Preference elicitation tasks for better than dead (BTD) and worse than dead (WTD) health states vary in the conventional time trade-off (TTO) procedure, casting doubt on uniformity of scale. ‘Lead time TTO’ (LT-TTO) was recently introduced to overcome the problem. We tested different specifications of LT-TTO in comparison with TTO in a within-subject design. We elicited preferences for six health states and employed an intertemporal ranking task as a benchmark to test the validity of the two methods. We also tested constant proportional trade-offs (CPTO), while correcting for discounting, and the effect of extending the lead time if a health state is considered substantially WTD. LT-TTO produced lower values for BTD states and higher values for WTD states. The validity of CPTO varied across tasks, but it was higher for LT-TTO than for TTO. Results indicate that the ratio of lead time to disease time has a greater impact on results than the total duration of the time frame. The intertemporal ranking task could not discriminate between TTO and LT-TTO. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.