In the first quarter this year, leasing accounted for 27.5 percent of new-vehicle originations, the highest since Experian started keeping track in 2006, she said.
The latest figure was a substantial increase since the first quarter of 2012, when it was 24.4 percent, and the fourth quarter of 2012, when it was 24.8 percent.
For the first quarter, Experian said the average monthly lease payment for new vehicles was $414, down from $424 a year earlier. "It's no wonder leasing is higher," Zabritski told Automotive News.
For loans, the average new-vehicle loan payment was $459, down from $462 a year earlier, Experian said. But loan terms have been growing, at 65 months in the first quarter, up one month from a year ago.
Big-volume brands accounted for a lot of lease volume in the quarter. People sometimes forget leasing is a factor for mass-market brands because lease penetration is so much higher for luxury brands, Zabritski said.
She said the most commonly leased vehicle in terms of unit volume is one of the biggest sellers overall, the Honda Accord.
Toyota Financial Services and American Honda Finance were No. 1 and No. 2 in share of total industry leases for the quarter, at 13.3 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Ford Motor Credit Co. was No. 3, at 11.8 percent, Experian said.
"The list of the most commonly leased vehicles looks a lot like the list of the top-selling vehicles," Zabritski said. "The assumption is that it's all high-line, but that's not the case."