5 great new-car lease deals available now

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    After a multiyear run of gains, total 2017 auto sales are headed for a down year. Through November, sales were off 1.5 percent with little chance that December can turn that total positive.

    For manufacturers, that means extra incentives to move cars off the lot, including remaining 2017 models. For consumers, that translates into some bargain lease deals this month.

    Monthly payments on the best of these deals are below $140. The other financial component to a lease is how much you're required to put down in cash when you sign the deal. The five vehicles we'll look at here all require $2,000 or less as a down payment.

    Leasing isn't for everyone. The best deal on a strictly financial basis is to buy the car and then keep it as long as you can. But if you like to change cars every few years, if you take good care of your vehicle and if you don't generally drive long distances, leasing can be the way to go.

    But remember: If you return the car in poor condition at lease end or you exceed the mileage allowed in the agreement, you can wind up with costly charges that you may not expect.

    Lease payments are generally lower than loan payments for buying the same car. That's because you're financing only the depreciation value over the time you drive the car -- not its total value. You're paying for the difference between the car's initial value and the estimated value when the lease is over, plus interest.

    If leasing suits you, check out five of the best current deals as screened by U.S. News and Kelley Blue Book. If you're in the market for a fuel-saving commuter car, deals are particularly good on compact and subcompact cars. But even in the hottest segment -- SUVs -- we found two good lease deals. Here are the specifics, in order of the monthly payments.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.