The employee pricing party is over, but a good deal can still be had
Somewhere, you will find the truth about buying a new car at a good price. Between the glamour of new, exotic cars on the covers of glossy magazines and classified section ads that scream about untouchable deals, there’s realism, hard and cold, followed by the realization that if you buy the wrong car you may well end up paying thousands more than the few pennies you slashed from the sticker price. Ouch. If you’re shopping for a car, it’s incumbent upon you to do smart research. Case in point: Those who purchased large SUVs back when financing and down payments were at zero/zero are now enjoying negative value and a gas-guzzling beast that eats money straight from their wallets. Chances are, at this point they’d love to trade in that big SUV for a nice crossover that seats almost as many yet gets significantly better gas mileage – and rides like a car. The moral is to avoid the trap. And to try to match the car with your immediate and long-term needs, at the best possible price. You do that by shopping at the right time, doing research on the cars available, and not going just for the flash – but getting the pan as well. After all, just because you’ve got a big rebate doesn’t mean you’re getting a good price. And just because you’ve got a good price, that doesn’t mean you have a good deal – until you factor in four additional elements; record of dependability, competition, fuel efficiency, and safety ratings. Once you’re satisfied that the car you’d like to buy measures up, the most important buying criteria comes front and center – whether you like sitting behind the wheel. If so, you’ve got yourself a good buy – and if it’s one of the vehicles listed here, we truly have put together a Top Ten list of best buys for the month.
How We Select Vehicles The presumption is that a good deal means more than just cash back; it means a good price on a quality car that’s safe – one that will provide you with years of dependable service. Rebates are only part of the equation, which is why we bring you this monthly list of the “top deals.” Of course, what you think is a good deal will often vary from our idea of the same – so be sure to check the rebate pages and scan for other discounts not included here. And keep in mind that while we use MSRP pricing as the comparative value, when the time comes to negotiate, be careful to use invoice pricing as your starting point. Listed on these pages are ten vehicles with notably good deals that expire no earlier than the end of October. We do include dealer incentives, though regional differences may apply to the actual deal you get on a new car. These vehicles are generally considered to be quality cars by the automotive press. The list also factors crash-test scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), when they are available. The presumption is that a good deal means more than just cash back; it means a good price on a quality car that’s safe – one that will provide you with years of dependable service.
Chevrolet Tahoe 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe MSRP: $35,915 - $39,515 Deal: 0% financing, $6,000 rebate Expires: January 2006 NHTSA: Frontal impact - four stars driver and passenger; Side impact - not tested; Rollover - three stars 2WD, 4WD IIHS: Not tested To say that GM is desperate to rid itself of remaining 2005 SUVs is like stating that rain is wet and the sky – when sunny – is blue. And with offers such as $6,000 off and zero-percent financing, it’s hard to argue with the logic of a Tahoe purchase. At least until you get to the gas pump, and start spending some of that rebate money. If you really do need a large SUV, however, this one – with the special deals – is a tough truck to beat. What you’ll get with the 2005 Chevy Tahoe that you’ll like is an optional StabiliTrak stability control system, rear DVD entertainment, adjustable foot pedals, a nice V8 engine, and plenty of space. What you won’t like are the interior materials, and a front seat area that could use more leg room. With six grand off, however, maybe your passengers up front can be a little cramped in the tootsies.
Dodge Dakota 2005 Dodge Dakota MSRP: $19,374 - $28,679 Deal: 0 - 2.9% financing, $3,500 rebate Expires: 10/31/05 NHTSA: Frontal impact - four stars driver and passenger; Side impact - not tested; Rollover - three stars 2WD, 4WD IIHS: Acceptable, frontal offset; Not tested for side impact If you’re looking for a mid-sized truck, you could do much worse than picking up a Dodge Dakota. Big, bold and with available side curtain airbags, perhaps the most significant knock on the 2005 Dodge Dakota is that it wimps out a bit on horsepower, compared to the new Nissan Frontier, among others. You may also not like the drum brakes in the back, and the lack of a long bed option. But with a $3,500 rebate, the Dakota looks like a good deal from here, especially as the year gets late and more money is likely to be knocked off the price, not to mention the 7/70 warranty.
Ford Focus 2005 Ford Focus MSRP: $13,005 - $17,905 Deal: 0% financing, $1,500 rebate Expires: 10/31/2005 NHTSA: 4-door Focus: Frontal impact - five stars driver, four stars passenger; Side impact - three stars front, four stars rear; Rollover - four stars. 2-door Focus: Frontal impact - four stars driver and passenger; Side impact - three stars front, four stars rear with safety concern; Rollover - four stars IIHS: Good, frontal offset; Poor rating for side impact without optional side airbags The Ford Focus just may be the perennial sleeper car of all time, and proof that first impressions do indeed count. After all, it offers virtually everything you need when it comes to commuting or basic transportation: Great gas mileage, low emissions, relative comfort, and zippy performance. Granted, NVH is an issue, but at this price – with money stacked on the hood – you should be ashamed to turn away from the Focus just because the interior is a little loud. Shoot. Turn the radio up, for goodness sakes. For 2005, Ford even restyled the Focus, giving it a more mature look. This, plus rebates and special financing, makes the Focus a virtual no-brainer for the segment.
Ford Explorer 2006 Ford Explorer MSRP: $26,530 - $35,940 Deal: 2.9 - 4.9% financing, $2,000 rebate Expires: 10/31/2005 NHTSA: Not Tested IIHS: Not Tested The 2006 Ford Explorer is better than ever, thanks to a comprehensive upgrade that includes a quieter interior, an improved suspension and new safety technology. There’s a powerful V8 engine, an improved payload capacity – plus the seats are more comfy. Given that this newest Ford Explorer is one of the best and most versatile mid-sized SUVs on the road, a $2,000 rebate or special financing makes it even more compelling. When compared to the competition, the Explorer gets a leg up in terms of ride and versatility, but suffers when it’s time to stop at the gas station – especially with that 4.6-liter V8 engine. Price-wise, the new Explorer is competitive: When compared to the 2006 Chevy TrailBlazer LT, an Explorer XLT is a better vehicle with a competitive MSRP. A $2,000 rebate on top of that makes it a good buy. If Ford really wanted to set the car buying world a‘flame, they’d cut the two grand off the sticker and let people negotiate without the rebate.
Jeep Grand Cherokee 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee MSRP: $26,130 - $34,045 Deal: 0 - 3.9% financing, $3,500 rebate Expires: 10/31/2005 NHTSA: Frontal impact - five stars driver and passenger; Side impact - five stars front and rear; Rollover - three stars 2WD, four stars 4WD IIHS: Not Tested Some of our editors really hate to love the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Stuck in the past, they love the old, as it was sort of like the anti SUV, one that was designed to pursue off-road trails perhaps more than shopping mall parking spaces. Perhaps the fact that many improvements to the 2005 model were generally focused on luring the suburban SUV shopper leaves them bitter and confused; either way, the end result has been a nicely upgraded car that largely failed to wow customers. As a result, you can get some great cash back or finance rates on the 2005 JGC, and enjoy such improvements as a Hemi engine, improved looks, and more comfort. Sure, those editors may be right when they claim that the ride is akin to that of a marshmallow dream, and their point about poor fuel economy and the lack of cargo space is well-taken. But it’s still an off-road champ, and at $3,500 cash back, they just join the folks lining up to take a closer look.
Mazda 6 2006 Mazda 6s MSRP: $18,995 - $26,795 Deal: $1,000 - $1,500 rebate Expires: 10/31/2005 NHTSA: Frontal impact - five stars; Side impact - three stars front, four stars rear; Rollover - four stars IIHS: Best pick, frontal offset; Poor rating for side impact without optional side airbags We’re gonna talk this car up until you get the hint. Period. And we’re doing you a favor, especially if you’re looking for a sedan. Just back away from the Accord-Camry mind meld and consider the Mazda 6. Here is a fun-to-drive and stylish challenger to the sedan crown, with sporty road manners, exciting styling and a great price. Plus, it’s also offered as a five-door hatchback or a station wagon. Granted, some think that the interior is a bit small, but all-in-all the Mazda 6 is an excellent choice. Through October, you can get a $1,000 to $1,500 rebate off the price of a 2006 Mazda 6s – the V6 version. Most others are also being offered with cash back, too. Indeed, just why this vehicle continues to be offered with a rebate is surprising. Chances are, if the nameplate read “Toyota” instead of “Mazda,” there would be talk of boosting production and price – as opposed to cutting the MSRP.
Mazda Miata 2005 Mazda Miata MSRP: $22,098 - $24,903; Mazdaspeed: $25,780 Deal: $0 - $2,000 rebate Expires: 10/31/2005 NHTSA: Frontal impact - four stars driver, five stars passenger; Side impact - three stars front; Rollover - five stars IIHS: Not Tested Those of us who love to drive appreciate the Miata for what it is: An excellent driver’s car, fun and spirited, albeit sadly lacking room for much more than an overnight bag. But if you can handle the restrictions that come with owning a two-seater, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying car to own at this price. Shifting is a dream, feedback from the pedals and steering wheel shout out directions…everything about it speaks of sunsets and open, twisty roads. For a two-seater, however, there’s not much power unless you choose the turbocharged Mazdaspeed model, and as a two-seat convertible you’ll have to get used to noise. With a new model just now reaching dealers, however, and winter rapidly approaching, this is perhaps the best time ever to get a great deal, a deal well beyond the $2,000 rebate that’s listed here. That’s an enticing thought about the kind of car that, when all is said and done, you’ll love if you love driving.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII MSRP: $30,699 Deal: 0 - 3.9% financing, $1,000 - $2,000 rebate Expires: 10/31/2005 NHTSA: Not Tested IIHS: Not Tested The most fun on four wheels – and at a discount. You’d be hard pressed to find a better combination – though shoppers searching for a family car will certainly disagree. For those who are still in the room, and who want to buy one of the best performing cars on pavement, now’s your chance: Take advantage of either a $1,000 - $2,000 break on the price or get zero-percent financing. What you get for your dough is a turbocharged and intercooled inline four-cylinder engine that produces 276 horsepower and 286 lb.-ft. of torque. There’s a full-time all-wheel-drive system with an electronic active center differential and a helical limited slip differential, pinpoint steering, and enormous Brembo brakes – to name just a few things. Yikes. Based on the sticker price of $30,699, that rebate creeps the Lancer Evolution VIII a bit closer to the Subaru WRX, and justifes ignoring the Subaru WRX STi.. The fact is, however, that no matter which one you decide on, getting zero-percent or cash back is a great offer, as they never seem to make enough of the car that every kid – and adult who still has some kid left – dreams about owning.
Nissan Titan Crew Cab 2005 Nissan Titan Crew Cab MSRP: $25,500 - $35,100 Deal: 2 - 3% financing, $2,250 rebate Expires: 10/31/2005 NHTSA: Frontal impact - five stars driver, four stars passenger; Side impact - not tested; Rollover - Not tested IIHS: Best pick, frontal offset; Not tested for side impact It may never replace the Ford F-150 in the hearts and minds of Americans, but as the Titan improves from its debut year in 2004, it’s getting tougher to ignore if you’re in the market for a truck. That’s especially true now that Nissan dealers are getting rid of 2005 models and there’s a deal to be had – starting with special financing or a nice piece of cash back. Of course, it’s hard to ignore anything as big as the Titan, and with a huge V8 engine, it’s downright impossible. Highlights include a dampened tailgate for ease of use, a power rear window, and active head restraints on the front seats. You’ll like the seats for comfort, and the nice big center console, as well as the cavernous back seat area. In fact, there are few things to knock the Titan for, assuming you’re in the market for a large truck and accept the poor gas mileage. Aside from some quality issues, this is a pickup that should be on every truck buyer’s short list.