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10 Cars Making You Happy Leases Are Back

Tickers in this article: F GM HMC SIRI
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Owning a new car is great and all, but there's a reason leases were attractive before the recession.

Leases are a less costly way of getting behind the wheel of a new car, but those short-term deals disappeared during the economic downturn. Tightened credit took car buyers out of the lease market, while automaker bankruptcies ended lease offers altogether for a time.

Leases are making a comeback, but rising used car values, shrinking used car supply and a changing credit landscape are making them much different than the boom-era leases buyers may remember. Three years and 36,000 miles with $0 down payment? Try two years and 20,000 with a down payment similar to the price of a used car.

Brandy Schaffels, an analyst at auto pricing site TrueCar, says there are still deals to be had in the recovering auto lease market. The following deals offer buyers some options while providing an alternative to costly financing plans or upfront payments:

10. 2012 Honda(HMC) Civic 4-Door Automatic LX
MSRP: $19,595
Monthly lease payment: $220
Months: 35
Down payment: $0
Miles per year: 12,000

Take a long, hard look at these lease terms. It's the last time you'll see them in this story. Though it falls short of a three-year lease by a month, this 35-month, 36,000-mile deal is only sweetened by an Eco Assist engine that gets a combined 32 miles per gallon. It's a throwback lease for a compact that's more timely as ever.

9. 2012 Ford(F) Explorer XLT
MSRP: $34,920
Monthly lease payment: $329
Months: 24
Down payment: $3,748
Miles per year: 10,500

Now those terms are more like it. Two years and 21,000 miles? That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for listening to the standard Sirius XM (SIRI) satellite radio or a whole lot of miles for lugging stuff in the Explorer's 80 cubic feet of cargo space. Even with that relatively hefty down payment, this lease is still the best way of getting that much space for this little money.

8. 2012 Ford Focus SE Automatic with Sport Package and SYNC
MSRP: $20,520
Monthly lease payment: $169
Months: 24
Down payment: $2,398
Miles per year: 10,500

That nearly $2,400 down payment is still one of the heftiest on this list -- especially compared with the $0 payment for the competing Civic -- but the Focus packs a lot of perks into that price tag. The car's Microsoft SYNC system bundles an MP3 player, Bluetooth phone connection, turn-by-turn directions and traffic alerts into one voice-activated system. Its 32 miles per gallon aren't bad, either.

7. 2012 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC
MSRP: $52,565
Monthly lease payment: $579
Months: 24
Down payment: $3,873
Miles per year: 10,000

What does the E350 have that warrants a nearly $600-a-month payment for only two years and 20,000 miles of use? A 3.0-liter, 210-horsepower diesel engine, wood trim, leather steering wheel, LED lighting and plenty of tech toys. We could go on about its relatively efficient 26 miles per gallon, but getting a $50,000 E-Class for a fraction of the price is this lease's biggest perk. For a certain demographic, the hood ornament in front and the "E350" stamp in back are the only features required.