This Is The Best 3 Series To Lease

The Best BMW 3 Series To Lease Is:

The 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto

The Best Alternative BMW 3 Series To Lease Is:

The 320d M Sport 4dr Step Auto (The diesel version of the above)

I’ll explain why the 320d is not the top dog down below…

Why We Picked the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto

Hopefully, the process outlined above gives you some indication on why we picked the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto over the other models.

It has the lowest percentage of list at 2 years (16.8%), and it also has the lowest overall cost over the course of a 2 year lease (£5,918). If you pick a longer-term, the monthly payments would be less, because you are spreading the cost of a depreciating asset, but if you want to get the most value for money, then it is best to get the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto model.

Our analysis hopefully provides you with a little direction on what vehicle is best. We absolutely encourage you to research the market yourself and qualify what we have analysed. You will have to make the judgment on whether the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto model is worth it over the course of a 2 / 3 year lease compared with the rest of the line-up. For us, it is, but the decision ultimately rests with you.

Remember, at Car Leasing Guru, we do not review vehicles, we look objectively in terms of overall value for money. Skip down to ‘Value For Money’ to read the details of our analysis.

Use our free pricing system on the homepage, and we’ll tell you exactly what you should be paying to lease this car. We take an independent and impartial view of the market to show you what is fair.

Do We Always Pick Value For Money?

Generally, we will always look for the smallest amount you would pay over the course of the lease, at the same time we will also look at how much value the cheapest lease actually offers you.

There is no point in Car Leasing Guru suggesting the cheapest possible lease if all you get is a steering wheel and a windscreen, especially when you might be able to pay £10 per month extra and get a significant increase in the specification, exterior design, engine performance or economy. In this instance that’s why we’ve picked the M Sport model. It offers the most ‘value for money’ in our opinion.

BMW 3 Series Vs Rivals

Why BMW? Brand – Market position and perception vs its peers like the Audi A4, Mercedes C Class or even the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Retail Pricing is very competitive in this segment, but it doesn’t count for anything unless they have strong residual values (RV’s) that go with it, and thankfully they do. The 3 Series is now a company car staple, and BMW has got the pricing and position down to a fine art. They’ve got the perfect blend of (subjective) styling, specification, engines, options, standard equipment and that “premium factor” that makes them desirable. All of which add up to some fairly incredible ownership costs when tied together with strong RV’s.

BMW M Sport models always command a bit of a premium in the 2nd hand market, as they are always seen as the “sportier” models outside the performance-driven dedicated M models, such as the M2, M3, M4 etc. thus making lease or ownership cost-effective over the course of its lifecycle, as they are more desirable in terms of their overall price.

We gave the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto the maximum 10 / 10 in terms of value for money compared with other models in the range. This number is a pure mathematical equation, not our personal opinion.

So if you are searching for BMW 3 Series car leasing deals, cheap car leasing, or just general car leasing comparison, the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto is the best one to go for in terms of overall value for money.

We’ve only selected 9 models that we would actually recommend in this analysis, hence the limited number of options we’ve provided you. There are many more BMW 3 Series models to pick from, but those are less favourable in terms of their overall value at the end of a lease, thus making them more expensive.

You’ll also note that we’ve included slightly more petrol models than diesel models in this analysis. Petrol models seem to offer slightly better value than their diesel counterparts, hence the increase.

See below for a detailed breakdown:

Car Leasing Guru Score

The Car Leasing Guru scoring system is based on the overall value a particular vehicle offers.

We do not single out specific terms and mileages, instead, we concentrate on the entirety of a lease over multiple terms and mileages to create an overall score.

This score is converted into a meaningful number between 0 and 10 so that you can better understand which vehicle offers the best value. I’ve included the definition for the category the BMW 3 Series sits in, as it got a 10 overall. A very rare score!

9.0 to 10:

Unbelievable – Incredible value for money. Often high spec, high list price, small monthly payments. Insane, you should definitely look into leasing one of these! Any vehicle with a 9.0 and above should be added to your shortlist.

Examples include:

  • Audi A4 Avant – 40 TFSI Black Edition 5dr S Tronic (Score: 9.1)
  • BMW 3 Series Touring – 320i M Sport Shadow Edition 5dr (Score: 9.8)
  • Kia Sportage Diesel Estate – 1.6CRDi ISG GT-Line 5dr (Score: 9.0)
  • Volvo XC60 Diesel Estate – 2.0 D4 Momentum 5dr AWD Geartronic (Score: 9.1)

See other scores here:

BMW 3 Series:

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There are four specifications to choose from in the 3 Series range. The base model ‘SE’ up to the ‘M Sport Plus’. The ‘M Sport’ models easily offer the best value for money when looking at the entire range.

The ‘SE‘ model gets:

  • 17″ alloys
  • LED headlights
  • ambient lighting
  • front and rear parking sensors
  • rear camera
  • folding mirrors
  • sport leather steering wheel
  • 8.8″ infotainment display

The ‘Sport‘ model everything the SE gets, PLUS:

  • 18″ alloys
  • exhaust in black chrome
  • door sill in an aluminium finisher
  • leather sports seats
  • heated seats

The ‘M Sport‘ gets everything the Sport gets, PLUS:

  • 18″ alloys (different style to the Sport)
  • M Aerodynamics package
  • 12.3″ digital cockpit
  • M Sport sill
  • 10.25″ central instrument display
  • M Sport brakes with blue callipers
  • M leather steering wheel
  • interior trim in aluminium

The ‘M Sport Plus‘ gets everything the M Sport gets, PLUS:

  • 19″ alloys
  • BMW individual paintwork
  • BMW gloss shadow line
  • black mirror caps
  • M Sport differential
  • sun-protective glass
  • BMW individual aluminium interior trim
  • M Sport braking system
  • Adaptive M suspension
  • M seat belts
  • M rear spoiler

On The Road (OTR) Price

There are a lot of different On The Road (OTR) prices that cover every spectrum of the BMW 3 Series lineup, but we are only looking for the absolute cream of the crop, which is why we have concentrated on the best models in the range in terms of value for money.

You can see the OTR prices for the models below.

BMW 3 Series Prices

On The Road Price Vs Lease Cost

Remember, at Car Leasing Guru we do not review vehicles, we look at value for money.

The cheapest diesel model we’ve selected costs; £38,060. This is the 320d M Sport 4dr Step Auto.

Let’s see where we can get more for our money, and not spend an obscene amount more for the privilege.

The car we personally endorse is the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto; which costs £35,240.

There is a £2,820 difference between the two vehicles from the manufacturer’s list price.

What Does That Mean?

It means that you may be looking at the diesel model we’ve recommended and thought that you will have to pay £2,820 over the course of a lease in order to get that vehicle.

That’s incorrect.

You pay a proportion of that value. The more desirable the items in the vehicle, the more value is assigned to those items in the 2nd hand market.

The petrol models hold (proportionally) a lot more value than you would otherwise think it would do. In this particular example, I’m going to blow your mind and show you that you will be paying CONSIDERABLY LESS than the equivalent diesel model.

The Numbers!

Take a look at the graphs below. Notice anything? Specifically, look at the numbers at the top of the ‘Total Lease Cost’ graph for a 24-month lease @ 10,000. 

320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £5,918


320d M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £6,600

Difference = £682

Now look at the On The Road (OTR) graph

320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £35,240


320d M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £38,060

Difference = £2,820

BMW themselves charge £2,820 extra for the privilege of leasing a diesel model.

There are two trains of thought here. One, you pick the petrol model because it has the cheapest overall lease cost, Or two, you pay an additional £682 over two years for the diesel variant. (Works out to an extra £28.41 pcm).

The point here is that you may think in a lot of cases that you’ll be paying more overall because a vehicle is more expensive to buy at retail (£2,820 more in the case of the diesel). The numbers prove that it’s not the case, and you can actually get a vehicle that’s more expensive, for a small proportion of the actual cost of the vehicle. (£682).

This is where Car Leasing Guru shows you exactly where to save money, and the value you get. It is also why we recommend the 320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto overall. You save so much more money just by having a petrol engine.

FYI: Mileage is calculated per annum. 24 m 20k2 = 24 months @ 40,000 miles.

Total Lease Cost BMW 3 Series

320i M Sport 4dr Step Auto Vs Peers

Let’s look at this in a different way.

I’m going to select two other vehicles, but this time, they are the much more powerful 330d/i engines.

Look at the 330i M Sport 4dr Step Auto from the 2nd column (Total Lease Cost – below), and the 330d M Sport 4dr Step Auto from the 7th column (Total Lease Cost – below); you’ll be able to see how proportional “value” is assigned to that vehicle. You can do this same exercise for the other vehicles in our charts too as well. Try it yourself and you’ll be able to see how much more you can get for your money.

The only difference between these example models is the petrol/diesel engine.

Example models:

On The Road Price

330i M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £39,020


330d M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £40,980

The difference in the On The Road Price = £1,960

Next, we’ll look at how much you would pay over a 2 year lease, doing 10,000 miles a year. (use graph below as a reference)

Total Lease Costs

330i M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £7,545


330d M Sport 4dr Step Auto | £7,530

The difference in the Total Lease Cost (over 2 years) = £15

Monthly payment: £15 / 24 months = 62.5 pence

Lots of different numbers going on there, so let me explain.

What this tells us is that there is an OTR price difference of £1,960 between the two vehicles, but you would actually be spending an additional £15 over the course of the lease. Sounds mental, doesn’t it?

The 330d holds a lot more value in the used market compared with the 330i. Why? probably a multitude of answers, but I imagine torque and economy are more desirable on the 330 engines. That combined with 330d desirability in the used market is directly reflected by an increased (better) RV for any 330d models.

The key is to pick a vehicle that has lots of meaningful specification, or a combination of meaningful specification.

BMW 3 Series Total Lease Cost

What Is The Percentage Of List?

The ‘percentage of list’ is the difference between the capital cost (OTR price) and the Residual Value (RV). This shows, at a glance, exactly where value is attributed as a percentage. The lower the number, the better the percentage of list. This is usually a good indication of “value for money”.

Looking at the percentages within the graph below, you can see that they run anywhere between 17-29% or so for a 2 year lease, up to 26-39% on a more realistic 3 year lease. This means you will be paying between 26% to 39% of the total value of that vehicle before you hand it back. You can pay substantially more depending on which model you pick if it is undesirable in the 2nd hand market…

Leasing companies normally don’t read the percentage of list in this way, they actually read it in the opposite way. They would say that the vehicle has 65% of its value left, not that someone would spend 35% of the vehicle’s value. This is because they want to know what the value of the vehicle is at the end of its lease and make any adjustments where necessary from a financial risk perspective. Just makes the calculation easier on their end.

The percentage can give you a good indication of “value” but it also needs to be double-checked against the ‘On The Road’ price. Otherwise, a Ferrari would look like good value for money if we didn’t double-check the overall price and only looked at the percentage of list…


*miles per annum (e.g. 24m / 20k = 40,000 miles)

Is This Why Residual Values Are So Important?

Yes. The RV is the price/value that’s assigned to a vehicle at the end of its useable life.

From a leasing perspective, the end of its useable life is at the end of its term, be it 36 months/48 months etc.

A leasing company is simply going to sell that vehicle at the end of the term, and it’s going to have another life with another customer.

Specific optional or standard equipment and/or combinations of those are assigned a ‘value’ at a particular point in the vehicles life, the more meaningful the items, the more residual value is assigned to them.

Always try to pick vehicles with desirable 2nd hand specification (leather seats, climate control etc). This will provide you with a vehicle that should fulfil your ownership needs, whilst also minimising the financial risk to a leasing company/bank.

Thank You!

This is just some basic analysis that will hopefully help you understand the value of a 2020 BMW 3 Series lease a little better.

2020 BMW 3 Series Car Leasing Comparison | Price Guide

The Car Leasing Guru Team