers have been marking up the RAV4 Prime several thousand dollars over list price.
9. 2022 Kia Telluride
- $39,352.50 average suggested retail;
- $408.96 average best monthly lease payment (non-captive)
Why we picked it:
Sales this year are way up for the biggest Kia ever, the Kia Telluride, although sales were down 3% in August versus a year ago. That’s probably because of an industrywide shortage of new cars, due to a shortage of computer chips. Kia America says it sold 74% of its available inventory in August — including all models, not just Telluride. Year to date through August, Kia Telluride sales were up 63%. The Kia Telluride first went on sale in February 2019. Click here to see our review of the Kia Telluride. It’s an outstanding SUV.
- New for 2021, the Nightfall Edition is imposing and aggressive-looking.
- Looks bigger than it is.
- Affordable, for its size and features.
- Since it’s in such high demand, it could be hard to find the exact model you want.
10. 2021 Mazda CX-9
- $41,062.78 average suggested retail;
- $428.40 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why we picked it:
The Mazda CX-9 is Mazda’s three-row, midsize crossover SUV. The 2021 model got a facelift with upgrades to technology, like a new, standard, 10.25-inch center infotainment display. The Mazda CX-9 is a strong seller for the brand, with year-to-date sales up about 50% through July, but Mazda is a relatively small-volume brand, so you probably won’t see yourself coming and going in one.
- Mazda is a relatively small-volume, quirky brand, so a Mazda can stand out in a crowd.
- Mazda’s newer models like the CX-9 have knockout, high-gloss colors (some of which cost extra).
- Updated interior and exterior styling, including an optional Carbon Edition with the blacked-out look.
- All-wheel drive is optional
- Some cool colors cost extra and can only be ordered with upscale trim and equipment. That’s not so unusual in the auto industry.
- The next-generation CX-9 is expected within the next year, meaning you’re leasing a near orphan, albeit what many enthusiasts say is the sportiest midsize SUV not named BMW.
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 are subject to change without notice. Translation: The Market Scan numbers are higher and they’re closer to what shoppers really pay.
FAQ (frequently asked questions)
Isn’t leasing just for luxury cars?
Luxury cars — and trucks — are over-represented, but no, leasing is also for mass-market brands. In terms of absolute numbers, Honda has the biggest market share of U.S. new-vehicle leases, at about 14%, and leasing accounts for about 39% of Honda’s new-vehicle volume, according to Experian Automotive. In contrast, leasing accounts for 62% of BMW’s new-vehicle volume, Experian said.
Why are luxury brands “over-represented?”
That makes sense because leasing allows a person to finance more car for the same money, or the same car for less money. Leasing is also suited to someone who wants a new vehicle every three years, and who doesn’t mind always having a car payment. Remember, in leasing, instead of borrowing the entire amount, like a loan, the lease customer only finances the upfront cost, minus the residual value. That is, the vehicle’s estimated worth at lease-end. The downside is, the customer doesn’t own the car. A perpetual car payment is a burden. But “more car for the same money” and “a new vehicle every three years” appeal to non-wealthy people, too.
Can customers with shaky credit histories get a lease?
Definitely, but it is less common. That’s partly because auto lenders are picky about lease approvals (more so than about the same vehicle sold and financed), and it’s partly self-selection — that part about having a perpetual car payment. According to Experian, in the second quarter of 2021, customer with credit scores 660 or below accounted for about 17% of new leases. The vast majority of those were in the 601-660 range, which Experian calls the “nonprime” sub-category. Many other lenders call that “near-prime.”