Are National Lease Specials Too Good to Be True?

If you’re shopping for a new car, then chances are that you’ve come across some really tempting, budget-friendly lease deals on a car dealer’s website. For example, Honda’s current national lease special for the 2020 Honda Passport is for $329 per month for 36 months with $3,099 “due at lease signing.” It sounds like a perfectly reasonable deal for anyone currently looking for a Passport, especially considering it’s for an EX-L trim level with all-wheel drive, which carries an MSRP of $39,530. But are national lease specials like this one too good to be true?

It always comes down to the fine print

You might be wondering how the manufacturer’s come up with these lease specials and how the payments can be so low. It’s simple, really, but you just need to remember to read the fine print on the ad. Speaking to our aforementioned Honda Passport lease example; the fine print on the ad says that the $3,099 that’s due at signing is the actual down payment amount, however, it “excludes the taxes, title, and fees.” That doesn’t mean that Honda, or any other automaker, is trying to be misleading.

The reason that automakers advertise the numbers like this is so that they can standardize the payments for all regions of the country, according to The sales tax, title, and registrations fees can vary from state to state, and even between counties, so it’s no wonder that an automaker would need to leave out that information in the ad.

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Honda's National Lease Special for the 2020 Honda Passport
Honda’s National Lease Special for the 2020 Honda Passport | Honda

Do simple math to reduce sticker shock

If you want to be sure that you know what you’re getting with a national lease deal, or any lease deal for that matter, read the fine print and consider the other factors in the lease offer. Going back to our Honda Passport example:

  • 12,000 miles/year: The Honda ad states that it’s for 12,000 miles/year. Just note that the standard lease mileage cap is typically 10,000/12,000/15,000 miles per year and the monthly payment can go up or down depending on which mileage allotment you choose.
  • Length of term: The lease term for this Passport is 36 months. Just note that a lease term can vary
  • The amount “due at signing”: $3,099 is known as the “cap cost reduction,” or the down payment amount.
  • Taxes and fees: Note that the ad typically says “excludes tax, title, license, and dealer fees.” That’s due to the fact that taxes and registration fees will vary from state to state and even counties.
  • Monthly payment tax: The monthly payment that is advertised also excludes the sales tax as well. So if the ad says that the payment is $329, just remember that it will more like $355 per month (if your sales tax is 8%, for example).

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Salesperson showing vehicle to potential customer in dealership
Salesperson showing vehicle to potential customer in dealership | Shutterstock

The dealer might not always have the right car

In case you do plan on marching into your closest dealership wanting to take advantage of the national lease special that’s on the manufacturer’s website, also note that they may not have the correct to fit that actual lease structure. Following our example, the lease special is for an all-wheel-drive Honda Passport EX-L, however, the dealers in your area might only have a base Sport model or a top-trim Touring in stock. If that’s the case, the lease structure will be different.

National lease deals aren’t too good to be true, there are just some fees and taxes that aren’t included in the ads. Also, they are usually on specific models that you might need to search for or have the dealer find for you.