What Is Residual Value?

The residual value, also known as salvage value, is the estimated value of a fixed asset at the end of its lease term or useful life. In lease situations, the lessor uses the residual value as one of its primary methods for determining how much the lessee pays in periodic lease payments. As a general rule, the longer the useful life or lease period of an asset, the lower its residual value.

Key Takeaways

  • The residual value of an asset is based on what a company expects to receive in exchange for selling the asset at the end of its lease term or useful life.
  • Different industries and fields use residual value differently.
  • The residual value will influence the total depreciable amount a company uses in its depreciation schedule.
  • Generally, the useful life or lease period is inversely related to the residual value of an asset.
  • If you lease a car for three years, its residual value is how much it is worth after three years.
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Residual Value

Understanding Residual Value

Residual value formulas differ across industries, but its general meaning—what remains—is constant. In capital budgeting projects, residual values reflect how much you can sell an asset for after the firm has finished using it or once the asset-generated cash flows can no longer be accurately predicted. For investments, the residual value is calculated as the difference between profits and the cost of capital. 

In accounting, owner's equity is the residual net assets after the deduction of liabilities. In the field of mathematics, specifically in regression analysis, the residual value is found by subtracting the predicted value from the observed or measured value.

Examples of Residual Value

If you lease a car for three years, its residual value is how much it is worth after three years. The residual value is determined by the bank that issues the lease, and it is based on past models and future predictions. Along with interest rate and tax, the residual value is an important factor in determining the car's monthly lease payments.

Additionally, consider the example of a business owner whose desk has a useful life of seven years. How much the desk is worth at the end of seven years (its fair market value as determined by agreement or appraisal) is its residual value, also known as salvage value. To manage asset-value risk, companies that have numerous expensive fixed assets, such as machine tools, vehicles, or medical equipment, may purchase residual value insurance to guarantee the value of properly maintained assets at the end of their useful lives.

Residual Value vs. Resale Value

Residual value and resale value are two terms that are often used when discussing car-purchasing and leasing terms. Using the example of leasing a car, the residual value would be a car’s estimated worth at the end of its lease term. Residual value is used to determine the monthly payment amount for a lease and the price the person holding the lease would have to pay to purchase the car at the end of the lease.

The residual value of cars is often expressed as a percentage of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). For example, residual may be expressed this way: $30,000 MSRP * Residual Value of 50% = $15,000 value after 3 years. So, a car with an MSRP of $30,000 and a residual value of 50% after three years would be worth $15,000 at the end of its lease.

Resale value is a similar concept, but it refers to a car that has been purchased, rather than leased. So resale value refers to the value of a purchased car after depreciation, mileage, and damage. While residual value is pre-determined and based on MSRP, the resale value of a car can change based on market conditions.

If you decide to buy your leased car, the price is the residual value plus any fees.

Calculating Depreciation/Amortization Using Residual Value

Residual value also figures into a company's calculation of depreciation or amortization. Suppose a company acquires a new software program to track sales orders internally. This software has an initial value of $10,000 and a useful life of five years. To calculate yearly amortization for accounting purposes, the owner needs the software's residual value, or what it is worth at the end of the five years.

Assume this value is zero and the company uses the straight-line method to amortize the software. Therefore, the company must subtract the residual value of zero from the $10,000 initial value and divide by the asset's useful life of five years to arrive at its yearly amortization, which is $2,000. If the residual value were $2,000, the yearly amortization would be $1,600 ($10,000 - $2,000 / 5 years).

For tangible assets, such as cars, computers, and machinery, a business owner would use the same calculation, only instead of amortizing the asset over its useful life, he would depreciate it. The initial value minus the residual value is also referred to as the "depreciable base."

Residual Value FAQs

What Is Residual Value in Statistics?

In regression analysis, the difference between the observed value of the dependent variable and the predicted value is called the residual. Each data point has one residual.

How Is Residual Value Calculated?

To determine the residual value of an asset, you must consider the estimated amount that the asset's owner would earn by selling the asset (minus any costs that might be incurred during the disposal).

Residual value is often used when referring to a leased car. The residual value of a car is the estimated value of the car at the end of the lease. The residual value of a car is calculated by the bank or financial institution; it is typically calculated as a percentage of the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP).

What Is a Car's Residual Value?

The residual value of a car is the value of the car at the end of the lease term.

Is Residual Value the Same as Buyout?

Residual value and a lease buyout are two different things. A lease buyout is an option that is contained in some lease agreements that give you the option to buy your leased vehicle at the end of your lease. The price you will pay for a lease buyout will be based on the residual value of the car.

What Is Considered a Good Residual Value?

Residual value is often used in the context of leases for cars. The residual value is the value of the car at the end of the lease term. A good residual value is 55%-65% of the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP).

The Bottom Line

Residual value is one of the most important aspects of calculating the terms of a lease. It refers to the future value of a good (typically the future date is when the lease ends). When used in the context of a car lease, residual value is calculated using a number of different factors:

  • A vehicles market value (for the term and mileage required)
  • Seasonality
  • Monthly adjustment
  • Lifecycle
  • Disposal performance

In accounting, residual value refers to the remaining value of an asset after it has been fully depreciated.