$10k budget per year. What car to lease/buy?

Current lease (Mercedes C-class) maturing in a few months. Considering both leasing and buying for my next car and can afford $10k per year, ideally with maintenance included.

If leasing:
Standard 36/10k lease. Assuming $0 down, the monthly payment would be around $800 - $850.
If buying:
Will probably own it for 3-4 years. This means the car on average should depreciate no more than $10k per year, with the plan of selling it/trading it in in a few years. Prefer used to avoid new car depreciation but open to new ones that keep their values well.


  • Number of cars: one. This may sound weird but I’ve seen people recommend some daily driver + weekend sports car combination. While that might work for others, I have absolutely no interest in keeping two cars.
  • Type: A sedan that’s practical enough. Usually just me and my GF, with occasional backseat passengers. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll have a baby within 3 years though so I do want the car to be somewhat future proof. Something like a 911 is probably too small but I don’t think I need an SUV either.
  • Age/warranty: obviously not a concern if leasing. If buying I want the car to not be too old so that I can enjoy newer technologies such as CarPlay. If buying used, CPO is preferred for peace of mind.
  • Make: I’ll be completely honest that I am one of the badge chasers. Prefer luxury German brands. Open to other brands though.
  • Exterior: I know it’s very subjective. Regardless I want the exterior to look good and ideally not too boring.
  • Interior: Again subjective but I want it to be luxurious, comfortable and quiet.
  • Speed/acceleration/handle: I don’t need the fastest car in the world but I do want it to handle well, if that makes sense.
  • ICE vs EV: no strong preference. Have access to chargers so EVs are ok.

Current List:

Tier S: it’s a Porsche and it looks good! What else do you need?

  • Buying used Panamera: this is the car that I’ve done the most research on and have actually test driven. The fact that I don’t want a pure sports car or an SUV makes Panamera the only viable Porsche option (Taycan is in the wildcard section due to uncertainty on depreciation) and it actually matches my requirements pretty well. My first impression during test drive was it’s big and not very agile but then I kinda got used to it. With the right options such as rear wheel steering and surround view this should work just fine. Regarding depreciation, based on my limited research a 3-year old CPO should depreciate below $10k per year on average. Maintenance is going to be expensive but I’m ok stretching my budget a little bit. My only concern is I don’t know how Taycan is going to affect used Panamera’s market. There’re already speculations that Porsche might just kill the entire Panamera line around 2024, when the current 971 generation reaches the end of its lifecycle. This does make a lot sense to me given how similar these two models are. Will there still be enough buyers in 3-4 years that are interested in a used Panamera when they can also get a used Taycan?

Tier A: it’s not a Porsche but it looks so good!

  • Leasing (or buying used?) Audi A7: love the exterior and interior. I haven’t seen many A7 lease deals but based on the 1% rule and this not being an S model I’m hoping $800 per month is enough.

Tier B: they’re great cars but the exterior just looks boring.

  • Leasing BMW 5 series: 540i should be well under budget. Can probably stretch my budget a little bit to get an M550i, which is more appealing.
  • Leasing Audi A6: don’t think I can get an S6 without significantly going above budget.
  • Leasing Mercedes E-class: don’t think I can get an AMG E53 without significantly going above budget. I’d also prefer not to drive two Mercedes back to back unless it’s a … keep reading!

Wildcard: if they somehow work they’d at least belong to Tier A and potentially Tier S

  • Buying new Porsche Taycan: I have no idea how Taycan is depreciating. My mind tells me that there’s no way it’s going to depreciate less than $10k per year but all the EV credits do help offset the cost a bit. The idea would be to buy one from the previous model year for a bigger discount.
  • Buying used Porsche Taycan: if I wait until later this year, the 2020 models will be almost 2 years old and theoretically should have depreciated quite a bit. Probably still too new to buy from a depreciation perspective? I don’t know.
  • Buying used Mercedes AMG GT 4-door Coupe: man oh man is this a good looking car. Exact same concern/uncertainty as buying used Taycan.
  • Leasing BMW M440i: feel free to judge but I like the grill. The obvious concern is it being small and a coupe so not very practical if I end up having a baby.
  • Leasing Audi S4/S5: I have no idea how much they’re going for leasing these days. Are they even under my budget?

The reason I’m trying to reach a decision soon while there’s still a few months left on my current lease is to allow the time to custom build a new car (regardless of leasing or buying), if that’s the route I end up taking. While this is a real problem for me, I hope it’s also a fun thought exercise for everyone else.

Thanks for reading and looking forward to your feedback/suggestions!


Have you considered leasing a Chevy Bolt? There are some 6k one pay deals out there (or have they expired?).

Get the bolt, pocket the rest of the money and take your girl around the world on awesome trips (when COVID is not as much of a problem).

The little things in life are important as well. Take pictures of your exploits and drop them here.



Cmon let’s get real… just get the M440i


First and foremost, forget you’ve ever heard anything about a 1% rule. It isn’t going to help you here, especially while looking at niche vehicles.


Is there a TL;DR version?




Internet strangers can’t tell you what car to drive. Do some research and narrow down your list of cars within your budget. Pick 3 cars and go test drive them. After more research, pick a car you will be happy driving for the next 3 years.


What region are you located in? Lease offers can be so regional, so that might drive what I suggest.

Which probably won’t end when/how you want, especially with this list.

Good luck narrowing your list down.


Thanks! I get your point but I don’t think I’ll be considering leasing a Chevy Bolt. It may look like I’m trying to spend every penny I have just for a car badge but that’s not necessarily the case. We both have jobs that pay fairly well and can still afford a few trips per year while spending $10k on a car. I get that the money might be better spent elsewhere, especially for someone like me who you can tell by now is probably never going to make the most out of their car, but if driving an relatively expensive car gives me happiness and I can afford it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t do it :slight_smile:

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Haha I am real. We’ve been together for a while and I’m planning to propose to her later this year. Then all of a sudden a baby isn’t that far right?

Maybe just the title then? :stuck_out_tongue:

Okay! I guess buying is the only option then.

Northern California

No, the option is to base what a lease deal is on reality rather than a made up rule. It may be more than 1% or less, but assuming it is 1% and using those numbers to make any sort of educated decision is a fool’s errand.


I see. Good to know!

Model Y Performance - it’ll do everything you need - it’s a sports car - it’s a family car and in stop and go traffic - it’s incredibly efficient

My biggest take in life is that there is less than a 10% decrease in TCO from buying new vs used/CPO for the simple reason that you end up paying for all of the tires/brakes/maintenance and out of warranty repairs to offset the depreciation.

That and the technology and safety tech moves so fast I’m happy paying a small premium to be in the latest stuff.

No offense, it’s not good at most of those things though. Too small to be considered a full size SUV with it’s measly third row, it’s performance is good I’ll give it that, but I felt uncomfortable sitting and driving the MY Perf. I liked the MX Perf, M3P, and MS Perf, but the Y just felt uncomfortable. That is just my opinion.


That’s actually a pro here - seeing as he’s looking to be closer to sedan.

I did not like the Model Y SR - I liked the LR version a lot. I have a Model 3 and I felt the Y was more comfortable (but less sporty)