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Fact or Fiction: Is the Year End the Best Time to Buy?

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
December 10, 2010

It’s easy to see why so many new car buyers perceive the end of the year as being one of the best times to buy a brand new car or truck. Everywhere you look, car companies are advertising year-end sales events, holiday savings specials or winter rebates and incentives that are designed to draw shoppers out of the woodwork and onto dealer lots so that they can get behind the wheel of a new automobile. Even car companies such as Lexus, BMW and Toyota that don’t normally focus on lease or financing deals usually embrace the holiday season with an array of special offers that can make it quite tempting to trade-in and trade-up.

The reality is, however, that while end of year sales might seem as though they are offering much greater deals than are typically found on brand new vehicles, they typically don’t deliver on that perception. Year end auto sales are so heavily advertised that it is consumer awareness, rather than the actual rebates and incentives that create the feeling that bargains are markedly better than they were in the summer or the spring.

In fact, for 2010 cash back offers and financing incentives, expressed as the total amount of money saved per vehicle nudge the value dial only a very small amount, with a large number of car companies making only token rebate increases or changes to their already existing deals. Some segments of the market actually dropped their incentives slightly compared to previous months. A Dow Jones Newswire article looking at 2010 year end sales and comparing them to the same period in 2009 found that overall, incentives are down by just over nine percent, with some car companies posting double-digit drops in the level of discounting they are offering.

Looking at the new car market with an objective point of view – that is to say, cutting through the advertising hype that surrounds year-end sales – it makes sense that a much healthier automotive industry would require less aggressive incentives in 2010 than it did in 2009’s still-rocky financial environment. That being said, dealerships were swamped this past November with foot traffic being reported as much higher than 12-months previous. This indicates that year-end advertising campaigns are quite effective at convincing new car shoppers to part with their dollars.

If you do find yourself in the market for a brand new vehicle this holiday season and want to hunt down the best possible bargain, then in many cases you can find good deals on the 2010 inventory that still remains on the lot. With so many car companies introducing new 2011 models before the end of the year, dealerships are often motivated to move out the previous year’s inventory to make room for fresh orders. Although not universal, the deals that are available on these still-new-but-not-2011 models are often more attractive than the general “year end clearance” offers found on the most recent editions.

See some of the best deals for the end of 2010:

Five Best Hybrid Car Rebates and Incentives

10 Best Family Car Rebates and Incentives

10 Best Luxury Car Rebates and Incentives

10 Best Truck Rebates and Incentives


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