Snagging a Model Year-End Bargain

With car sales up over last year, dealers are not as desperate to "move the metal" as they used to be. That translates into fewer and smaller rebates and scarcer financing incentives. Still, savvy buyers can still drive a bargain if they are willing to put in some time and effort.

There’s good news and bad news from the auto-buying front. Unfortunately, the good news applies to car dealers and the bad news applies to buyers. With car sales showing a hefty increase over last year, dealers are not quite as desperate to “move the metal” this time around and are less likely to offer sweet deals on 2010 models. That translates into fewer and smaller rebates and scarcer financing incentives. Still, savvy buyers can still drive a bargain if they are willing to put in some time and effort.

The advice from car-buying experts is shop, shop, shop, using the most powerful tool in your shopping kit: The Internet. Several Web sites will let you build your car, price it out, and shop for incentives from the comfort of your home. Click over to Edmunds.com or Cars.com and you’ll not only find help with figuring out costs and a list of dealer incentives, but you’ll also get advice on shopping tactics.

You can also go online to contact dealers in your area. That way, you can ask for a quote or more information without going through a face-to-face meeting with a salesperson. Many dealerships have a dedicated online sales force to make this process even easier.

Because of tighter inventories, you should also think about shopping early if you have a particular make, model, and option package in mind. On the other hand, if you’re not that picky, shopping later may get you a better deal.

Car shoppers will also find that incentives like cash rebates are getting scarcer, while financing deals with rates as low as 0% are becoming more common. If you have a choice between a rebate and a low-rate financing deal, the math can get tricky. In general, the longer the length of the loan period, the better off you are with a low-finance incentive.