How do you negotiate a car lease?

I’ve never before considered leasing a new vehicle, but I’m in the market for one now, and its an option I’d like to at least take a look at. I’ve always heard its almost always a bad deal compared to buying, but rarely it can be a smart move depending on details and circumstances.

My goal is to pretty much sum up the total cost of leasing a car and then buying it out at the end of the lease, and comparing that to the cost of just buying it outright to begin with.

Having never really researched leases before, my first question is when a manufacturer advertises a “lease special”, is that pretty much a set price, or just a starting point for negotiation. For example Honda has a current offer for a 2014 Civic EX lease for 36 months @ $169 per month, $2,399 due at signing, and a purchase option at the end of $12,909.20. Doing the math on that it seems like the total cost of leasing and then buying at the end of 36 months is about $21,400. When a manufacturer puts something like that out there, is it pretty much the deal (assuming you qualify credit-wise), or would a buyer typically then talk them down on the cost somewhere? If haggling over price is typical, would that generally be done against the up front cost, the monthly payment, or the lease end purchase price (or all 3)?

Pretty much my goal here is to get a quote on a car to buy it, factor in financing if necessary, and then compare to the sum cost of leasing and buying out at the end instead? I figure there is some value to the flexibility a lease affords (more cash flow up front, and the ability to bail at the end if you decide you don’t want to buy), and I’m hoping to compute the dollar difference to decide if its worth it to me.

Any advice regarding evaluating leases is welcome, and my main question is if when Honda puts all details of a lease on their website (like here), is that more or less their “final offer”, or is it merely a starting point?

I’ve never leased a vehicle so I can’t give first hand advice, but this siteseems to give good info.

Keep getting up from the table and start walking out the door. You have to be willing to actually leave if it comes to it. But, last time, we kept getting the “final” offer, which we would reject and start gathering our things to leave. Then, “Well, I’ll have to get approval from my boss for better terms,” would happen at which point he would go into an office and pretend to talk about it, and then improve the deal slightly.

Lather, rinse, repeat until you hit a number that is acceptable. They desperately don’t want you to leave the building, so you should make a move to leave to show you mean business.

One more thing we encountered was the bait and switch. There would be an advertised lease rate that was likely non-negotiable, but quite good. When we went to make that deal, it would turn out that that the “T” model was not available anymore, but they had higher level “TX” model that we could have for more money. That’s why we had to negotiate the TX level down to the T level.