Comparing Lease Prices on Luxury Plug-in Cars

By · January 20, 2014

Cadillac ELR

2014 Cadillac ELR

The availability of low monthly leases for the most popular electric cars—commonly $199 a month or less—has lowered the price barrier to EV adoption. But based on emerging pricing information about leasing a BMW i3 or Cadillac ELR, leases for luxury plug-in vehicles are unlikely to take much sting out of high sticker prices.

The starting purchase price of the Cadillac ELR is $75,000—but leasing one will cost about $699 a month, based on a $6,000 deposit and leasing term of 39 months. (The deposit drops to $5,000 for current owners of GM vehicles.) The Caddy ELR is essentially the luxury version of the Chevy Volt series plug-in hybrid, which sells for about half the sticker price of the ELR.

Leasing Luxury EVs

Buyers should read the fine print regarding rates, residual values, mileage limits and buyback options. But here's roughly what we know:

  • BMW i3: As low as $550 a month (with $5,000 down)
  • Cadillac ELR: As low as $700 a month (with $6,000 down)
  • Tesla Model S: As low as $1,100 a month (with 10 percent or about $7,000 down)

The fine print on the ELR stipulates that miles are capped at 32,500 during the lease period—or about 830 miles per month. Run over the mileage limit and pay $0.25 for each additional mile.

The sleeker ELR is more powerful—delivering 217 horsepower performance compared to the Volt’s 149-horsepower motor. Yet, the ELR is expected to deliver approximately the same efficiency as the Volt, which is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 38 miles of pure-electric driving before a gas engine is brought online to extend the range to around 380 miles.

Caddy V. Bimmer

2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

How does this compare with the i3, the new smaller luxury electric car from BMW? Based on documents published by, and a follow-up report on BMW blog, the terms for the purchase of a $45,800 i3—with a $1,000 down and 4.99% financing over 60 months—would be about $810.00 a month. The monthly purchase (rather than lease) payments for the i3, if you put down $5,500, would drop to $720 a month.

But a monthly lease for the same BMW, according to the web sources—with $5,000 down and a 39 percent residual value after three years—would run about $550 a month. These are estimated calculations based on press materials. Yet, Green Car Reports reported today that one actual buyer was given a quote of $930 a month for an i3, with a mileage limit of 12,000 miles a year.

A couple of caveats: Including the range-extending option on the i3, with any of the upscale trim choices, will likely send the base price above $45,800. And BMW will only apply $4,875, out of the total $7,500 federal tax credit, to the lease offer.

Then, There’s Leasing a Model S

Meanwhile, the lowest cost Tesla Model S—with the 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack providing more than 200 miles of range per charge—starts at $71,070 (before the $7,500 tax credit). When you get past Tesla’s marketing claims, it appears that the monthly lease price for the 60 kWh Model S—with 10-percent down and excluding taxes and registration fees—is about $1,100 per month. The monthly lease price for the 85 kWh version, with the same terms, is closer to $1,250 a month.

New to EVs? Start here

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